Saturday, August 25, 2012


I love it when I run across something that helps me understand my own experiences. Like this article, for instance:

Awe Enhances Well-Being
A paper published by researchers at the Stanford University and the University of Minnesota, "Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being," concludes...

"When do people feel as if they are rich in time?  Not often, research and daily experience suggest.  However, three experiments showed that participants who felt awe, relative to other emotions, felt they had more time available and were less impatient.
"Participants who experienced awe were also more willing to volunteer their time to help others, more strongly preferred experiences over material products , and experienced a greater boost in life satisfaction....  These changes in decision making and well being were due to awe’s ability to alter the subjective experience of time.  Experiences of awe bring people into the present moment, which underlies awe’s capacity to adjust time perception, influence decisions, and make life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise."
  (From Child Care Exchange)

Wow- this explains a lot. Yes, it was an “A-ha moment” for me.   This concept explains why my husband and I feel it’s worth the trouble to spend ten days camping in the redwoods up north every summer.  Of course we experience a deep sense of awe as we stroll through groves of 2,000 year old trees that are so huge it boggles the mind. Who wouldn’t be awestruck? The awe sticks with us for months, and makes our yearly camping getaways a necessary part of our mental and physical health.  We call our little tent and our regular campsite our Budget Vacation Home, and look forward to our camping trips all year. 

This article also gives insight into why my years as a teacher of toddlers and toddlers’ parents have gone by in a flash: I feel a sense of awe many times every day at preschool. I’m amazed and awestruck at the wisdom of the children, and at the toddler curiosity that leads them to be so wise.  I’m in awe of the development and growth that I get to observe up close in the children and parents. It’s truly awesome (yes, it’s an overused word) to be surrounded by parents who are so dedicated to doing right by their child, and who are also demonstrating how important it is that all adults care for the well-being of ALL children. And I could go on and on………

The word “awe” is a perfect way to describe how I feel at school on a daily basis. I quickly forget the inevitable minor frustrations and challenges, but the sense of awe goes home with me every day and stays with me. It makes me eager to get to school the next day and do it all over again.

And of course, there’s the element of  “awwwwwww…”Factor as well:  even though “cute” isn’t part of the early childhood educator’s professional lexicon, there’s no denying that the words and actions of these tiny little new people are incredibly adorable and heartwarming.  But cuteness alone would not have kept me going in this demanding work for all these years.  “Cute” wears thin over time, but “awe-inspiring” never does.

My new understanding about the effect of “awe” on the human brain and emotions also helps me understand how and why the extremely dedicated parents in our school somehow manage to make it all work.  Juggling the demands of a parent participation preschool, young children, jobs, and other responsibilities is not easy. I often wonder if some of these moms and dads have some sort of super powers to manage everything as well as they do.  I think that each one of our parents must be experiencing that exhilarating sense of awe and wonder as they get to know a group of children, and observe them at play for an entire year.  Awe is motivating. Awe gives energy. Awe produces super-parent-powers when they’re needed.  Our parents are in awe of the developmental leaps and bounds for which they have a front-row seat. This causes the brain’s perception of time to shift a little, helping them to feel less rushed, and helping them realize that all the time and effort they put in to our school  is well worth it.  This is what I experience as a teacher, and also what I experienced 20 years ago when I was an Explorer Preschool mom.

Look for awe-inspiring moments with your children every day. It will help you to focus less on the not-so-awesome parts of parenting, and will help you to fully experience this special time as your children are growing. It will help you make better parenting decisions and be a happier person in general. Happy parents raise happy kids.

Explorer parents, please take note, however: It takes a fully staffed classroom to offer the children an awe-inspiring day at school.
 On your classroom work days,  please wait until you’re on the way to school (and on time) to be awestruck by your amazing children.  We’re still depending on you to be at school ready to work with all the other awesome kids by 8:45 sharp!

I’m looking forward to experiencing the awe of toddlerhood together with all my new families as we begin another awesome year at preschool!

1 comment:

  1. Oops-- technical glitch. The article referenced above is:


I would love to hear comments from readers! Please let me know what you think.