Friday, March 2, 2012

SOLSC Who knows best?

It was sunny and mild - high 40s? Low 50s?  I took off my winter coat almost immediately upon reaching the sunbaked asphalt playground (the unfortunate reality of our temporary home this year) and hid it in a corner.  My turtleneck and sweater vest would keep me warm.  One by one, children came up to me and asked,
"May I take my coat off, Ms. Ingram?"

"Are you warm?  You decide.  I am hot.  Mine is off.  It's a little chilly with the breeze; you might want your jacket."

Too much chatter for them; their coats were off before I had finished my ramble. Run! Run! Run! Time to do laps around the play structure.

When each child got to the other side of the playground, my assistant pulled the coatless one over and insisted, "You need your jacket!  Go get it and put it on!"

I wasn't even aware of the contradictory messages from us until one preschooler stood in front of me, twisting her coat in her hands, and said, "Ms. Ingram, I don't know what to do!"

Another teacher overhears and interjects, with a tone of disapproval,
"Ms. Ingram, there is a chill to the air, I am insisting my children keep their coats on."

I give her an unchecked look of confusion and continued,
"Shouldn't everyone decide for themselves?  Won't they put their coat back on if it is too cold and they need it?  Wouldn't that be a natural consequence?"

My assistant hears this and interjects, supporting the other teacher,
"I am making them put on their coats because I am very cold.  I need my coat.  That's why."

Sometimes it surprises me what I find myself explaining.
Sometimes it surprises me what I hear.
Sometimes I feel very alone.


  1. Wow Maureen. I love the honesty of your last three lines.

    But yes, getting cold and needing to put one's coat back on IS a natural consequence. Everyone SHOULD decide for him/herself. Why do teachers think that even the youngest children cannot decide these kinds of things for themselves? Argh. (BTW: They were most likely all warm because they were running around.)

  2. Maureen,
    I love the last three lines...sad as they are. I can relate to that lonely feeling today. After spending the day at a very good professional development today, I was so excited about all the ideas popping in my brain, but some teachers were moaning and groaning or talking too loudly during the presentation. Sometimes I feel alone in my passion for and enthusiasm for teaching.

  3. You have described an experience I often witness as a preschool teacher. There are so few ways young children can exercise power and learning consequences by experimenting with choice is important! I almost always let my kids choose about coats on or off and then it becomes my job to help them be aware of their needs. I really appreciate your perspective and challenge to us in this entry.

  4. I am all for natural consequences!! I had two of my fourth graders today want to call home to have snow boots brought to them. I asked the class to remind them what my policy is about that. One boy raised his hand and said, "It's your own fault if you didn't wear them and then you went in the snow. So tough." I let him know that is sort of the "harsh" way to say it. Be prepared, or stay away from all the snow, is what I say.

    I love that you can see how kids need to learn, but you are forced to have patience to work with others who don't see that. I agree with Maureen about your last lines. Thanks for posting!

  5. I like that you asked the children, "are you warm? you decide." You are a thoughtful teacher who encourages children to problem solve situations on their own. So often adults jump in and take away those learning opportunities without even knowing.

  6. I love the line "I am making them put their coats on because I am very cold." It has become a joke in our house. When I was young my mother would say that and I swore I would never do such a thing to my children. Then one fateful day I heard my mother's voice come out of my mouth! I laughed and laughed and told the story to my kids. Since then we've had more discussion and less commanding :-)

  7. Wow! What a powerful post! I think it's going to be a post about enjoying the warm sun, then all of a sudden it goes a very different direction! The last three lines are really powerful!