Friday, January 3, 2014

What if you don't like the change in routine?

I learn and re-learn every day.

Case in point - 

The week before winter break, our school was celebrating "Intersession." For one hour a day - during what is typically centers time or choice time - students work in mixed-age, small groups on a single, fun topic.  Preschoolers, pre-K, and Kindergarteners participated together in classes such as "Fitness," "Cooking," "Beading," "Yoga." Intersession is a lot of fun, giving both teachers and students a break from their normal routine and an opportunity to explore a topic in a new way. It is a festive, enthusiastic, and invigorating time throughout the school, the perfect change in schedule for the week before winter break.

I had the opportunity to be a "floater teacher" during Intersession, which was a really fun change for me. My responsibilities were to visit/check in on the early childhood Intersession classes and ensure that everything was going smoothly.

One of my little ones had a tough time with the change in schedule.
He cried and stalled and struggled with us, when it was time to line up for Intersession.
During his special class - his favorite topic, even - the lead teacher said he was disruptive, hurting others in the class, and trying to run from the room.

I have seen some of this same challenging behavior in our classroom.

This is my struggle  -
how to help children be successful with others and in new situations,
how to meet children where they are and, simultaneously, stretch them to a new possibility,
how to juggle the difficult, challenging one in the midst of many other children and needs,
in the midst of the school schedule.

During Intersession,
the lead teacher was unable to manage him and
I spent the rest of one morning with him by my side,
walking the school.

He didn't like this, either.

Have you had the experience of being around a headstrong three year old who doesn't want to do something? 
Oh my.
Suffice to say, it was a very long morning of togetherness.

I didn't like this, either.

At home,
reflecting on the difficult day,
(actually, only a difficult morning, 
yet one that gave a residual bad flavor to the rest of the day)
I realized
- specifics of his challenging behavior aside -
he was refusing to participate,
refusing to try something new.

Change in routine is hard for him;
I know this;
I have known this;
he is telling me this, loud and clear.

He simply didn't have anything left to "give."
He needed our routine to be the same, to go back to the way it was, to be normal.
It was very "three year old" of him.

But, alas, this was not to be - Intersession had yet another day to go,
another disruptive, confusing day for this three year old child.

(Another long day for his teachers.)

What to do?

My instincts...actually, my exhaustion...said
"Well, he's just going to have to get through it."

That is not by any means my best teacher voice.
That is a distant, punitive, reactive voice that runs through me when I'm tired -
a voice that wants to say to a child, "Stop that behavior right now!,"
a manner of thinking that pretends adults control children,
rather than guiding children to develop self-control.

Reflection helped me get past the reactive.

The next day,
last day of Intersession,
I switched places with the assisting teacher in his Intersession class.
I asked this teacher to float through the building and check on all the other classes, and
I spent the morning playing with my challenging friend,
alongside him during this new experience,
modeling for him the fun of the new.
He was surprised and delighted that I was there with him.

It was just what he needed.

Throughout the morning,
he laughed and laughed,
he played with others.
he was successful.

Later, my principal asked him about his Intersession class and he enthusiastically responded,
"Ms. Ingram came with me!!"

We have to meet children where they are.

Some "small changes" are
too big a leap
for some children.

He'll make the leap in time.

I learn and re-learn every day.

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