I am posting every day during March as part of the annual "Slice of Life" Challenge for Two Writing Teachers. Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.*******
Today and yesterday, with the Mindfulness Conference a fresh echo in my head, I have been trying to both teach and practice breathing skills with the Big Cats. There are several children for whom a loud squawk, shriek, or scream is the first sign I have that something is amiss. I always run right to their side to discern, as quickly as possible, what just happened? is someone bleeding? is someone physically injured? The reality - typically - is much, much less grievous than the squawk, shriek, or scream indicated. Usually, a toy is being shared in a way that doesn't seem fair or some play has not gone their way. I've decided these more loud, volatile aggravations are a ripe opportunity for breathing!
Here's what happened:
1) He explodes when he thinks his classmate has more plastic golf balls than he has - "Ms. Ingram! He took them! Look! Look! Look! He has more! And it's not fair! And I need them! And I was using them."
2) She wails when I take away her doll so that her hands are free to help clean up the classroom with the rest of us - "I want my Mommy! I don't know how to clean! I need my doll!"
3) She screams when her classmate says she is a bad guy and they are running from her - "Waaah! Noooo!"
Each time, I made a conscious effort not to fix the problem, not to tell the child what to say, not to bring arguing parties together immediately. Instead, I got on my knees, on the child's level, and said in a calm voice, "Breathe in, breathe out. Try again, take a deep breath. Let the air out." Sometimes the child kept crying. I continued to soothe, now putting my hand up with four fingers - "See these four candles? Try to blow them out." For each, this was strangely irresistible - they blew at my hand, and I pretended that the four finger candles fell over. I had them blow out these 'candles' two more times.
Then, "Wow, you are calm now. You are breathing so nicely. Now what?"
Each of them solved their own situation! It was a small miracle!
1) "I'm going to tell him he has more than me and I don't like that. We will build a big ramp together."
2) "I'm going to pick up books and put them back on the shelf."
3) "I'm going to tell her that I am not a bad guy! We will chase other bad guys together!"
I am truly amazed.
I see the power of simply being present - not assuming right, wrong, anything.
How long will I stay calm in these situations?
(A daily share by preschoolers in their own words)
A Story Collage by Lily
Those are princess girls. The bear is blocking the way. And that is blocking. The princesses are lost. The tree is lost. They are in the jungle! And the bear is blocking their way. And it is called “Cinderellie”! Once upon a time there was Cinderellie and her mice. The End