Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tuesday SOL: What to say?

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


I have written many "Slices of Life" over the past few years, loving this regular Tuesday 'meeting' of teacher-writers. I notice that I am now much more aware of meaningful moments in my teaching day. Here is one from this past week, celebrating my colleague, who just happened by my classroom in a moment of need and provided much needed support.

In the classroom, I work actively to 'catch children being good,' but, wow, how relentless and unceasing petty physical behaviors can be some days. 
  • He pushes aside a classmate, sitting in the very front for the read-aloud, because he needs to be up front. 
  • She envelops her classmate in an unrelenting and undesired hug, because - well, I don't know why, precisely. Simply because she can?
  • He shoves a classmate out of her way, in an effort to be first in line at the door.
These challenging behaviors are frequent and commonplace amongst preschoolers. It is mostly developmental - preschoolers are fascinated by their peers but have very little experience being with so many others. And, here they are, right in the midst of many others. What else is one to do, when one wants something? Why not just make it happen? Push, pull, grab, as need be.

My tongue becomes twisted and muddled, incapable of finding any positive for these little snowplows in collision mode. Working alongside a beginning teacher, I am constantly aware that I am a role model for words, technique, style, more. Does she see why I ignored that small annoying behavior? Does she notice that I intervened just then? Does she recognize how we are helping children to get along with one another?

Every day, every moment, there is a lot going on.

Into one of these physical days enters my colleague Brandi,
and she instinctively, automatically, beautifully models 
the perfect interaction for the children, showing them how to listen to one another, and
the perfect teacher voice for all adults in the room, not simply reacting but guiding children's behavior.

A very physical preschooler pulls her friend away from another classmate, grabs her hand, and insists she be her partner in our line; the friend yells "Stop!" but the preschooler ignores this and keeps pulling.

Brandi just happened to be there for this interaction. 
Without a moment's hesitation, she says, calmly, to the very physical preschooler:

"When she says 'stop', you 'let go'."

The very physical one stares back, wide-eyed, still holding on tightly to her friend.
Brandi repeats:

"When she says 'stop', you 'let go'. It looks like this . . ."  

(she then playfully dramatizes for the children how to let go of holding another and then throwing her hands up in the air freely).

The preschooler immediately stopped pulling on her classmate.

Beautiful discipline.

She stayed in the moment,
slowed down the interaction,
clarified the right behavior to do, 
emphasized the essentialness of listening to one's peers 
(this is so much more important than simply following the commands of an adult),
modeled being calm, upbeat, and clear in expectations, and,
waited for the preschooler to follow through,
all while being in joyful relationship with the children.



  1. Wow, you are so right. Brandi did the perfect thing. No lecturing just modeling. I hope I remember this in my interaction with my grandchildren.

  2. And I imagine you hope that your assistant watched and learned, too. Each moment of teaching is so complex, and I am again learning about that as I work with a young person in a teacher licensing program. I was on a trip once with good people, yet soon realized that none of them with me were teachers. I needed to help them "look" and respond appropriately, a challenge. You've described this beautifully, Maureen, & while pre-schoolers give their own challenges, this applies to every age.

  3. I have a friend like your Brandi, it is a pleasure to watch the interactions and learn from each one. What a challenge it is to instill that kind of behavior in your young students.

  4. Yes, beautiful - loved the way she was playful but firm. No wonder there was follow through.

  5. Yes, beautiful - loved the way she was playful but firm. No wonder there was follow through.