Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What to do now?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

When it happened, I was totally caught off guard. We were visiting a new playground, with many big, long, fun slides. I called for the preschoolers to line up, we needed to head back to school.
She didn't want to leave the playground.
She doesn't have the verbal skills to tell me.
So, she spoke with her body, throwing herself onto the ground, squirming and moaning, refusing.
Everyone else lined up.
Of course, this challenging behavior appears when we weren't at the school playground. No, we were at the faraway playground, near the community center, back across the football field, with many, many, many steps to get back to school.

What to do?

Response #1

I encouraged her,
"Let's go, hon. Yes, those slides were fun. We are going to come back soon. Right now, we need to go in."
"No! No! No!" That's all she could offer. And the tantrum on the ground continued.

Response #1 - Fail.

What to do?

Response #2:

I beckoned her partner to come over, encouraging him, "Tell her that you need her to hold your hand, you need your partner, to walk safely back to school."
Her line partner said, "Here, okay?" and held out his hand. Preschoolers can get their meaning across with very few words! Alas, Little Miss Refusal was still not going to walk, even with an invite from a friend. She ignored the extended hand of her classmate and continued the tantrum on the ground, with another chorus of "No! No! No!" I realized the line partner was now looking at me, with eyes that were a little vulnerable and uncertain, as if to say "wait, is it better to stay and tantrum like this? Should I skip the line up, too?" I asked him to go back to the line, to hold my co-teacher's hand...I dared not have a domino effect, with other preschoolers refusing to budge.

Response #2 - Fail.

The preschoolers begin the procession back to school.
Except for her.

What to do?

Response #3:

"Let's go, little one, time to go back, we'll be the caboose," and I picked her up and carried her, stopping every now and again when my body tired out, re-inviting her to walk with me. Each pause resulted in more of the same challenging behavior -  shouts of "No! No! No!" and throwing herself full throttle onto the ground. Oh my. Is it my imagination, or is she the biggest child in the class? This was heavy lifting! (Of course, she did absolutely nothing to lighten my load, but everything to increase it's difficulty - writhing and wriggling the whole way.)

Response #3 - Success. Imperfect, but we were all headed back to school. Oh well.

Never go head to head with a preschooler.

There is nothing like the stubbornness and determination of a preschooler.

So frustrating, at times.

As I walked, carrying my heavy load, my mind raced through my options, ways to respond better next time, ways to get the desire I wanted - for her to walk on her own two feet.
What was the logical consequence? What made sense right then?
No, there's no point in yelling or throwing a tantrum myself.
We all have to move together, stay together, our entire class.
We're on a schedule.

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? What made sense right then?
It's not like I could leave her on the playground.
Should I have signaled her earlier than the others, given her a heads up?
Did she feel that we didn't have enough time to play?

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? How could I help her see the error of her ways? What made sense right then?
Should I not let her go to the playground next time?
No. I believe children need their outdoor play almost every bit as much as they need food and sleep. Also, we weren't going back to that playground for several days. Would she even remember? Would she make the connection?

What was the logical consequence for this challenging behavior? What made the most sense right then?
Even after all these years of teaching preschoolers, the answer eludes me. 
Sometimes you just make do. 
And give yourself a five minute break, once you return inside. Deep cleansing breaths.

I remind myself, one time is not a pattern.

Count my blessings that she was the ONLY tantrum on the walk back.

I am going to hesitate the next time we head out on that adventure.

On the plus side, this job is keeping me in shape! I have to be able to lift 30-40 lbs at a moment's notice!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What about home?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

It is no surprise that, at the beginning of the school year, home is ever-present on preschoolers’ minds. As children play and explore in the classroom, I see a great deal of fascination and curiosity about home. In dramatic play, the children play family, with pretend meals, bed times, and doctor visits. In the block area, children create homes for animals and people. We decided to delve into the topic. We wondered,

What is home?
What makes a home?
What do you love about home?

Preschoolers are beginning to discern what is the same and what is different, stretching their thinking muscles. I posed the question, “What is the difference between home and school?” and the children truly struggled with this. I loved listening to the preschoolers, as they tried to tease these two concepts - home and school - apart:

“You run at school.” (O)
“But not inside!” (S)
"Dirt is a kind of home." (M)
“I have a bouncy ball at home.” (C)
"I have a grabber at home." (J)
“You not bring your toys to school." (N)
"I like to play with my sister." (L)
"Home – watch cartoons!” (E)
“Yes, watch T.V. at home” (A)
“Home and school are the same because you are warm.” (C)
“At home, Mommy has a bed.” (B)
“Mommy is home.” (Z)
"Mommy picks me up." (I)

We are finally on to something! Our families are at home!

I think it is oh so sweet that the children struggled to figure this out. Perhaps there is a great deal that is the same about the early childhood classroom and children’s own homes? 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday SOL: What does a young parent know?

I am participating in the
Tuesday Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day.
A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect.

"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
- Maya Angelou

I went to see my (elderly) parents this past weekend, who live in a retirement community in Saco, Maine. One bonus of seeing my parents is that I get to see a couple of my brothers and sisters-in-law, who live nearby. My brothers and I went cruising down memory lane, thinking about different experiences we had when we were young. Some of our memories went a little dark.

I'll share just one with you today.

We remembered how sad and difficult life was when my parents argued. My parents believed in giving one another the silent treatment. Yes, this was their approach to conflict - to freeze one another out, to make the other 'figure out' what was wrong. Their silence affected the whole house...it meant no family dinners, no gathering together for television or games, everyone walking on eggshells.

I remember the silence vividly.

All of this was so many, many, many years ago, and I have certainly forgiven my parents. I know that they were finding their way, they were doing the best they could.

Now, I find myself thinking about how darn young my parents were when all this happened. Certainly, I'm much older now then my parents were at the time of all this ugly behavior.

I think, wow - how young all of us are - typically - when we are raising children. Think of how much we learn on the job as parents. Parenting is often done by two young people who are just learning to communicate with one another, just learning to create that team, that precious union. In the midst of this learning, we dare to bring a new life (or two or three or four or, in my parents' case, five). What does a young parent even know? How do you know what you need to know? Goodness!

Time and time again, young parents raise children. It is by no means new. And yet, isn't it a wonder that children grow up, that most of us turn into adults that make a worthwhile life?

I think about this a lot in my work with young children: our childhood lays the blueprint for the rest of our lives...it creates our 'norm', what is ordinary for us. What's happening to my preschoolers right now that they will carry with them always? What is being modeled in their homes? What instincts - right or wrong - will they carry in their bones?

I remember the silence vividly.

This is the power of childhood.