Thursday, January 21, 2010

What is one idea that teaches cooperation?

I thoroughly enjoyed the NAEYC conference in Washington, DC this past November. I heard so many great ideas and took many notes. I went through my notes when I got home and highlighted my favorites, underscoring the ones that I wanted to try in my own classroom. Bev Bos and Michael Leeman had a workshop entitled "The Pleasure of Discovery: Science in the Early childhood Classroom." Who knew that a science workshop would yield a sweet little nugget for helping to teach children respect for one another?

Bev Bos said she was not a big fan of all the photographing we do of children these days, noting that she feared we were turning children into performers. She suggested that photos were a wonderful thing however when we photographed behaviors we want to see repeated; i.e., those so-called "good" behaviors. Well, what do I want to see replicated? I want to see children:

  • using their words rather than their fists and their teeth when they are upset with a classmate;
  • helping one another;
  • using the large blocks and other toys safely;
  • comforting one another; and
  • engaged in imaginative, creative play.

Bev Bos noted that photographs - used appropriately - speak more clearly and concisely than our own voices. She suggested putting large photos of our favorite behaviors around the room at children's eye level. This, I realized, would be a creative, fun idea to implement in my classroom!

I spent a couple of hours last week reviewing the photos I'd accumulated so far this year, using this new lens - is the photo showing a behavior I'd like to see repeated?
Would this be successful? I mean, would I actually find photos of children involved in loving actions? Or, just a bunch of photos of performers?

What an exciting and productive review this turned out to be. I found more than a dozen photos that merited being blown up and reproduced for classroom display. The photographs have been up for a week. Children have been very curious about them, bringing each other over to see them. I've noticed an extension of their play with several of the photographs - getting the same creative toys out and repeating the fun.

I'm keeping my eyes open for more photos to use in my classroom.

Monday, January 18, 2010

How do we teach children to respect one another?

This past holiday, I was enjoying time with loved ones when one dear relative told me how his three year old was consistently getting hurt at school by another young classmate - "you know, surprise attacks - hitting him and then grabbing toys from him, running away quickly." Before I could respond, he continued, "So, I took my son aside and told him exactly where to hit this little boy if he tries to take something from him again - and you know, it worked! My son isn't bullied anymore."

"Where is the teacher is your son's class?!", I shrieked.

This was an "aha" moment for me. I am a teacher of three year olds. I spend time every day talking to my children about how we are safe and loved at school, we are kind to one another.

I spend my circle times having all sorts of discussions about social skills:

- I use a monkey puppet that has been known to do all manner of obnoxious behaviors to me - he's grabbed toys from my hand, he's pulled my hair, he's tried to bite me. And, with the children, we develop ways to react to the "frisky friend" - how to use our voices to say - "Stop! I am using that now!" or "I am not for hurting." We practice how to move away (quickly!) from annoying behavior and to get an adult.
- We also talk about what the monkey might have said that was better - how to ask to use a toy, how to take turns, how to express or work out frustration or anger in a safe way (stomping feet, clenching one's head, doing wall push ups).
- We play games that help us with self-regulation - like "Freeze" dance or "Elbow to Elbow."
- We do games and activities that are all about connecting, being a friend: chants that are performed by clapping hands with friends, "row your boat" with a partner; we have a classroom book that has photos and info about every child, and I read it aloud to them and we guess which friend I am describing.

As the children play in the classroom, I observe them non-stop, shadowing my more impulsive friends to help them with their words as they play. I set up activities that are great for pairs and small groups.

But what is the point of all this teaching if I am not communicating these same techniques to parents? Is it possible that some of the parents in my classroom are coaching their child in a like manner? "An eye for an eye"?

I realized again how important it is to communicate with parents before issues occur - every family that I teach (and, yes, I believe early childhood teachers are teaching the whole family to some extent, not just the child) needs to be familiar with the developmental stages of children - how two year olds are "all about me" but the world of threes is the first step into the land of "wow, you exist, too?" and therefore there is much, much experimentation and practice (some of it quite shocking to a young parent) as these children learn to be social. We need to teach parents about all the learning differences children have - how some will be more physical and others more social, and to get our messages across to different children we need to decode their learning style and modify our approach. We need to emphasize how we are laying the foundation for their relationships with others - we need to help parents not to be too reactive, how to observe and reflect about behaviors, how to role model appropriate behavior with others.

It cannot be okay to teach your child how to hit another child.

Where to begin?

New Year's Resolution - let's get some of my reflections about early childhood education out there in cyberspace! I would love to interact with others about issues relating to young children, their families, their teachers. I work with three year olds and there's not a day that goes by without me being stretched in some new way.

But where to begin? Consider for a moment all the "titles" I have considered for this blog:
- Preschool Perspectives
- More than Musings
(Out comes the Thesaurus: questions, discussions, thoughts, debate, ideas, broadening, enlightening, provoking)
- Provoking Preschool Practices
- Careful Consideration of Children
(out comes the dictionary - to consider: to think about carefully and seriously)
- MYIPassion4Children
- Innocence and Innovation
- Different Drummers in Childhood
(Out comes the Thesaurus - differences, different, varied, assorted, mosaic, motley)
- Does Not Keep Pace
- All Sorts of Children, All Sorts of Early Childhood
- Pondering Preschool
- Stretching Childhood Minds


For now, I settle on MYIEarlyChildhoodReflections, as in "Maureen Young Ingram's Early Childhood Reflections"....

What is the purpose of this blog? I'd like to focus on different early childhood issues as I come across them - to present, more or less, opinions to which people can react. I worry that we tend to rush past "small issues" (i.e., issues having to do with young children) in order to get our more important "big work" done - but, really, we should be thinking about children, thinking about how we teach, thinking about how we parent.

I'd love for this blog to provide a mirror about children, to consider theory versus practice, to stimulate conversation and dialogue, to stretch and dare people to look at things differently.

I also hope that this blog will be dynamic and changing. I have every intention of going back and revising entries as I consider new information. I don't have the final word and I'm not convinced I ever will. I offer my perspective from a particular place and time.

Let's just dive in and see what happens....