Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday SOL - Have you noticed me?

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 stepped out of a workshop called "Building a Trauma-Informed Classroom," and into the metro underground. My head and heart were filled with information. 

They had just stepped through the metro turnstiles, coming towards me. She appeared to be a young mother, certainly no more than 20 or 21. He was running alongside her, scampering in that unpredictable way that a two year old does. I started to smile at his sweet look. She yelled to him, "You better  #$@&%*! -ing stop! I am sick of you! What the #$@&%*! you think you're doing?" I averted my eyes. 

One "ACE." At least.

Adverse Childhood Experiences - ACEs

ACEs are those stressful, perhaps even traumatic factors that children are just born into, through no fault of their own, that will trouble them all their life: parents or caregivers who abuse drugs or alcohol, have a bitter divorce, become incarcerated, suffer acute health issues, practice emotional or physical abuse, live in acute poverty, suffer unemployment or homelessness...there are innumerable ACEs. 

According to the workshop leader, Dr. Megan McCormick-King of Insite Solutions, 37% of D.C. kids have at least one ACE; 11% of D.C. kids have four or more ACEs. The risk of developmental delays is more acute in children with four or more ACEs. Further, the risk of early death is more likely with four or more ACEs.

Although these statistics are depressing, the workshop was also hopeful. It heartened me to hear that children become resilient with consistent and responsive relationships, overcoming much of the harm from these adverse childhood experiences. The importance of my work as a preschool teacher was clear - to create a safe, happy early childhood classroom, where teachers are focused and mindful about each of their students. Every young child deserves "unconditional positive regard" - and such interaction feeds the growing brain in amazing, restorative ways. Here are just a couple tidbits that I hope to weave into my teaching in the days and years to come:

  • Create opportunities for "Serve and Return" - the simple back and forth between a child and caregiver, allowing the child to 'serve' an idea and, allow me - the caregiver - to meet the child right there at that idea, and converse about it, play along...let the child lead.
  • When I see those challenging behaviors - consider for a minute, what 'Serve and Return' behaviors are not being met? Is the child acknowledged/noticed/seen on the most basic level?
  • Be sure to acknowledge children, to send the consistent message - "I see you, I hear you." 
  • Help children build strategies for waiting and soothing, such as deep breathing, taking a break, having a safe space.
  • For those truly challenging children, build a relationship with special emphasis on 'non-contingency' time - time when you let the child direct the play. Dare to give the child five minutes of time when everything he does is noticed and acknowledged, but not questioned or critiqued. (There is a whole training for this technique - Teacher Child Interactive Training (TCIT), which I will most certainly look into.) 
It was a fabulous workshop...this one small slice hardly does it justice. 

Let me circle back to the young mother in the metro, yelling at her small child. I averted my eyes, speechless, stunned, feeling raw from the workshop. Right behind me was a young man, all of about 14 - and he spoke up. He yelled "Stop speaking to your child like that!" She quickly retorted, "Shut up!," and kept walking the other direction, but I wonder if he planted a seed. 

This left me hopeful, too. It takes everyone of us, paying attention to our young children.


  1. This post really made me think. What a coincidence that you encountered this right when you were at a training about it. It sounds like you learned a lot of good information.

    1. Yes, it was an excellent workshop - one that left you wanting to learn more.

  2. Thank you for sharing the tips that you could. I hope you'lll say more about this. What a scene to encounter, and what a wonderful young boy to say something. Your final point reminded me of a book I read long ago that seems to connect to that strategy. I was about a breakthrough with an autistic boy. Remember this was years ago, so little was known or being researched about autism. The book is Son-Rise by a Barry Kaufman. Hope to hear more!

    1. Yes! I know that book! The interactive strategy also reminded me of Stanley Greenspan's "floor time" idea with young children. Each of these reminds us to pay attention to children, to be present, to follow their lead.