What If We Responded Differently?

Twice a week, I do indoor lunch duty. I supervise four classrooms of students while they eat their lunch. Every time I do this duty, I promise myself that I’m going to blog about it, and up until this point, I haven’t, but today I am writing this post. I should mention here that I supervise young students — often those in Grades 1 and 2. I also only supervise during the second nutrition break, so it’s getting later in the day, and many of the children are getting tired. But my interactions with all students make me wonder if we — as educators and parents — could try a different approach.

Here’s a sample of just some of the many requests, questions, and “big, big problems, Miss Dunsiger,” that I am regularly asked to address.

  • ________ touched my lunch bag.
  • Can I move to sit beside _________? There’s nobody sitting there.
  • Can I throw out my garbage?
  • _________ is humming/singing/talking. Please make him/her stop.
  • _________ put his/her lunch away … and the bell hasn’t gone yet.
  • _________ ate his/her candy first.
  • _________ is sitting beside me. I want to sit beside __________ instead though.
  • _________ said a bad word. (After further investigation, not once has this word actually been a bad one.)
  • _________ has a toy. Is he/she allowed a toy? What if I have a toy that I want to play with too?
  • _________’s face looks mean. I don’t like that face. 
  • _________ didn’t stand beside me in line, but he/she is my friend. Why didn’t _________ stand beside me then?

I will admit that none of these problems take long to solve, and without a doubt, in the minds of six-year-olds, they are all problems that matter. But are they problems that adults have to solve? What if, instead of solving them, we asked the children: how would you solve themUp until now, I’ll admit that I’ve addressed all of these problems and more, but I can’t help but wonder, if we aren’t teaching children how to solve small problems, how will they solve bigger ones? Is “waiting until they’re older” the solution, or is it better to start now? As June approaches and we begin our last month of school, I’m thinking that I want to address these small problems differently than before: I want to give children ownership over them. Who’s with me?


2 thoughts on “What If We Responded Differently?

  1. Aviva

    One of the things we intentionally focus on when presented with these problems is giving the power back to the student to solve it with this simple line…..
    “How can you solve this problem?” This often requires a great deal of wait time because students are so used to adults or others jumping in to solve it but with a little patience students can and will find their own solutions to these small and at times trivial problems all by themselves.

    • Thanks for the comment, Ann Marie, and the suggestion of a question to ask. I like this one. I wonder if I could give this wait time by asking the question, moving on to see what’s happening in the other classrooms, and then coming back to talk. This way, the student has more thinking time to work through some possible solutions. Thanks for giving me more to think about!


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