Sometimes as much as we can know the “right” thing to do, at the time, it’s hard to remember. It can take the model of another person to provide this very important reminder. This is what happened to me at recess the other day. I was out on duty in the primary wing, and our principal, John, came up to me to ask if I’d seen a particular student. I hadn’t at the time, but then I saw him on the playground equipment. I called him over. This student walked around with me on lunch duty the previous week, remembered me, and fairly quickly responded to the call. He started to come over to me, and then saw another child standing beside John. You could see this student stiffen, panic, and start to run away. I thought of the Self-Regulation Foundations Courses, and right away, thought, “He’s stressed. He’s scared. How should I respond?” I found myself lowering my voice, but also moving closer to him, and in retrospect, I think that the proximity triggered him more. Then John showed me something — quite unknowingly to him — that really stuck with me.
John crouched down really low on the ground. In the quietest voice, he started talking to this child that was actually still quite a distance away from him. Getting down made all the difference. The child responded to him right away and moved closer. He started talking, and in both his words and actions, you could tell that he was calming down. Amazing!
Fast forward about 15 minutes, and I had moved inside for lunch duty. A monitor from this child’s class came to see me. She confronted this student about a problem, he got angry, and was now hiding under the table. I went right to the room, and all of the students in the class were gathering around this student and the table. This was just making him more angry and upset. I first asked the other students in the class to go and sit down, which they did, and then I followed John’s lead from earlier: I got down on the floor. I was now sitting eye level with this child — maybe even a bit lower than him — and just outside the table. I lowered my voice too, and asked what was up. He shared that he was angry and what made him feel that way, and then I asked, “Do you need a break? Do you want to do duty with me?” He did, and quickly came out from under the table.
We walked the halls a few times, and returned when the bell went and his teacher arrived. By explaining to the teacher what happened, the teacher then knew that this child had been dysregulated, was just calming down, and may need some additional support for the afternoon. This support and these positive moments are exactly what the teacher gave this child.
These experiences made me think back to my responses to behaviour in the past. Would I have focused on punishment instead of focusing on solving the problem? Would I have seen this behaviour as “misbehaviour” versus “stress behaviour,” and would this perception have changed my actions? Among other things, the Foundations Courses taught me the value in being “kinder than necessary.” Thanks to the model from my principal and the support of other educators, I definitely saw the value in “additional kindness” this week. Maybe we can all benefit from this valuable reminder. What do you think?