Let me tell you a story. I came back from duty this afternoon, and as soon as I walked into the classroom, my attention was captured by an incident that was happening at one of the tables. A child was finishing off his yogurt, but as he ate, yogurt was getting all over his face, his clothes, and the table. Initially, this seemed to be accidental, but with a little encouragement from peers, things changed for the worse. I went over to say something, but when I reminded this child about eating his yogurt properly, I realized that my words were leading to a bigger problem: he didn’t want to stop, and my words were just making him angry.
I’ll admit that at first I was tempted to push the issue. As much as I may have learned from Stuart Shanker and Susan Hopkins about self-regulation, when faced with a challenge, I still make mistakes. But today — thankfully — I stopped and listened to that little voice inside my head that said, “Reframe Aviva. Remember those questions: Why this child? Why now? Think: how can you turn this around? Does this child really need to be ‘punished’ or does he just need to ‘eat properly and clean up?’” Today, I listened to that voice. Instead of escalating the problem, I chose a different approach.
I pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with these two students. In a quiet voice, I said, “I have a special story to tell you.” I then started my story. “Once upon a time, there was a little boy named …,” and right away the child jumped in with his name. I asked, “How did you know that?” He said, “My mom tells me that story. Can we do this story together?” Yes! So together, we made up a story about this little boy and all of the wonderful things he does to help out. We even added some funny parts, including a “Dunsiger Dragon,” who isn’t such a scary dragon after all. 🙂 By the end of the story, we both shared a few laughs, he finished and cleaned up his yogurt, and this child’s anger was replaced with happiness. It took less than five minutes to turn things around.
At the end of the day today, my teaching partner, Paula, and I spoke about what happened. Here’s the why this child/why now question equivalent for educators: what made us better able to deal with this problem today?
- We were both in the classroom. With lunch hours and prep schedules, this isn’t always the case. When only one educator is in the classroom, it’s harder to sit down and spend this focused time with just a couple of children. Two educators are definitely necessary.
- This problem was new to me. Since I was just coming back from duty, I hadn’t been interacting with these students over the break and/or dealing with this problem (or similar ones). This helped me calmly respond to the issue.
- We were both happy. We had a great day today, full of some amazing sharing and learning. As I learned through the Foundations courses, adults have a huge impact on student behaviour. Likely, our happiness played an important role in the messages — communicated through our words and actions — that we were giving to the children.
Today, I’m reminded of the impact we can have on kids. It often only takes a few minutes to make a difference. Are we making this difference? How could we do so more often? I’m far from perfect, but I hope that I remember what happened today, and take the time to stop, reframe, and remember to respond in a positive way. What about you?