“Will You Wipe My Bum?”: An Unexpected Connection To Today’s Professional Development

While this is my 19th year of teaching, it’s my 13th year teaching kindergarten. I’ve taught every model of kindergarten out there: from half-day, everyday programs, to full day, alternate day programs, to full day, everyday programs. I’ve also taught kindergarten at seven different schools, and each of these experiences have varied. One of my kindergarten teaching experiences was also one of the most challenging teaching experiences of my career. It was through this experience that I learned how to program and plan for toddlers. I also taught multiple students that were not toilet-trained at the time, and regular phone calls about coming to change a child became part of my day. Back then, I saw toileting as a clear line in the sand: this is not what I was trained to do.

Then there’s the story that came after this experience. It was a regular teaching day. All of our kids were at school, and my teaching partner, Paula (one of the many times that we worked together), went on her lunch break as she always does. About five minutes after she left, the fire alarm went. Great! For the first time, I took the whole class out on my own. We made it out and back in again together, and I was feeling pretty good about our success. I was just trying to help everyone settle back into play when a child came up to me. He said, “Miss Dunsiger, can I ask you a question?” Sure. “Miss Dunsiger, will you wipe my bum?” What?! I will admit that  at first I thought, Paula definitely picked the right time for lunch. 🙂 But then I decided to find out more information. It turns out that he needed to poop, but wasn’t confident in wiping his bum. This is hard for most young kids (numerous try to avoid pooping at school), and I’ve created many a task analysis on this topic. As much as I wished that he was not asking me this question at the time, I also realized how comfortable he had to feel with me to ask for help. So I said, “I can’t wipe your bum, but I can talk you through it.” I promised to stand at the bathroom door, I unravelled some toilet paper for him before he went inside, and I spoke to him about what to do. He did it. 

I share this story because strangely enough it makes me think about our PA Day today on bullying. There are probably many different blog posts that I could write about today, but what really resonated with me was the decision that our Director made to have all employees — caretakers, secretaries, administrators, teachers, DECEs, and EAs — involved in this full-day of professional development on bullying.

In my opinion, with this decision, comes a very clear message that no matter what our job description, kids come first. We can all make a difference in the lives of kids! And that made me think back to the toileting example, for teaching a child to wipe his bum might not be outlined in any Program Document, but imagine how dysregulated this child would have felt if I had said, “No.” What would this have communicated to him about our connection? Is this the message that I would want to communicate? 

Know more. Do better. Many years ago, I thought that connecting with kids meant a smile and a hello before we read a book together. Academic expectations were always my biggest priority. Please don’t misunderstand me here. I still think that academics matter, and I want all of our students to meet with success. But I’ve learned that with strong relationships, kids will take the risks that they wouldn’t take without these bonds. Watch this video below. It is one of my favourites.

What do you do to priortize, build, and nurture these positive relationships? Kids really do need all of us.


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