As I’ve shared before, there are many reasons why my teaching partner, Paula, and I choose to use social media as part of our workflow. While we take numerous photographs and short video clips as part of documenting learning and reflecting for future learning, sometimes these recordings capture the unexpected. This happened to me this week. I was then reminded of another reason that we videotape conversations with kids: to recognize when we’re wrong.
This blog post is a story, and in an effort to protect the privacy of the child involved, I’m not going to indicate if it was a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter. What matters is my response. For the purpose of this story, I’m going to call the child, Sam. Here’s the story.
Earlier this week, Paula and I thought about extending the tire weaving with the addition of some natural items. We picked up a few bunches of flowers to use for an art provocation in class, and it didn’t take long for them to begin to wither. What if we brought them outside for some mud kitchen and weaving use? As anticipated, a small group of children began to weave with the flowers. When a child then found a lone snail — even in the midst of the freezing cold temperatures — some children thought that this weaving space could become a natural home for the snail. A few students came and went from this space, especially when they saw the brightly coloured flowers sticking out of the weaving net.
As the habitat continued to evolve, another child (*Sam) came by. Sam couldn’t help but touch the flowers. Just look at them. They’re almost begging to be touched. Touching soon morphed into picking up the flowers and holding onto them. As the habitat creators continued to work at arranging the flowers, Sam worked just as hard at removing them. Soon, one of the children at the tire asked Sam for a flower back. The request was kind: “Can I please have the flower?” Sam’s response: “No.” Now I happened to be standing by this space documenting the evolution of the tire art/habitat creation, and when I heard the request for the flower and the reply, I jumped in. I also kept the video going.
I’m going to admit that I kept recording because I thought that I would be able to coach Sam into giving back the flower. My hope — at the time — was to capture the sharing that could take place with support. But this is not what happened. Sam was insistent on not giving back the flower, and I was invested in the dispute. When Sam screamed, “No,” I bent down and took the flower. Sam wasn’t expecting this, so the removal of the flower was an easy one, but the decision to do so, escalated the behaviour. Soon we were dealing with a full blown temper tantrum.
Paula and I let Sam cry, scream, and kick. We just made sure to give Sam the space to do so safely. We moved the tire over a bit on the pavement, but Sam was still focused on it and the flower. After about 10 minutes of this, with no reduction in upset, Paula ended up taking a group of children to the field space (as we often do each day), and I moved the tire into the shed. Out of sight, out of mind. Sam still cried for a bit, but when Sam ended up dumping over a container of blocks, this provided enough of a distraction to calm down. Then Sam cleaned up the blocks and re-joined the play.
There are elements of what happened here that I believe Paula and I handled well.
- We were consistent.
- We gave Sam the time and space to calm down independently.
- We removed the item of focus to also help reduce the stress.
- We moved past the problem. It happened. Sam cleaned up. The day went on as normal.
There was one big problem though. (Without capturing it on video, I’m not sure that I would have ever figured it out.) This experience escalated as it did because I chose to intervene in the first place. Did I need to say or do anything at all? Looking back on this story and listening back to the video even days later, I wonder if I had to get involved. One of the weavers asked for the flower back. If I didn’t say anything, but just observed, what might have happened?
- Would the child have requested the flower again?
- Would the child have taken it?
- Would the child have waited for Sam to drop the flower and then added it to the snail habitat design?
- Would the child have found something else to use instead?
At the point when I intervened, nobody was hurt and nobody was particularly upset. I felt as though the child’s kind request for the flower back should be granted, and I thought that Sam should know that ruining work is not okay. But seeing the situation through this lens has me making two big assumptions:
- That the child was not competent enough to solve the problem independently … especially if given the time to do so.
- That Sam’s intention was to “ruin the work,” when maybe it was just to touch the beautiful flower.
When I chose to get involved and everything unravelled as it did, I also chose to stay the course. Next time though, I hope that when I review our recordings, I see myself stopping and observing instead of jumping in and problem solving. I wonder how things might work out differently. This week, I’m going to attempt to “count to 10” before saying or doing anything (unless there is an immediate safety concern). I wonder what the impact of this decision might be. I’m definitely going to do some videotaping, re-watching, and reflecting. What might I view differently? How might problems resolve themselves differently? I’d love any interested educators, administrators, and/or parents to join me in this challenge. I know that time is always of the essence, and I’m not sure how I’m always going to get this additional wait time to work, but I’m curious to see what might be possible.
Thank you for sharing your reflections. I am also working on waiting before intervening this year. I love the idea of documenting yourself via video in order to reflect on how you handled the situation. I am going to try this! I really appreciate that you share the successes in your classroom along with those times you wish you’d done differently. Such amazing reflective practice.
Thanks for the comment, Sarah! Videotaping has really helped both Paula and I reflect individually as well as with each other. We can then look back at what happened together, even when we might not have experienced the situation together. Good luck with working on this waiting time! I feel as though I’ve done this for years, and every time I get better at it, I also need those reminders to focus on it again. The COVID protocols that have students in their own spaces has brought along with it some challenges with wait time, as I find myself wanting to jump along to the next student, and maybe responding/intervening quicker than I should. I’m hoping this intentional plan to “count to 10” will help me more with observation time this week, and maybe even have me seeing students/situations differently.
I love this story! It’s so easy to intervene and it feels so natural to do it! Sam’s reaction is very interesting too. I’m sure it taught you a lot about them. It’s a “911!!!” reaction to a very small incident. Why?
I’m trying really hard this year to not intervene unless the child really lets me know that I need to. I feel like sometimes they really want to share the injustice and tell me all about it, but they don’t really want me to get involved and try to solve it. Sometimes I’ll say, “What do you think I should do about it?” and they will have a solution. And other times they will shrug and walk off.
Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I think in kindergarten, especially before January (when there are often still three-year-olds), it’s not uncommon to get a toddler response to problems. Sam’s reaction didn’t surprise me (based on some previous experiences), although I do question if the problem could have been avoided with a different reaction from me.
Thanks for also sharing about your goal this year. You make such a great point about some kids just wanting to air their concerns to someone who will listen. Paula and I continue to work hard at also asking, “What do you think you could do?” Sometimes bringing a problem to our attention can also allow us to support them in solving it on their own. I wish that I supported more of this independent problem solving in the case last week.