“...even though today's teachers are trained to be sensitive to "social-emotional development" and schools are committed to mainstreaming children with cognitive or developmental issues into regular classrooms, those advances in psychology often go out the window once a difficult kid starts acting out.” — What if Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids was Wrong?
In my first year of teaching preschool (way back before I knew about the CLASS tool), there was a little boy in my class who had a hard time verbalizing and regulating his emotions. Happiness equaled him jumping up and down, waving his arms, and squealing loudly. Fear turned into ear-piercing shrieks and racing around the classroom. Anger was translated into pushing over furniture, and sadness meant sobs in the corner.
As a new teacher, I was a little lost on what to do. I knew he needed extra support, but I felt caught between being sensitive and maintaining control of the classroom. My efforts to create firm boundaries and guide him to alternative behaviors mostly ended in power struggles. He would eventually calm down, but I was left knowing that the issue wasn’t actually resolved and would happen again the next day.
When I recently read an article entitled, “What if Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids was Wrong?”, the memories came rushing back. Finding ways to manage and guide behavior in the midst of the 1500 educational decisions teachers make each day is tough, regardless of your age group, background, and experience.
The article mentioned above highlights the need to move away from behavioral psychology approaches such as rewards systems, behavior charts, and suspension/expulsion. (By the way, did you know that preschoolers are the most likely age group to get expelled for behavioral issues in the classroom?) As the author noted, these punishment-focused strategies may work in the short term, but when we look at children’s long-term development the results are less positive. Additionally, when we think about children’s brain development, most are not ready cognitively to process everything happening in the classroom context.
So what is a teacher to do?
Fortunately, researchers and practitioners are finding ways to support teachers and reach “challenging” kids. Programs like Collaborative and Proactive Solutions, CSEFEL’s Positive Behavior Support, and Conscious Discipline, offer various options for teachers and administrators.
What all of these have in common is the focus on children’s social and emotional development found within the CLASS domain of Emotional Support. We see behavior change, when teachers are able to:
Rather than providing escalating punishments, teachers can take a step back and focus on the relationship with the child. Teachers can get to the heart of the problem instead of throwing up their hands. And children can feel accepted, less stressed, and engaged in the classroom in a meaningful way.
How does this resonate with your experiences in the classroom or supporting teachers? How have you used Emotional Support to address “challenging” children and behaviors?
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.