One amazing part of being in this field of work is the amount of self-reflection and introspection you have to utilize every day to be a more effective teacher. I have a terrible memory. Terrible barely describes it, actually. Yet working with the kids every day is bringing back little snippets of my own childhood. I consider it a blessing because for most adults, as soon as they reach maturity, childhood is forgotten. This saddens me, because we can learn so much from our youth!
A requirement for my certification in AMS is to take a Childhood Development class. I will admit, I was a bit full of myself going into the class thinking “I’ve taken Psychology classes before AND I work with children already, they can’t teach me anything I don’t already know” and this is a VERY dangerous thought for a teacher. I really REALLY should know better than to think I’m not going to learn anything! I learn everyday from my children at school! I guess I just assumed that this was adult oriented, I wouldn’t gain anything. However one thing that I have learned in this class so far is that children gain their reasoning skills for more complex things later in life, around 11-13 years of age. That might not seem like a big deal to anyone else but this blew me away.
After learning this, I thought “Have I come to this realization? I could think of one glaring example that is a very common frustration for adults working with children. Here’s an example of one thing I do that I am now trying to correct – David walks up to Isabelle and kicks her. Isabelle cries, I come over and find out what’s happening. I ask David “Why did you kick her? Were you mad?” He says “No. I wasn’t mad. I don’t know.” In a search for a more defining answer for what happened, I press on – “If you knew you were going to get in trouble, why did you do it?” The most common answer you get as a teacher or parent when asking this question to a child you get is “I don’t know….” which can be very frustrating! I can recall many times in my childhood that my own parents said this to me, and my response would almost always be “I don’t know…”. This is because the child actually does not know why they continued to do what they did even knowing the consequences.
Part of being a child is about NOT thinking about things before you do them! Seems like a hilarious thought really, or one that should have come to me easier – but realizing this was a big “A-ha!” moment. I love those, when everything clicks into place. My children in the classroom are simply being children. They don’t have malicious intent to hurt their friends, they honestly don’t think about the consequences of their actions before they act. Part of being a mentor to a child is helping them develop a conscience. (When I say conscience, I mean developing the voice in your head that assists in right/wrong.) Instead of addressing a child in the above manner, I’ve been trying something else. In the same situation I would say instead “David, why did you hurt Isabelle?” David says: “I don’t know…” I then say something along the lines of: “That made Isabelle feel sad and hurt. We respect our friends here at school. You don’t like making people feel sad or hurt, do you?” With this, the child usually gives me a solemn nod to agree that we should not hurt our friends, and then they go apologize to the injured child on their own. Instead of scolding a him, I had him empathize with his friend, which assists in developing a conscience in a child.
I know it is difficult at some times, but it is not ideal to just inform a child that they did something wrong and leave it at that. If they are misusing a work, just asking them to put it away does not explain to the child what they did wrong. In the future, they might be intimidated subconsciously by an activity that they were asked to put away if the teacher did not explain why they should put it away. I spoke of this in the entry about respect. Respect in the classroom prevents intentional misuse of the work, but you also need to define what is misuse to your children.