Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Magical Confidence

My kindergarten group one year included a tall, older boy named “Noah.” Noah was six-years-old. One day Noah noticed one of the other children was playing with a toy that Noah liked. I watched Noah walk over, grab the toy, and tug it away from the other boy. Noah then went to the other side of the room leaving the other boy teary-eyed.

Standing between me and Noah was a student teacher who was spending 3 weeks in my kindergarten. She was facing Noah and I watched for a minute or so to see if she could help resolve the situation. I could see her tensing up wanting to do or say something but she did not.

Not wanting the situation to be prolonged, I went over to Noah with outstretched hand, palm up. I didn’t say anything. Noah looked at me, sighed and handed me the toy. Then I went over to the boy who had started with the toy and handed it to him. At the same time I spoke, loudly enough for Noah to hear across the room, “It is Sam’s turn now. Noah can have a turn next.”

That’s all I said and did, and I resumed the activity I had been doing with some other children. The situation was resolved. Harmony was restored. 

And I had offered the two boys something they could imitate in future interactions, though it might take a number of similar interventions by me until one or the other boy took up a new approach. Noah could perhaps go to another child and ask, “Could I have a turn next?” Or Sam could say, when another child is trying to take something he is using, “It’s my turn now. You can have a turn next.” But remember, it might take many, many similar interventions by me until the children take up the new habit in their speaking.

What does not work is saying,”I already told you to ask for a turn.” It is not useful to expect quick changes in children’s behaviors. It results in frustration on the adult’s part when you expect change after one or two on fifty interventions. Habit change is slow and comes at it’s own time.

One thing that helps me is understanding that the children have developed habits, unconscious strategies, that have been successful for them in their past so they will keep using those habits until another strategy takes it’s place. That takes time and repetition.

After the children had gone home that day, the student teacher asked me, “How did you do that?” She was amazed. She though I did something magical. I thought I took a simple and logical action. In our discussion we came to realize that when I approached Noah, hand open for him to give me the toy, I had confidence that he would give it to me. I didn’t force him to give it to me, but I knew he would. I knew the situation called for the other boy having the toy returned to him and so I was the vehicle for restoring kindergarten harmony. And on some level Noah knew it too. My student teacher went away considering the question of inner confidence in knowing what is needed.

Thanks to all of you for reading. I hope I can continue to offer helpful ideas and experiences that make your life with young children more satisfying for all concerned! 

And now for some 'housekeeping.'

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One another subject, I want your help with solving a mystery. I noticed on the analytics page of my blog (that only I can access) that for a couple of weeks, hundreds of views of my blog are from folks in Russia. I don’t know who those folks are, ‘google analytics’ does not give that information. My blog is in English, I have not yet done workshops in Russia. I have no close family there, though some ancestors came from there bringing my surname.

If anyone can help with this mystery, please contact me. I am so curious.