Friday, October 12, 2012

Why It's Important to Have Multiple Adults in a Classroom--An Experience in Teaching Kindness

There's a child that started in Room 1 (so, under two years old) a couple of weeks ago. On his first day, I could tell that working with him would be a challenge. He pouted stubbornly when he didn't get his way, threw himself crying on the ground at a whim, and hurt other children aggressively. But I worked with him patiently that day, explaining aloud what he was doing (for comprehension) and expectations of the classroom. I was excited about the prospect of watching him grow into a respectable and kind citizen of our daycare community.

I've worked with him a few times since then, each time requiring the same amount of patience and not to a noticeable amount of progress, but it seemed to culminate today when I happened to be working in the room. He had been sent to the office once already by the time I arrive for grabbing a little girl by the hair and ripping out a chunk of it. He just isn't having a very good day, the other teachers told me, but it's nothing out of the ordinary.

So at snack, I sat him directly next to me so that I could talk him through any issue that arose. He's a great eater and finished his snack quickly, but then looked to his neighbor for more to eat. The neighbor, noticing the hand encroaching upon his banana, picked it up quickly before it could be stolen. This caused the first child to become upset, thinking he had rights to the banana and was being kept unfairly from it. "That's not your banana; it's [Child 2]'s. You already ate your banana." This announcement from me only seemed to frustrate him further, and he flung his hand in a feeble hitting motion. "We can't hit. That hurts people," I reminded him. It was to no avail, because he repeated the motion a few more times. I placed my hand out to catch his, and when the neighbor noticed, it reminded him of giving high-fives, and he wanted to join in. "Oh, high-five," I told the second child. "[Child 1], do you want to give high-fives, too?" Thus, the issue was forgotten and we played at high-fives for a while. I also gave the child ample smiles during snack, and was pleased to receive them in return!

During our "recess" time at the playhouse (the rain kept us inside today), the other teacher in the room worked with him a little, but having been around him all day, I could tell she was losing her patience. The director, working on a project nearby, told her to send him to the office again if he pushed or harmed the other children in any way. It happened shortly after, and the other teacher did send him to the office to sit by himself for a little while. The director mentioned to us, then, that while he doesn't want to, he may have to ask the parents to take him to a different center if his behavior doesn't change.

At that point, I started thinking harder about the situation. It seemed that the other teachers that work with him (which is more often than I do) don't regard him with much affection. It's easy to become frustrated with a child because of his behavior, I know, but if "the hard line" isn't aiding his progress, something else must be attempted.

Thus, I spent the next hour until his mom came following him about the classroom.

When he hit another child with a toy, I picked the second child, first to assess the situation, and when I discovered that the second child was mostly startled and hadn't come to any real harm, I continued to hold him for comfort. "Ouch. That hurt when you swung the toy," I told the child at hand. I bent down and sat on the floor next to him, still holding the other child. "See how he's crying?" I asked. "He's crying because it hurt when the toy hit his head." I rubbed the second child's back comfortingly, and the first child noticed my motions. "Do you want to give him gentle touches to make him feel better?" He did. "That's good. Soft, nice touched." He hugged the other child of his own accord, which I commented on as well. "Oh, yes, soft hugs will make him feel better, too. How nice."

When the second child stopped crying and walked away, I followed the first on to his next adventure, toy cars. We rolled them back and forth to each other, me commenting on what we were doing in a kind voice. My attention was only on him, and from how eagerly he was responding, I don't think he receives much of either of those (kind voices or one-on-one attention) very often.

I followed him to the other children and told him countless times, "No, we can't take toys from others--it's not kind," holding the hands clutching a stolen treasure out to the victims and gently massaging his fingers until he let go. I told him, "No, we don't hit our friends, that hurts them," countless times, as well, patient all the while. I could tell the other teacher in the room was still struggling with her patience, as she called his name warningly, even as I worked with him, but I told her with my body language that I was handling the situation. He didn't need any more warnings, he needed love and understanding.

He also shared toys of his own accord, too, which I talked up exaggeratedly. "Oh! You're sharing that toy with her! How kind! That must make her feel happy when you share your toys with her. Thank you!" It was an equal mix of happy and tough times.

I was changing diapers when his mom came to pick him up, but when she left, the other teacher told me over the baby gate into the bathroom, "I think he kind of freaked Mom out." "Oh? Why's that?" I asked, worried. It turned out that Mom had heard from the office about the hair pulling incident and came in to apologize to the little girl herself. She had picked her son up and was talking to the girl when her son said, "Mama, I hug." She put him down and watched as he gave the girl a gentle hug, like the ones I had practiced with him. Mom was apparently shocked.

THIS is why it's important to have at least two adults in the room. I wouldn't have been able to work so diligently with him today if she wasn't in the room keeping an eye on the other 9 children.

I'm still looking forward to watching him grow, and I don't think the director is as apt to send him away after today. I just hope in the future that I can find the patience I had today and that I was any kind of example to the other teacher on the importance of guiding with love.