The best teachers in the world (the kids) have taught me that all people function at a different velocity. Some people operate at high speed and others at slow, and it depends on the activity. As I mentioned, many of my frustrations in the classroom came from kids not doing what I wanted them to do. I still get frustrated to this day in the same situation.
So, being self-critical, what could I do differently? The answer is obvious. Stop expecting kids to do things that I want them to do. Frustration gone. The problem is that there are a million things we would like the kids to do that are in their best interests and in the best interest of those around them. -Washing their hands after going to the toilet. -Not hitting other children. -disrupting activities.
To declare, I by no means have this mastered. I still tell kids what to do! I am trying out ways of approaching these situations that give the power back to the kids. I always have to stop myself and think ‘each child has their own personal time’. If I can be ‘patient’ and give the child the time that they need to complete any certain task then I am respecting them, and demonstrating to them that I trust them. I cannot emphasise enough what respect and trust can do for a child’s confidence. A child’s confidence is the key to their learning and their mental, emotional, and physical heath! I will save that speech for another blog.
So, by simply changing the words that we use to talk to a child we can demonstrate trust and respect. Almost every teacher on the planet subconsciously does this. For example: when a child comes back from the toilet without washing their hands we say “did you wash your hands?” 99 times out of 100 that is enough to get them to return and wash their hands. We aren’t saying “wash your hands”, we are giving the power to the child to think critically and make their own decisions. Win!
Quite often when we remind a child not to hit another. It is just that, a reminder. We have had many discussions previously about why it’s not a good idea to hit another child so they can think critically about their actions. We are not actually saying don’t hit, we are saying, “remember the talk about why we shouldn’t hit another child?”. That gives them the opportunity to reflect. Win!
The disrupting of activities is the tough one. It has been my biggest frustration because the thought process is: That child should be listening. If they aren’t listening, then they aren’t learning. If they are talking or disrupting then they are affecting the learning of others. In reality, there is always a reason why a child is disrupting. It is not because they don’t want to learn or they want to disrupt the learning of others.
What I have been saying to kids is this. “Look Steve, I’m ok with you not listening, if you don’t want to take part in this activity that’s fine. You can step aside can watch from the edge.” Giving the child the opportunity to make a decision is very important as opposed to saying “go over there and sit outside of this lesson!” Before this step, more often than not, just by saying their name, looking at them or asking them a question can change their behaviour.
Our staff and volunteers have also been tactically ignoring certain behaviours. It sounds horrible but it is a very important and useful tool. We aren’t ignoring the child. We are ignoring the behaviour. For example, we have one child who loves to shout, hit things to make noise, and disrupt any way that he can. As much as we can, we ignore the majority of these actions. If we don’t pay attention to the action, then there is no emphasis on it. If there is no reaction (what the child is looking for) there is no reason to continue it. More often than not, outside of that lesson, we are giving that child more attention because we see the behaviour as a response to something much deeper going on.
I only realised the other day, but his shouting has completely stopped. He still disrupts with other behaviours but this is a small win for us. Baby steps. The ‘not shouting’ not only means less disruption in activities but it also demonstrates a change in the child. He is less frustrated and his confidence is growing in himself, and in us.
I can see the difference to how I would react before, and now. Before, I would jump on every noise, interruption, call-out etc. Now I am much more tolerant and patient with behaviours that are not directed at me or the other kids. They are responses to other problems that happen outside of the project. With certain kids, if they are very disruptive, we give them the chance to go and help our chef in the kitchen. Some people would see it as a prize for a child that is disrupting. In reality, it is necessary time away from the current social situation to change the focus and maybe do some type of therapeutic repetitive action like cutting vegetables or washing dishes (which they also love doing).
It is fundamental to have some type of ‘time out’ activity that a child can do when they are not coping, need a change of focus, or a reset. Every child has their own personal needs. If they are punished for a behaviour that is a result of a deeper problem that they don’t know how to express, then that leads to more stress, frustration and disruption.
Respecting a child’s personal time was also a game-changer for me. For example. Any activity is preferably done with the whole group. Before, I would see it as wasting the time of the other kids when we would wait for another child to join. Activities with the whole group are important so waiting an extra minute for one child is worth it. The other children also understand the situation, sometimes they even motivate the child to enter. It is also a representation of the real world. Waiting on someone before you go somewhere or do something is a part of life. We should replicate real-life situations in our educational setting.
I want to return to the theme “we know nothing”. We know nothing of what is going on in another person’s life. The problems, traumas, stresses and fears of other people are almost never presented fully in any situation. If we can respect another’s personal time and needs, then they will feel respected and trusted. These are the seeds of confidence.