“Don’t bang that chalk” and other things I DIDN’T say

Everyday in the classroom I fight against some ingrained notion of how things should be done. I fight against my need for cleanliness, order and control. I fight my own unrealistic expectations in order to allow my class the freedom to have power over their own learning.
I have always had a deep appreciation for play based learning but in the past I felt it was also my role to direct children in the proper way to move about the classroom.
Now we have one basic rule. Respect. Respect the materials. Respect your friends. Respect yourself. In a toddler classroom this is exhibited in daily interactions with those around us, gentle care of books and more fragile toys as well as having the space to say “No!” or “Stop it!” when needed.
For me this means thinking before I speak. Remembering the rule of respect. Respect for exploration. Respect for child led play. Respect for a toddlers needs, even if I don’t know what those needs are.

Today I didn’t say:

Stop banging that chalk on the paper!

Instead I evaluated what was really happening, despite the quite deafening sound of six toddlers banging sidewalk chalk on paper. They were exploring all parts of the chalk. Some gently rubbing their fingers in the chalk dust left behind. Others testing out different rhythmic patterns. Some just enjoying the mimicking of a friends behavior and the power of making such a loud noise. Not one was doing it to irritate me, they didn’t seem to have me in mind at all.

Puzzle pieces go in the puzzle. This is how the puzzle works.

This quote is part of my repertoire of quotes I say despite myself. It drives me nutty to see pieces all over the classroom. There are really lots of neat things that can happen for a toddler when they are allowed to explore with those pieces. They match like items by category, color and shapes(early math skills anyone??). Fill up purses and bags (hello spatial awareness) Use them to feed babies and other animals (yay for ALL that comes along with dramatic play!!)
Not to mention when I go to show the child how to use the puzzle it almost inevitably ends up with me doing the whole thing while they move on to something interesting to them.

Please stop whining, you are fine

Alright, to be honest this one crossed my mind but I rarely say things like this anymore. I will admit I used to, in an attempt to control the noise level of the class. Now I have a better grasp of what it means to let children own their emotion. I also believe deeply that this is an essential life skill. Even if it might irritate me in the short term, they have a right to feel what they feel.
I was put on edge by the fact that my Collin was having a particularly needy day even though I felt I was being very responsive. I wished for just a moment that I could ask him to knock it off and that he actually would. Then my compassion for his tiny emotional self flooded back and I knelt down to just hold him. As I hugged him and rubbed his back before nap I was able to put the dots together and surmise he may have been getting sick. Sure enough he woke up with a fever. What if I had dismissed his feelings or worse yet yelled at him when he was actually trying to show me something?

I feel as though everytime I close my mouth the children teach me something. The children and I would both have missed a bunch of great opportunities had I tried harder to control the order in the classroom. I also may have missed connecting to my son while he was coming down with something and really giving him the gentle words and cuddles he needed. I feel grateful for the training that has helped me learn to teach outside the box. I am also grateful to my class who forgive me when I do say the wrong things so I can try again tomorrow.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elizabeth Winston
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 22:48:04

    Fabulous – and especially hope Collin is feeling better! Love, Granny


  2. abundantlifechildren
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 01:39:59

    This gives me tears! I had a particularly challenging day — being with children requires that we adults be far more thoughtful and reflective then in any other field, and it can become exhausting! I am so grateful to read your own reflections…it gives me some much needed energy to refocus for another day to come.


Please join in the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: