Sunday, 03 March 2024 19:57

Leaving the nest

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     A parent asked me a very good question the other day--"How do you know when to sit back and allow your child to determine their own timeline to try something new and when to encourage or insist they do?"  As a teacher of young children, I am refining this art of knowing how best to support children's growth every day. 

     I start by getting to know the children.  Each child will have their own learning style and set of needs for support.  Years of experience with children this age has taught me some things to watch for--does this person need time to observe or do they like to jump right in; does this person need a confidence boost or help managing risk reasonably; does this person crave direct input from others or would they rather avoid scrutiny?  Sometimes children need a bit of a push, but I also know a push or insist can backfire, and I never want to take a child's focus from a new task at hand and put it on a power struggle with me.  

     Here's how this played out once with a Kindergartner and an ice skating field trip.  On the morning of the day we were going ice skating, a Kindergartner announced, "I'm not going to ice skate."

     "That's okay," I answered, "You can just go and watch."

     This same conversation occurred a couple times before we went to The Chiller in Springfield.  Once we arrived and stood at the counter to get ice skates, this child declared, "I don't want ice skates."

     Again I has a similar reply, "Okay, but would you like to see what a pair in your size looks like?"  The answer was yes.

     We proceeded in this way, me asking if they wanted to engage at each step and them answering affirmatively. 

     "Do you want to try them on?"  "Yes!"

     "Do you want to see what it's like to walk on the floor in them?"  "Yes!"

     "Do you want to go see what the children who are on the ice are doing?"  "Yes!"

     After we were stationed in front of the viewing window and near the door to enter the ice rink, I stopped asking questions and just observed.  What I saw was this child, who had been unsure of trying to ice skate, go out on the ice several times, holding the rail on the edge, holding the hand of an adult or a friend.  This child kept those ice skates on until after our snack break and until nearly the end of the time to skate.  Just putting the skates on was a great success, so for them this was an excellent first outing.

     This worked for this particular child because we knew each other very well.  I knew that the rejection of the activity was an expression of ambivalence.  The Kindergartner knew that my communication was honest--it was their choice how far to go--and that I would hold them in positive regard no matter what level of engagement they chose.  As the teacher, my role is to see the big picture, and know that it's not nearly as important how quickly someone learns a new skill or even how skilled someone becomes in any particular activity, but the most important thing is knowing yourself and finding the way to inner courage.  Once you know that you're already flying!

Read 30 times Last modified on Sunday, 03 March 2024 20:42