I agree with a lot of what Lauren has to say. Also, the fact that these behaviors are happening mid-year shows that the children have grown in their trust that they are safe and can grow in the class and that you are there for them. I like the suggestions to foster their friendships and leadership skills. Once I went into a classroom when it was about to be lunch time. The teachers wanted to separate two children who she said yelled and fought. I asked her permission to step in. I went to the both boys and said I heard you want to eat lunch together. I also heard that you yell and fight. They agreed. I asked "which is more fun, eating together or yelling and fighting?" They said eating together. I said "how about this. You get to eat together as long as you eat in a friendly way. If you yell or fight, you go to different tables. What do you think? " They wanted to try eating together. I told them I need to leave, and I thought they could do it, and if they need help, they could ask the teacher for help. It was fine. They needed to focus on their wish to be together being stronger than the yelling and fighting. It's not a magic wand. But sometimes, trying to ask them to help solve the problem works.
Ellen Cogan, MS Ed - Owner, Chief Consultant - HILLTOP Early Childhood SERVICES
NYS Early Learning Credentialed Trainer
NYS Master Cadre, Pyramid Model
Implementation Planner, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnershipwww.earlychildinfo.com
Sent: 03-05-2023 08:58 AM
From: Lauren Stauble
Subject: Classroom management, mid year behaviors
I agree with Kimberly and Sharlene that your story actually points to your reflective engagement as a teacher. You clearly have emotional intelligence skills that are helping you to recognize that you want to change something about the situation in your classroom. This same dynamic seemed to happen every year in my classroom and I used to worry that it meant I was not doing as good a job at the teacher next door where all the children seemed to be calmly playing. The more I paid attention and got to know the other teacher's style I realized that in her interactions with children she had been using a behaviorist approach, which was very different from my own approach. I was willing to accept resistance from my students as an opportunity to reflect on whether or not what I was asking them to do was necessary and/or meaningful. They looked for my edges most during the years when I was testing this style of teaching out. In my 6th year of teaching I felt confident in my teaching style and I knew where my own edges were and the classroom dynamics started to change.
I want to offer you a couple of strategies in regards to two concerns you mentioned that really worked for me. First, you mentioned that you're finding yourself separating two children. It is awesome that these two children have connected. They value their connection over that with the adults right now and that's normal (children often look for autonomy from adults/find alliance in their friendships around age 3.5 and again around 4.5). When this happened the most effective strategy was planning small groups with the two children that struggled to scaffold how to lead well together. They had clearly been looking to feel powerful and we wanted to show them that they could be powerful in ways that were good for the group. We would invite them to teach the class something together during circle times (one pair had a passion for learning about the animals in our region), write story plays collaboratively for the class to perform, and made sure they had plenty of uninterrupted gross motor play time together. After that work had been established we started making small groups with one or the other child, in which one of them would have tons of intrinsic motivation to be a part of, so that we could scaffold their relationships with other students. When they made a new potential friendship connection we suggested the family reach out to the other family to see each other outside of school to strengthen that relationship. One year we found out that one of our students had a therapist and the family was willing to connect us with his therapist to brainstorm together.
The second strategy I wanted to offer is Collaborative Emotion Processing (CEP). In a classroom that practices CEP, the teachers have access to emotion cards (a colleague and I created the "CEP Deck" for this purpose. This deck is perfect for multi-language learners because we did not put words on the cards. Emotion concepts are rooted in culture so we wanted the people using the cards to feel empowered to use the words that come naturally to them when big emotions arise based on their own cultural context. There are emotion word stickers in case a teaching team or family wants to use the same word for each card consistently). The practice of using emotion cards transformed my teaching practice in terms of calming my own nervous system because we kept them out of the children's reach, but where they could be seen. That meant I had to pause and walk over to get them. In those 30 second of walking over to them I would take a breath and reset my intention to provide emotion processing support. We know that children don't feel safe when the adult's nervous system is heightened so this self-regulation piece made the biggest impact - it actually reduced the amount of work and time that solving a problem required. The children in my class came to hear the words "Let me get the cards" as a sign that everything was going to be ok. It started to feel like the whole room exhaled when I said that phrase. Sometimes the situation was too intense for me to step away and I would ask another adult to pass me the cards. Even in these situation there was an energetic decompression. If I still felt my nervous system activated I would take the opportunity to model the use of coping strategies (vs. mechanisms). One example is saying "I'm going to take 5 deep breaths to help me feel calm. Do you want to take breaths with me?" Most children said yes to this. Another example is saying (if it was true), "I just realized that I haven't had a drink of water in a long time. Before we solve the problem, let's take a water break." The children usually wanted to drink water together, too. Breathing and drinking water together can be very calming.
Lastly, when you have to throw you lesson plan out the window, I wonder what you are teaching instead? Even when it's not what we planned, we're always teaching. In year six of teaching I was able to broaden my thinking about my curriculum to include the unplanned emotion processing events. It's emotional intelligence, especially emotion processing skills and empathy that children at this age are intrinsically motivated to learn. When I came to value and prioritize this kind of development I could really get present with my students in the unplanned moments to teach skills intentionally. I expected there would be an opportunity to teach and that it would happen spontaneously. I also planned for the other domains in the context of choosing materials for open-ended play and planning small group work. The more I relaxed into the spontaneous CEP curriculum, the easier it became to implement curriculum in other domains.
I hope that is helpful! Please feel free to contact me to think through something more specifically.
Sent: 03-03-2023 05:45 PM
From: Calista Weygoldt
Subject: Classroom management, mid year behaviors
I am struggling to deal with two out of my 17 students, who i have to take out of centers or redirect from obstinate behavior, (although we have a few other friends that are becoming super boisterous). They are both very helpful and intelligent boys (one of whom is an ELL), but I feel overwhelmed with having to separate them not only from each other but intervening with their interactions with other friends. Both sets of parents just say oh just tell them you are going to call us, but that doesn't actually help when they are feeling their strong emotions. If I had less students in the class I feel like I could take more time to try to get to the root of their triggers, but wow I find myself having to count or ask my assistant to step in do help me not be overwhelmed. Both of them have goals about interaction with peers and about following directions, but the end of the week is here and I would love to hear if anyone has any tips. My mind is too foggy from the cacophony of the classroom. I feel like I'm losing my grip in terms of order and noise (it seems like everyone has lost their inside voice to be quite honest) and I'm embarrassed on top of it, because it feels like instead of getting better holistically, some parts are regressing. I also feel like the lesson plan gets thrown out the window or my ability to walk around and interact in each center and take notes is totally thrown off by having to intervene where those friends wander off to. (ok, long post, please help!)