Catch That Child
More than Just a Mindset
One of the reasons why I love learning about early childhood is because the entire mindset of this field seems to be focused on correcting children in a loving manner. My last class was on the topic of inclusion, and the book for the class encouraged the readers to "catch children being good." If you have to catch a child being good, then you have to be aware of their actions. This includes giving them your full attention when you're with them. There always appears to be that one (or more than one) child that tries their hardest to present teachers with a challenge. Instead of getting frustrated with these children, us teachers can reverse the situation so that a desired end will result.
Depending on the early childhood center that you work at, ratios may be less than desirable. Some may allow for one-on-one time while others encourage you to just keep a whole slew of them in one place at one time. Either way, if teachers don't exert themselves intentionally, they will naturally give praise to the students who are doing right and scold the children that do wrong. This is due, in part, to allowing the world's thinking to rub off on us. It takes an intentional teacher to search for the good in a challenging child. This allows the child to grow in a way that they didn't expect and it also allows us as teachers to grow as well. I love watching a child that is about to do something wrong until I call his name out loud and explain to him that I'm so proud of how he was acting earlier. It doesn't always stop him from carrying out whatever offense he has planned but it's awesome when it does! And it still leaves a lasting impression upon them.
There is one boy in particular that I think of when I consider catching a child being good. This boy normally does not keep his hands to himself and he has a lot of energy in general. Even though he is a bit of a challenge, I have a heart for him. So it is not particularly difficult for me to call out when he is having an amazing day. Sometimes I say it to the whole class and other times I just pull him aside and tell him that I really like how his day is going and how he is listening. I've noticed now that every time I ask my group of preschoolers who's listening, he is the first one to stop talking and put his eyes on me. This is something that I don't think he would have done had I not taken opportunities throughout the day to praise him.
They're Always Listening
And I mean always. Even when you aren't talking, children are still listening. They are taking in your body language and your attitude towards towards life itself. I believe they can tell when you really believe in them and when you are just acting the part. However, I do believe in acting the part even when you don't feel like it. It's not so much a matter of feeling as it is doing it with a positive heart attitude.
There was another boy at the center I worked at that remains the most challenging child that I have dealt with. He tried to take numerous opportunities throughout the day to push his limits. There was one day in particular where it came into my mind that he hadn't taken any of those "opportunities." I pulled him aside and told him I just wanted to let him know that his day was going really well and that I was really proud of him. I told him to tell his mom that I said so. He didn't act like he was listening to me but I still felt the need to tell him that. He went back to playing with his friends. When his mom picked him up that day, he came back in the classroom and grabbed my hand and told me to come with him. I asked him why and he told me to just follow him. He went up to his mom, looked at me, and then said with a huge smile, "Tell my mom how my day was today." I could feel the excitement run through him, as he was being noticed, but this time, not for his bad behavior. I felt connected to that child from that point after. I was honored to be able to be a light to that child all because I caught a child when he least expected it.