As a Behavioral Health consultant for Head Start, I observe wonderful
interactions between program staff and children. I share these stories here so that the wisdom and insight of these
educators can be demonstrated to others, as they develop their approach to young children.
Last year in Tanana
Last year, I visited Tanana during a period of
minus 40 temperatures. School was cancelled for the children, so there was more time than usual to talk with staff.
Lead teacher, Adele, told me this story: The home of one of the children burned down last year. One day
recently this girl came to class and
mentioned that she was getting a new house and a new baby in her family. One might think that this announcement was
good sign and that she was adjusting well.
And this could have been the case but subsequent events showed how much sadness was right under the surface.
When she was in circle, she and another child both wanted the same thing
and when she didn’t get it she began to cry.
Staff might have intervened at this point to remind the child that
she has to learn to share or that she can have the item later. Instead, Adele walked with her to the area
near the computer, the “teachers” area, she held her and while, the other teacher, Patty, continued
with circle, Adele asked the child what was wrong. The child told Adele that her puppy had been
burned up in the fire. Adele responded
to this by soothing and rocking her.
The other children in circle became
interested in what was going on with Adele and the girl. They began to leave the circle, sneaking
quietly across the room to have a look.
Patty went along with this (where she could have instead insisted that
they stay in circle – instead she gave some respect to the student’s need to
see what was happening). Adele saw the
other children and told them that the girl was sad because her puppy died in
the fire. Each child in turn came up to
the grieving child, hugged her and comforted her.
This girl is the newest one in the class as she moved there
from another village. It’s likely that she still feels a bit like
an outsider and this show of caring from the other children probably did more
than make her feel their compassion for her loss. It may have also helped her to feel accepted
by the other children.
This interaction taught compassion, feelings, and built
community in the classroom. All of these
developmental strides would have been prevented by a teacher who emphasized
authority and obedience and who missed “what was happening.”
the story, "After that, she was fine." The amount of time for this scenario was probably fifteen minutes from start
to finish. It might have taken this time from the schedule of daily activities. Time well spent.
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