enviroment

8. A Sound Environment for Children in the Classroom

sound-enviroment-for-a-child”When is it 2 o’clock?” (pick-up time)

”How many hours until circle time?”

”When is Lunch?”

I’ve been getting individual children asking me these questions shortly after the work session starts (a 3 hour work session where children are encouraged / directed to work with the Montessori materials and activities provided).

At first I was suspicious by their questions, but dropped it and made using the clock fun by showing the children how many hours we have until that time, sometimes making sounds of play as I moved my fingers around the clock, other times I would count the hour when I hit the 12 mark to make the process more interesting.  

Then more children started to individually ask me what time was circle time and what time was lunch time during our work session.

I asked a little boy once if the reason he is asking me is because he wants to go home. He said honestly yes, and I said ”well, what do you do want to do when you go home?” and he said he wanted to play soccer (football) with his dad.

It makes me concerned these children already 10-20 minutes into the morning work session are already wanting to go home. This is a huge problem… Is something going on the environment that is preventing them from enjoying themselves?

In my personal experience, I do find the way things are run in my classroom are not ideal which may contribute to children not being very happy. In this series I will walk through the problems I see and will add in my perspectives on how we can practically change them.

First of all the environment is not ideal – we are in an old building with long rooms, high ceilings and wooden floors on the second floor, so if chairs fall, glasses clink together, chairs scrape against the floor, or someone yells, the sound reverberates and echoes louder than usual. This causes many children and teachers to complain of the noise-volume, which affects stress levels, and disrupts work. When it becomes too loud sometimes teachers becomes angry/emotional and will speak and/or act in this emotion, that ripples in the classroom and affects the children. In some cases a child will cry because of the volume, so we would have to ring the triangle, remind everyone to talk in a quiet voice, but 30 minutes later it becomes loud again. These are ‘’Classroom Acoustic Problems’’ that actually harm a child’s health and learning.

There are a lot of little problems like this that contribute to making the work session environment not ideal/optimum for a child, and it’s really troubling to see children not happy and wanting to go home so early in the morning.

Practically, ideally, we require an environment/space that does not echo nor reverberate sounds for both teachers and children. Children are much more sensitive than us, so if we are going to have them work in an environment for long periods of time, we need to consider the environment and sound levels MUST fit their physical and psychological needs — they are of priority because the intention of school/classroom is FOR them to learn, grow and develop.

One way to fix the issue of tall ceilings that reverberate/echo sound is adding sound eliminator panels on the top of the wall, similar to what this classroom did here because these panels absorb sound very well, thus making the room much quieter and ‘’cosier.’’  If you’re on a budget, you can use cotton panels, which may not be the most attractive looking, but their purpose supersedes that (and children really don’t care what the room looks like). Other solutions can be adding carpets/rugs in the classroom, and more objects on the wall to block sound from bouncing off.

The most important point within this all is that the environment should be in consideration of both the child and teacher/adult’s health and wellbeing that leads/promotes optimum learning, growing and developing.

As my responsibility of a teacher’s assistant in the classroom, I will ask my team if adding panels in the classroom is a possibility, backing up my stance with research and personal examples for support, and will update you on any changes.

Thank you for reading!

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7. How Not to be a Killjoy

photo-1437955010382-7b8721d5c977Killy joy: A person who spoils the enjoyment of others

In the kindergarten I work at, it is difficult for children to go outside of the box and use the classroom materials for their own exploration and creativity (unless it’s painting or drawing, but even within that there are certain rules such as not drawing on the table/easel).  The reason for this is because the materials we have are specifically designed for a child to use them a certain way. Even simple tasks like cleaning an orange press, we as teachers have these steps to show them.

When things get out of hand, meaning, when the child does not do what we asked or showed them to do, we tend to reprimand them – sometimes with a scowl, or a frown, sometimes changing our voice tonality to match the disapproval or even judging and shouting at them for what they’ve done.

But have we ever stepped back and just observed what they did? To see if whether that moment with the child was an expression of their own creativity and going outside the box?

Take for example these real situations that happened in my classroom:

  1. Two boys were washing glasses, and one of the boys decided to put water in his hair. The other boy saw how it changed the shape of the boys hair, so helped shape the hair into a style. Laughing, they played with the boy’s hair.
  2. A child sees himself in a mirror and starts dancing, doing cartwheels, watching himself perform tricks.
  3. A child (instead of washing the juicing equipment) set the equipment up in the sink in a way where when he turns on the water, the water goes through the equipment, creating a new structure for water to go into the sink. He called other children to see his invention.

How did we as teachers respond?  Basically what you would expect – a lot of no’s and stop that’s, telling what the child should do next.

When we adults/teachers see these sort of things, we tend to immediately think they are rebelling against the classroom rules, and we react, stop them, and/or tear them away from the situation. We don’t and cannot take that step back to see the natural creativity that came forth because is not within school rules and we don’t have time to look deeper. We got 20+ kids to manage! How do we even have time to look at the potentials and strengths of the child?

In creative – out of box situations like these, children are not deliberately rebelling from us/classroom rules but actually forget about the rules because they get so caught up in the moment, engaged in a new approach/way of working with something and just go for it — using the opportunity to try it out. The new moment of creation for children is more important than the old classroom rules/what they are ’suppose’’ to do, because it’s new and that process is fun for them. Though a point to mention is yes, sometimes their creations may create outflows that will disrupt the flow of the classroom environment (such as a child gets excited about what they discover and get the other children excited and classroom work is disrupted).

BUT – How many times do we as adults have an idea on something to try out/do and just go for it? Not so many… we tend to hold back and don’t go forward with things because we allow thoughts and memories of past failures limit us from just TESTING and SEEING what is possible…

I’d say, children are naturally creative in that they can make new things out of something we as adults think are used/meant for one purpose. The problem is when our way of thinking get in the way of child’s natural creativity and we become these authority figures that stop or ‘kill’’ the joy and opportunity for the child to continue exploring this new way of using the material.

I’ve been seeing these moments of creativity in children more and more when I’m around them, where they will use classroom materials in ways not meant to be used according to what we as teachers want, and — as much as I want to allow them to continue — I cannot , due to my job position, which is why I am currently trying to find ways where I can direct the child to perhaps continue this sort of exploration/creativity in another environment.

For example, I told V, this one child who placed a cup over the faucet to watch how the water came out that perhaps he can do this at home, but not here in the kindergarten. So I in a way approached it (as best I could) gently, communicating that this type of creativity may be possible in the home environment, but not here. Even writing this now, I  could have specified my approach by re-iterating the procedure on how we wash glasses in the kindergarten, and that there may be different procedures at home so ask your mom and dad if it’s ok to do this…

The problem is, with managing 20+ children in a classroom, staff members cannot actually allow children to freely express and test things out for themselves unconditionally, because they are in a confined environment with items/materials and thus rules need to be applied – however, are these rules in the best interest of children, where their mind, being and body are taken in consideration? No way! We have for CENTURIES formed our classroom rules based on our (adult-teacher) preferences, likes and wants. No where do we take the children 100% into consideration.

I say, a major change needs to take place. We need to uproot the current education system, get to understand more of the child’s mind, being and body and see how we can shape and design the future for children.

The best resources to start is studying the Parenting Series (even if you are not a parent!) and walking your own understanding of how human consciousness works through DIP Lite.