heart of the matter

6. One Year in the Classroom

one year in the classroomIt’s been one year for me working as a teacher’s assistant in a bilingual kindergarten. When I first started, I was really thrown into the deep end — I had no prior experience to working all day with children 3-6 years old (the majority of my experience was with older children like 9+), and the assistant I replaced was well-liked by the children, so they were not so open to accepting me.

I was quite “weak” as a teacher’s assistant. For the first three months I did not know how to properly direct children, or lead children, or handle conflicts. I was quite scared of some of them, particularly the boys who did not like what I told them to do where I “kept at them” by not giving up on them, they would hit and kick me, call me names, from which I would take personally and retreat in myself. I was quite traumatized by the amount of pain I experienced with the aggressive behavior of the children, because I had never before. This then fueled a cycle of fear where whenever I would be near them and they needed to stop doing something, the courage I had was very small, fear override it, so my starting point was insecurity and the boys picked up on it, and they knew how to respond to that insecurity… so you can understand it was a tough ordeal for me.

Now, after a year of dealing with such situations, I rarely get hit at/kicked at, and if I do, I am much quicker in protecting myself and not taking it personally because I know more of the child’s background/mind and why they did that.  In a way, coming out of  all of this, I feel like I can handle anything, honestly.

This means that over time in the classroom, I grew more confident in myself, in knowing what works, knowing how things are run in the classroom, knowing the children more, and what I need to say to them, the more certain I became in how to direct them and things. This entire process took like a year, to get to where I’m at now with children, where if there is something wrong/off in the classroom, like a conflict is about to brew, or a child is not working on a material properly, I am more confident in myself on how to direct and say things. And it’s been cool to see the results of my process working with children where when I ask them of something that considers the rules of the classroom, or the environment, or the children, they do it, they (for the most part) listen to me, and if they don’t, I am more confident in being able to work with them to have them understand, or at times I let them go — it depends on the situation (in time to come I can share more specifics on how I work with children in the classroom).

I had many many many times wanted to quit and give up my job. The combination of working with children’s emotions and behaviors along with the physical labor I had to do and my own personal reactions, it was too much for me. But I knew deep down to not give up, to not quit. Yes, money was the main motivation to keep going, but I also knew that I would regret quitting because I genuinely enjoy the children and the classroom I’m in.

Now, since I am more stable working with them, a new process has opened up for me where I am trying to understand how I can work with the inner needs of children– especially the difficult ones, where I am observing their behavior and seeing within their behavior what they need that would support them in groundedness, stability and to take steps to their utmost potential. It’s been a fun process so far and am looking forward to sharing more with you on that.

Thanks for reading!

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5. From Reacting to Understanding

children montessori reacting to understanding helping them fufill a needI had for a long time reacted to 4 year old V for his behavior and difficulty listening to teachers and children. He is different in that he cannot connect easily with the school materials and/or with other children by socializing.

What started happening was V began to give a lot of physical contact to the teachers and children, where he would randomly go up to a children and try to kiss them on the cheek, lips, or arm. Children would react to this, yelling or hitting him to go away, and so we as teachers started to teach V about space and asking before kissing children. This helped to an extent but then V continued with the physical attention without asking.

One day I looked deeper at the point, looking at human needs, and what this child’s behavior is showing me about needs he wants fulfilled. I saw V needed personal attention and physical touch as groundedness, which was what he was trying to do for himself by kissing and touching children, but it was bringing consequence to him.

Sunette from EQAFE.com showed me how V is an emotionally oriented child and does require personal attention because it is what he needs and by me supporting this need will support him with less consequences. One example to support him is sitting with him and reading a book for example, where we act out certain parts from the book (the character jumps so we physically jump) — making the together time a physical activity thing supporting him to stay grounded in the physical (so it’s not just all mental like reading and looking at pictures) but combining the mental, physical and potential education for him.

By supporting V to fulfill his need of attention, this can assist him to settle down within himself and not need so much attention from others, which then lessens consequences. Then additionally V now can move on to fulfill another need that will support him in reaching his utmost potential the more he develops/walks in life.

So for me, I have been shifting my focus to reacting to V to observing V — asking myself what does he NEED, what is his (problematic) behavior showing me that I can support himself with?

I got to apply this point of supporting him when V started to cause conflict between two boys. He kept poking them and being in their space when they were telling him to stop and go away. I used the opportunity to invite V to help me with laundry, since all the other children were busy. V came with me, and I showed him how the dryer works, and had him participate with me in taking the lint off of the lint catcher and putting clothes in the dryer.  We talked and I made sure he was engaged in the task. Once we were finished we went upstairs to look for something, then eventually we went back downstairs where V was more calmer and went to join children drawing.

So, this was a cool point to realize for myself, to shift focus from reacting to understanding – asking myself what does this child need, how can I support him…and find ways to get the child involved mentally and physically by fulfilling his need.  If we as adults practice and apply this consistently for our children, we support them in developing their self-stability, talents and self-awareness.

Thanks for reading.

4. The Problem with School Lunches

 

photo-1445093498563-4ba5fecf1bc7My situation is specific since I work in a private kindergarten, so I will write from that starting point:

Children and school staff are only allowed to eat the lunch the chef prepares for everyone. The food is specifically vegetarian as well. Any outside food is really not welcomed since it can cause a distraction and does not fit in with the school community rules. Unless of course, one has serious health issues or food intolerances written on a note from a doctor, then they can bring their own food.

Customized food from the chef is not frequently available due to the resources and time to prepare the food.  One of my coworkers is gluten-intolerant, and sometimes the chef has food for her to eat, but other times there isn’t so the teacher has to pick on the other foods (like salad).

For me as a teacher assistant the obligation of having to eat this food is one of the personal problems I have with the school. First because: children are essentially ”forced” to eat food they are served with, and some children don’t like the food at all and refuse to eat, causing conflicts and disagreements between the child and teacher. For me I experience an internal conflict when this happens, because I want to respect the child’s refusal of the food but as my ”job” as the teacher I have to try and make them eat something. 

When a child doesn’t want to eat anything, the teachers and I are not allowed to give that child another type of food or snack  (i.e and apple or banana) because that would influence the other children to want to eat that instead, therefore we as staff we are obligated to either forcibly recommend the child to eat a little piece of the food or just have them sit there and not eat.

Me personally would like to bring my own lunch because some of the food the school presents is heavy in dairy or carbs which is what I don’t like eating in the day (it makes me tired). We have heard complaints from parents themselves of the choice of lunches but despite it nothing has changed. Being a teacher assistant I must be an example to the children, follow the classroom rules and eat what is given to me, even despite my internal dissatisfaction.

These lunch rules really honestly suck in my perspective and I dearly wish that there was the option of children and teachers being able to bring their own food. We would still be able to get that sense of ”community” the school emphasis by sitting with each other, but we have the freedom of choice to eat what the school makes for us, or eat the lunch from home.

In an ideal world, each child and teacher would have the knowledge and awareness of the food that they want and is supportive for their body, and that food would be available for them to eat. Similar like a free-for-all buffet line with an abundant of foods that the child and teacher can freely choose at their will when they are hungry.

How can we as teachers, school staff, parents get to this idealized lunch time for the school participants? Is this even possible?

Yes, it is possible, but it requires a decision by the collective — an agreement with the community and school director, and a responsibility and awareness of the financial needs of food transportation, food availability and what is best for the children and teaching staff.