Sunday, November 13, 2011

Teacher Fight! Teacher Fight!

Yesterday, I drove to Kankakee for an all-day early education training seminar. It was the first one I had gone to that wasn't held at my school. The first session was on Behavior Management in the classroom. There were a wealth of early educators there from a variety of programs (in-home care, which I guess is now called family care, private all day day cares, faith-based care centers and a private kindergarten). Most of them were from the Chicago suburbs and I was the only one from the central part of the state and the only one from a "community organization" pre-school.

Discipline in the classroom varied widely. All the pre-k teachers talked about the individual needs of the child and how to best encourage and support children. The K teachers in that group all talked about needing to have equal standards in the classrooms and how unfair it is to have disciplinary policy based on different standards for different kids.

They were not moved by the pre-k special education speaker's discussion about different learning abilities, the need for some kids to move or her argument that when an altercation happens, you first pay all of the attention to the victim. They also didn't appreciate that she thought their public charting system of behavior was a public form of shaming the child.

Being a pretty low-key early childhood educator who always wonders if I should be more of a hard ass in the classroom and a parent of a kindergartner who literally saw a school room transform to try to meet the individual intellectual and behavior demands of the students who weren't succeeding -- I found it very uncomfortable to sit in between the two sections. I brought up X-man's classroom as an example of a kindergarten teacher who responded to the needs and changed her standards in order to support her students more. The kindergarten teachers who were there kind of huffed at me and said that I was lucky, because that's not how it's going to be once they get in first grade.

And I wanted to say, yes it is, because we have teachers and administrators who want children to succeed and understand that sometimes my way or the high way isn't the way to go. I haven't gotten a negative note home in weeks, and my child has stopped evaluating his days by how many checks he gets (he hasn't lost recess in over a month).

At parent/teacher conferences what impressed me most was his teacher's understanding with my child's intentions. That he wants to be one of the kids who gets awarded for good behavior, he has trouble with self-control, which makes sense because his executive function isn't all the way developed yet. There's still significant pruning going on there... and there will be until he's 20.

I could see both sides of the argument (because it definitely wasn't a discussion), but at the same time, as a teacher, I tended to side with the other pre-k folks.

The afternoon's session was all about nature and education. Research has shown that kids spend less than 1/2 percent of their time having free, unstructured play in the natural outdoors (without a playground). So, the seminar talked about ways to increase interactions with nature at your center. It was a lot of fun, and I really liked the speakers.

So, that was my working Saturday. :-) When we got home we went to the neighbor's for a birthday party and then down the road to drop X-man off at the Savoy Recreation Center for date night, while MacTroll and I came home and did the annual cleaning out of toys in the basement. I tried to do this with X-man last year, but it was a long negotiation, and in the end, he would only give up one thing. Then I went through the house, filled up the back of my car and took it to Goodwill, and in a year, he's only noticed that one thing has gone missing. So, um, this year, I did the shitty parent thing and just didn't ask and started cleaning things out.

Okay, time to run in the stupid wind. At least it's warm outside!

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