From kindergarten through second grade, I spent the same amount of time learning as I did getting into fights: a lot! I’d be acing math exams in the morning, getting into fights during recess, spending lunch in detention, and then heading home to finish my homework to perfection. Doesn’t match up does it?
One time, I got detention because I attempted to stab a fourth grader with a pencil. He had taken my red four-square ball and I wanted it back. I didn’t have the nerve to actually use the pencil, but I wanted him to know that he shouldn’t be picking on me just because I was a second grader. Long story short, yard duty caught me and I was thrown into school jail: detention. I would serve my one hour sentence by writing “I will respect the school rules” 100 times. The sentence was written in cursive. I raised my hand for the detention teacher (aka warden). I said to him “I don’t know cursive. I’m in second grade.” The detention teacher flipped over the paper to reveal the printed version of the same sentence. “There! Write that one!” he said.
After hearing that, you think I was going to respect the school rules? You just yelled at me warden. Respect the rules? Show ME some R-E-S-P-E-C-T first! Come to think of it, I came away from that one hour way more mad because I wanted to finish my homework. My dad was going to test me on my spelling words and I wanted to get 100%!
So… do you see it yet? Do you see the problem here? If you did, you’ve found the essence of preschool. If you haven’t yet, I came across this quote that sheds some light:
“If a child doesn’t know how to read, we teach.
If a child doesn’t know how to swim, we teach.
If a child doesn’t know how to multiply, we teach.
If a child doesn’t know how to drive, we teach.
If a child doesn’t know how to behave, we… teach? …punish?”
-Tom Herner (NASDE President, 1998)
How did you finish that last sentence? Be honest. Punish? Write their name on the board? Send to the corner? Put our head on desk for five minutes? When I started my education career at the ripe age of 16, I would have said one of those. I mean, that’s what happened to me at school. But, I’ve learned a lot since that time. Today, as a preschool teacher, I can honestly say the following:
Moral of the Story: If a child doesn’t know how to behave, we teach.
If I see a child punch another child because they didn’t get the toy they wanted, then I teach the child why hitting is not the preferred way to ask for a toy. I teach them “Hitting hurts our friends. If you want the toy, you can say ‘Can I play with your toy?’”
If I see a child jumping off shelves in the classroom, I don’t tell the child “Go to the corner and think about what you did.” Because their gonna think “Gee-willikers that was fun!” Instead, I say “I see you like to jump off shelves. Instead of jumping off shelves, let’s jump onto the bean bags outside. I wouldn’t want you to jump off a shelf and hurt yourself. That’s dangerous.”
If I see a child getting ready to shank another child with a pencil, I say “I can see that you’re really mad and you’re holding the pencil really tight in your hand. I also see that the other boy has your red four-square ball. Let’s, put down the pencil and let me teach you what to do when someone takes something away from you.”
Way better than writing cursive, right?
It breaks my heart when a teacher says to a child “You’re bad.” Really? You’ve labeled a three year-old child “bad”? How did you come to that conclusion? Did you graph all the good and bad things the child has ever done and then say “Yep! The bad side is higher! You’re bad!”
Who a child is and what a child does are two separate things. A child doesn’t do “bad” things, they just haven’t learned how handle situations the way we’d prefer them too. If you say to a child that what they did was “bad”, you might as well be calling the child bad; because that’s what they heard you say.
A child is always learning and that’s why we must TEACH them what to do.
P.S. tEach! teaCh! tEach! I might have left early, but I saw the shirts you guys chose. Awesome choice 😉