Pause before you speak.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Count to ten”, but this is great advice for many situations.  Of course, when you’re upset, pausing gives you time to gather yourself together.  However, use a pause before you’re about to answer a question.  Are you giving too much information?  Could you ask another question to further learning?  Is there a simple, direct way to answer?

Personally, I need to pause before I speak with parents.  I have a tendency to want to blurt things out, so this gives me a moment to try to say things in a professional manner. 

Take a moment.  You’ll be glad you did.

They will cry.

It is a fact of life. Preschoolers cry.  There are many, many ways to deal with it, and I’ll just share some thoughts.

At the beginning of the year, just be ready to have a lap available at all times. I’ve read stories at group time holding someone on my lap.  Be available for the adjustment tears.

As the year goes on, you’ll have to help them develop some self-soothing skills.  If they come in teary, then (we have group time first) I smile and invite them to sit close to me, but on the floor.

Sometimes the tears are just sad tears – missing mom and dad, hurt feelings, being tired.  Then I ask if I can have a hug, then we snuggle for a bit – then find something to do together.   “Let’s put a puzzle together.”

If the tears are for a wound, I scoop them up and we get a band-aid/paper towel/drink of water, and comfort is lavished on the child.

These are all examples of ‘valid’ tears.  Now, there will be tears for other reasons, and you’ll need to handle those differently.  (When I first taught, I had a little girl would would cry and argue to get her way, and as a newbie teacher – I gave in.)  When the tears are from something other than sorrow or wounds, I ask, “Tell me why you’re upset.”  I then make sure they tell me in a big kid voice – not a crying voice.  Then we talk the problem out.

If you have a constant cryer, help them identify what they are doing.  “Ann, you are crying big tears like you scraped your knee.  Joe took your pencil.  This isn’t something that needs tears, you need to use your words.”

First year teachers, you will need to develop a thick skin.  Don’t become cold and cruel, but become immune to crying.  See the situation for what it is, and react accordingly. 

Ramona

At naptime I read a few pages from chapter books – Charlotte’s Web, The Boxcar Children, and the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. Last year I came to a section in Ramona the Brave where Ramona is talking about her first grade teacher, who dislikes her and makes it known.  “Ramona dreaded school because she felt Mrs. Griggs did not like her, and she did not enjoy spending the whole day in a room with someone who did not like her, especially when that person was in charge.”

Ouch.

I know that there have been children that get under my skin – it’s a fact of life! But put yourself in the shoes of the child who is ALWAYS getting called out for misbehaving. If redirection and discipline is always done in a negative fashion, what is that child learning everyday? “I always get in trouble at school. My teacher is always mad at me. The other kids know I’m naughty.”

FRONTAL LOBE!!! Yes, you will always have children who need more guidance than others. But think – Jesus loves this child so much that He died for this child. How will you treat a fellow child of God? How would YOU want to be treated?

Balcolny or Basement?

One of the nicest things a parent ever said to me was, “I don’t want to go to work. Everyone there is a ‘basement’ personality. You’re a ‘balcolny’ person, always upbeat and friendly.” Well, talk about your positive reinforcement! (Now, my friends – and my husband, especially – will tell you that I can crab, whine and complain with the best of them. But at work – keep your spirits up in the balcolny!) You may be the only person who smiles at some of your parents that day.

It’s not what you say….

But how you say it.  Think about the phase “Sit down”.  Think about saying it in the following voices: Angry, tired, frustrated, forceful, weakly, welcomingly, excitedly, calmly….you can see what I’m aiming at.  Think about the many people you interact with during the day.  What would they say about how you speak to them?  What would you like parents to say about you?  How would you like your staff to speak about you?  How do your children want to be spoken to? 

There will be many times when you will have do approach parents about some important issue – their child’s behavior, a schedule conflict, papers that are due in the office.  Be pleasant when you say it!  If you have to answer a phone – smile!  People will hear it in your voice!

You might be the only person in some person’s day who says ‘Good morning’ to them and gives them a smile.  “A cheerful look gives joy to the heart.” – Proverbs 15:30a