No, really. I’m not saying this in the cliche’ kind of way, I’m just remembering that everything my class does – we’re doing it for the first time together. Take today, for example. We’ve been playing with letters, and since the weather was so nice I thought we could go on a little Alphabet Walk around the neighborhood. I always prep the group before we walk anywhere on what it looks like to stay in line, we walk on the sidewalk – not on the grass, ‘Red Light’ means stop your feet, etc. Well, today as I was prepping them I realized that we’ve never been on a walk together, and knew that we would get very little out of the ‘letter’ part of the walk. This walk was just practicing to walk as a group.
…and you’re the driver. Some days are just like that.
In college I worked at at a donut shop, and I’ll forever remember my boss telling me, “You can always be doing two things at once.” You will learn to master this art quickly. You not only have to teach the lesson, you have to be monitoring all the children as they sit and listen. When working at a table, you are also recording observations (either mentally or on paper), helping the children near you, and also monitoring the rest of the room with your eyes and ears. It’s exhausting. I recommend an aide who can help!
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.
When you have reached the point where gentle reminders aren’t working and now you are setting a time limit for the child, count down to one.
I think this is important because the child always knows when ‘one’ is coming. If you usually count up to five, how will that help when they meet someone who counts up to ten? Or only to three?
Usually when it is a discipline situation, I start at five – using the child’s name. Ex: (Remember, this is after gentle reminders haven’t worked.) “Thomas, look in my eyes. Thomas, five. Thomas four. Look at my eyes. Thomas three. Thank you.” Always thank them when they obey before one.
It also works when the room is a mess and we’re having a hard time getting it clean. I announce to the room, “Let’s see if you can beat me – twenty – nineteen – eighteen – etc.” They know when one is coming.
Count down, not up.