Saturday, July 4, 2015

Giving Them What They Need

This summer I'm reading and commenting on the book What If Everybody Understood Child Development? by Rae Pica.

Chapter 6: Teaching Girls They're More Than a Pretty Face
Chapter 7: Doing Away with "Baby Stuff"

These two chapters made me immediately think of needs. Are we giving kids what they need? Are we doing things that meet our own needs or the needs of the school instead of the needs of the kids?

Rae Pica discusses how adults comment more often on a girl's appearance when meeting. They will say that the girl looks cute/pretty/nicely dressed. So girls begin to internalize that appearance is what matters, that how they look determines who they are. All around us the culture also conveys the importance of how you look, especially to girls. As adults we need to talk with girls about their interests or activities. We should comment on other aspects of her life rather than appearance.

Brick by Brick: Counting to 10

Rae also discusses the "baby stuff" that many education leaders have decided is unessential - nap time. Presumably, dropping nap time allows for more academic time. But kids who are tired have higher behavior problems or have lower abilities to learn or perform. As Rae Pica writes: "We talk so much about preparing kids for school but give very little thought to preparing schools for kids." As teachers, we may not be able to instigate a time for naps, but we can remember that our young learners will get tired and plan activities accordingly. Schedule high performance times earlier and more relaxing activities later in the day.

Overall, we need to think about the kids and their needs. Girls need to feel valued and connected. All young kids need rest and downtime. How we think about and plan for those needs makes all the difference. Too often adults tend to think about their own needs or comfort zones. It may be difficult to suppress a tendency to comment on a girl's appearance. It may be challenging to slow down to engage tired learners. But we should look for ways to focus on what's best for kids, to prepare the learning environment for kids rather than just focus on preparing kids for the learning experience.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hug or No Hug?

This summer I'm reading and commenting on the book What If Everybody Understood Child Development? by Rae Pica.

Chapter 5: When Did a Hug Become a Bad Thing?

Schools are concerned about kids' safety so they instigate 'no touch' policies. This reminds me a little of the previous chapter about bubble wrapping kids. Anxiety is high so, to create the really necessary safe classroom, the pendulum swings to no touch at all.

Touch is important for kids' development. As Rae Pica mentions, "children need physical contact in order to thrive and grow in every aspect of development." Social skills, emotional skills, and even physical development are impacted by contact with others.

As a male teacher with young kids, this particular issue is very real. The few times I have been in a room with a child alone, the door is always open and we are always in full view. I will hug a kid, if he or she initiates it, but it's quick. I often give high fives, fist bumps, and a quick pat on the back. In my second grade class, the kids left at the end of the day by giving me a fist bump as they left. It was out last ritual and our way to contact. And it helped us regroup and connect, no matter how the day had gone. But if a child is upset and needs some comfort, I give whatever is needed - a hand around the shoulders, a hug, a pat on the back.

We need to help kids know how to interact with one another in ways that are satisfying and appropriate. A few years ago, I taught in a 2-year-old class. One boy didn't interact with other kids anytime except in our classroom. He would bang into other kids, almost tackle them when he saw them, and so forth. Other kids were unsure what to do. They didn't like some of the things he was doing. But he didn't know how to interact with them when he was excited to see them. We worked on ways to help him interact in less "rough" ways unless the other kid wanted that.

Rae Pica also mentions that we should allow rough-and-tumble play when we can. Often on the playground, I would see guys (and girls) running, tackling, wrestling, and bouncing off one another. I usually keep an eye on it, making sure that the game is fun for everyone. Sometimes I need to intervene because it becomes less fun for someone. But, too often, I see other adults make kids stop that play. "Not appropriate" is what I hear. But, according to development, this type of play is important and allows kids to have that contact they need.

Physical contact is important for kids and for us adults, too.

Links from the book: