We have a boy in our new church kindergarten classroom who doesn't like change very much. Now he's in a new room. He has new teachers. He has new things that he hasn't used before. It's been difficult for him.
Last week he cried a lot to see his mom. I was out that day so Cindy was telling me about him. He cried for a while, wanting to see his mom "right now" and "not in a little while." But, eventually, he became interested in something, calmed down, and enjoyed his morning.
This week he came again (and met me for the first time). He was clingy to his mom. Cindy took him to hold him as his mom left. He began to cry. Again he wanted to see his mom now and not later. He said, "I don't to wait a long time." We tried to explain that it would not be a long time. I walked over to the drawer and pulled out an old timer that we keep there.
It's not pretty or fancy. Just a old digital kitchen timer.
I set it for approximately the length of time until his mom would return. "I'm putting out this timer. You can know when you mom will be back," I told him as I placed it on the board.
"I don't want a timer!" he said.
I walked back to the board and picked up the timer. He watched me. "I'm putting the timer away," I said and begin to walk back toward the drawer.
"No, I want a timer!" he said.
"Okay," I said. I reset it and put it back on the board.
He calmed a little and began walking around the room. He watched as I helped someone paint. (With a salad spinner!) He looked at the timer. He watched me more.
Then he wanted to paint. As I assisted, he looked over toward the timer. (We could easily see it from our table.) "It's 51," he said. "Next will be 50."
"Yes," I affirmed. I was surprised that he knew what the next countdown number would be. When it turned to 50, I pointed it out to him.
"Next is 49," he said. "48, 47, 46."
"45," I said, "44."
He counted down to about 30 as he painted.
Throughout the morning he would look at the timer. He would announce the number and then continue on with what he was doing. As we sat near the door, waiting for parents, the timer beeped. He looked at me and walked to look at the timer. I asked him to bring it to me so I could turn off the sound.
"She will be here soon," I told him. In a couple of minutes, his parents arrived.
So what did I learn?
Watch for unexpected strengths and knowledge. He can count down from at least 50. He's really into math and logical thinking, I think. During the morning, we did comparisons of block towers and counted other quantities. I know some of what he likes and can do.
Small, seemingly unimportant things in classroom can be very significant. The timer became an important tool for him (and for me).
Look for ways I can give kids some control over what is happening to them. He could not leave when he wanted. He had to stay until his parents came back. But giving him a choice of having the timer or not and giving him a tool to measure time in a way he could easily grasp helped him have some control over the situation.
We give lots of choices in our classroom. We let kids create a lot of what they are doing. Empowering kids helps them be a part of the classroom and not just participants in it.
Give them a little control...and you may see them blossom.