A Time to Look for Ways of Being More Effective with Children
Tips for Educators
It is hard to believe the end of summer is here already! Some school districts have already begun classes, and others will be starting in a period of weeks. There is always excitement and some trepidation about the new school year. Teachers wonder, “What will my class be like this year? What will the challenges be, and how will things go?” Now is the perfect time to do some reading or attend a professional development event to find at least one new strategy to incorporate in your classroom this year. Many early childhood programs have staff development at the beginning of each school year, in which topics relevant to the classroom are presented and explored.
What is your cutting edge for growth? What is an aspect of teaching in which you would like to feel more effective? It could be managing challenging behaviors, building stronger alliances with parents, being more creative with your approach to curriculum, or just remembering to keep your classroom looking as neat and organized as it is the first day of class! Take a little time to think about at least one thing you would like to focus on this year, one thing you would like to feel more mastery of in your work. Is it how to meet individual needs without being unfair to the rest of the group? Or how to engage better parental cooperation? Whatever you choose, take a few moments to write a paragraph for yourself about what you would like to do better or feel better about, and think about what steps you would need to take to move forward. Do some reading or attend a training in this area and take some notes that are relevant to you.
There are many wonderful books available to teachers to help them on their journey to improve their practice...and nowadays, one can google the topic one is interested in and find many potential resources, or visit Amazon.com and do a search there. I believe that my book, The Insightful Teacher: Reflective Strategies to Shape Your Early Childhood Classroom, is one of those resources that can be helpful if your concerns have to do with social emotional functioning in any way, working with parents, or setting up and managing the classroom in a way that supports children’s strong functioning.
Once you choose your focus, do a little journaling at least quarterly over the course of the school year and think about how things are going. Have you tried a new strategy? How is it working? Does anything need tweaking? One of the wonderful things about being a teacher is that there are hundreds of opportunities to improve at any time! Have a great year this year, and best wishes for increased effectiveness!
Tips for Parents
Parents always want their children to be successful at school, and of course they want to feel that their interventions with their children at home are supportive and helpful as well. Children who are learning age appropriate behavior at home are more likely to exhibit appropriate behavior at school as well. Is there an aspect of your parenting in which you would like to feel more effective? Perhaps it is in the area of engaging your child’s cooperation with the morning routine so that getting to school is less stressful and hurried. Or possibly you would like to know more about what your child actually does at school, as he/she doesn’t seem to tell you much about it when you asked (“What did you do at school today?” “I played.”)
Looking at the curriculum that is posted on the wall in the classroom or reading the weekly newsletters that come home from school can be helpful ways to learn what kinds of activities the children are doing. Then you can ask more specific questions, such as “What was the cooking project like this week?” or “Tell me about the story your teacher read at story time today!” These kinds of more specific questions are more likely to get more information in response.
Waking up early enough so that the morning is less rushed will reduce the general stress and is more likely to lead to easier transitions. Or perhaps your wish is to know more about your particular child’s behaviors and play interests at school. Asking the teacher specific questions at pick up time can get more information, or if the teacher is busy with other children or parents, ask him/her to give you a call or ask how you might arrange a brief conversation so that you can get a little more information. Most teachers are appreciative of parents wanting to know about their child’s experiences at school, even though they might not always be available for extended conversations at pick up or drop off times.
Think about how you want to feel more effective, and write a few sentences about what that would look like for you, and write one or two steps you might need to take to help you get there (e.g., read a parenting book, ask the teacher for more information, start the day a bit earlier). Make a plan to move forward and think of ways to help yourself follow through, e.g., when you take your child to the library to get some children’s books, ask the librarian where the parenting section is or make a request for a parenting book on a specific topic. Librarians are very good resources.