Play it by ear: This is how we do it here.
January 2022 is all about behaviour.
By coincidence I have been travelling out to services delivering the Dig Deeper workshops to kick off the year. Each with such fruitful discussion on inclusive practices and how each team will re-emerge from lockdowns and disruptions with new understandings about what children are trying to tell us when they; hit, kick, spit, swear and hide. This is only one of the many early childhood workshops I offer but by far the most popular. The thing about it is... I often question that by even creating a workshop on 'behaviour', am I drawing attention to something that shouldn't even really be 'a thing'? Behaviour just 'is' right? We shouldn't need to learn how to 'manage' it or 'cope' with it or even find answers about how to 'deal' with it right?
Yes and no.
No. If your entire team is on the same page and you have a clear idea of your values and the techniques that uphold the values then you might be able to sit tight for a while.
Yes, if you and your team have somehow swayed in to unchartered waters where gaps in the roster, lockdowns, new attitudes, and of course the big C word (COVID) have you drowning a bit. Even the most experienced teams can veer off the track at some point and it is to be expected with everything that is being thrown our way in recent times.
I never claim to have magic strategies, well in the least the strategies always come with a LOAD of 'what it depends on'...and usually those things are geared by the services values.
On a typical workshop evening or Saturday as we work through the content we have a board sitting to the side where we pause after a lightbulb moment and draw out what the value is behind it. We write it down and end up with a bank of very clear statements at the end. In the past 7 years, services have included these in to their QIP, philosophy and policies.
The discussion often begins with a description what sort of behaviour is occurring in the service that challenges the educators.
When Sally hits Harry to get his toy.
For example, we had a discussion about children hitting others to get what they want. We asked ourselves 'what is the child trying to tell me?' and we used our preferred description of 'hitting' rather than 'violent', 'rude' or 'destructive'. This enabled us to then work out what we would prefer to see.
Many services and participants decide they would prefer children to use words instead of hitting but educators can't simply keep telling children to 'use their words' - they would rather model the words that are appropriate for the level of vocabulary the child has e.g. 'my turn' after any incidences. We agree this would require educators to know the children really well.
Further to this we reflect on if (like watering the leaves) simply reacting with these modelled words would be enough? After some more discussion and learning about social and emotional development we decide that planning experiences for children to practice these words explicitly and in a no stress positive way would give us a time to refer back to when or if incidences did occur.
For example: 'Sally I can see you want a turn, but I can't let you hit. Remember like yesterday at trucks...we say 'my turn' then we wait'. It is essential to model what it looks like to wait and to use a 'turn taking' philosophy rather than a 'sharing' philosophy which meant that children may be presented with times where they might not get a turn when they want to. In this instance educators would focus more on supporting children to communicate and wait, rathe than insisting that everyone share.
Some times it is a concern to remove 'sharing' from our vocabulary because it is "something we would like to instill in the children" says one educator. I agree and reassure educators that shared time at their service occurs everywhere. Shared reading, gathering around the sandpit, using water together, sing-alongs... children will see how to share times and space however particular objects of interest, we take turns. It prompted the educators to think about how much novelty they have in the materials offered too. Could this be another way to reduce 'sharing' issues, reduce the novelty and increase the open-endedness, amount and fluidity of materials?
Here are the values we extracted from this discussion:
'We don't leave learning to chance at preschool, we plan'.
'Building relationships comes before observations'
'Sharing is not the same as turn taking at our place'
This is but one of the many discussions that occur throughout this training and this particular notion is supported by The Teaching Pyramid, Fox et. al. where the explicit teaching of social and emotional skills can be used to promote social and emotional skills and reduce challenging behaviours following a tiered framework.
When I visit services to deliver training, I go with a kit of knowledge to share paired with stories to tell that make the learning contextual. However nothing is more valuable than hearing teachers converse with each other about how the training applies to them in their role, their place and their current challenges or triumphs. My aim is to support teachers to reimagine behaviour guidance perspectives. Yes behaviour is 'a thing' we can't ignore that we must have a clear idea of what messages we want to send children and we will carefully respond to what they are trying to tell us. The alternative is to run around putting out fires all day and we all know how effective that is in the long term!