Case study – Aiden the non-listener, yelling, swearer……

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The wild ones – children swearing

There was a call for help from an educator. What was the problem? Certain children were difficult to manage and entering the room this appeared to be correct. The educators said Wednesday’s are difficult in the preschool room. Why? The combination of certain children makes it difficult along with the skill set of the educators in the room.

I removed the ring leader to have a chat. Aiden aged 4 didn’t like it in the room with the some of the educators. I proceeded to use a ‘Child Conference’ process which can be found in the Mosaic Approach book by Alison Clark and Peter Moss. I asked these questions.

  • Why do you come to school? (long day care but the children call it school)
  • What do you like best?
  • What don’t you like about being here?
  • Who are your favourite people?
  • Who don’t you like?
  • What do the grown-ups do at school?
  • What should the grown-ups do at your school?
  • Where is your favourite place in the school?
  • Which part of the school don’t you like?
  • What do you find difficult?
  • What is the food like?
  • What has been the best day at school?

Very interesting answers were revealed. Basically, the children were not listened to and were forced to do things they didn’t want to do. This led to a rebellion and our wonderful 4 year old leader told Eden the educator to F&#*K OFF.

Eden was angry and thought no child should speak to her like that. I said “if he had more words and better use of them would it still be F&#*K OFF?”

After reflecting further and removing the adult concept that the child should never speak like this (which I agree with) we thought the Rebellion Leader may have wanted to say other words to express how he felt. For example:

“I come here 5 days a week and I would like more choices to do what I want.”

“I haven’t finished playing over here. When I’m finished I’ll pack up and join your group, but give me 5 more minutes.”

“I know it’s raining, but really, do we need to be stuck inside. I live on a farm and I like it outside, just like my dad. He works outside in the rain on the farm.”

“I get really angry when I’m stopped abruptly. Can you ease your requests in with some warning?”

To solve this problem the educators decided to give the children more choice. This was simple. Get an ‘A’ frame board and write down what the children want to do.

From here the children selected their activities and did what they wanted. Picture above is the end of the day where the choices are rubbed off when complete.

The “Wild Ones” decided they wanted to play in the rain. What do we do then? Was this fun? YES. Was it all perfect and ran smoothly? NO

Reflecting

What went wrong? Everything was great and a water fight began and lasted until they started to throw pots at each other. Eden stopped this quickly and the fun continued. After a while the children decided it was time to come in. Off to the bathroom they went and made a huge mess with water and wet clothes. Was this great for the other room who shared the bathroom? NO. Eden and the boys went to the laundry and washed their clothes and changed into their clean set.

The following day the boys wanted to do the same. Perfect time to use our reflections to adjust practice. Rules needed to be set. The boys could describe exactly the problem for others if the bathroom floor was wet. The bathroom door was locked so the children from the outside couldn’t get in and the fun began.

New parent turned up for a tour

As the fun was in full swing a new parent and daughter turned up for a tour of the service and discovered the Wild Ones and ….

Mud Monsters started
to appear.

This was a great opportunity to sell the service. Why we are different, firstly I explained that this may look a little wild, but we allow our children to follow their interest and we are capable of washing and drying clothes so they don’t have to worry. I described how we met the needs of children and sometimes these needs included children exploring the outdoor environment and from somewhere in the deep part of my brain the EYLF came to me and I quoted to this parent:

“Outdoor learning spaces are a feature of Australian learning environments. They offer a vast array of possibilities not available indoors. Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature.” EYLF

Or close to it.

The most important part with this parent was walking into the preschool room from the outside and having all the other children actively engaged in all the activities they wanted to do. This justified to the parent why it’s important to allow these children to have fun, explore, go a little wild because they were not difficult to manage outside and allowed the space inside for the other children to do what they wanted to do. This parent could see we could manage our children which in turn gave space for children like her daughter to learn and be in an environment that wasn’t struggling with others.

Further learning continued and we explored cultures that like mud.

This is a work in progress. It would be easy to shut it down after the bathroom water and clothes explosion, but that is what reflection is all about, reflecting on what could be different and together setting the rules.

Further reflections

How many times do we try to control some children in environments they are not suited for?

Reflecting on your values

Megan needed to reflect on what she thought was important for children. Previously she had success when following the children interest, she was great, but when she didn’t she got angry because the children don’t do what they wanted to do. But why should the educator be dominating children’s choices?

Where is the child’s agency? Children come to us with an inbuilt knowledge of what is culturally acceptable when they are a part of the process. Remove them from the process and you will have a bad day, just like Megan, Eliza and Eden were having on Wednesdays.

The underlying process is building relationships. The relationship strengthens when involving the children and all you will need to do with your behaviour guidance is look disappointed and say “is that a good choice?” When relationships are not built, they will not care if it is a good choice or not.

The confronting reflection

Children are smart and know what they are doing. I’ve seen children push out teachers. I first saw it in high schools. If there was a bad teacher the children wouldn’t select the elective until the hours dropped and the teacher was transferred out of the school.

Secondly, in early childhood we are quick to judge the child as having the problem, but I’ve seen children push out teachers. This year Aiden pushed out an ex- teacher. She never wanted to do what the children wanted. She wanted to do what she thought was best. Aiden became loud and uncontrollable for her and stressed her out. From my perspective, she never took my advice and continued to attempt to control Aiden and the room. Aiden won.

Aiden was in the process of pushing out Megan and Eden. They are the ones who must change. After a few days of a new practice it appears to be working. I wonder if the educators will continue or go back to their old ways until they leave stressed out?


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