Archives for posts with tag: Education Parenting Early edChildhood Special Needs Autism Aspergers Developmental Disability

I have been pondering exactly what autism awareness means. As a neurotypical living within a family sprinkled with aspergians, I have learned most likely more from my family than them from me. Mostly, to step out of my own little box and attempt to perceive the world from the eyes of an individual other than myself.

Awareness means knowledge, acceptance, and tolerance. Making an attempt to fix an individual is not acceptance and tolerance. It is merely attempting to make an individual fit into a perceived social mold, created from social mores and societal expectations. Allow me to make an analogy. It is commonplace for English speaking individuals to expect others to speak English when visiting foreign countries. When foreigners visit English speaking countries we expect them to speak our language as well. If we expect others to speak our native tongue is it not socially appropriate that we attempt to understand theirs as well?

In the case of an Aspergian living in a society where neurotypicals are the majority, the same principle should be used. Aspergians struggle everyday of their lives to conform to a neurotypical world. Wouldn’t it merely be appropriate that neurotypicals extend them the same reciprocal understanding? Embrace differences and the qualities that Aspergians bring to the world.

Aspergers cannot be cured, nor should it be. Individuals with Aspergers are not faulty computers that we repair with a few adjustments to their hard drives. They are individuals, just like the rest of society, who have done great good and brought great advances to our world throughout history.

They are the analytical thinkers of our world, inventors, engineers, scientists, actors, mathematician’s, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children. We can thank aspergians for many great contributions in the world.

Some of the individuals thought to have or have been confirmed with Aspergers or high functioning autism are:

The world renowned Temple Grandin: An author of many books that have expand and awakend the worlds knowledge and acceptance of autism. She is also a food handling systems designer, and much much more. Miss Grandin has given the autism community a great deal of respect and reduced the stigma associated to the autism spectrum through her candor regarding her life and public presence as a professional

James Durbin: American idol contestant- He brings us the gift of music through his wonderful voice

Bill Gates: Founder of Microsoft whose gift for technology brought us Microsoft. FYI without Mr. Gates wonderful development of Microsoft we would not be interacting with the world through in a literal millisecond via electronic communication.

Thomas Edison: He was the forefather of inventing the lightbulb, phonograh, and motion pictures.

Albert Einstein:  His theory of relativity unlocked the mysteries of the world and set fort a path of exploration for future scientists.

John Elder Robison: Author of many books such as “Look Me In The Eye” Through his brave willingness to publicly tell his story from childhood to adulthood, he became a role model for other individuals on the spectrum. He exemplifies the ideology that yes; aspergians strive for and do experience success within society.

Dan Akeroyd: He is brought a gift of humor and entertainment into many lives at times when they did not think they could laugh.

Holly Peete, and Toni Braxton: Just to name a few stars who have become awesome advocates for the autism community as a result of having children on the spectrum. They are perhaps the most humble and grounded public personalities in the entertainment business. Hence my comment earlier that we can learn as much if not more from our children on the spectrum than they learn from us.

Last but not least, an individual with Aspergers that is my hero and famous in my eyes. My young adult, determined, creative, electronics whiz son. He will always be a celebrity in my eyes:-0)

I could ramble on in regards to all the wonderful people who have Aspergers or are assumed to have it but would end up with a novel here. I believe I have made my point and you the reader get the idea.

I leave you with a thought to ponder. If Thomas Edison had been “cured” or shall I say “fixed” according to societal expectations we would be living in darkness, we would not have music cd’s which he paved the way for with the invention of the phonograph. We would not have movies on demand which were born from his interest in developing motion pictures. Without Bill Gates our ability to communicate thoughts via electronic technology would be minimal or nil.

Without the Holly Peetes and Toni Braxton’s of the world who use their fame within a positive venue to better the world for the autism community due to their wonderful children, awareness Autism awareness would be minimal. John Elder Robison breeds acceptance and takes away stigma through his wonderful books and public speaking. Without Dan Akroyds gift of humor, the world would be a sadder place.

James Durbin’s voice can light up a room. Without crooners like him we would miss the gift of music. Without the Temple Grandins of the world we would miss out on an exemplary human being and role model who not only spreads awareness and knowledge of the autism community but spreads knowledge for the neurotypicals who work and play side by side with these fine individuals.

In closing, and as a parent of a young adult son, a young man who incites my passion for children on the autism spectrum And is my hero with Aspergers (And no, he is not my ASPIE son. He is simply my son with Aspergers) I wish to remind parents that it does get better and yes many children on the Aspergers spectrum will grow up to be successful. You will find that some of the behaviors which are irritating in children with Aspergers will prove to be their golden road to opportunity as adults.

The child who over focuses as a child will turn that into perseverance towards inventing or fine tuning better ways of existence as an adult. The child who demolishes and corrupts your computer as a child resultant from their incessant drive to tinker, dismantle things, and put them together again will turn into our great thinkers. I.e. mathematicians, scientists, architects’, and research scientists.

The stubborn child will turn into the adult who perseveres and problem solves until they come up with answers and never take know for one when trouble shooting. The child who obsessively collects one item i.e. fans, dinosaurs, radios, baseball cards, will turn into the adult that uses their wonderful analytical mind to make sense of things like equations, cell mutations in cancer through a microscope, and more.

Upon my presenting my case here, would the world be better if we could “cure” Aspergers. Nah, I think not. Perhaps our other option is to step out of our own personal soapbox, fraught with personal perceptions of how people should act and accept each other for the contributions that our differences bring into society. Aspergians must attempt to understand neurotypicals, but we neurotypicals must learn to embrace and accept the wonderful contributions of Aspergians as well.

To all individuals past and present with Aspergers and their wonderful parents who did or still do encourage and strive to understand their children, I salute you and tip my hat to you for the awesome individuals that you all are.

May we all grow to live in a utopian world of commonality born from respect and acceptance for each persons individuality and an understanding of what would happen if society deleted the them and us ideology and replaced it with WE.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

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Today I taught in every room from toddlers to school age. Staff was extremely short handed. I was asked to stay and work extra hours to assist in filling in the staff gap. I actually enjoy the variety and break in my routine. My personality veers towards seeking constant challenge and change. In my opinion this is a great trait to possess. As an educator, the ability to respond to constant change is non negotiable. The day is controlled by the children’s moods, and attention span. Without a flexible personality on the educator’s part, nothing would ever be accomplished. Adults have off days, and need to comprehend that children are human beings who succumb to the same mood shifts as us.

When working in different rooms, my eyes always scan, and my mind silently trouble shoots. I emphasize the word silently because a teacher’s classroom is their kingdom.  Suggestions by another educator are heeded with the same welcoming tone as criticism about their own children. That would be with defensiveness. I sometimes have to remind myself of the latter fact as I work in various rooms. Keeping my thoughts to me will protect future cohesiveness and camaraderie between the teachers. Negativity amongst staff is sensed quickly by children and breeds nothing but a negative classroom climate for the children.

My first stop was the infant room. It was a nice day and the door to the infant room was open to let in fresh air. The mobile infants were crawling towards the door. The door abuts a gated outdoor infant sized playground with a foam floor. Thus children can’t be injured by crawling into the road. However they do need to be supervised on the small equipment so their wobbly motor skills do not cause a calamity on the low little tike’s equipment. Staff stated that they were tired of chasing infants who constantly crawled towards the door. My observations found an obvious way to save the staff stress. When the weather is nice, put a safety gate across the opening to the outdoors. The staff will not tire from constantly retrieving the infants. The infants will be free to roam safely and freely. I made a mental note to make an anonymous suggestion to the director.

My next stop was the pre kindergarten room. The class was in the midst of a rousing rendition of “One Two Buckle My Shoe”.  Many children were engaged in playing with cars and toy farm animals. I silently felt that choice based creative curriculum does not mean playing with toy cars during circle time. Could choices made for children not interested in finger play and songs be restricted to more educational choices? Perhaps if the child does not wish to participate in the activity, other activities could be limited to using stencil letters, manipulatives, and other educational items.  This is just an observation. I respect the classroom teacher who developed her pre Kindergarten curriculum. I would never correct her. Who knows if my observation is wrong and her way possibly correct. I would not want a teacher coming into my school age room and doing such a thing to me.

My next stop was the preschool room. The children were transitioning into nap time. One child cried incessantly. I sat by her to comfort her. The staff referred to her as a whiner. This was a typical case of labeling. The child is two and one half years old. She transitioned to the preschool room in early September. Apparently the child is going through an adjustment period transitioning from the toddler two room where pacifiers are common. Instead of calling this toddler a whiner, perhaps observing the whole picture is warranted. How can one expect a child to transition to such a different environment so quickly? The crying jags are obviously based in the little girl’s fear of the “big girl” demands that are being expected of her.

As children arose at the end of naptime, a teacher actually told the little girl that she kept the other children up with her crying. The little girl was told to stay on her rest mat for five minutes while other children got up. I thought this statement was deplorable. How can one even expect a two year old girl two comprehend the concept of five minutes. In using time frames with small children a visual should be used. I have been known to put five strips of paper up on the wall. Each minute of time would include the removal of one strip of paper. The child would know that the time to get up was coming as less paper strips were visible. My week has been long and tiring. I will end with this entry.

Have a great week:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE

I sit here and ponder a situation that occured two years ago. I believe it would be prudent to share with other individuals as this is a scenerio that all parents and educators have grappled with to some degree. The dilemma of balancing emergencies at home with our professional responsibilities.

Today started off as an uneventful day. The morning program was running extremely smoothly. The children were all compliant. This is a scenario that does not occur too often. As the morning program came to a close I exited towards my car. I retrieved my cell phone. One voice mail was extremely startling. My husband was en route to the hospital. My son had been in a collision and was en route via ambulance. My fight or flight instinct kicked in. I calmly called the hospital and told them I was on the way. The mother I am, conflicted with the educator I function as. I calmly went back into work and told my supervisor my son had been in a car accident.

The supervisor stated that family always comes first. Nevertheless, I informed her that I would try my best to make it back for the afternoon program. My son suffered a mild concussion. My husband was to be home for the afternoon so I knew my son was in good hands. I emailed my supervisor and told her I would be able to resume work in the afternoon. My company was short handed. I knew the only person Site coordinator qualified was my boss. The responsible side echoed in my head. I could not expect my supervisor to cover my position and her own as well. My conscience grappled with my educational responsibility and my personal ones. Although, I opted to shut out my parental guilt, for returning to the classroom it did not mean my son was not in my heart.

Upon returning in the afternoon, my supervisor said “why are you here?” I explained that I felt a personal responsibility to my students and place of employment. My husband would call if the necessitated. As mentioned in class, one must always present a degree of professionalism. The ability of my role as an educator was tested today. My ability to separate personal issues from professional was exemplary. This happened to be a day when the children chose to challenge me. When requested to enter circle time, the children were sitting everywhere but in a circle!!! I calmly joked that perhaps I needed to place tape on the floor like the preschool uses. As school age children, the thought of being equated with a preschooler was a fate worse than death. They quickly formed a perfect circle and circle time was uneventful. Homework support was a challenge.

I managed to assist several children of multiple ages through their homework. My mind secretly wandered to thoughts of my son. I secretly wished for an assistant so I could get homework support done at a quicker pace. I caught my self wandering and refocused on the children time and time again. The jovial demeanor I presented to the children belied my real emotions under the surface. The children were never aware of what I grappled with. I have dealt with the toughest part of being an educator today. This is separating my human side from the educator.

The cohesiveness of my colleagues was also realized. As is probably evident, accepting help from others is not my strong point. I gravitate towards being the helper, not the helped. My supervisor has picked up on this fact. She was helping without being intrusive. She knew I would decline the help. Snack for the children was delivered to my class. I normally pick it up myself. A thank you note for all I do was in my mail box at the end of the day. She organized my class even though that fact was not made public. Having support on the school front makes traumatic times slightly more palatable.My demeanor is calmer. My son is at home. My friends are checking in on him. I know he is safe from mishaps as bed rest has been warranted for a mild concussion.

My program started off with an eventful scenario. A child vomited all over the rug. All first aid was done. Her temperature was taken and I attempted to clean up the room. The child was in tears. I attempted to comfort her with six other children at my ankle. The other children were demanding my attention. Attention that I couldn’t feasibly give at the moment. I attempted to keep judgment out of the scenario. I realized the other children needed guidance as well as the sick child. As much as I wanted to deem them all incorrigible brats, incapable of empathizing for their ill peer, I couldn’t. I stepped back, recalled what it was like to be a child and reminded myself that I responded with the same behavior at their age.

I processed the whole situation while continuing to comfort the little girl. I needed to divert the attention of the other children and keep them occupied. I decided that necessity warrants flexibility. These children were old enough to understand what a special privilege was. They were allowed to play the coveted play station and computer which was generally open for one hour in the afternoon. Children are only given ten minute time slots to play. The children were ecstatic.

Opening their coveted activities in the morning was a novelty. Their focus on the activity was strong. I was now free to give undivided attention to the other child. The child’s mother was called. A voice mail was left as she was not available. Two emergency contacts were working in Boston thus it would present difficulty for them to zoom down and pick up the child. I made a make shift rest area for the child complete with a pillow in a private area of the room. The human side of me was frustrated that the mother had not responded to our phone calls. My mind ran rampant with judgmental thought. As the readings have suggested, educators need to make a conscious effort not to judge a family. The realities of the readings were soon validated.

The girl’s mom responded several hours later. She works at a minimum wage job and did not have the option to check her cell phone messages. The mother rushed in the door and had already called the child’s pediatrician en route to the school. Her face was fraught with concern for her little girl. I silently experienced the feeling of personal embarrassment. I was ashamed for assuming that this woman was being neglectful because she did not immediately respond to my phone call. I broke a cardinal rule of educators. The rule that states we should always look below the surface of a situation. An educator’s role is to assist children towards positive self efficacy. If we let our own bias decide how we handle a situation, it can be deleterious for the child. This child’s mother is attempting to make ends meet for this little girl and her younger sister.

This day played as much of a role in educating me as my course work does. I felt that I was immune to preconceived bias and judgment. Today emphasized the fact that I am as fallible as any of my peers. I have learned to consciously observe situations from the inside out. Not from the outside in. What lies below the surface of any given situation or behavior is more informative to an educator. A well known phrase would be appropriate to emphasize right now. “You can’t tell a book by its cover”.Today my son returned to school driving my truck. I left the house at 5:30 in the morning with a stern warning to him. He was to call me and leave a voice mail on my cell phone stating that he arrived safely. The day was gray and rainy as it was on Monday when the accident occurred.

I kept my wits about me and oversaw a morning arts and crafts session of paintings made from shaving cream, glue, and food coloring. I marveled at the different personalities and how they approached this project with various levels of interest. One child wanted to paint, but does not like to get his hands dirty. He was perfectly content to be involved in the project as long as he could spread the puffy colored shaving cream concoction with his fingers. Another child not only stuck her hands in the contents, but mixed the colors to create other colors.

She not only painted the paper, but proceeded to paint her arms up to her forearm. She than put some of the greenish mixture she developed on her chin and created a beard. I believe children learn through exploration. Every child is an individual who needs to be respected as such. I still make attempts to get children to step out of there box and accept safe challenge. Challenge is a learning experience. If children are not exposed to new experiences their view of the environment remains quite limited. A balance is necessary to assist a child to step out of the box. Too much challenge can reverse the affect of assisting a child in accepting safe risk taking. Too much challenge causes a child to retreat into a shell. I step back and observe. I consciously halt my ability to judge instead of assess. Those are two very different forms of observation.

Assessing can aid in creating a plan that assists a child in positive developmental growth. Judging causes preconceived notions that can breed deleterious surroundings were personalities that retreat verse accepting risk are more common than not. My first inclination would be to assess the child who doesn’t want to get dirty as living in a family of obsessive compulsive siblings and parents. I am truly drawn to the child who spreads greenish shaving cream concoctions gleefully over her arms. As a good educator, I remind myself that the apprehensive little boy is merely shy and cautious. I developed a strategy to help him try new things. He is allowed to spread shaving cream paint with a plastic spoon. I than deposited a small dab of shaving cream on his finger.

I allay some fears by explaining that the dye will not permanently stain his hands. He is than guided towards the bathroom to wash it off with soap and water. The little boy realizes that the color is not permanent. I have gained his trust. The boy actually allows me to make a handprint painting of his hand with the concoction. I am feeling pretty good about my success with the little boy. I have been in a professional world where I shut off my personal life. As I step out the door at work it is like traveling through a time portal. I enter another dimension.

This dimension is called the real world. I flick off my professional persona like a light switch. I now resume my life as a parent. I run to my car and check my phone. No voice mail from my son. I spend the next couple of hours feeling numb. He finally arrives home. I was informed that my son forgot to call me. Words passed between us about consideration. I than realized, my college age son is not much different than the children in the program. He is still learning from experience as the children do. Only at a more advanced level. The children need experiences to grow and develop. Young adults can’t comprehend the fear of a parent who fears for their son when they do not call. Young adults have not yet had the experience to empathize with a scared parent. Without experience we do not learn or understand. I find it funny how educators’ jobs become intermingled with our personal lives. In a standard professional job an office door can be shut and one can forget about the world. When working with children, we are constantly surrounded by questions, demands, and no personal space. When going home to our family, we are surrounded with questions, demands, and no personal space as well. It is quite a parallel existence. An educator’s life never ends.

Mar N. M.Ed., CECE

  

I write this as I consciously fend off a feeling of intense exhaustion. My first child was waiting at my place of employment at six thirty A. M. I was tired and did not wish to work. As I walked towards the building with a solemn expression upon my face, I saw my young charge smile and wave from the back seat of his mother’s mini van. That smile melted my solemn demeanor. Several minutes after entering the building I heard a small voice from behind me yelling “Hey You’. It was the little boy from the van. He expressed such exuberance at such an early hour of the morning. How could my spirit not be lifted? This child looked forward to coming to my program. I had to ensure that he and all the other children had an enjoyable experience.

If getting up in the wee hours of the morning bothered me, one could only imagine how difficult it was for a little boy to do so. As other children drifted in we started a game. The children set their imaginations to flight. One girl called herself Lava Girl. I was informed that anyone she touched could be burned. She slept on a special imaginary bed. I was informed that a standard bed would melt from her magic body heat. Her brother was shark boy. He was half shark half boy.  He could swim like a shark. Because of his genetic mutation long term survival on land was feasible. Apparently the fact that the little boy is half human makes this achievement reality. The other little boy is called dream boy. His super power is being capable of making his dreams reality. If a child can move one ton boulders in his dreams, than it can be achieved in the real world.

I played along with this imaginary drama. The goal of this game is obvious. These children are aware of their lack of control in daily life. They are told what to do by teachers, parents, older siblings and more. They are aware of differences between them and adults. Adults drive cars, go to bed when the urge strikes, are taller, stronger, and make all the decisions for children. When entering a fantasy world, children can have power and control like the adults they observe everyday. True their powers exaggerate real life, but it makes a child feel like they are in control for a fleeting moment.

I observed the children’s imaginary drama for a while. Some assumptions were made. Dream boy could do anything while dreaming. The translation of his story was that in his dreams there were no limitations. Any goal became reality. Deficiencies did not exist. Lava girls’ super power gave her the power to conquer anything and anyone she wished. By touching them with her hot hand, people would cringe and be her loyal subject. Shark boy swam unlimited distances. In his imagination, nothing was impossible. He emphasized the fact that he was a little boy as well and could live on land. He is obviously combining the wish to venture forward, but still have the security of comfortable surroundings.

The children informed me that they needed naps. (Imaginary) I produced three red carpet squares for lava girl. I informed her that the red color could be the lava. Shark boy was given three blue carpet squares. These would be the ocean. Dream boy was issued multi color carpet squares to simulate a rainbow. He was informed that rainbows are for chasing dreams. My offer was accepted. The children lined up their rows of carpets and settled in for an imaginary nap. Their powers supposedly increased during power naps. I sat and observed the children feign snoring noises. A question I ponder is that it would be grand if adults could retain the imagination of childhood.

Observing someone compensating their weakness by feigning super powers, is definitely more enjoyable than observing a drug addict who is compensating for pain as well. In reality, adulthood brings the disposal of super man, and bat woman garb. An adult would soon get fired for acting in such a manner. But it sure is fun to think about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today started off on a pleasant note. I felt like this was going to be a day of smooth sailing. I welcomed my morning class into the room and convened at a table with the children. I always plan a morning meeting where expectations for the class are expressed. My form of expressing expectations is always done on a positive note. I make a point to ask each child how their evening went before moving on to classroom business. As expectations are presented, I remind each child in the room that I have every confidence in them to make the right choice instead of the wrong choice.

I address the children with behavior issues with the same tone I address the others. We must always keep our unconscious perceptions of others in check hence the self fulfillment prophecy does not follow. A child will behave poorly if they know an educator expects them to. Cheering them on reminds the child that I believe in each and every one of them. I was extremely pleased at the amount of self-control a child with behavior issues was using. Any directions were met with a positive response. If I asked her to stop running, she did so.

At nine o’clock I lined the children up to go to the traditional classroom. I moved on to another classroom to assist and went about my day. At 2:45 I entered a classroom to find the class in a shambles. The teacher appeared as if she had been through a war. A little girl had busied herself by putting glue in the other children’s hair. I learned that the little girl had hit the teacher with a ruler and kicked another child in the nose. The teacher was telling me these war stories within the earshot of the mini offender and the child’s peers.

I couldn’t help to think how those negative comments exacerbated the child’s issues. I hold my tongue when observing other teachers as I do not wish to breed resentment between them and me. Resentment between educators trickles down to the children. Children sense the stress and their education suffers as a result of it. Upon taking the children back to my class for the afternoon we had an afternoon meeting. Some children immediately tattled on the other child with glee. One child told me that this child was the “baddest” child in the class that day. I immediately told the children to stop and listen to me. I reminded them all that I abhor the word bad. I reiterated the fact that no child is bad. We make mistakes and misbehave, but are never bad. The word bad is not allowed in my classroom. We may say that someone made the wrong choice instead of a good choice. We never use the word bad to describe someone. I told the children that the teacher had it under control. My intent here was to instill respect in the children towards the kindergarten teacher.

I wanted them to sense that she and I work as a team. If a child knows they can pit teachers against each other the educational experience will be ruined. I suggested that all the children worry about themselves versus taking joy in tattling on others. The children were all informed that they had hurt the offending girl’s feelings by publicly pointing out her problems. I demanded that they apologize to the little girl. They quickly did so in unison. When they realized that their words could hurt a peer they experienced remorse to some degree. The children were all reminded that everyone makes mistakes and misbehaves. I suggested that focusing on our own problems is a full-time job leaving us no time to worry about anyone else’s antics.

I took the offending child aside. Words were chosen carefully and positively. I explained to the child that I was shocked and appalled by her behavior. In reality I had seen it many times. The child was reminded that she was capable of making better choices than she had that day. My goal by using positive statements is to let the child know people believe in her and her capabilities. The child received an explanation of how her infractions had impacted others that day.

I demanded the same thing from her that I demanded from the others, an apology to her peers. I also had her apologize to the teacher for making it difficult for the other children to learn, and physically harming her teacher. She promptly did as she was told. I believe that explaining the reasoning behind rules goes a long way in terms of having the children appreciate why rules are a necessity.

Reflective teaching versus objective teaching can assist educators in the behavioral management realm. My favorite phrase is that a behavior never presents itself without a reason. Prevention, although not always doable always out ways remediation. Usually, the issue has exacerbated by the time remediation is warranted.

Have a great day:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

“Imagine spending several hours everyday in a place where you felt like a nobody.”   What a powerful statement.  The primary responsibility of an educator should be to assure that no child ever feels like they are not worthy contributors in their classroom.  Each child must feel a sense of belonging within the classroom. Learning is not merely the absorption of material by a student. It isa combination of many factors. Class room layout, a child centered class room, positive behavior management techniques, mutual trust, a safe learning environment, lack of bias, cultural sensitivity, and the ability to draw out each child’s special talent to make them feel like worthy contributors.

A class room must have a positive climate. The children must feel a sense of security. The atmosphere must be conducive to taking safe challenges with out fear of ridicule.  A positive environment is the building block in developing a child with the positive self efficacy to take safe challenges. If a child fears shame and ridicule from peers and teachers, they will avoid taking risks to protect themselves from embarrassment. Within my classroom, the environment is structured to encourage positive self concepts. A piece of mirrored paper is placed at a child’s eye level on the wall. Above the mirror is a simple piece of paper that says, “Look in here to see the coolest person in the world”. The children love to stare in that mirror. The intent behind the statement I wrote for the mirror is to remind all the children that look in it that they are valued members of my room. The mirror was decorated by all the children to give them a feeling of ownership. A poster with six classroom rules is displayed on the wall. Below my poster sits rules developed and handwritten by the children. Again, the intent was to have student involvement in rule setting and give the children a feeling of ownership. The learning environment is the most important lens in a classroom.

The learning environment will dictate how well or poorly a child will learn. A major factor in the learning environment is the teacher’s role. Teachers must take their position as a role model seriously.   Through observing role models, children hone skills that well assist their successful assimilation into society. A class room that lacks a teacher that exhibits quiet control will see behavioral issues exacerbate. The outcome will be deleterious.  Structuring a classroom so positive teacher student relationships develop will have a trickle down effect. Positive behavior will appear in venues such as the playground, parental interaction, and socialization with other children. My teaching style is direct. Supply the children with a warm and trusting class room environment. Explain the why, how, and where. Don’t simply order children and respond with “because I said so”. A teacher should be a guide, and fade into the background. The ultimate role should be a coach, not a dictator. I would like to use the development of baby birds as an analogy. The baby bird doesn’t know it is capable of flying until the mother bird pushes it out of the nest. The baby bird is nurtured, taught life skills, and than pushed out of the nest. The bird’s wings flutter. It eventually succeeds in spreading its wings in flight. The mother bird watches from the nest. She doesn’t physically intervene. The mother bird is present, and available if needed.

Mother bird wishes her baby to experience the taste of independence. The baby bird is enabled if the mother bird hovers over her offspring. Figuratively speaking, children learn through the same methods. My classroom is proactive not reactive. Every strategy I employ, from token reward systems, to earning special privileges are developed in the hope of developing internalized self control, and enhancement of individual and group development. Being reactive merely exacerbates behavior problems. Proactive strategies assist the child in evolving into autonomous and mature individuals. I am a facilitator. I have gradually eased responsibility to the children. Reactive and authoritarian behavior breeds a hostile environment. Autonomy is non existent if the teacher attempts to portray a dictator. Power trips have no place in a classroom. In positive structured environment children develop internalized behavior mechanisms. In the fall, a class begins as a teacher lead environment. A good educator should ease into a child centered environment within a couple of months. The path should gravitate from teacher lead, to a classroom of students who are self starters. Children should be involved in decision making processes. These should include but not be limited to, student input in classroom policies, themes for academic units, and roles students will play in development of school projects. Involving children in the choice making process is essential in creating an autonomous class room environment. Prevention is a key component in creating a positive classroom environment that is void of behavior issues.  Build positive attributes, not negative self efficacy.

Developing class room rules as a team, using inclusive social activities, and developing problem solving activities have proven to be an asset to avoiding behavior issues in my class. My classroom is predictable and structured. I follow a rhythm of the day. The children know what to expect. I am open to feed back. Although structured, my curriculum has wavered by taking a class vote occasionally. Respect for individual learning styles, and personalities are nonnegotiable in my class. I demand respect. I model respect, and expect each child in the room to emulate my respectful behavior. Consequences for behavioral infractions are swiftly enforced. As an educator in a multiage classroom, a middle ground was developed. All age groups must benefit. Behavior management must be carried out in a form that the Kindergarten children can comprehend.  Older children must not find my management system demeaning. Management of transition times has been learned through trial and error. Cleaning between activities is rarely an issue.

Through child and error a method was developed. I told the children I was closing my eyes and giving them one minute to clean the room. When I opened my eyes the room was spotless. The children were hiding. I heard sounds of quiet laughter emanating from various areas of the room. All the children were in view. I pretended I could not see them. I pretended to look for them in the toilet, complete with flushing. I looked for them in the sink. I turned the water on and mentioned out loud that I did not see children falling out of the drain. This caused a bundle of distant giggling. I continued my trek through silly areas that would be impossibility for the children to hide in. Hiding spots I searched were cubbies, cups, crayon boxes and more. I finally found my young charges by sneaking up with a loud “boo”. This one time game turned into a ritual. When I tell the children we must clean up in order to move on I am always asked if we can play “the hiding game at the end”. This enforces the idea that many behavior management techniques do not come from a book. They come from taking our students individual personalities into account.

Children learn from educators and educators learn from the students. Observing the children can result in squelching behaviors before they become issues. Accomodations and restructuring the class room environment can squelch further outbursts. If a child resorts to attention getting behavior, giving the child a sense of power can make all the difference. I give the children special chores. They hold clip boards, carry my phone, carry my first aid kit, even help me do a head count. These small chores have given the children a feeling of ownership. That has made a world of difference. Brainstorming during group time enhances decision skills. Each child is given a question to answer. Each child offers a resolution. An example would be why we don’t run in class. I pair older kids with younger ones during this exercise. This creates equality. If the younger child struggles with the question, the older child can assist with the answer.

The main goal is teaching the art of self monitoring behavior. Self monitoring allows the children to evaluate, record, reflect on their own behavior. Discipline is used in my program. I wish to reinforce that discipline is different than punishment. Punishment controls a child. It does not teach how to modify behavior. Discipline is individualized for each personality. Discipline teaches how to identify behaviors, and how to modify them in the future.  An example of punishment is time out. Time out temporarily stops a child in their tracks. This punishment is merely temporary. Taking time to point out how a behavior affected another human being teaches empathy. Consequences for future infractions are discussed during discipline. I always make consequences clear and concise so a child knows what is expected in the future. Discipline should always fit the crime. If a child damages a project others have worked on, I expect them to repair that project. If a child has abused my personal body space rule, the repercussion would me more severe. Tokens and beloved privileges are taken away.  Children are not mini adults.

We need to be the role models who act in a proactive manner. Children are controlled by their emotions. They don’t think of consequences until later. Educators must provide a safe environment where children can hone their skills. My job is to have a part in development of future self sufficient adults, the future leaders of our country.   I must model proper self control for the children to emulate. Children rely on me to show them the way. My mistakes are permanent. White out will not erase my errors.

A thought to ponder:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.

1) I Caught You Raffle

For behavior management I use a “catch them when they are good” system.

During the day give the children a ticket for various positive behaviors that are noted. Have them write their name on the ticket and put it in the box.

At the end of the week, pull out a determined amount of tickets from the box. They then can earn small tokens like a pencil, homework slip, chart, book, etc. this is a great positive reinforcement technique. By recognizing positive behavior, negative behavior does not get reinforced. With a tangible object to look forward to at the end of the week, the majority of the children love to join this “game”.

A math lesson on percentages is a secondary outcome of this game. The odds of having one’s name drawn in the raffle according to how many tickets are earned during the week can be calculated. Middle level elementary age students and older can keep graphs from week to week to chart the correlation between these factors. When the children realize that the more tickets they earn, the better their chance of having their name picked in the drawing, they exhibit positive behavior to get their name in the raffle.

I have used this with great success. Parents are wonderful about donating to this project.

As we all know, one of the most important parts of the D.I. recipe is a positive classroom climate.

There must be a feeling of camaraderie between the children.  In order to instill this, the children must know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The following activities assist the children in getting to know each other. One activity increases positive behavior, which is also important in keeping the integrated classroom running smoothly. Behavior issues can take away a considerable amount of valuable learning time from other students.

2) The Toilet Paper Game

Throw a roll of toilet paper and tell students to take sheets from the role. Do not place a limit on how many sheets they can use.

Tell them what the sheets are for AFTER they all take sheets off the role.

For each toilet paper sheet they take, they have to tell the class one fact about themselves.

3) The Index Card Game

Each child takes an index card.  They have to write three questions on each card. Some examples would be: do you have a pet? do you have a brother or sister? do you like to play sports?

Have the kids walk around the room as you say, “mingle, mingle, mingle”. When the teacher says stop, the children switch cards with the child closest to them.

The intent of this game is to get children to speak and socialize with each other.

Whatever card a child was given when the cards were switched is kept, and the game starts again.

4) When children enter kindergarten some can already identify sounds of letters, some can actually spell words, and some are not readers. Some learn through auditory modalities, some through visual modalities, and some are tactile. This letter and sound recognition activity incorporates everyone’s different readiness levels.

Using concrete learning materials, everyone has fun while learning.

Take plastic letters, fill a bucket with macaroni and mix the letters into the bucket. Let the kids dig their hands into the bucket and pull out a letter.

If a child is a pre-reader, have them try to identify the letter. For the slightly more advanced child, have them identify the letter and the sound it makes. For the extremely advanced child, have them do all of the above. Ask them to think of a word that begins with that letter.

Have a great day and most of all have fun :-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.