I can say without a doubt that throughout my teaching career there have been one particular question that parents of young children seem to ask more often then others: What is the model we use to set and to promote positive behavior in our school towards teachers and students? My answer is usually simple: we give the children positive guidance by establishing clear rules and boundaries, predictable routines and teach by example using kindness and respect as the foundation to successful interactions.
Today I would like to explore this in further detail.I have found that the most practical approach to teaching young children positive behavior is as follows.
I begin with a holistic approach, which simply means that the guidance is done throughout the day and not only when a child acts out in an unacceptable way. The teacher’s constant attention and guidance gives the children assurance that they can always rely on her help.
Being a multilingual school our focus is on language development and vocabulary. I explain to the children early and often what is appropriate and inappropriate usage of language. For example the difference in the meaning of the words rude and strict. Teachers are consistently demonstrating the proper use of language in an appropriate way coupled with being aware of the children’s conversations between each other without unnecessary interruptions.
Being present and connected evenly with all the children as well as being predictable in our actions is what helps us be most successful with our teaching experience.
To summarize I would like to point out that we actively offer guidance as a team in the school environment, and aim to work together with families suggesting to reinforce these lessons at home with siblings and family members . We constantly monitor every child’s physical, social and cognitive development, family situation and simply his/ her physical and physiological condition during the day.
During a short meeting in the morning before the school start teachers discuss their plan for the day pointing out the possibilities for challenging behavior at specific times. Then during the drop off and daily health check the teachers assess the physical and emotional condition of each child, writing a notice in the daily health log that one girl was crying during that time and other general observations. During the breakfast time this particular girl is noticed to be involved in a conflict with two of her friends (the three of them play often together). The teacher makes a statement, then observes the three girls playing off and on together throughout the morning routine, chiming in with praise during positive behavior and bringing to their attention when and why their actions are not acceptable during not so positive interactions. Later on during the circle time this subject is brought to a group discussion with the guidance of a teacher. Outdoor play gives the teachers a possibility to introduce the girls to separate activities and the group is broken up: all three of the girls are playing with other children rather then with each other: tending to the garden, playing ball games, riding bikes, playing on the swings etc. During the lunch time the girls choose to sit together again and when the tension starts building this time only one remark from the teacher is needed to steer the situation in the right direction. A reminder by the teacher during this exact moment is enough for them to model positive behavior. Finally after the nap time which they spend away from each other they come together again and play without any conflicts through the end of the day.
Lada Tillmann Program Director at Prospect Academy.