Can you remember jumping in puddles? It was fun, wasn’t it? The anticipation of the splash. The sensory sensation of the wonderful noise and the feel of the water hitting skin or pieces of clothing. The thrill of watching the water jump in response to the sudden intrusion. The joy of that moment when the calm façade of a puddle is shattered by a pair of feet never seemed to get old.
At some point, your attitude towards puddles shifted and you probably began to gingerly walk around the silvery orbs instead of enthusiastically jumping into them. Maybe it was you wanted to avoid the discomfort of walking around in wet socks. Perhaps it was the realization that water would ruin the polished veneer on those fancy new shoes. Or, it may be that the pain of a spanking outweighed the joy found in jumping in puddles. At some point, a puddle moved from being an opportunity for fun to an obstacle to be avoided.
As early childhood professionals, we are in a unique position. It is not our jobs to create obstacles for children – we get to celebrate opportunities with them. We get to enter this world of discovery with children. We get to see the world through their eyes as they voraciously unearth all the new and wonderful the world has to offer.
Every time a teacher says “no” or “stop” – they are creating an obstacle. Unless the desired behavior is dangerous or harmful, teachers should evaluate if the obstacle is really needed. I once visited a classroom in Michigan. I noticed placards that said, “Why Not” posted on two of the walls. Curious, I asked the teacher their purpose. She explained that she had made them to remind herself that not every “no” is necessary. When a child engages in a behavior that she is compelled to stop, she pauses to reflect. “Why not,” she asks herself, “why am I stopping this behavior”. If the behavior might be physically or emotionally harmful to a child, she stops it. If not, she looks for a way to allow the behavior and share in that discovery with the child.
Children do not look to us to provide all the answers, instead they are looking for partners to help them make sense of the world in which they find themselves. We can support them in their discovery by:
- Open-ended conversation starters (Why do you think …? Tell me about …?)
- Reflection (I notice …. You did …. I hear you say ….)
- Acknowledgement (You worked hard at …. You made it happen.)
- Provocation (What would happen if …? I found this, what can you do with it?)
As early childhood professionals, we support true learning when we celebrate opportunities as opposed to surround a child with obstacles.
What do you think? Engage with me and others in the ECE community on my social media outlets. You can also find more information about my book and available training sessions, on any of the following:
Facebook: Teacher as Gardener
LinkedIn: Michelle Salcedo
The book can be purchased at Free Spirit Publishing