Princess Culture and Early Childhood Education: Application

Posted on April 11, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, eci814, First Nations, Grade 1 & 2, Kindergarten, Masters, Privilege, Race, teaching and learning |

In my last post, I ended with some questions about what we, as teachers or early childhood educators, could do to combat the racialized and gendered messages that our


“Disney princesses” Photo credit: Ricky Brigante via Flickr

students are being bombarded with in their Disney princess/superhero culture. We need to remember that racial understanding makes its way into our classrooms without effort. “Race is a structuring principle that must be interpreted in classroom interactions, not as a naturally occurring phenomenon but part of the assumptions that ultimately inform how people construct their world” (Leonardo, 2009, p. 233).

Our students have racial constructs already formed by the time they get to school, and many of those constructs have been influenced through their parent’s opinions, and the movies and shows the children have been exposed to. Unfortunately,


Photo credit: Disney UK

we can’t wait for Disney to change their ways and disrupt the dominant discourse, because even though they are starting to try, by releasing movies like Moana, there are still many issues with movies like these portraying Indigenous people. It is going to require educators to take a critical look at the hidden and lived curriculum students are stepping into school with, and learning how to deconstruct these narratives with their students.

In my grade one class last year, we had talked a lot about male and female ‘gender roles.’  I didn’t have to give many examples before the students started chiming in with what the “world” tells boys and girls they can or can’t do. During our talking circle, students were giving examples such as, “People say boys can’t have long hair,” or “Girls like pink.”  I don’t think there was one student that day who didn’t participate in the talking circle; every child had experienced some type of gendered scenario where they knew how boys and girls were supposed to act.  It was neat watching them agree and sympathize with each other as each child gave examples of what they knew about gender and how it didn’t sit right, even in their little six year old bodies.

I decided to take this lesson a step further with my students because “to children, the boundaries between reality and fantasy life are often unclear (van Wormer & Juby, 2015, p. 591).  Kids don’t always understand that the behaviours on TV shows or in movies shouldn’t be imitated in their own lives. I wanted to try and help my students look critically at the gendered and racialized scenarios they see in movies, and deconstruct the message while relating it to their own lives.

The first clip we watched was Gaston’s song from Beauty and the Beast. Take a look if you need a little refresher.

When I chose this clip, I knew it would have a lot of the gendered physical characteristics  of males, and I was hoping the children would notice.  After we watched the clip, I asked the kids what Disney was telling them about men/boys. Sure enough, the kids picked up on so many of the physical qualities.

“Boys have to be strong.”

“Boys have to have big muscles.”

“They are hairy.”

“Boys eat a lot of food.”

“They drink beer.” (Oops, I may have forgot about that part of the movie!)

Then one student pointed out something that I hadn’t really thought about, but was so prevalent.

“Boys like to fight.”

Wow. How had I missed that obvious behaviour from the clip? Clearly Gaston was fighting with the men in the parlour, but I was more focused on the kids finding physical characteristics of what men “should be like.” This led us into a great conversation about violence and how boys are pushed into more of a violent social construct than girls.

We then looked at a couple other princess clips; one of Snow White, and another of snow whiteCinderella. The students were even quicker to find gendered stereotypes of women which included body image, a woman’s “roles,” and standard of beauty.  Unfortunately we don’t have to look far to see the media pushing women in one gendered cinderelladirection, and it mostly has to do with the beautification and sexualization of girls/women.  Our class had a really good conversation around this topic, and it even led into how they can be safe/protected online.  Many children recognized that inappropriate images of women are scattered everywhere on the web, and many children openly admitted to seeing these while they were using the internet in their own home. We discussed how “the world” sometimes treats women’s bodies as objects, and that is not fair or right. I reminded them of what they could do if they ran into inappropriate images/videos while online (close it immediately, tell an adult etc.) I try my best to incorporate digital citizenship lessons throughout the year as we use quite a bit of technology in my class, and I know students run into these situations at home as well.

The last part of the student’s assignment was to re-iterate a stereotypical message they knew about boys and girls, and then offer an alternative. For example, “boys CAN have long hair,” or “girls can wear blue and boys can wear pink” etc. The students left empowered, and I had a student come back the week after and tell me how his sister was telling him something about a “girl colour,” and he told her there was no such thing as girl or boy colours! What a precious example of social/gender de-construction.

Unfortunately, I did not dive into an extension of this lesson that included race… but I wish I would have.  I think deep down, challenging gender constructs was more comfortable for me than challenging racial constructs, and so I left it at that.  Now that I have more anti-oppressive grad classes under my belt, and feel a little better versed in my understanding of Whiteness, identity, and erasure, I am willing and hopeful to tackle more lessons of this sort when I head back into the classroom after mat leave.

However, Leonardo (2009) does warn us that “whites must learn to be racially sensitive about contexts when race seems a legitimate theme to invoke and ask why it was relevant to them then and not other times… Whites can participate in building an antiracist pedagogy against white mystifications, and displacing white racial knowledge from its privileged position of classroom discourse” (p. 239). This makes me wonder what it looks like to challenge the “princess/superhero” culture in specific lessons, but support it on something like a school dress up day.

Last year we had a dress-up day called “Disney Day,” where, you guessed it, students were encouraged to dress up as their favourite movie character.

Not surprisingly, all students either dressed up as a character, or wore a shirt that had a superhero logo or character on it.  Looking back, I’m again reminded at how prevalent and engrained the Disney culture is in these children’s lives. I would never consider boycotting the Disney day, as I know these types of days are extremely fun for students.  But if I could do it again, I would choose to have some critical discussion around gender/race as a reminder before the day. The children can learn to spot Whiteness, erasure, and cultural appropriation. This type of day would be the perfect time for them to practice their awareness in this area.

Furthermore, an asset-based, positive way teachers can disrupt the princess/superhero IMG_2265culture in their classroom is by offering other cultural/linguistic alternatives. Mary Caroline Rowan in her article, ‘Resituating Practice through Teachers’ Storying of Children’s Interests’ explained how she used Aotearoa/New Zealand learning stories to impart traditional Inuktitut words to preschoolers. It “could serve as a means of first recognizing and, second, deepening Inuit cultural and linguistic approaches to early childhood education” (2013, p. 180). Incorporating First Nations, Inuit, and Metis languages through storytelling is a valuable pedagogical tool teachers can use to help combat ‘White ways of knowing.’ Rowan emphasizes that using Indigenous methodologies

“facilitated the development of a practice of making learning stories that I hoped would make Inuit knowledge(s), patterns, and meanings accessible and, in so doing, make spaces in ECE practice for Inuit ways of knowing and being” (2013, p. 180).

In what other ways can we make spaces in ECE practice for Indigenous ways of knowing and being? How can we disrupt the dominant discourse of princess/superhero culture and acknowledge the ways in which it directly influences student’s understanding of themselves and each other? I am only entering the beginning of this journey, and am hopeful to walk beside other early childhood educators who believe in this work as well.


Joseph, A. (2016, Dec. 2). With Disney’s “Moana,” Hollywood almost gets it right: Indigenous people weigh in. Salon. Retrieved from:

Leonardo, Z. (2009). Reading whiteness: anti-racist pedagogy against white racial knowledge. In B. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stovall, (Eds.), Handbook of social justice in education. (pp. 231-248). New York: Rutledge.

Rowan, C. (2013). Resituating Practice through Teachers’ Storying of Children’s Interests in V. Pacini-Ketchabaw & L. Prochner, Resituating Canadian Early Childhood Education (172-188). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

van Wormer, K. & Juby, C. (2015). Cultural representations in Walt Disney films: Implications for social work education. Journal of Social Work. 16(5), 578-594

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Deficit Thinking Results in Bio-Medical Interventions

Posted on March 1, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, eci814, educational, Kindergarten, Masters, teaching and learning |

Reading through this week’s chapters was a sobering reminder that I’m not as de-pathologizing as I would like to be.  The explanations on the biomedical approach to literacy is literally how I have done my job in grade one for these past 6 years. The DRA mentioned in chapter 3 is the exact tool that we use in our division for scoring children’s reading. As I was reading their explanations of how it is used, the stories were all too familiar to me.


Screen shot from our online reading program called Raz-Kids which is a resource created to help kids achieve grade level.

The tool itself can be neutral and just another way we assess students, but the categorization, labelling, and decision making that is based on these results is troubling. In my experience, this can become the only tool that we use to gage student’s literacy. It becomes the be all and end all and we work towards hitting that numbered goal rather than looking at the child’s literacy strengths and literacy needs from an asset based approach.  Because the division only looks at these ORR levels, it unfortunately drives teachers like me to work to get students to “grade level.” Don’t get me wrong, reading at grade level is an important thing, as there are statistics that show if children aren’t reading at grade level by grade 3, they have a higher risk of dropping out of school. BUT- listen to the language I just used in that sentence. It is all deficit based language.


Ways to see who is not reaching the skills required.

How would things change if I came at reading, writing, and basic literacy from a completely asset point of view? What if we built off of the children’s strengths culturally, linguistically, socially? How would my literacy instruction change if I cared less about a number and more about individual student growth? Would I spend less time testing and more time observing the student strengths and trying to work from those?  How do we move past the standardized test when that IS the test that schools/divisions/governments base achievement on?

I just asked 5 questions that are somewhat rhetorical because unfortunately I cannot leave the system that I teach in. I now need to decide how to work within that system. I can’t just complain about the system if I do not offer suggestions on how to problem solve these issues. That said, here are three things I am going to try to do when I get back into the classroom after my mat leave is over:

  1. Use cultural language/print more effectively.  I want English AND the other languages children speak in my classroom represented within my classroom. This will be done through labelling the classroom, but also through homemade books and artifacts co-created by students and their parents. Many parents/siblings will be more than willing to help bring a bit of themselves and their culture and language into our classroom. Rather than a teddy bear journal that gets sent home over the weekend, maybe a journal that encourages new vocabulary from all of the homes of the children could be sent home.
  2. Use more than a phonics based approach to teach reading. This is hard for me as I feel like I have done a “good job” of using reading strategies, phonics, and structures of English to help students learn to read English… BUT I know that I need a bigger representation of language in my classroom. When I taught Kindergarten, I used to use the children’s names to help them see the English language structures. For example, if Mikayla was the helper of the day, we would talk about how the “ay” in her name says a long a sound. This would be similar to the ‘ay’ in day, say, pray, spray etc. This might work for names that follow English “rules.” But what will I do when someone’s name does not fit? How can I honour a child’s name that was originally made for a language other than English? How can I use this as a chance to honour, represent and draw attention to that child’s culture, heritage and home language? Even further, how do I look at this experience for children and depathologize in my own practice?
  3. I will actively use more than the DRA or other standardized tests for decision making within my classroom. I think the chapters were pretty clear that most educational institutions are using the biomedical approach for decision making, understanding knowledge production,  and policy creation in regards to children.  There is not much I can do about that, except push back and show that I will not use those means to make decisions within my own classroom. I will show that students have value beyond the tests and constraints the “system” has put on them, and I will do everything I can to make informed decisions using the personal knowledge I have gained about my students through dialogues with them and their families. “The children of Elmwood received literacy instruction based on a single theory. When one theory is exclusively employed, only the goals of that theory can be achieved” (Early Childhood Curricula and the De-Pathologizing of Childhood, Ianacci and Heydon, p. 83). I will strive in every way possible to use more than a single approach to literacy for my future students.

What do you think? What are other ways we can teach literacy from an asset based approach? Am I off base? An idealist? Or is this something we need to strive for in our schools?

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De-pathologizing refugee children’s ECE experience

Posted on February 15, 2017. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, eci814, educational, Kindergarten, Masters, teaching and learning |

This week’s chapters struck a chord with me as I was reminiscing on the types of play/activities I encouraged when I was teaching Kindergarten, and even grade one. I am embarrassed to say that it definitely did not reflect the culturally sensitive practices I read about this week.

In his book, Early Childhood Curricula and the De-pathologizing of Childhood, Luigi Iannacci speaks about how culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students are pathologized ece-bookbecause of their lack of English language. He encourages teachers to approach curriculum by asking, “Who are my students? What resources do they possess? Are these resources being accessed or ignored in lieu of experiences that may render them deficient?” (Iannacci, pg. 233)

Unfortunately I think my experience has been to mostly ignore these student’s culture, and try and help them learn English language and ‘Canadian’ culture. Don’t get me wrong…  We did country projects where students could learn about whatever country they wanted and bring a meal that represented that country etc. but I wasn’t honouring or upholding individual’s backgrounds and diverse experiences from home. I guarantee I was looking at these students from a deficit point of view, trying to figure out what they lacked and how I could help them “catch up.”


“Knowledge” photo credit: Sebastien Wiertz via Flickr

Iannacci speaks to how teachers can potentially help students become curriculum informants rather than information recipients. He encourages teachers to look at who the child is rather than what the child is. He believes that students should not be, “recipients of knowledge deposits and pathologized for their inability to meet pre-established expectations” (Iannacci, pg. 233). This caused me to reflect on my own practice and what I can be doing differently when I head back to the classroom after my mat leave.

Anna Kirova, in Children’s Representations of Cultural Scripts in Play, gave me some practical ideas on how I could start supporting intercultural learning within an early childhood classroom. She starts by suggesting that we get to know exactly what cultures/languages are represented in your class. Often times the information in the CUM folders is misleading and/or erroneous. We should be asking our students, their siblings or their parents about what country they are from and what language(s) they speak.  If at all possible, we should be bringing in people/family who speak these children’s native tongue. This shows that we value the child’s first language, and the adult may give us some amazing insight into cultural practices from their home country. It also signals the children that language “code-switching” is acceptable and an important part of learning a new language.

Another suggestion was to set up some play centres that encourage cultural practices within the classroom. The tea centre was an excellent example of this for me.  Many cultures/families drink tea, and though they may go about it in different ways, it provides


“Tea Party: Ms. Jen’s Classroom” photo credit: Meriweather Lewis Elementary via Flickr

an opportunity for students to role-play what they see at home.  Each child can model and explain to the other students how their family prepares tea, and a ‘tea party’ is such a natural way for students to invite their classmates into their experience.  The market centre was another excellent example of this culturally sensitive practice that invites a new and different understanding of this universal task of gathering food. The only issue Kirov alluded to with this centre was that if your refugee students were born in Canada they may not have first hand experience in any other market except the grocery stores here in Canada, so an adult or sibling with experience could come in to help.

The last and extremely easy suggestion these chapters gave was labelling the room in the children’s first languages. A parent or even Google can help with this! Labelling things like door, window, toilet etc. I appreciate this simple step to help students and parents feel like they are not only welcomed, but an integral part of the classroom.

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Self regulation in the classroom

Posted on February 15, 2014. Filed under: educational, Grade 1 & 2, Kindergarten, reflection, teaching and learning |

I don’t know when the buzz word of “self regulation” first set foot into the education circle’s vocabulary, but for the past 4 years- I have been committed to the idea and the practice. It started when I taught Kindergarten and had 2 boys who would get very emotional and wild at the drop of a hat. One was diagnosed with autism, and the other one had FAS. We had a spare locker in the Kindergarten classroom, so I designated it as an area for those boys to go calm down. Even though they were bigger than normal lockers, there wasn’t a lot of room inside.


Even so, they loved having a special place to go and be by themselves; cut off from the rest of the group. We used that locker until our LRT suggested using a child sized tent that would become their safe haven. She found a Toy Story tent for $9 in the States that weekend. It worked perfectly. I used neutral colour material to cover the tent so the Toy Story pictures on the side weren’t so distracting, and I eventually decided that every child should be able to use the self regulation area.

toy story tent
From that point on, my life was changed. Every time a student came in crying about something – a kid stepped on their toe, or they didn’t get to be “it” at Recess, I would ask them, “Hmm, do you need to use the self regulation area?” They would almost ALWAYS answer yes, and it was magic. They went in crying and upset, and would come out calm and ready to learn. I was sold. I loved having the kids regulate THEMSELVES. Sure I still handled big issues and helped them work through things they needed to, but for the little stuff, it was BEAUTIFUL!
My self regulation area as changed over the years, but its magic hasn’t. Though I had to leave the tent at that school when I was transferred, I have since made my own self regulation areas in my classroom now. This year I teach grade 1/2 and the students still use it often. I now have 2 self regulation areas in my classroom. One for the majority of my students, and one special area for my boy with autism. I found that it was important to give my autistic student his own area, because if he was on the verge of a meltdown and needed to self regulate, it wasnt fair to kick out another student who also needed to self regulate so that he could go in and calm down.

I have found that all children,autistic or typical, like having closed off areas. It must be something about the protective feeling of shelter and seclusion. I guess it’s a classroom version of hiding under your blankets. The “classroom” self regulation area is tucked away in the corner of our classroom between a big cupboard and the wall. It has sheer fire retardant material hanging from the ceiling making a canopy that closes the student off to the rest of the world while allowing me to see in and make sure everything is alright. In that self regulation area I have a cushy chair, a mini bookshelf with books that talk about different feelings (including the 5 point scale.) I also have little fidgets and stress balls for the students to work with to help them if that’s something they need. I used to have crayons, pencils and a feeling journal in there until the walls got vandalized by some crayon happy 6 year olds last year… Self regulation at its finest- really what did I expect to happen?!
My other self regulation area is a special cut out under our cupboards. When my autistic boy was in grade 1 last year, the teacher found that he really liked to crawl under her tables when he was upset. Perfect. This covered area would be great for him.

self regulation
In his area I have some material, pillows, a weighted lap belt, and calm down strategies posted on the walls. He goes in there on his own terms or if I can see him getting upset, I might suggest it- but I never FORCE a child to use self regulation. That’s not something I get to decide.
It is important to recognize that self regulation is VERY different than a time out. I have lots of parents coming in and hearing from their child about this “corner.” They almost always ask if their child has had to be put in the time out area. It is a great way to start a discussion about self regulation.
I know my use of classroom self regulation will change and grow with time, and I would love to hear from other teachers using their own forms of self regulation in the classroom.

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Using technology in the primary classroom

Posted on January 12, 2014. Filed under: educational, Grade 1 & 2, Kindergarten, Social Networking, teaching and learning, Technology |

I am by no means an expert at using technology in the classroom- but I will give you 3 do’s and 3 don’t s that I have learned about using tech in the classroom.
1) DO ask the kids to bring their own devices to school. I know this is taboo for some people because they couldn’t possibly fathom their 6 year old bringing a $700 iPad to school every day, but I can say that it has worked for me and the school I am at. The great part of having children bring their own devices to school is that it allows them to “log on” or start working much faster than if they had to use the school’s technology. They already know how to use it, and they are in charge of it- they have a inherent sense of responsibility towards that piece of technology because it is theirs. I have found that even though the children may be working on a small screen (iPod or old iPhone) they are still more efficient in writing activities on THAT then having them try to figure out a foreign school laptop or netbook. That said, your school’s wifi will need to be able to handle having students connect to the network, and it IS a new teaching challenge to teach young children how to connect to the wifi… but in my mind it has been worth it completely!

2) DON’T put your apple id onto students devices. You might be thinking that this is obvious- well I have made this mistake!! I have had problems every time I have tried to get my student’s an app, or send an email through my ID on their device. One year I put my apple id onto a students iPad so that I could get her an app we needed that day, and from that point on, syncing to both her home computer and my work computer was a nightmare. I think I even gave them my apple id password so they could keep the apps on her device once they were synced up at home.
I even have a horror story of me putting my class email onto a students device so that he could email me a project, and then somehow my PERSONAL i-notes from my own iPhone ended up on his iPod. I had notes from my pastor’s sermons on there, my own personal journalling, and other random shopping lists and notes that you would have on your phone. iCloud is a great thing, but apparently it is also GREAT at syncing things even if you don’t want them synced! Thankfully, the students mom was awesome and came in and let me know what happened.

3) DO connect and network with other educators who are using technology in their classroom- whether they are primary teachers or not! Now, I am a twitter fan, and love it for professional development, but I know not everyone feels like they have the time for this. (Might I add that twitter serves an ENTIRELY different purpose than Facebook, just in case you were going to tell me that you don’t need twitter because you have Facebook!) If you choose twitter as the way to connect with other educators, start by following great teachers. You can search for people who are having conversations about education through the hashtag #edchat, #kinderchat #1stchat etc. or follow me at @mrsmaley or my class at @mrsmaleysclass… BUT let me say that even though I am pro-twitter, there is one professional development opportunity that I am a part of that even beats twitter. It can happen right within your own school! At my school we call it Tech Tuesdays. Another teacher and I have started a little club on Tuesdays after school where we share tech tools that we are trying, or ones we have found and WANT to try out. Every second week we have Appy Hour, where we specifically share apps that can be used in the classroom. #rbeappyhour The other Tuesdays we leave it open to any tech tool; smart boards, web based tools etc. These meetings have been huge in giving me confidence to use technology in the classroom. It is not one person teaching others about a tool, but the entire group having a conversation about a tool and how they think (or know) it can be used in the classroom. If you have ever heard of edcamp, it is like a little mini edcamp every Tuesday. Sometimes it is just the other teacher and I, and sometimes it is lots of teachers from other schools too! Either way, we don’t care! Every conversation is beneficial. Don’t have a club like this in your school? START ONE. All it takes is a classroom to meet in and you- wanting to talk about tech in the classroom.

4) DON’T jump in over your head with tech. Too many times I feel like teachers look at what I do and think that it is impossible or too hard for them to do it all. They are right! It IS impossible to do everything I am doing if you are just starting! Start small. Choose one thing you are interested in. Maybe you just want to start by Skyping another primary classroom. Great! Do that a few times in the year. Maybe you want to start a class blog- fabulous- get one set up and start slow. Look at how other people are doing it, and be a copy cat! Maybe you want the kids to bring their devices once a week and you can plan one lesson around the devices for just that day every week. Whatever it takes, start slow so that you don’t get frustrated and give up. The worst thing you can do is try too much stuff and then fail at everything. Get good at one thing and then add on!
5) DO teach the students to use technology properly. When I ask parents to allow their kids to bring their own tech to the classroom, it also comes with the promise that I will be showing them how to use it properly. Now, I don’t literally mean teaching them how to use it in terms of pressing buttons and hand swiping motions, but rather I teach digital citizenship. We tweet as a classroom and we talk about safe followers, and unsafe people- we talk about what is acceptable to post on our blog and what is not. I use the words inappropriate and appropriate a lot. But ultimately we talk about it being a heart issue. They are not always going to have a teacher or parent standing behind them when they are on the computer/idevice and they need to recognize that feeling of uncomfortableness when they come across something that is not appropriate. Tech is just another tool to talk about their conscience- and making good decisions.
6) DON’T treat technology as a reward. I know that lots of parents use technology and devices as rewards for their kids for good behaviour or eating all their supper. In a classroom setting, you can’t do this. The children need to know that technology is just another tool in the classroom. It is just like a pencil or a ruler. It serves a purpose and it will not always be the best tool for the job. Sometimes a pen and sticky note are better classroom tools than the iPad. If a kid was misbehaving, you wouldn’t take away his/her pencil would you? That would stop them from working on the assignment at hand. Treat it like any other classroom tool… If they were stabbing the kid beside them with that pencil, YES you would take it away. But eventually you would give it back after going over proper expectations. Same thing with technology. They need to know your expectations and follow them. Rewarding them with technology or taking tech away reinforces the wrong attitude towards technology in the classroom. It reinforces that it is a toy that is used for fun- and once all the “real work” is done they get to go play on the idevice. That’s not what we want. We want the students to be practicing higher level thinking skills. The iPad is a perfect example of how technology can ENHANCE learning in ways that were never possible before. It allows analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

There are many ways to use technology in the classroom, and in this post I haven’t given you a whole lot of practical resources. But I hope you can start to see some of the pedagogy BEHIND why I use tech in the classroom and some of the do’s and don’ts I have come across. Good luck!

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Looking at the Heart

Posted on February 26, 2012. Filed under: behaviour, Christian, edublog, educational, Kindergarten, personal, reflection, teaching and learning |

You’ve heard of a bandaid.  But have you ever heard of a behavior band aid? This is a term describing what people do when they try to fix a behavior by telling a child to stop something that they shouldn’t be doing, or by threatening them with some type of consequence and then possibly not following through. As a teacher, I have been learning the value of getting to the root of my student’s behavior issues and trying to deal with the heart of the issue rather than slapping on a behavior bandaid.
It all started when my friend Janelle was reading this Christian book called Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

She has three kids and this book was really challenging her to be purposeful and consistent in her discipline. It was challenging her to actually spank her kids EVERY TIME they disobeyed. Sounds harsh, but hear me out; if she asked one of her sons to do something and they didn’t, she would have a talk with them, explain why it’s important to be obedient, pray with them and then spank them. At first, she felt like she was spanking them constantly, and then after about 2 weeks, she noticed that they would obey her without questioning her or putting up a fight. They were starting to become obedient and their household was getting more peaceful. She actually found herself disciplining in love rather than anger because she would correct their behavior before it got to the point where she was angry and fed up, and the children understood that she was discipling them because she loved them, not because she was angry and they had screwed up.
This inspired me to try and be consistent in my own classroom for the very reason that I too wanted to correct my student’s behaviour in love, looking out for what is best for them rather than giving consequences in anger. I was going to be teaching kindergarten at the time and I decided that at the beginning of the year, our class was going to make up rules that everyone was expected to follow, and WHENEVER someone broke a rule, I was going to try and be consistent with discipline. Now, I obviously can’t spank my students, THAT would be awkward! And I also decided that I couldn’t give timeouts every time one of my 39 students broke a rule, or I would have no instruction time and the whole classroom would be filled with kids in time outs. Instead, I decided to give three chances. First time they broke a rule was 1, 2nd time was 2, and when they reached 3, I walked them over to the time out chair (while still teaching the lesson) and set the visual timer for about 5 minutes; when the red was gone, they were allowed to come back and join the group on their own. Sometimes they had to draw a picture of what they did wrong and what they should have been doing, and I would try my best to talk to the child one on one afterwards to discuss what had happened. At first it was hard to be consistent, I would forget how many chances each kid had, but thankfully the other little tattle tales would usually help me out! Forcing myself to be consistent was one of the best things I could have ever done in my career. To this day, it is helping me so much with classroom management. I have never once had a kid question why they had to go into the time out. They know my expectations, and they know the consequences… Every time.

Now, that’s all fine and dandy, and I’m sure many other teachers have come to this conclusion long before me, but what I am excited about this year is how consistency in discipline is merging with the heart issues of my students behavior. Let me explain; it began when my husband Jon and I went to a marriage retreat this September. We watched a series of Paul Tripp videos, and one of the analogies he used really stuck with me. He says:
“If I shake a bottle of water, spilling some, and ask you, “Why did water spill on the floor?” you might say, “Because you shook the bottle.” In other words, the shaking is to blame for the water on the floor. If I ask you, “Why did water spill on the floor?” you might say, “Because there was no milk or pop in the bottle. Why does anger, hurtful actions, and vile language spill out of people? It is not because they are shaken or the fault lies with whatever did the shaking. No, the problem is that there is anger and vile language inside, waiting to be shaken and spilled.”

I explained the water bottle analogy to my students in language they could understand, and gave them a chance to find a spot by themselves in the classroom and look into their water bottles/hearts. I wanted to give them a chance to see if they could find any anger or “darkness” that was already hiding in their hearts; whether that was mean thoughts or actions towards a sibling or friend, parent or teacher. Before we came back to the carpet, I told the kids that if they needed to make anything right with another person in the classroom, they could do that before they sat down. About 3 kids took me up on that offer, and talked one on one with another student before sitting down. When we came back to the carpet, I asked the children if anyone wanted to share what they “saw” in their hearts. A few students told me about hateful thoughts toward others, or about a fight they got in earlier that day.

As the year has gone by, I have continued to give the students chances to look into their heart to find out WHY they acted they way they did. I am trying to not only train their behavior, but help them realize what is causing their behavior and what they can do to deal with it BEFORE it comes out in hurtful words or actions.
This is a difficult task to do for anyone, including adults, but I have learned that if I expect my students to be changing their behavior from the inside out, I need to be doing it myself also. Now, as a Christian I believe I can’t actually change my own heart, but that Jesus can work in me and change my evil heart into a loving, caring one that can show mercy and kindness, so I pray for help! 🙂

I have also found that recognizing my attitude and my heart has really helped me be transparent with my students. I have had to apologize to them on more than one occasion this year when I have acted in anger, or tried to discipline not in love. I don’t tell them that I am sorry for disciplining them; if they are not following the rules, and the kids are creating an environment where it is not easy to learn, they need to know that I have the right to discipline them for that, AND change that behavior… BUT, the problem is that my heart tends to do this in the wrong way… surprise surprise! What I do tell them is that I am sorry for getting angry and mad at them. I explain it to them by saying that my heart gets kind of black and hard towards them and I start getting mean and trying to control the situation through anger rather than love. They are always very forgiving, and they show me grace. Isn’t it funny how children are so quick to forgive, yet as adults we hold grudges and can carry bitterness with us for days, months and years?  I am so thankful that I work with children who are so young, so tender, and so willing to open their hearts.  I am definitely blessed.  And the plan is, from now on I will only be handing out REAL bandaids for paper cuts, scraped knees and microscopic owies that the child seems to need a bandaid for… No behaviour bandaids here!

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