Training updates

Many of you who attended my training at the SDAEYC this past weekend wanted to know if I would have anything available here on this blog. Well, since I don't have the time to figure out HOW to include a link to a document, I will just write what I hope to be a brief summary of the training. It may end up longer that I intent, but that's just because there is so much information that I want to share with you all:

First, the Definition of a Friend:
  • a person whom one knows, likes and trusts.
  • one attached to another by affection or esteem
  • someone whom one knows and likes, and to whom one shows loyalty and affection; a close or intimate acquaintance

So many times in our classrooms, we call EVERYONE a friend. That's just not true. (Please, don't get jumpy on me at this point. We like everyone to be nice, but we truly are not all friends.) However, just because we aren't all friends doesn't mean that we can't treat everyone with respect.

And THAT is the point of this training. Getting people to understand that treating others with RESPECT is so much more important than being friends. What, in essence, we are telling our children is that you don't have to be nice to those who aren't your friends. If we are determined to call EVERYONE in the classroom friends and THAT'S why I need to be nice to them; then I don't have to be nice to people who AREN'T my friends.

I don't think that is the message that we MEAN to send. It's just the message that we accidentally send. I work hard in my life to really think about the message that I am sending to others (children and adults). Do I mess up sometimes? YES! But then I end up creating a training opportunity for it (read: this friendship training came about me realizing a mistake of mine).

Now, let's quickly look at the definition of a peer:

  • one that is of equal standing with another
  • one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status

THAT is what the children are in the classroom. Many people have a difficult time with this concept. We all think that everyone is equal. That's just not true. We HAVE to have differences in peer groups. In order for there to be order, there have to be some people in a different (higher, more powerful) peer group.

Assistant teachers, I'm sorry, but you ARE NOT a peer to the teacher in your room. You ARE NOT her equal. Learn from her (or him) so that one day you CAN stand as a peer to her (or him).

Teachers, you ARE NOT a peer to the assistants or the directors in your centers. You are doing yourself (and our profession) a disservice if you treat everyone as if they are equal. It's okay. The key is treating them with RESPECT! I can't tell you what respect means to you, but it is a fragile gift that you have to give to all.

Oh, and everyone who says that they call the children, "my friends", are kidding no one but the children. You CANNOT be friends with a two year old! A two year old can't even BE a friend. It's not in their development!

So, let's look at those developmental areas, shall we?

An infant is very interested in face, smiling, learning to do things to get an adults attention. They respond with gestures when someone is talking to them. And infant will be interested in WATCHING older children play. Most important: AN INFANT FEELS ANXIOUS AROUND STRANGERS!!!

Hm, if they are ANXIOUS around strangers, do you think they can be friends with them?

Toddlers copy actions through pretend play, they play ALONGSIDE other children (but not with them). Toddlers act on impulse and CANNOT YET UNDERSTAND SHARING!

If I can't share, I can't make friends. Friendship is the ultimate SHARING! Sometimes it's sharing THINGS, as you get older, it's about sharing INFORMATION. Can't share? Can't be a friend!

So, how about those Twos? Two year old children are COMPLETELY SELF-CENTERED! (surprised?) They may play well with OLDER children, but need ADULT GUIDANCE to recognize other's rights.

If I prefer solitary play, can I be a friend? I have to share in my play to be a friend. And I definitely can't be a friend if I can't even RECOGNIZE OTHER'S RIGHTS!

Three year olds enjoy being BY others. They are very sociable, the are learning to share and take turns and can use words to express emotions.

Three year old children may begin to form relationships that might look a lot like friendships. They are beginning to be able to do this; but that doesn't mean they are all friends.

Four year old children are highly social, talkative, and begin to take leadership roles (read: they get very bossy). They engage in cooperative play, can play group games, and form a conscience. They are learning to understand fairness and seek approval from peers.

Four your old children CAN form friendships.

But be careful. Just because two children have similar interests doesn't make them a friend. If you are reading this, you obviously have an interest in child development; not to hurt your feelings, but you are not my friends. I don't even know you.

So, what does all this mean? Well, it's not realistic to call everyone a friend. Actually, it does everyone a disservice. We naturally break off into groups (ever walk onto a high school campus?). It's natural and it's OKAY! It's okay not to be friends with everyone.

When that child shouts our to another, "YOU'RE NOT MY FRIEND!" that's okay. You don't have to be friends. What you have to do is RESPECT each other.

Everyone MUST be respected.

As adults, we don't like everyone we work with, but we RESPECT them (or at least we should). Why do we expect the children in a classroom to all be friends? Do you walk into a high school English class and think that all the students are friends? NO! There are people who despise each other in those classes together. But, a great high school teacher will get those students to still complete a project together.

How are you going to bring this to your classroom? First, you are going to stop calling everyone friend. They are classmates, peers, people, boys, girls, the Dolphin class, etc...

Next, you are going to use circle time as a place to discuss respecting each other. Take the opportunity to point out ways that you saw them respecting each other (did someone help finish a puzzle?). Eventually, ask them what they saw others doing that was respectful.

Another thing they need to understand is relationships. Classmates, cousins, parents, grandparents, etc... And remember, parents ARE NOT friends with children. They are parents.

Emphasize to the children that, even if you aren't friends with someone, you can still help them. It's just the nice, respectful, thing to do.

Oh, and if a child doesn't want to play with someone, don't force them to play together. Try and find out why they don't want to play with the other child. But by forcing them to play with that child is very disrespectful to them.

Probably the key to getting children to respect each other is for them to see the adults in their environment be respectful to each other. Greet each other when you come in (not just the children); offer to help them out in tasks. Verbalize your cooperation as well: "I'm washing my table, I'll wash your table for you when I'm done."

I know that this is a totally "new" way of thinking in the classrooms. It's a challenge. It goes against what we are used to doing. But please, THINK before you speak in the classroom. Are they really friends? NOPE!


Erin said...

Interesting post! I'm a mother to a three-year-old and he is in preschool where a group of the kids are doing the "I'm not your friend, I'm [his] friend." This is proceeded by wails of "he said he's not my friend" (usually my son doing the wailing). I've tried roll-playing with toys and repeating "we're all friends" (oops). I'd love some feedback about what else I can do to facilitate "respect" in a three-year-old.

Jenni said...

Rather than answer in another comment (it would take too much space) I have created another post on the topic. I hope it helps.