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As I’ve mentioned before, I often find Self-Reg thinking running through my head. The questions, “Why?,” and “Why now?,” which Stuart Shanker is known for asking, are ones that I contemplate frequently, especially when noticing student behaviour. Sometimes though, no matter how much we might have learned about Self-Reg, we all make mistakes. I was reminded of this yesterday.

The Experience

I was walking down the hallway after dropping off one of my groups yesterday morning. I was about to pick up my next group when I saw a student that I work with over by her locker. I thought that she was supposed to be in the classroom, so I went over to talk to her. As soon as I asked, “Is everything okay?,” she replied, “Go away!” Oh no! Now what?

My Mistake

I know this student well, and I realized that this was likely stress behaviour. Even though I knew this, I didn’t consider this when I chose to say what I did next. This was my mistake. I replied by saying, “I can’t go away. I want to make sure that you’re safe.” She just got louder with screams of, “Go away!” While I managed not to match the tone of her comments with my replies, I continued to make mistakes as I replied to her screams with more comments such as, “What if we go into the classroom together?,” or “Can we go into the pod instead?” At one point, she looked me in the eye and yelled as loudly as she could, “I said, ‘Go away!'”

Now What?

This student frequently asks to go to the bathroom or for a walk, so I wondered if the teacher knew about the problem. I decided to go and find out. I could still see the student, so I walked into the classroom and quietly asked the educator, “Did you know that [Name] is upset and over by her locker?” She didn’t. The child had just asked to go to the bathroom, so something must have happened on the way out. I said that I was just going to wait around for a bit and see if I could talk to her later. As I took a seat off to the side to observe what was happening, but also give some space, the classroom teacher did the most wonderful thing.

How Things Turned Around

The classroom teacher went out into the hallway, and said in the kindest of voices, “Oh, I’m so glad to see you back from the bathroom. We’ve been waiting for you. Did you organize those stickers of yours from yesterday? I wonder if they will fill your whole space. Let’s see! We can do it together.” She took the child’s hand, and the student beamed! She happily skipped with her teacher back in the classroom.

The Power of Relationships

I wonder if this educator realized the magic of her ways. Knowing this student, she knew just what to say and what tone to use. She remembered something that mattered to this child (i.e., the stickers), and used this to help her get excited about going back into the classroom. She showed this child how much she cares about her through her words and actions. This student craves adult connections, so holding her hand and taking the time to work with her, definitely helped calm her stress.

What Does All Of This Mean?

Here’s the thing: I know this child. I work with this child. I realized what might help this child calm down, but in the heat of the moment, I forgot. While I didn’t necessarily increase the behaviour — or not to a level in which it could not be decreased — I didn’t manage to support this child with what she needed at the time. Her teacher did this. I needed to observe this teacher in action to realize what I could have done differently, and what might help her the next time.

We’re always learning. As hard as it is, we need to give ourselves grace, learn from our mistakes, and be willing to try again. I know that I will remember this moment when this student struggles again, and reconsider my words and actions. Have you had any experiences like this before? What did you learn from them? Maybe we can all benefit from sharing these stories and reconsidering future actions. What do you think?


Check out more of Aviva’s great blogs on the Early Years HERE.

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