Thursday morning. The kids were just entering, unpacking, and getting ready to head out with us to the back field. That’s when a teacher arrived at the classroom door. “Can I speak to you for a minute, Miss Dunsiger?” Oh no! The minute that she told me that there was a “possible bus problem,” I was quick to ignore the rest and say, “Did the bus driver write the student up?” I’ll admit it. Over the years I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out bus issues, and I’ve found that a write up from the bus driver tends to be the best approach. I knew the child that she was talking about, and I’ll admit now (not proudly) that I thought a conversation would go nowhere. Thankfully this teacher though pushed back at me. She asked, “Can I speak to the student?” Of course! I didn’t have high hopes for the conversation, but I was proved wrong.
I was standing at the door when the child went out to see the teacher. (I’m going to call this child A., and not mention if it’s a boy or a girl, as the details here don’t matter.) A. walked over to the door and looked up at the teacher. Right away, she got down to the child’s level. In the quietest, calmest, gentlest voice, she asked, “Did something happen on the bus?” A. just looked at her. As expected, this was going nowhere, and so, I asked A. multiple times in a row, “Did you ______ [what the child actually did is irrelevant here]?” The student just stared at me. In my head I wondered, “Why am I starting my day like this?”
The other teacher didn’t give up. She looked at the child, and said to me, “A.’s chewing. Obviously A. knows that it’s impolite to talk with your mouth full. Let’s just give A. time to finish chewing first, and then ask again.” This is exactly what she did, and again, in the most even of voices, and completely at eye level, she asked again. A. admitted to what happened. Perfect! But then the teacher looked at A. and said, “Can I ask why you did this?” It was the why that made me think of Stuart Shanker‘s approach. This educator wasn’t giving up on the child. She wasn’t placing blame. And where I was ready to move on, head outside, and let the office deal with the problem, she took the time to hear A.’s story. It turns out that the other child called A. “a liar.” The older child didn’t listen to what A. shared, and our kindergartener was so distraught over being ignored, that acting out seemed to be the only solution.
This teacher listened to every word uttered by our young student. She acknowledged A.’s feelings, and didn’t get angry when finding out that things happened as reported. Instead, this teacher said, “Next time, you can always come to me. I can help! Another teacher can help. The other child’s upset. Can you come with me to apologize?” Our student agreed. Even though it was this teacher’s prep, she took the time to take A. down to the other classroom, facilitate a conversation between both students, and bring our child back to us. She even got down again at A.’s level, smiled, looked A. in the eye, and said (in front of me), “I’m proud of A.! A. said, ‘sorry,’ and talked out what happened with the older child. A. knows what to do the next time instead.” Our kindergartener gave this teacher an enthusiastic high five, ran into the classroom, and started the day again.
Thursday could have gone totally differently for this child. What happened on the bus could have turned into an office issue that created increased stress and ruined the rest of the day. This teacher knew the importance of leading with kindness. She recognized that there was more to the problem, and what I mistakenly viewed as misbehaviour and the need for a bus write-up, she viewed as stress behaviour. It always amazes me how old habits can sneak back into play, no matter how much I might know and think about Self-Reg. On Thursday, I temporarily forgot. Maybe though, hidden in the walls of our wonderful school is a Self-Reg natural, who got me to think differently even when I didn’t think that was possible. Believing in this child changed a trajectory for A. on Thursday and helped all of us see a situation with fresh eyes. Nestled in your schools, who are some of your hidden Self-Reg champions? I think we all benefitted on Thursday from a little more love.