AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE PA EARLY CHILDHOOD STANDARDS
St. Paul’s Preschool follows the Pennsylvania Early standards as we create and adapt our curriculum to the various age groups within our school. Each month I will examine one of the standards we are focusing on in the classes and explain how the teachers are implementing it into their curriculum.
16.2 Establishing and Maintaining Relationships
All children need early childhood programs that nurture emotional security, positive self-concept and respect for others. Children’s social and emotional development is strengthened when they have classroom experiences that promote a sense of identity and belonging within an accepting and responsive environment. Teachers support children’s self-identity and social competence by modeling respect for the children, using positive guidance techniques that support the development of self-control and interpersonal problem solving, and by encouraging positive approaches to learning.
What is included in children’s well-being? In order to be in a good overall condition of health and happiness, children need a positive sense of themselves.
- Self-esteem is an individual’s sense of personal worth and an acceptance of who one is. Children’s self-esteem (the way they feel about themselves) is expressed through children’s behavior. They make judgments about themselves as they confront the world. To the extent that children feel worthy and capable, they are ready to succeed. If children disapprove of themselves, they may feel like failures and expect to do poorly.
- Self-esteem develops as a reflection of experiences: the way people respond to you gives you some indication of your importance or value. A young child who has positive experiences with others will more likely have a high sense of self-esteem than one who has felt unloved or unnoticed.
- Early in life, self-esteem is tied to family, friends, and other important people, such as teachers.
- The teachers help plan for children’s success in order to build self-esteem. This planning involves the use of the Four I’s:
- I: When children enter the classroom, the message they receive is “I am important and this is my place.” The physical environment, the daily schedule, and the curriculum are designed to give all children permission to express themselves.
- Initiative: Children are encouraged to initiate their own learning, to make contact with others, to take action.
- Independence: Self-management tasks of dressing, eating, and toileting are given an important place in the curriculum. Children are assisted in taking care of their own belongings and in developing independent judgment about events and activities.
- Interaction: Social interaction has a high priority in the program. The room and playground are busy places with children moving about and talking among themselves and with adults. Conflicts are accepted as a natural consequence of social life. Democratic group living encourages children to interact and foster a consciousness of interdependence.
Teachers set up their classrooms and playground to promote emotional growth. Materials and activities enhance self-esteem and self-expression.
- Arts: Art expression is an important way for children to explore their inner thoughts and feelings. Paint, markers, crayons, collage materials, scissors, clay, play dough (this year each child has his/her own play dough to use due to COVID-19 regulations) are wonderful media to promote freedom of expression.
- Blocks: A variety of props in the block center (motor vehicles, animals, people, and furniture) give children the opportunity to reenact what they see of the world.
- Science: Caring for pets (if in the classroom) or working together on a science experiment help children learn to think of others in their world.
- Dramatic play: Home-life materials give children the props they need to express how they see their own world of family, parents, siblings. Mirrors, telephones, and dress-up clothes (not using dress-up clothes this year due to COVID-19 restrictions) encourage children to try out their emotional interests on themselves as well as each other.
- Language/literacy: Stories and books in which characters and situations reflect wide ranges of emotions are readily available. Children enjoy looking at photographs of people and guessing what the person in the photo is feeling. This encourages children to find words that label feelings; their responses can be recorded and posted nearby.
- Music/Movement: Music of all kinds encourages self-expression and permits an endless variety of movement and feelings to be shown openly and freely. Children can be introduce to classical, ethnic, jazz, or rock music while dancing or marching with rhythm sticks, as well as singing and dancing to children’s recordings.
- Outdoors: Whether in the sand (not used this year due to COVID-19 restrictions) or on the climbing equipment, children seem to open up emotionally as they relax in the physical freedom the out-of-doors fosters. Outdoor games are usually highly emotionally charged. Running, chasing, and the dramatic play of superheroes provide emotional release for children. It is an ideal place for large, noisy, and messy activities.
In an early childhood setting, children learn a great deal about social behavior and expectations. They develop many skills as they learn to interact with adults other than their parents and children other than their siblings. Social skills emerge as children learn to function as members of a group and as they come to understand themselves as social beings.
Skills learned with adults:
- They can stay at school without parents
- They can enjoy adults other than parents and respond to new adults
- Adults will help in times of trouble or need
- Adults will assist in learning social protocol
- Adults will keep children from being hurt and from hurting others
- Adults will not always take a side or solve the problem
- Adults will work with them to solve problems
- Adults believe that every child has a right to a satisfying social experience at school
Skills learned with peers:
- There are different approaches to others; some work, some don’t
- Interactive skills, and how to sustain the relationship
- How to solve conflicts in ways other than retreat or force
- How to share materials, equipment, other children, friends, teachers, and ideas
- How to achieve mutually satisfying play
- Self-defense, and how to assert their rights in socially acceptable ways
- How to take turns and how to communicate desire
- Negotiating skills
- How to be helpful to peers
- To anticipate/avoid problems
- Realistic expectations of how other children behave and respond toward self
Skills learned in a small group:
- How to take part as a member and not as an individual
- That there are activities that promote group association (stories, music)
- A group identity (Red Class, Mrs. Brown’s group, four-year-old)
- To follow a daily schedule and pattern
- To adapt to school routines
- School rules and expectations
- Interaction and participatory skills; how to enter and exit from play
- To respect the rights, feelings, and property of others
- How to work together as a group, during clean up time, in preparation for a classroom visitor, etc.
- How to deal with delay of gratification; how to wait
Skills learned as an individual:
- To take responsibility for self-help, self-care
- To initiate their own activities and to make choices
- To work alone in close proximity to other children
- To negotiate
- To cope with rejection, hurt feelings, disappointment
- To communicate in verbal and nonverbal ways, and when to use communication skills
- To test limits other people set
- Their own personal style of peer interaction; degree, intensity, frequency, quality
- To express strong feelings in socially acceptable ways
- To manage social freedom
QUESTIONS FOR THE DIRECTOR
Each month I will focus on a question or two from the parents. Please send your questions to the director at:
QUESTION: If a child misbehaves or doesn’t want to cooperate or share what will the teachers do or what steps do they take to help the child learn to better behave?
ANSWER: Excellent question! First, it is important to think about WHY a child is “misbehaving”. Many behavior problems stem from the child’s attempt to express social and emotional needs. These include the need to feel loved and cared for, the need to be included, the desire to be considered important and valued, the desire to have friends, and the need to feel safe from harm. Young children are still working out ways to express these needs and feelings. Typically, since they are only just learning language and communication skills, it is often through nonverbal or indirect actions that children let us know what is bothering them. There are four main goals of misbehavior:
- Attention: children see attention, believing they are worthwhile only when someone notices them. Their need causes them to gain attention in either positive or negative ways.
- Power: children who believe they are important only when they are “the boss” seek power and control over others.
- Revenge: children who believe they are unlovable and unimportant are hurt and try to hurt back. They seek revenge by hurting others so they may feel important.
- Inadequacy: children who feel they cannot succeed will rarely try anything new or persist in an activity when frustrated. They do not want others to expect anything from them for fear of failing.
Behavior is the unspoken language through which children act out feelings and thoughts. Until they learn to express themselves vocally, they employ a variety of behaviors to communicate such feelings as distress, anger, anxiety, fear, hurt, and jealousy. They don’t yet know what kinds of behaviors are and are not acceptable and what adults expect of them.
Since it is daily experiences that children use to construct their moral and social world, adults must look carefully at the guidance approach they take. The concept of “guide” is an important one. A guide is one who leads, explains, and supports. A guide points out directions, answers questions, and helps you get where you want to go. This is what the teachers do as they guide children.
The teachers follow a 6-step approach to problem solving in the classroom
- Step One: Teachers approach the conflict, signaling their awareness and availability. They get close enough to intervene if necessary. They may redirect an activity or distract a child’s attention elsewhere. If these do not work, then they move on to the next step.
- Step Two: The teacher will describe the scene and reflect on what the children have said. The teacher offers no judgments, values, and solutions. “It looks like you both want the wagon.” “I see you are yelling at each other.”
- Step Three: The teacher then asks questions to gather data and to define the problem. The teacher does not direct questions toward pinpointing blame, but rather to help draw out the details. This helps the children communicate rather than resort to physical means. “How did this happen?” “What do you want to tell her?” “How could you solve this problem?” “How could you use it without fighting?”
- Step Four: The teacher gives the children the job of thinking and figuring it out by offering suggestions. “Who has an idea of how we could solve…?” “You could take turns.” “You could both use it together.” “You could both do something else.” “No one could use it.” The teachers give the children the time it deserves and do not rush this stage. The children need time to process the suggestions and to think of answers.
- Step Five: When both children accept a solution, the teacher rephrases it (“So, you both say that she will be the driver?”) If any solution seems unsafe or grossly unfair, the teacher will tell the children (“It is too dangerous for you both to stand up and ride downhill together on the wagon. What is another way you can agree?”)
- Step Six: The teacher monitors the situation to make sure the agreement is going according to plan. Sometimes the teacher will be the clock-watcher if the decision was to take turns. The teacher will tell the children “Looks like you solved your problem!” Teachers use the power of language to reinforce the solvability of the problem, to note the ability of the children to solve the problem, and to point out the positive environment and their success.
This type of conflict resolution helps children solve disagreements nonviolently and explore alternative ways to reach their goals. By following such a process, children learn to respect others’ opinions, to express their own feeling in appropriate ways, and to learn tolerance for doing things in a different way. When children help create a solution, they come away with a sense of commitment to it. This process also gives children a sense of power and control, a sense of independence, and a feeling of self-worth.
QUESTION: If the teachers see a certain weakness or strength in a child in the program are they able to have individualized attention to either help improve their skills or focus on their strengths?
ANSWER: Absolutely! This is an important part of our curriculum. You can read about our assessment and observation policies in our Parent Handbook (on this website). The teachers observe the children carefully and assess each child so that they are well aware of the children’s strengths and weaknesses. As the teaching team for each class meets before and after school each day, they go over the following week’s lesson plans and work on individualizing the curriculum to each child’s needs. There is plenty of time each day for teachers to work with individual children on particular skills development. The staff will go over this individualized instruction when they meet with parents during parent/teacher conferences throughout the school year.