As I watch the new sun children start to step into their role, helping the younger ones with their work and the new children to settle in, I reflect again on how we all manage to work together, every day- how we manage to be together, be happy together, all quite new but feeling like the same old kindergarten family.
We come to each other afresh each morning, as different people, having lived our ‘other lives’ at home, with our families and other friends, had different experiences, faced different challenges, dreamed different dreams. Yet we still manage to work together, every day- songs get sung together, food prepared and eaten, work is done and play is played, and then suddenly another term is almost over, another Advent spiral has been walked, another Christmas almost here. And we have all managed. Together.
It is rhythm and repetition that form the foundations for such a settled and happy kindergarten life- the rhythm of the year, the season, the week, the day, the rhythm of song, of story and of play. This rhythm also supports the development of good habits. This familiarity of place, of people and of activities, enables the children to relax into their kindergarten day. This rhythm and repetition, alongside the imitation of the work and good behavior of the teachers and other children, holds them within the boundaries that they need, without us teachers needing to constantly intervene to direct them, to disrupt them.
When we do need to change a behavior, we use distraction and humour- distracting a younger child with a finger game or story, or directing an older child towards some work- ‘I need some help in the kitchen.‘ ‘Would you find me a…’
We speak firmly, but with a smile.
We are aware of the power of the sound and pace of our voices, of our gestures and of our body language.
We speak clearly and concisely, we get straight to the point- ‘slippers side by side.’
We use positive directions rather than negative comment- ‘It’s story-time now.’
With younger children we work with their imagination- ‘Tiptoe, like mice.’ Older children can just be told.
We avoid giving too many choices- we have learned that choice of food or plates with different patterns can cause anxiety or arguments.
One of the strengths of a mixed age kindergarten is that our ‘Golden Rules’ become tradition and are passed down from child to child (and teacher to teacher)- ‘We use our indoor legs in kindergarten’, ‘Everybody is welcome in our game’ ‘Our hands are for work and for play’ ‘We use our kind words/indoor voices’. We may say or sing these words, or speak firmly, but we do not get angry, or shout.
We might say ‘This spade needs to be kept safe until you remember that spades are for digging, come and tell me when you remember.’ ‘The chair has four feet. They all need to be on the ground.’ This avoids drawing attention to the child in a way that would make them feel self-conscious, ashamed or guilty.
We recognise acceptable human behavior, and help the children to develop this distinction- ‘Donkeys kick, children walk.’
The children learn to understand the consequences of their actions through experience, and our gentle reminding- ‘The crayons live in this basket.’
We make transitions as smooth as possible- ‘Who can stand as tall as an old oak tree?’ ‘Find a hand’. The children also enjoy being ‘As still as statues’- announced in a very solemn voice- a game passed down over the years. And they all know the ‘I can wriggle my fingers’ game that we use to settle them.
We delay gratification- ‘After blessing we will have our snack’’ When we have put out coats and wellingtons on we will go outside.’
We call al of this ‘Creative Discipline’, and it helps us all to manage.
Don’t we Ever Say ‘No”?
Yes, we do say ‘No.’ But we avoid saying “no” in anger or frustration, we aim for a ‘Real No’- calm and certain.
We may use:
The ‘Silent No’ (otherwise known as the ‘kindergarten eyebrow’)-, nothing is said, just a gesture- a shake of the head, lift of the eyebrow, a finger to the lips.
There is nothing disapproving in these gestures, which are carried out with warmth.
If we need time to think about a request then we are honest, and say ‘I will think about it and tell you later.’ Or ‘I have not decided yet.’ Or “Ask me after snack.’
Good Habits and Creative Discipline in Kindergarten
by Jacqui Armour