I recently started teaching a brand new Kindergarten 1 class. Its my first such (regular) class in around 18 months, and I have to say parts of it have been challenging. Children crying and being upset doesn’t really affect me anymore, that is to be expected with a beginning class. However, the volume of things they need to learn, and ‘managing’ behaviours can still be quite challenging.
In particular, in this class, I had a few students who like to explore things in the classroom, including my teacher tool box. In addition, there were two young girls who enjoyed hiding under the table.
This kind of thing traditionally falls under the heading of ‘classroom management’. I’m sure anybody observing my class would have offered ideas for ‘managing’ the students along the lines of stickers, punishments and rewards, and so on.
If I were a new teacher, I would have likely bought into many of these ideas, and started blaming myself. I certainly did with the last Kindergarten 1 class I taught from the beginning, and was struggling with behavioural issues.
However, this time I noticed something important.
There were two year olds in the class.
Having taught at an International School, I know that the behaviour of these two children (2 year olds), was actually completely age-appropriate. Two year olds don’t do academics at kindergartens. They’re not expected to sit in their chairs and focus for any period of time, nor to do worksheets, drilling, or other types of activities that are commonly used in language schools.
At that age, they’re expected to be exploring their world, playing with things, and hiding under the table. They’re actually beautiful qualities, and should be encouraged.
That is, two year olds should be playing.
If I was teaching English to a class of two year olds, I think that the most appropriate teaching method would be a play-based method. That is, I should get under the table and play with them.
By way of contrast, the language school would expect me to discipline them, remind them of a set of rules that they never agreed to, and control them using a system of punishments and rewards.
As a beginning teacher, I would have taken this paradigm on, blaming myself for my ineffective ‘classroom management’.
As an experienced teacher, I know better:
It’s not my fault.
In many other situations, it’s not your fault, either.
For instance, the school might have a policy of only speaking English in very young learner classes, and you’re charged with enforcing it. Or, there’s a child in your class with ‘dysfunctional’ behaviours. (I say ‘dysfunctional’ because the child would have a perfectly understandable reason for using that behaviour to meet a need you’re unaware of.) The language centre often will keep them in the class, so they don’t lose the sale. They never consider the long term outcome that results from one student negatively impacting the learning of everyone else in the class.
Again, its not your fault.
Those children are bringing into the classroom behaviours they’ve learned elsewhere. And while you do have to hold the space for a learning environment that is supportive for everyone, you didn’t create those behaviours, and sometimes the expectations of various parties (the school, parents, supervisors, and so on) are actually unrealistic.
Teaching young learners is challenging enough, without taking on responsibility for things are not of your creation. I love the caption to the video above from Good Will Hunting:
“Because more people need to realise this about themselves in so many different situations where they’ve been made to believe it is their fault.”