It never ceases to amaze me how quickly young children adapt to their environment. School is a perfect example. Those first days are often filled with tears, sobbing, even clutching Mom or Dad with a grip that requires the Jaws of Life to remove. Every year I fear that I won’t be able to help these grieving, inconsolable children. Three days go by and it’s a different world. The tears may still be there, but the child listens to my gentle words and accepts a hand. Six days go by and the child is playing with other children and bonding with a teacher.
Six days! Adults would never be able to adapt so quickly to a new environment. While we worry to death about every little quirk or insecurity with our children, they are faring far better than us. I know this; I see and live this every day with children. I nurture their resiliency, understand and support their differences. Educate the heart first and the rest flows. That should be a Golden Rule.
Every child is different. So is every adult. Unfortunately, some children with differences are under a microscope down the road in public school. I attended a recent workshop with Jeanine Fitzgerald of ‘Fitz-In’. She’s one of the few educational presenters who has ‘walked the walk’. She has the best understanding of young children, and how we can help teach them. Consistently, she has it nailed. I was shocked to learn that one in 68 children in America are diagnosed with autism, while other countries diagnose one in 10,000. That’s a big red flag for us. Too many children are on meds they don’t need or don’t match their diagnosis. What’s the problem? It is not the behavior of the child, it’s the environment. Behavior is never the problem. It’s a symptom of an unsolved problem. That is profound.
I see classrooms that are too colorful and stimulating. The color and stimulation needs to be in the activity, not in the surroundings. I see classrooms without an escape for children, a place to just go and be. Young children are in chairs far too often. Frankly, their work should be done standing or on the floor. And, the biggest piece that is often missing is movement. It gets a child’s brain into clear focus, ready to learn. Each year is different, and this year “Uncle Jesse”, a Bev Bos song, is a huge hit. It’s up and down, spinning, and jumping. Boy, do we move! Then, the rest is predictable; children with eager eyes, wanting to learn.
Resiliency and behavior are interlinked. If my classroom is designed for the child (not for the teacher), and I’m loving, attentive and fun, then children respond. They can adapt to school. They’re happy and engaged. Those first six days of school are proof of that. What about teachers with challenging children? In the words of Jeanine Fitzgerald, it is our responsibility to not fix the child, but to alter the environment for the child. Thank goodness I know this and implement this in my classroom.