Here is what I told this group of childcare professionals, in a nutshell.
- Preschoolers should not be expelled.
- There are ample resources for helping children.
- Relationships are key, from the earliest age.
- Engaging curriculum is essential.
- Using what is known about guiding behavior is also crucial.
- Assessment that is specific and detailed must precede interventions.
What I emphasized was my own experience working in a center that supports a team approach, and with a supportive, involved director. I asked people to discuss how they can work towards a team approach, where all stakeholders interact with a child with problems in the same, informed way: Structure that is firm and therefore safe for everyone; Uniform interaction with that child, using the same strategies, filling the child up with love and attention when he or she is doing what you want! What I heard was this:
"In my center we have a boy who is out of control a lot. I try to work with him in a calm, non-threatening way, but when I'm on break, A sub comes in and yells at him, blaming him for everything that happens, even when it isn't his fault. When other children tattle on him, the subs take their sides, without learning the details. Then when I come back to the classroom, my director says she heard that this boy was out of control, and she blames me."
I asked if the center staff had training in behavior management. Her answer was this:
"We all did Conscious Discipline Training. But most people don't do it. They forgot what they learned."
Here we have the crux of an ongoing problem! In most programs, training is for fulfilling state-mandated training hours. This director actually sent her staff to training together, but there was no follow-up. The center director should have worked with her staff to implement what they learned. She should have asked for feedback on how the teachers were using the strategies. She did not. Training is time and money wasted if there is no follow-up. The child continues to ambush his own learning, and no one knows what to do about it.
What I liked about the Child Care Connection conference was that all participants could earn extra training hours, beyond those they earned by attending, just by implementing something they learned, writing it up, and submitting it. Voila! This is what the director mentioned earlier should have done! "Tell me how you are using that training I paid for (lol)!" Show me! I will give you extra training hours for that. You will be recognized for learning, then applying your learning.
How much more confident and motivated caregivers would be, if their learning were taken seriously.