Sunday, March 15, 2015

Keeping Kids in School

I presented two workshops yesterday, one on challenging behavior, at the 15th Annual Regional Child Care and Early Childhood Conference at Germanna Community College yesterday morning (early morning!). I didn't call it Challenging Behavior, but "Keeping Kids in School". It was my response to two facts. One: I have worked in preschools and child care for over twenty-five years (after singing opera and concerts for many more years). There was always at least one child who pushed the boundaries of civilized behavior in an already uncivilized environment (from the average adult's point of view). Four year olds, bless 'em, are notorious for both bottomless joy and rowdy behavior, but even among them, there are standouts for aggression, dangerous behavior, and being generally ungovernable. Two: Finally, there is some recognition of the awful fact that four year olds, especially boys, and particularly  minority boys, are expelled at an alarming rate. They are the most expelled of all ages. I kid you not! The federal government has issued a policy statement spelling this out, and making recommendations for reversing this trend. Dr. Walter Gilliam has written extensively about it, and I used this article for part of my presentation.

Here is what I told this group of childcare professionals, in a nutshell.

I included references here so that you may, at your leisure, read the reasons for my statements. I defer to the experts! 

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.


  1. This is great! You know,we've been doing the "extra training hour" for several years now for all of our training. We don't set a deadline on it -- but we carefully review to make sure it's not just a regurgitation from a handout. We really want to know how the concepts were implemented, what worked, what needed tweaking, etc. Another thing I do when I am training is I ask people to think about at least one thing they will do on Monday -- two things they will do in the next week -- three things in the next month. I have people write them down -- and then take the note with them -- to remind themselves.

    1. I think it is such a good way to train!