Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fill up our cups.

Shivi came up to me to tell me something.

"Do you know that we have a cup in our heart?"

When children ask me questions like that sometimes I just return the question back to them. Maybe they're not looking for an answer but just want to tell me something.

"Do you think we have a cup in our heart?"

"We do. And when you smile at me it fills up my cup. And when I smile at you it fills up your cup."

I was endeared, of course, and couldn't help smiling at him smiling back at me.

"I think I can feel it filling up." 

Last week at a really excellent Conscious Discipline workshop I attended with the staff they asked the question, "What motivates children to behave?" I could agree with their answer wholeheartedly, I'd seen it, more importantly felt it happening in our room. Their motivation comes from their feeling of connection with the people around them. A bunch of rules alone doesn't do it. Learning to be a part of a community, feeling loved and accepted, feeling safe, and a desire to belong does.

I've been finding this particularly important with the new children this year. We have many who had negative experiences in their previous day cares, and some with no school experience at all. Suddenly they're thrust for six hours a day in a place with a bunch of kids and random adults. During these weeks much of our work has been about developing that connection. Home visits were really helpful in that process as was the gentle orientation week.

We're three weeks into our school year now so most of the new children are by now feeling safe and comfortable with the adults, so now the question is How to get them to connect with each other? How to foster positive connections among them? Much of it surely we just leave up to the children, who can be so good at bridging differences of language, age, and ethnicity. But there are many moments where we can facilitate that process among them.

We've had the older children in the room on their own during the afternoons these weeks when most of the new children go home after lunch. We've taken some time every afternoon to do Grace and Courtesy about inclusion, read stories about helpfulness, cooperation, and what it looks like to be kind. I'm looking forward to doing more of this since I think a good foundation early on will set a very positive tone for the rest of the year.

Does anyone out there have recommendations for books on values such as generosity and gratefulness and inclusion?

Any ideas to share about how to improve connections among the group?

Please share!


Lei said...

Hi Susanne,
Around this time, i read to my class the "How to fill your bucket" which was so much related to your blog post today of filling our cups. My wish for this school year in my class is to begin to instill mindfullness. Being present is already hard for us adults. Children's timeframe is always set on the present/now. However, in the kind of world we live in /technology, social media, etc. these are becoming harder for children to focus. Thich Nhat Hanh has always been a good resource for mindfulness (Planting seeds:Practicing mindfulness with children).
Here's to a great year! Namaste.

Susanne said...

Hello Lei,

Thank you for your comment. I am familiar with the book, "How to fill your bucket" and have a suspicion that the child in my class had had that read to him before he came to me.

I have started to take the Mindfulness School's 6 week online course hoping to find many more ideas to help myself with mindfulness during the day, and hopefully some resources to include more of this in our classroom. Aside from Silence and Walking on the Line, a yoga mat, and an individual silence mat, I'd love to have more concrete materials to add make the idea tangible. Children are the most present, so it seems silly to me sometimes to talk about mindfulness with preschoolers, but resources for self calming, for helping empathy develop, for dealing with feelings and for community building are what I'm hoping to find.

I'll look into the book you mentioned. :)

Thank you!

Laura S. said...

Hi Susanne
My students enjoy playing a game at Circle Time where one of the adults goes around the circle, hovering a hand over one child, asking "what is this boy's (girl's) name?" until each has had a turn. The whole class speaks out the child's name, which is a thrill for the child (we give the children a chance to name the adults, too). They enjoy this game even later in the year, and it really helps them learn each others names. We do similar language games with other classroom vocabulary (names of shapes, identifying continents, matching colors of bead bars with quantities, etc). I started this game after I realized that even at the end of the school year some of the children didn't know each other's names (once, when I was working as an assistant a child confessed to me he got my name and the lead teacher's names confused and wasn't certain of our names!).