Let’s Talk About What Happened…

Our child’s time in preschool or early childhood classes are generally filled with fun. The teachers in Hopkins Early Childhood programming work to create an environment where all students feel safe, secure and welcome. It is important to remember, however, that during the class time there are many opportunities for children to run into social situations which involve a redirection or a social interaction that is difficult. Because young children work on the skills of social grace through trial and error, there is often a fair amount of error involved before they gain the ability to deal with the wide variety of social situations they experience in the classroom. When we as parents hear about these error events after the fact, we often want to reach out to our child to talk about it, and even more so have a chance to talk to the teacher. The staff at Hopkins wanted to share with you strategies for how to talk about events that require the shared attention of staff and parent. These recommendations will serve you as a member of our parent community throughout the academic journey of your child.

Young children live in the moment. They are not likely to remember a lot of details about the day unless that detail was especially important to him or it involved a significant difference from other days. Because of this, it can be difficult to pull out general conversation when discussing the school day. This is why we are often more likely to hear about a surprising detail, rather than the regular every-day experiences of school.

When you hear about a detail of the day that requires more understanding–for instance if your child comes home saying “I was pushed off the tricycle today in school”, remain composed and ask for more details. Get eye to eye with your child and in a relaxed manner ask him to “Tell me more about that.” It is important for us to get details before we jump too far into how to react. For instance, being pushed off the tricycle could have been part of a game that your child was enjoying before the teacher asked all students to stop playing it. (In the rough-and-tumble world of three and four year olds, a bit of wrestling has often been seen by children as fun–not so for teachers in the classroom).

Once you have a sense of the whole story–and how your child feels about the event–you will have a better sense of how to talk it over with the staff and teachers at the school. Ask your child’s teacher to set aside a time to meet with you. It is best to discuss classroom events individually with your teacher, rather than with your child present or other classroom members nearby. This allows your teacher the opportunity to really focus on the questions you are bringing up and address your concerns.

Early childhood teachers are very focused on the well being of the students in their care. For this reason, the social interaction that needed attention very likely already received that attention at the time of the incident. Because children live in the moment, having the issue already resolved by the time you hear about it at home allows you to take on the role of listener and problem solving advocate without having to add consequences. For instance, if you are hearing from your child that “I didn’t share any of the Lego’s today at school–because they are all mine!” you can assume that the teachers likely already addressed this during the time it actually happened. The conversation you have with the teacher can focus around ways you as a parent can encourage turn taking and sharing. There is no need to come up with an additional consequence for the behavior after the teacher has already done so.

The students in the early childhood classrooms will all have up and down moments in a typical day. The social demands of the classroom will result in some sort of a misstep by every child probably every single day. The teachers understand that the vast majority of blunders are unintentional mistakes. When you hear a story that puts your own child or another child in a less-than-favorable light, remember that each day brings a new opportunity for all the students to shine, and generally they do. If your child is talking about an incident during her day and doesn’t seem emotional or upset about it, she is likely just relaying information and is best served with a listening ear.

The teachers in our early childhood programs (as well as in all of our Hopkins classrooms) are invested in always keeping the lines of communication open between school and home. Please do not feel hesitant to address an issue directly with your child’s teacher. The honest discussions between all those who are invested in the education of your child will strengthen the partnership you are developing with the schools during the early childhood years.

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