The top goal of every professional development team is “enactment.” It’s one thing to sit in workshops and absorb new ideas, but it’s something totally different to enact them in the classroom. Our goal for Phase 3 of the Inspire Early Learning program was to see the strategies and concepts enacted in the classroom and at home.
The preschool leadership (Imam Khalid) invited us to join the teachers during the preschool day. During that time we worked right alongside them demonstrating and encouraging enactment of what we’d studied together.
Once or twice per week, we’d stay for an extra hour after the kids left and debrief about the week. It gave us a chance to share examples of our successes and challenges. Our main focus was “What went right this week?” Because the examples were specific, it encouraged the individual teacher and provided a practical example for the others.
There was one little girl who was especially used to getting her own way. To say she was highly independent would be a understatement! All the teachers would try to motivate her, but because of her persistence in getting her own way they would give in after a few attempts. She quickly learned that she could get her own way. This was especially obvious at “line up” time to start the day. She would simply not stand with her own class, but would continue playing.
Noticing that the teachers were not getting the job done, I took her on as my personal project. One of the strategies we used together is called “1-2-3.” It’s basically three steps. You (1) go to the child (rather than shout across the room at them), kneel down, call them by name, (2) describe the behavior you see that you want changed, (3) tell him or her what you expect them to do (and wait).
So morning after morning, I would go and kneel down, call her by name, and say you are not with your class; it’s time for you to line up with your class. I would take her by the hand and lead her (not forcefully, but calmly and respectfully) to her line. After three seconds, she would bolt back to where she had come from. I would repeat the process. Sometimes 5 or 6 times in a span of 3 minutes during the short lineup time.
This pattern continued for several weeks. All the teachers watched as I persisted and she persisted. I could tell they were thinking, “Good luck!” Finally on one morning, I knelt down and said the same thing I’d said literally hundreds of times before. This time, however, she skipped off to her line and joined her class. You can’t imagine the teachers’ responses. They all started smiling and whispering to each other. Finally, it had worked. Was the challenge over, not totally, but mostly! From that point on, she lined up with only occasional prompting.
What’s the point? The strategies that we’ve studied work. It may take time, but they work, and both the teacher and student are stronger as a result of the consistency in using them.
Throughout the three months of working side-by-side with the teachers we all grew together. I consider those children and ladies dear friends and believe in their future.
We also invested time with the parents in Phase 3. We designed quick-reference cards that explain the 25 Goals and give practical, everyday activities that parents and caregivers can use to promote development at home. They are not lessons, and we stress to the parents that you don’t need to “teach” these per se, but rather involve your children in the activities of life that you are already doing!
The cards include overviews of each Area of Development, age-level characteristics, examples, key questions, and tips for activities at home.
We met weekly with the parents and introduced the Areas of Development incrementally. We explained the Goals and demonstrated some of the activities. Each week we’d answer questions and ask them to share about their experiences using these activities at home.
We talked about Goal 1 (Sense of Identity and Value…I have an awareness of myself as an individual and feel important to my family and community) and explained that sometimes when children “act out” it’s because they want time with you, their parent. Children want to feel important to the members of their family. One mother, with big tears running down her cheeks, said, “You mean my child wants to spend time with ME?” This was a new concept to her. In the weeks following she revisited this idea, always with a big smile, as she reported about things she and her daughter had done together.
Interacting with both the teachers and the parents during Phase 3 proved so helpful in enacting the concepts found in the Inspire! Early Learning Program.