Sunday, April 26, 2015

Taking time for Space and Practice

We concentrate a lot on knowing when and how to take space in our classroom. Preschoolers are working on so many socialization skills while also processing BIG emotions that we want them to feel free to have any necessary space to work through that. My own personal bias shows here, too, as I was often forced to interact with others and labelled as "shy" from a young age- though the opposite has been proven rather true since the days of my childhood! We have many communal activities throughout our day and the members of our classroom eagerly and actively engage in so much play and interaction- but none of it is required.

Are you not feeling like being at circle for this story? You are free to choose to read on another rug or quietly work with blocks! Are you not interested in small group today even though it sounded really fun when you were invited to join? You can elect to leave and find a quiet activity or join the other group! Do you not want to play with the large group of people in the sandbox? Feel free to find some solitude on the teeter totter! We offer up so many chances to take space and we encourage it when we see that someone's interactions aren't working in the way they are hoping. In short, it's always okay to need space.

But what if we only think we need space? What if space becomes our default? In my head there was no possibility of this. I had been offered so little space as a child! An abundance of space could only ensure that a child felt welcome to take space. That they didn't feel labelled or judged by their need for space. However, it's easy to forget that sometimes we make choices because we believe that's what's available. Some recent brainstorming with Amy brought this to my attention.

Sometimes what we need isn't space, it's practice. Maybe the reason that I don't want to be at circle today is that I really wanted to lean into my friend and they yelled when I did it. The interaction didn't work and now I feel poorly. My instinct is to make like a turtle and crawl in my shell. This is a totally valid conflict resolution skill and yes, sometimes, retreating is a great option! However, it's far from our only option. We can also practice our skills at voicing and labeling our needs and feelings then seeing what happens next. What if I said to my friend, "I really wanted to lean into you!" I may even add, "because I'm happy that you are here!" if I knew why I felt so strongly about leaning into them.

This is the work that preschoolers (and many adults!) do on a regular basis. We are constantly reworking what it looks like to recognize and give voice to our own emotions- and to the emotions others feel in reaction to us! Practicing our skills during our communal activities helps to build emotional awareness around not on ourselves but others as well. As we move into our next week together I'm excited to look for opportunities for both space and practice- and excited to see how the children's decision making skills help them decide which path they need to take in any given situation.
The wagons are a great opportunity to work on practice and space! 

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