Children's learning is a journey. In this quick paced world with many expectations it can seem like children go through life checking off tasks/skills-crawling-check, walking-check, talking-check, potty trained-check, reading-check etc.....but, in reality children are developing, learning, progressing constantly and often times the fruit of their development isn't obvious to the human eye. So much is happening in a child's brain-what they do today is preparing them for tomorrow. Maria Montessori said they are 'constructing themselves'. They need a lot of practice/repetition and opportunity to master skills and perfect new things they're learning.
Sometimes, as adults, we take away opportunity for growth. This world is full of pressure to be tidy, and to do things quickly and to have things perfected. So, we sometimes make the mistake of rushing children and putting inappropriate expectations on what they can do or not expecting them to do things they are capable of doing.
In the classroom, we have a lot of language we use to help coach and support children. One area we've been working intentionally on is paying attention when children give up easily or don't think they can do something. Those moments are precious and great opportunity to allow children to push through, give it a try and practice doing something new.
An area of developing independence for children in the pre-primary classroom is putting on snow clothes. When winter began, children would bring teachers their mittens/gloves and hand them to us vs trying to put them on. We usually say, 'why don't you give it a try?" or 'let me see you try first'......while they're struggling, they're figuring it out. Yes, it may take a little longer and they may say things like 'I can't' or 'this is too hard'.....but, the opportunity to practice-with the struggling-is golden. I can't tell you how many children have mastered putting on their mittens/gloves independently. On the other side of that as well, sometimes adults can get frustrated when children don't know how to some things independently; yet, they've not been given ample time to develop the ability to do it. It's great to observe and wait for a child to ask for help, then you can move in with some support along with more opportunity to help them succeed independently-not have an adult do it for them. If they ask for help, we usually say, 'what would you like me to do?"...again, allowing them to think and verbalize exactly what they are thinking and inviting you into helping. If a child is really struggling, maybe even crying or seeming overwhelmed, we'll say, 'let me know if you need help'....this serves as a bridge to allow them to ask or indicate they need help. Adults can sometimes move in too quickly and even take over a situation which sends a message of, you can't do this, so I will rescue things and do it for you.
These great opportunities happen all day long in many areas of the classroom and social arena-children thinking they can't do something, but when given some support and time, they can! It's ok if it's hard...it's ok if it takes some work-that time it takes while it's hard is a time of great growth.
The ultimate goal for teachers and parents is for us to provide environments (whether its home/school/out in the community) that support children as they develop life skills to be independent, resolve conflict, learn about themselves, engage socially in appropriate ways and enjoy life! When a child feels capable and believed in, the sky's the limit!!
Challenge yourself today to do more observing than moving in. We can learn a lot about children by just watching and listening. See where you can help provide an opportunity for a child to push through or keep trying something new...it's so fun to see a child's perseverance!