Teaching With Compassion
Oakwood Infant and Nursery School Curriculum Response
Context and rational:
This has been an unprecedented event in all our lives. By the time there is any return for any child to school, those who have not been key workers or identified and prioritised as vulnerable, will have been isolated over three months. For many of our children this time will have represented an unnerving and worrying loss of structure, routine and playmates. All will have suffered trauma as a result of this, be it with a capital or lower case “T.” It is therefore crucial that we take this opportunity to look at what we are asking of our learners, giving them time to talk about their experiences, re-establish key relationships, rebuild confidence and trust. The one thing all of them, and us, have in common is loss. This will impact, in different degrees, on mental health and well-being. This will undoubtedly lead to anxiety. Having watched the video clip from Zoe Loedrick, we know how the brain functions when threatened or overwhelmed. We need to keep that learning at the forefront of our minds and understand how individuals react to stressful situations, when we are dealing with our children. Anxiety, trauma, loss does not make for an individual who is ready to engage with learning.
To address this, our curriculum needs to be focused on rebuilding positive relationships built on mutual trust and compassion. Remember, any of our behaviours- facial expressions, things we say, use of tone and volume of voice, stance, etc. can trigger a memory deep within the child that takes them back to an event that is associated with trauma.
The structure of the curriculum will be as follows:
How we will achieve this:
1. Relationships: This will take time and patience, this is about our behaviours and our levels of botherd-ness. The following bullet points are not necessarily exhaustive, but are key;
· Meet and greet EVERY child, positively and with a smile
· Persistently catch children doing the right thing
· Teach them the behaviours we want to see
· Teach the children how we would like to be spoken to
· Reinforce child’s conduct in context
· Maintain a passion for teaching and learning
· Relentlessly work to build mutual trust, never give up
· Behave, always, with humility, imagine having a caring parent on your shoulder watching how you deal with their child, how would you behave?
· Bothered-ness, bothered-ness, bothered-ness
· Relationships, relationships, relationships!
Finally we will need to use consistent language, so, for simplicity we will use “warm fuzzies” to talk about and highlight positive and welcome behaviours and “cold pricklies” for talk about and highlighting things that hurt us. This language focuses on building empathy for individuals as actions relate directly to impacts on human feelings.
2. Community: We need to look for any opportunities where we can talk with children and families safely about their experiences. A classic tool in coaching is to talk side by side. This puts the person you want to talk to at ease and is a position that is non-confrontational. It can also be easy to do while the child is engaged in another activity, with the adult sensitively listening and responding, rather than asking /firing questions at the child. We need to be always “in the moment” with the child, picking up on the things they say and responding in a way that is absolutely non-judgemental. A positive reinforcement is something that skilled active e listeners do and that is to paraphrase and feedback to the person you are listening to what has just been said. For example:
“ I was in the garden lots, we found loads of bits of wood and rocks and stuff, so me and my sister got them altogether and we made a pile of them for all the insects to live in, like a hotel”
“So, have I got this right, you spent time in the garden making a bug hotel with your sister, wow, that must have been fun?”
By paraphrasing and feeding back to the child, you are showing that you are listening to them and that is one of the best ways to show you value a person.
3. Transparent Curriculum: Our aim is to re-engage our children as learners, once they feel secure and confident. We need to talk to our children to find out what they have missed learning about and what help they want from us. Then we need to keep this dialogue going and support and guide them in ways that will support, encourage and feed their curiosity and desire to learn. We can use the Jigsaw format for this, especially the section on relationships. Stories can set a context for learning and I urge you to look at the Power of Reading https://clpe.org.uk/users/oakwoodi This link should take you to the page where school is already logged in. Also we need to be exploring the outdoor at every opportunity. The whole of the playground will be opened up for all children to access every area. While we are building the resources, we can plan to use what we have and have these things set up all the time. Let’s be creative in our use of all the spaces, including the tyre area, scooters and bikes, the slopes, the grass area, the tree area. Listening to children and talking to them in order to re-engage them as learners, links to ‘In the Moment’ planning. Anna Ephgrave states that; ‘Children learn best when they are able to pursue their own interests. In order to do this they need to arrive at the setting in a comfortable state, both emotionally and physically. If this does not happen, the child may not achieve its full potential, regardless of the quality of the environment, staff or resources.’ We need to make sure the children feel safe and happy. We will also need to be aware of children’s well-being and how this can affect their involvement in their learning. The Leuven Scales provide a set of levels which we can use to assess the children’s well-being and how this may be affecting their ability operate to their full capability. This website explains the scales and their uses in more detail; https://famly.co/blog/management/leuven-scales/
4. Metacognition: this is where we need the skills to be explicit.
In order for the children to rebuild their confidence as learners, we need to make the skills of learning explicit. The Early Years Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning support the development of self-regulation and positive learning habits. When we see the children displaying these skills and attributes, we can praise them appropriately.
1) Playing and Exploring (Engagement) Playing with what I know, Willing to ‘have a go’, Finding out and exploring
2) Active Learning (Motivation) Keep on trying, Achieving what I set out to do, Being involved and concentrating
3) Creating and Thinking Critically (Thinking) Choosing ways to do things, Having my own ideas, Making links
The following websites give a little more information on these skills and attributes and how to make them explicit to the children in ‘child’s speak’. https://tpet.co.uk/downloads/characteristics-of-effective-learning-posters/ http://www.earlyyearsresources.co.uk/blog/2018/09/characteristics-of-effective-learning/
5. Space: have an area in the class where children can retreat to. We need to make sure children have access to things, in a safe way, that they can use for comfort. Classrooms are busy places with lots of sensory stimulation. We need to think about creating spaces that offer:
· Quiet/ withdrawal for solitary pursuits (reading, colouring etc )
· Appealing tactile experiences including comfortable places to sit/ lie down with access to some calming sensory experiences such as weighted toys/blankets/ squishy toys) · Reduced visual distractions but increased calming visual activities e.g. looking at sensory bottles and calm down jars filled with liquid and other objects (water, oil, water beads, glitter). Many children also respond positively to photograph story-books created about their experiences at school.
· Access to food and drink which can provide comfort through physical nourishment.
We will look at a calm zone in the school for children who find going outside too traumatic, or simply wish to have some time out. To support how we direct children or for children who may need specific support, we will be using the Boxall Profile to help guide is in the right direction. More information on the use of the Boxall Profile and how it can support the nurture of children can be found here: https://www.nurtureuk.org/research-evidence/research-week-2017/why-boxall-profile-so-important-children-nurtur