Our classroom is a safe space, period. Kindergarten classrooms are ripe with brand new learners experiencing new rules, routines, and high expectations for social behavior, often for the first time. Our young learners are expected to manage their space, words, bodies, thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Even as adults mastery of this can be daunting-it is certainly no easy feat for a three year old!
Wiggly bodies, flailing limbs, and roaming attention spans, are all part of the kindergarten classroom experience. And all can wreak havoc on and whittle away at a teacher’s patience. As we aim to encourage autonomy, build confidence, and spark a passion for learning, it is essential that we veer away from harsher words that can scare, shame, or otherwise traumatize a child. By replacing potentially harsh words such as “No” and “Don’t” with three simply letters, we can shift the dynamic, energy, and intention of traditional classroom behavior management.
Instead of “Don’t run,” we say “Try to use walking feet” (or penguin feet!). Instead of “Don’t push your friend,” we say, “Try to use gentle touch.” Instead of “Don’t jump,” we use, “Try to control your body.” The subtly behind these words is resounding. It is an invitation instead of a command. It shifts the power dynamic and allows the student to be in control of the outcome. More importantly, it meets the students where they are, wherever that may be, acknowledges their struggle, welcomes them into the conversation, and invokes every students natural born tendency to want to do a good job! It is worth noting that adding a term of endearment at the end of the request works wonders to soothe both student and teacher! “Try not to jump, Sweetheart.”