It was center time (also called stations and even corrals in Texas). I took the opportunity to sit down and rest my tired feet. I yawned thinking a nap would be nice, but knew it was impossible. My body jumped when I heard a scream—almost a howl. Now what? Has Toby done something again? My eyes scanned the room to Toby’s favorite center– sand. Sammy was holding his hands over his eyes, tears streaming down his face. I ran to the sand center and asked, “What happened?”
Mailey Mae, the tattle-tale of the class, yelled, “Toby threw sand in Sammy’s eyes!” I took Toby by the hand and led him, once again, to the nonstimulating corner where there is nothing to do but think.
I walked Sammy over to the sink and rinsed out his eyes. “Did he throw sand at you on purpose?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” sobbed Sammy. My heart ached. Sammy was my responsibility to keep safe. He was small and immature for his age, a premie. I knew what that was about since my daughter was a premie, too.
Mailey May eagerly volunteered, “It was on purpose. I saw him.”
Toby turned around from looking at the wall and said, “It was an accident. I’m really sorry.”
Who do I believe? Since I had not witnessed it, I decided to give Toby the benefit of doubt that this was not intentional. He sounded sincere, but had he just learned those words to pacify an adult when he was in trouble? “No more sand center for you for two weeks,” I said loudly enough for the entire class to hear.
This may be one child who only gets to be in the reading center, or the computer center, the rest of the year. Those centers were located near my desk and didn’t involve sand. I knew I had to watch Toby constantly but found it difficult with 24 other five and six year olds in the room
When I told my husband later about the incident, and how I had too many students in the classroom, he reminded me that when we were in first grade, there were over thirty students in our classes. (I think dinosaurs had become extinct a few years before.) We had the class pictures to prove it. We looked so well behaved—of course, our brains want to remember only the good times.
WHAT HAS CHANGED IN THE LAST FIFTY YEARS?
- Increase in divorce rates, unwed mothers, and single moms raising children with little or no child support
- more grandparents, even great-grandparents, raising children
- Increase in the diagnosis of emotional and medical disorders including ADHD, Autism, Depression, Oppositional-Defiant, Emotionally Disturbed, and Bi-Polar
- More moms working; more children in daycare
- More unsupervised time in front of TV, computers, and electronic games with increased violence exposure
- More transient family lifestyle, separating people from supporting friends, family, and community
- Less physical exercise and more fast-food diets
- Greater stress levels due to the availability of world-wide news of natural and man-made disasters
- Changes in attitude as to what is important in life (the "me generation" - got to have what I want right now) who have less respect for authority figures including teachers, principals and coaches.
THE GOOD NEWS
Toby and I both survived kindergarten that year. He did spend most of center time in the computer center. At first, the other children did not think that was fair. I explained to them, "Life is not always fair. But I think this is what is best for Toby at this time." That seemed to appease the other students, probably because they felt safer. I was fortunate to have several computers in the center, so I kept a clipboard with the students' names listed alphabetically and gave them the opportunity to choose computer time when their name was called. Some accepted, while others were content to play in another center with a buddy. But they could see that I was trying to give everyone an opportunity.
Toby enrolled in a different school after kindergarten. The principal learned that he was not even living within our school boundaries. Years later, I learned that Toby was classified as Emotionally Disturbed (ED) and was in a Special Education classroom for students to learn behavior management skills. I was glad that I had asked for testing and counseling for this student, as well as documented his behavior. The process of having a child classified as ED, and benefiting from services, can take years. That is why it is so important for teachers to document inappropriate behavior.
Young children are not experienced enough, or emotionally mature enough, to be in charge of themselves over long periods of time. Parents and teachers need to set firm rules, be good examples, and use consistent discipline with rewards and consequences. Children should be expected to obey adults provided the adults are reasonable. We need to put thought into leading children from adult control to the development of their own inner control.
This is a series on Discipline. Click on links below to view other posts:
Sometimes, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
When I see my life as a series of unfolding miracles,