Since my talks with each class, in subsequent problem solving with any of them - all have been able to identify their actions as related to kindness or safety (or both) - this is a fantastic first step! In a restorative model, we then proceed to ‘let’s turn your day around’ or, ‘Let's fix the problem/make things right’ by drawing a picture for, or apologizing to, the peer or adult. Sometimes I even find out that the child sent to me is the one owed the apology! This is why taking the time to listen and ‘problem solve’ with the children is so important whether at arrival, recess or in the classroom. Immediate feedback soon after by purposefully pointing out when they are in a better place (praising their calm body, kind words, patient and less frustrated, etc.) is reinforcing their efforts. This is hard work for children and most importantly, they are out of practice.
Any SEL program purposefully prompts even young children to be in a “world of thought” about their actions when they are not yet hardwired to do so, either due to development or impulsivity. Research reflects being in a world of thought developmentally occurring around age 8/grade 3 though some reach long before and others not yet by third! (Little preschool “worriers” are in a world of thought.) More commonly, children act and then reflect after. Add to that, an 18 month hiatus without the expectations of a typical preschool or elementary school schedule, one understands their lack of stamina for ‘doing school’. Parents may see this when children arrive home after school - many are truly tired. Please know that when we notice a child has gaps - (i.e. rarely used scissors or did much writing during the 18 months) we strive to provide the support and experiences now. Similarly for their social and emotional gaps - after being home, young children everywhere are understandably struggling to share the teacher's attention with 20++ classmates; to wait to take turns; or need to complete/participate in a non-preferred activity. Our youngest children have never even had “normal school.” Whether providing the necessary academic or social emotional scaffolding, it needs time. Taking the time now to ensure we are meeting each child where they are is our priority. Rushing and stressing them out (children/teachers) to get ‘caught up’ is counterproductive - we need to provide time for the new learning and the relearning. Learning is not linear - it spirals, plateaus, and accelerates throughout the year. Right now we are all taking stock and providing, especially SEL, support where needed so we land in a great place academically as well as emotionally as we move through this historic year!