The Struggle Is Real

By Carroll Scott-McIntyre

This year was our first year at Little Owl, where there was a classroom of only 2 ½- 3-year-old children. I was so excited to work with this age group again; It had been a few years. At our in-service week, our Acorn classroom discussed in detail our expectations and intention for both teacher and child. Two of our biggest expectations was our flow of the day and respect for the children and their process. Both go hand in hand. Some children take the repetition and transition just fine. Then there are the other handfuls that only have a hard time. Even with plenty of time to get prepared, more often than not, it turns into a conflict that needs a lot of time to problem-solve.

All teachers experience this, regardless of the age group they work with, whether it be a child who is having a hard time handling the transition process or a child who is just having a “bad day.” As a teacher, you must be focused on the outcome but also support the children with their struggles, even if it takes a long time. 

During our transition before lunch, a child was going to the restroom. She ended up getting pee on her pants, and I told her because of the pee on her pants, she needed to change them. She was not ok with that. She said, “I like these pants; I don’t want to take them off!” At this point, I could hear the frustration growing in her voice as she started to repeat herself. “I don’t want to change!” All I could do is stay calm as she threw herself on the floor and started screaming. I calmly reminded her that it’s not safe to keep pants on that have pee on them. I used the term safe because it’s a word that she understands, sanitary she may not know. I wanted her to comprehend why I wasn’t ok with her staying in the pants. I continued to let her cry and scream while I went and got her wet bag with her other clothes in it. I pulled out her other pants and offered her options; she kept screaming to no avail.  It was at this point that I look at the clock and notice this has been going during the whole lunch; 35 minutes! At what point, as a teacher, do you say, “This is enough!” Children started to come in to get ready for rest, so I said, “I’m going to pick you up, you are in the walkway.” I took her outside and calmly repeated myself once again, I hugged her and told her that I was sorry she was frustrated. I said, “It’s time to change your pants now.” She looked at me and said, “The pink ones.” She changed her pants and sat down to eat lunch. It may have been the change of scenery; or maybe, we both just got tired of the back and forth. Either way, patience was needed through all that frustration, for both of us.

Almost every day, when working with a child, a struggle like this could be expected. Preschool children are new to this thing we call life, and they want everything their way, which I understand, but often we must set those limits that they want to test. The days it doesn’t happen is a great sigh of relief. Then there are the days where it happens with multiple children. In this case, you forget to breathe and want to blow up! This situation has taught me to take these challenges as a growing point as a teacher. It’s so easy to lose focus and get frustrated, but you must remain calm and remember it’s a learning experience together. We must not forget, as teachers, that we are setting the foundation for their social-emotional growth.

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