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Reflection #3

mertc's picture

At the Blackburn Nursery School I am working with the second youngest class which is the two to three-year-olds. It is their second semester now and all of the kids show dramatic growth since I saw them at the beginning of last year. They have learned to play with each other without snatching (for the most part) and are good participants in the class’ activities. All except Howard. Howard is not the naughty kid, nor the kid that can’t talk, nor does he require more special attention than the others but for some reason he struggles to play with the teachers or the children.

During his first few weeks back in September his mother stayed by his side at all times and whenever she left she would come running back if she heard a cry. Other mothers also stayed by their children so that they could adjust but to me it seemed that it was this mother having a harder time letting go than Howard.

Last Friday Howard came to the playground where we all play for the first half hour of class time. It was cold but the children were keeping warm by running around the playground. Howard stood there shivering in his favorite purple shirt. I have never seen him  in a different shirt. His mother tells him to put on his coat because it is cold outside. He refuses. Without much of an argument she quickly says that if he puts his coat on, after class she will get him a surprise. A new (toy) car. One he doesn’t have and she knows he wants.

Howard still doesn’t put on his coat but his mother hands it to me reminding him of the surprise. Howard still won’t put on the coat so I wrap it around him without his arms in the sleeves. He sits on my lap shivering so I tuck the coat on him and wrap my arms around him to keep him warm. We watch the other children play. He won’t talk to me but he will shake his head when I suggest we go play or ask him questions trying to engage him. By the time playtime is over he is ready to go inside and as the children line up against the wall, I ask him one more time if he will put on his coat and he agrees. Although he didn’t exactly follow his mother’s instructions as playtime is over he will get the car.

This scenario made me wonder how helpful this system was for Howard. How do you think rewarding should work in the home and in school? When I was younger my school was divided into ‘houses’ a bit like Hogwarts except without the great names. We were just ‘Green,’ ‘Yellow,’ ‘Red,’ and ‘Blue.’ We got ‘house’ points and we also got them taken away. At the end  of each week at our Friday school assembly it was announced which house was in the lead. And we all really cared. You could earn house points for doing great on your homework or for speaking up in class. If you were naughty though, you were shamed when the teacher walked over and removed some house points from your house’s plastic sleeve in the classroom and everybody groaned at you. Although it sounds harsh, I loved the point system because ‘points’ were exciting even though I didn’t actually get anything in return.

The children in the nursery are too young to understand collecting points or prizes and why some children might get some when others wouldn’t. They do know that the best behaved children in circle get to line up to wash their hands first but then those who have misbehaved don’t really understand why they are at the back of the line. They have already forgotten circle time because they are looking ahead to snack. At the end of the day when I told a different child that he had been a great boy today he asked me for his present. He even specifically demanded a baseball bat. I laughed, but he was very serious. Being told you were a good boy was not enough. I find there is a fine line between rewarding your child and spoiling your child. I hope for his sake that soon just knowing he did well that day will be enough of a reward.