This is a real story that happened to me while teaching Art to preschoolers. As an administrator, I reflect on it when I think about planning classroom management training. I have above average classroom management skills but on this particular day…
Dateline: October 11, 2007 – This morning while teaching the color wheel in Art class to a group of preschool children, a young boy named Aeden found a seat at the end of the table near the corner of the room. (Problem 1: Aeden’s proximity to the group)
I don’t know if you have ever attempted assisting 16 preschoolers in coloring 12 different colors in a particular order over a 20 minute span, but it can become a rather exciting and fast paced environment. (Problem 2: A somewhat hectic setting)
Although the class came complete with one very competent assistant (Mrs. Diaz), we both found ourselves working to help the children place their names on their color wheels. This took only a few seconds per child but it did draw my attention away from three-year-old Aeden. (Problem 3: Teacher distracted for 20 seconds).
As I looked up and announced to the children that it was time to line up, there was Aeden. He had managed to get the chair stuck around his neck (you know the one piece plastic chair that has a hole just big enough for a 3 year old’s head to fit through) Of course he began screaming and crying and yelling for help… (Problem 4: You probably can figure this one out on your own).
Immediately I made eye contact with Mrs. Diaz and before I could get a word out she said "Ron, what happened?" My wife often does this to me, apparently if you ask the question first it is somehow assumed that the other person is at fault.
So I went to Aeden and crawled down on the floor with him and drawing from my infinite amounts of wisdom said "If you got in, then you can get out." So I proceeded to explore possible ways to get his head out, with Mrs. Diaz’s encouragement of course. So after a few harmless attempts to PULL his head out I asked him "How did you get into this spot?" Through his tears he said "with my feet". I was amazed at how skinny his shoulders were at that moment. Aeden somehow managed to get his entire body through the hole "feet first". So I looked him in the eye and explained that he would need to crawl out the same way he crawled in only backwards. Yes, I took the time to explain this to a preschooler and he actually understood me. So one arm came through, then another then the shoulders, then them tummy, then the legs, we helped just a bit but he did the bulk of the work. By the time he got out, the class was jumping and cheering and he was smiling and very proud of himself. With a tissue, we wiped away the tears, and as he left he gave me a high five and I, of course, gave him his color wheel.
As an educator I don’t know how to categorize this experience, maybe authentic learning, or project-based, definitely problem-based; at the very least it was educational.