It's Time To Talk About "Them".

They have been described as active, fast moving, strong, stubborn, and even "terrible."  Yes, I am talking about a two-year-old.  I feel like it is time to get a few things out in the open about two year olds and the teachers that work with them day in and day out.

This time in a young child's life is full of changes and growth.  Language is developing at a fast pace and they have often developed an attitude of "I can do it myself"  Unfortunately, they often cannot do it all by themselves and frustration sets in.  This usually occurs at the most inopportune moments, such as when parents are trying to get them out the door or when teachers are  trying to help them transition to lunch or nap time at school.

Two year old children are also working through becoming "autonomous."  They have suddenly realized that, "hey, I am my own person" and "I don't seem to have any say" in this thing called life. Everyday decisions, such as what to wear, what to eat, where to go and when, what toys to play with, and even when to go to the potty, are all decided by an adult who at times can seem really "bossy."

For those reasons and more,  two year olds need teachers who are nurturing, warm, understanding, flexible, very alert, and devoted to two year olds!  ( Karen Miller, Ages and Stages).  

Before I begin with stories about the good and the bad, let's get the ugly out of the way.
Teachers and parents of two year old children listen up: you can not sit on your tushie/behind/
rear end and/or bottom and yell from across the room," stop that or that's not nice." It will not work! Also, don't waste your breath asking them why they dumped out the toys, why they cleared the shelves of materials or why they hit their friend.  They don't know!

I was called upon to visit in a classroom and help a teacher with her class of nine ( yes, that's 9) two year olds.  First of all, why anyone in their right mind thinks that one grown up versus nine toddlers is a fair match up is beyond me.  Pause to think about that.  Moving on.

I had visited this room before and talked with the teacher and the director and offered some ideas to help things go more smoothly.  However, it wasn't long before the director asked me to come another time and "model" for the teacher, because apparently things were getting progressively worse.  When I arrived I was met by one exhausted teacher seated on the floor and nine not exhausted two year olds moving, and by that I mean running, around the classroom.

Things were going pretty smoothly as the children were engaged with some materials including cars to push around the floor, baby dolls to carry, play food and dishes and some duplos.  While there were some other play materials on the shelves,  there didn't seem to be a system of organization and puzzle pieces were scattered in with the books and pop beads.  A lone crayon had been discovered by one child and he was busy drawing on all available surfaces.  The teacher looked at me with big puppy dog eyes and said,  "they hit each other all day, they grab toys, and they won't do what I say."   Hmmm, I thought. Let's find out the underlying cause of this sad situation.

Well, she was right, it wasn't long before they begin using the baby dolls and trucks as weapons and there was a massive protest when the child with the one crayon was tackled and relieved of his prize. Once again, the teacher, who by the way,  had not moved from her place on the floor said, "they are like this all day."  Now I had two choices.  I could either tell her to get up or I could step in and try to defuse the situation by guiding the children to more appropriate activities.  I chose the latter and began to untangle the pile of children and said, "It seems like you want to use some crayons. Let's find the paper and the crayons."  I turned to the teacher, whom I expected would have some sort of relieved look on her face, to ask her where the paper and crayons were kept and low and behold she was still sitting there! This was going to be tougher than I thought.  I spent the morning stepping in between children to stop hitting , biting, and toy grabbing, acknowledging their feelings, ( I know you want that, but he has it right now, let's get another one) and rotating materials to provide new play opportunities.  By lunch time,  I was exhausted too!

Clearly this young lady was not an ideal teacher for two year olds. Remember the description from above?  When it happens, and unfortunately it happens more often than we would like, that a person is just not suited to the age group they are with, it is imperative that some changes be made.  It sometimes takes a lot of trial and error to match up the right grown up with a group of children ( no matter the ages of the children).

From the description provided above,  probably the word that really jumps out at me is "understanding."  A teacher who understands that two year olds are becoming independent beings, that they can be contrary and stubborn, that they dump toys out of containers and clear the shelves of all the blocks at once , that they would love to eat the paint rather than brush it on a paper, and more than anything else, they need to move all the time, is the kind of teacher I had the privilege of working with one year.

Miss Jo had come to early childhood after working in the government using her political science major and after raising her family.  From the first day,  I was awestruck by Miss Jo.  As the children arrived they were allowed to separate from their parents at their own pace, were guided to an activity of their choice ( she gave them two choices) and she always had art supplies out and ready for them to use at their own pace.  When it was "circle time", a puppet would come to visit and talk about the plans for the day. Books were read, songs were sung, noses were wiped, snack was served, potty breaks were encouraged, and more than once, all the cardboard blocks were returned to the shelves. Was it tiring for Miss Jo and myself?  Sure, it was. I can assure you we didn't sit down! However, it was a "good" kind of tired.  I can say without a doubt that Miss Jo "understood" and more importantly perhaps, " appreciated"  two year old children. Her expectations clearly met the capabilities of the children.

I have come across other classrooms of two year olds that also had teachers who understood their developmental level and "appreciated" them for the independent, inquisitive, fast moving little beings that they are.

Since I have seen " the good, the bad, and the ugly" ,  I can say that when a teacher truly "appreciates" the children for who they are then life is good for everyone!

That's it for now.
Check back again!


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