Yesterday when I passed my kindergarten friends in the hall, a spunky little friend at the head of the line asked, “So when are you coming to visit us? You should, you know.”
It’s been a long hot week. This afternoon I headed down to kindergarten. As I approached the door the kinders were on the carpet with the lights out.
“Oh, good. A read aloud,” I thought.
I settled into a teeny chair behind the rug and noticed one boy sitting with the classroom aide and repeatedly calling out, “Volleyball! Volleyball!” in a silly voice. He isn’t one of our learning center friends, just a boy who’s had a rough transition into kindergarten. Already this year he’s become acquainted with our principal.
Looking closer I could see the teacher was wilted. Soon the children packed up and got in line for afternoon recess.
That was the moment when Brady* melted down completely. He flopped to his back on the floor, nearly missing cracking his head on the floor. He started swinging his feet at the children in line. Only the teacher’s quick response prevented him from kicking his classmates as they moved past him and out the door.
I ushered the back of the line out to the hall and watched to be sure there was a second adult outside before I returned to the classroom door to back up the teacher. I paused at the door to take in the situation. Brady picked up the trash can. He banged it up and down, watching her the whole time. When she didn’t react, he turned the can over and slammed it upside down. As he lifted the can he shook it to be sure every piece of drippy snacktime trash fluttered to the floor.
Her only reaction was to take a pair of disposable gloves out of the cabinet. I contemplated closing the door in case Brady decided to bolt. I looked down the hall both ways as I tried to decide.
When I looked back, I couldn’t see the teacher anywhere. There was Brady standing near the wall. It looked like he was talking to himself and pointing. It took a moment to remember that his teacher had told me recently about that mood chart. Each color represents a mood and she’s been using it to help her kinders express how they’re feeling. Brady wasn’t alone at all. From behind the shelves I saw his teacher’s hand reach up to the chart, and heard her disembodied voice.
“If you’re here,” she probed quietly, pointing to the top of the yellow square, “what can we do to get you back down here?” She pointed again, but lower in the yellow box.
I couldn’t hear what Brody said, but he responded to her. No longer was there kicking or upheaval.
Deciding that she had the situation well in hand, and that an audience might do more harm than good, I followed the class outside. Not many minutes had passed when she and Brady came down the hall hand in hand to collect their class for the Mystery Reader.
When I first arrived, Brady’s teacher was worn out from what had been a long week and a difficult day. But it was like she blossomed as he melted down. She appeared to instinctively know how to deescalate the situation. And more than that, she showed that in spite of behavior that would have pushed the buttons of many adults (myself included), she truly cared about this child. She never got angry. She got down on the floor near him and asked him what he needed.
Brady’s teacher is new to our school community–but boy, she’s a keeper! And though I haven’t been looking forward to half a day of state mandated deescalation training for the entire district en masse next week, I would gladly learn alongside this tremendous young teacher any time.
*Not student’s actual name.