Being the head of a teaching team can be hard sometimes. Especially in a environment like mine, where I am the head of a team of 4 instructional aides in my morning class, and 2 in the afternoon class. That’s just a lot of people – a lot of diverse people with varying degrees of professional training, innate teaching talent, and a wide range of “want to be here-ness”. I find that there is fine line between instructing them and nagging them. A fine line between wanting things done the very best way, and realizing that I just want things done my way because I am a little – particular.
Add on to that the issue of finding the right time to encourage and correct your team members. Sometimes you can present some basic ideas all together in a staff meeting. Sometimes something comes up that you just need to address in the moment. Sometimes the most helpful thing is to explain after the fact why I did what I did when I was working with the kids.
However, sometimes I just want to skip over the “fine line-ness” of it all, and just write down what I want them to know, hand to them and say, “Read this.”
Let’s call these pretend notes “Preschool Teacher Hints”. Below is one that I have been thinking about lately.
Preschool Teaching Hint #1: Noise Begets Noise
Dear New Teacher,
One of the things that you will discover in your teaching experience is that your voice is a very powerful tool. Not just your words, but also your voice (well, and your tone of voice, which is a whole different Teacher Hint all on its own). With your voice you can do many things. You can call – even lure – students and their attention to you and what you have to offer, and you can also push them away. You can present an idea or a new fact to them with your voice like a gift – or you can create an environment where they have no interest in what you are saying. You can encourage or discourage them. In fact, sometimes when trying to encourage a student with your voice, you can create an environment that deters some students from even wanting to keep participating.
One way I sometimes see this negative voice influence happening is when new teachers mistake a loud, excited voice as the very best, catch-all way to encourage a student. While this sometimes is effective, a sudden exclamation of, “Woo hooo! I knew you could do it!” can send an especially quiet, hesitant learner into Answering Shock, which means that that overly vigorous response shocked them so much that they’re not so sure they really want to do that some thing again. Please remember that your response to the success of a student has nothing to at all to do with your personal excitement of them completing a task well. Your response is instead what will a)help the student feel proud and confident about their ability, and will b)encourage them to do the same type of thing again. It is all dependent on the student, and what makes them move forward. Yes, you’re proud of them. And perhaps your personal mode of expressing pride is whooping and hollering. However, unless that is really what the student needs, you just have to remember that this is a time when is not all about you.
In addition, exclaiming in a loud, vociferous manner can also raise the excitement quotient of all the other children around, which leads to my next point – that your voice can very easily either increase or decrease the amount of excitement in a room (and when I say “excitement”, I really mean “frenzy”, or “chaos”. Sometimes I think of the emotions and “spirit” of a classroom as a strong tide – it’s not hard at all to get completely swept up in it, whether you realize it or not. The students raise their voices, and then you raise yours, which in turn encourages them to speak even louder – it’s a vicious cycle of one noise level to the next. The next time you hear the students around you start to get more and more excited/frenzied, chaotic, try this – begin speaking to them in a soft, gentle voice. Tone your praise down to gentle words, or even, just try a few (silent) soft pats on the back to show your encouragement. I’m not talking about the old teacher trick of whispering so that they just have to be quiet to hear you. I’m talking about presenting a level of quiet calm that brings down their excitement to a manageable level – a contagion of calm of sorts.
Make sense? Let’s sum up:
Your Well-Meaning Supervisory Teacher