I’d taught dance to pre-schoolers for many years, but not yoga. I inquired about the setting. Would there be mats? Would we be able to schedule the sessions at least an hour from any lunch or snack times? Could we limit the class size to ten?
The answer to all of those questions was “no,” but I decided to say “yes” anyway. This was a “yes” that changed my life. I learned more about teaching children in my twice weekly classes at The Walther School than in any other forum. I suppose that is one of the reasons I continued to teach there for the following twelve years, until my son was born.
Gloria’s approach to teaching is full of compassion and trust. She empowers young children to make thoughtful decisions. In Gloria’s care, children thrive with a sense of agency and belonging. I am so glad Gloria is sharing wisdom from her decades of teaching youngsters in her book, Eye to Eye.
I love how Gloria shares her expertise in the book through real life stories. She takes the time to really bring the reader into the situation and see multiple angles. Perhaps the most useful information Gloria provides is a step by step process of resolving conflict with young children that is neither tedious or dry, as some other conflict resolution styles can be. In fact, Gloria illustrates how to utilize conflict as an opportunity to build community and compassion.
The book is offered as a handbook for parents, but teachers of young children will benefit as well from reading her stories. I feel so fortunate to have learned firsthand from Gloria how to effectively work with children to spark their inner passion for learning. Here are my top three lessons that are interwoven through the book:
1. Just Say YES! As a new teacher, I would enter class with a plan of action. Gloria taught me that it is wise to stray from the plan if the children are inspired in a different direction. I found it funny that the children wanted to do the same things over and over again. Gloria pointed out that young children learn through repetition. In the beginning, I worried that I wasn’t presenting enough variety of content. Now I know if children are asking to go on “Jungle Journey” every week, it’s because they are learning. So, I say yes as much as I can. That way, when I must say no, due to time constraints or any other reason, the children respect my decision.
2. Never (Just) Say Your Sorry When a child does something that harms another child, be it intentional or not, just telling them to say they are sorry does nothing in the way of teaching the child to modify his/her behavior. If the only consequence to a harmful deed is the “saying of sorry,” the child has little motivation to do things differently in the future. A well-told apology will always include the reason why one is sorry, which will almost always instill a sense of accountability in the giver. For example, “I’m sorry I ran over your sculpture.”
3. Children Know Best To take the apology wisdom a step further, Gloria’s style of conflict resolution encourages children to come up with their own solutions. Rather than the teacher or parent telling the child how he/she could do things differently, i.e. “Watch where you are going next time,” children are asked to reflect on the situation and decide how they can behave differently in the future. Making that decision themselves taps into their inner wisdom and natural sense of justice. Having made the choice themselves, they are more likely to remember the lesson. Every parent and teacher knows how frustrating it can be to give a child the same behavior modifications over and over again. When a child hears the same advice come from a peer, or even from themselves, the information “lands” in a different way.
I am so pleased to offer this book to our community in our current giveaway package. To be entered to win, just leave a comment on this blog post: Early Childhood Yoga: Great Teen Yoga Starts Here. A winner will be selected at random in the days to come. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more information.