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Listening to the wild ones (or I love your eyeshadow!)

Some days it is really tempting to write some children off as “naughty”, “troublesome”, “challenging” or when we’ve really had enough even “feral”. This is especially so when you’ve got children with behavioural challenges stemming from trauma - domestic violence, escape from war, drug abuse in the home, neglect. Sometimes the behaviour can get pretty wild. You also have the children who on paper “should” be doing ok but are karate chopping their friend’s heads, rolling around on the floor, screeching, crying when told no, chucking blocks across the room .. and as an educator you’re at your wits end and have tried all the things to get them to calm down.

But what if we stopped trying. What if we watched and listened for a while?

A few weeks ago, in one music class I had two boys. One is a whirling dirvish - races around in circles and can also be a bit of a karate chopper of heads at very unexpected moments. This day as soon as I walked in, he looked up at me and said, “Lynda, I love your eyeshadow!” We chatted a while. He smiled, came to music and participated with no spinning although there was a karate chop! The eyeshadow comment had shown me that this child is perceptive, he notices details and quite clearly loves bright colours. He also loves to give a compliment. So I thought, he probably likes to receive compliments too and because of the karate chopping rarely gets them. So I chatted to him about the karate chopping hurting the other children but also complimented him on his singing and participation. It was smiles the whole class.

Another boy was rolling around on the floor the whole entire lesson. I ignored the rolling rather than telling him to sit still, sit up constantly, because I could see out of the corner of my eye that he was doing something with his hands and throughout the lesson was “rolling” closer to the front like he wanted to show me something. Turns out he was practicing his “Spider-Man hands” (his favourite from the year before) and was looking to show me. Our last class was in late November 2023! Imagine my delight to discover he had been practicing his move all holidays and desperate to communicate this to me, was rolling around because that’s how he thought he might get my attention. Imagine if I had ignored that attempt at communication or written him off as feral?

Communication from children comes in all different and unexpected forms. Sometimes in seeking to calm or control the group, we can miss these subtle attempts from our little friends to tell us something important.

This year I’m going to listen a lot more both with my ears and my eyes. I’m going to look at the wild ones and ask “what are they trying to tell me?” and take it from there.

PS it’s taken me a while to post this but just wanted to add that since that day, both boys have been fully engaged in class - no whirling, karate chopping or rolling around to be seen! 💖

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12 mars
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Amazing, thank you for your perceptiveness Lynda! Joyce (Toby’s Mum)

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