We certainly have been busy the last few weeks since returning from Spring Break. Our math, reading, writing and social studies programs have been moving right along here in KM. Equally (if not more) important is our character education work. I am constantly spiraling back to themes in this part of our world and one of the threads that we have been thinking about a lot lately is how to cope with and move on from strong emotions. We have often discussed this in conjunction with the ideas that everyone feels these emotions, they are not wrong and most importantly they do not last forever.
We have been using some language from a beloved early childhood educator, Mr. Rogers, for the last few weeks. After watching two episodes of the show that focused on our theme we asked the question, “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” The girls were enthralled with the episodes, enchanted with the land of make believe and focused on the words of Fred Rogers. One girl articulated what made Fred Rogers special as an educator and TV personality. As he shared some important closing words she reflectively and seriously said, “He is talking right to me.” The episodes, like the picture books we read, offer situations that are accessible, familiar and powerful for the KM girls to discuss analytically, free of the emotion and defensiveness that comes with their personal experiences. This way we can practice the language and strategies I expect the girls to utilize when they are independently solving problems.
Independently is a key word here. Of course young children need support and intervention at times but I do believe Michael Thompson has it right when he says that children must learn to solve their issues without the intervention of an adult as much as possible. As difficult as it is to see our girls struggle it is critical that we not shelter them from the tasks that are meant to build character and independence and friendship. "There is no normal life that is free of pain. It's the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth." – Fred Rogers
The girls created an extensive list of strategies in response to our guiding question. What powerful ideas they had: “Say, I won’t do it again,” “ask for a hug,” “change your mood.” Some of my favorites were “do one of your talents,” “eat protein,” and “have a little bit of tea.” They had informal homework to go home and ask their family about how they dissipate their anger/frustration. If your daughter did not ask you it is a fabulous conversation to have. Modeling and articulating when you are having a strong reaction to something and you are making a choice to go in a certain direction is powerful for our girls. I do it often. It is critical to their understanding that everyone has these feelings and needs to make choices about what to do. They surely know I do!
With this kind of mentoring they can know that they can love and respect me as a person who sometimes gets mad, sad, frustrated or confused and makes mistakes. Knowing this creates some comfort that they will receive the same from their classmates and me.
“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”
- Fred Rogers
So, what do you do with the mad that you feel?
Among the many educators and innovators that I closely follow are the founders of The Blue School in NYC. Recently The New York Times published this article that certainly reflects the thinking behind the importance of charactar education and social-emotional learning in KM.
To learn more about the school check out this recent coverage on CNN's The Next List. Great show by the way!