Until I was in my 30′s, I had never had a real conflict with a friend and worked it through to the end. Jan Waters and I had been great friends for years but then one day we had a disagreement that hurt feelings. Before working at SYC, I would typically just avoid bumping into that person again rather than talk through the conflict. But being a teacher at SYC had taught me to help kids work through conflicts with friends. Being in the SYC atmosphere gave me the courage to try it in my own relationships. So Jan and I talked, hugged cried and remained friends.
Why hadn’t I learned to do this as a child? It felt so wonderful to keep my important relationship even though it was hard to hear about mistakes I’d made or amends I needed to make. As early childhood educators, we know that the best time to learn skills to work through conflicts is early childhood! It’s great to know that our SYC students will be more prepared than I was as they move on in the world.
Here at SYC, we embrace conflict as a learning opportunity. Children feel more powerful and confident when they are actively engaged in solving their own problems. If the issue goes unaddressed, it will surely pop up at another time. Getting them together at some point to problem-solve the dispute is crucial.
Children need lots of practice to learn these problem solving skills; but having a few strategies to draw on has many rewards. Taking time to teach negotiation skills promotes new cognitive development and sets up thought processes that can progress to more analytical problem solving in grade school. It also gives kids options other than violence to turn to, as they begin to face lunchroom, playground and other elementary school problems. Being around young children gives us all a second chance to accept and learn how to work with our uncomfortable feelings. What a gift!
…Stephanie Rottmayer, Director
Our staff had a lovely retreat last weekend in the Hocking Hills. Our retreats are usually fun-filled playing together with a little work mixed in. I don’t know of other preschool staffs that take time to really socialize and have fun together but it’s been a tradition to have several staff retreats each year since the school started in 1969.
The professional development portion of our retreat was a discussion of different personal styles of teaching and being with children. All of our teachers work together to be consistent using the SYC philosophy but we are individuals who bring different strengths, talents and joys to our teaching. So while each of us may go about dealing with situations in our own style, we each have the same goal — to support the development of each child.
Through the years of working with and learning from each other, we have developed a way of talking and listening that could be call the “SYC way.” I think this general style is really just listening and responding to children with respect and focus to determine what support might help.
Parents sometimes tell us they wish they could consistently handle their own children this same way. But no one — including us — can do things “the SYC way” 100% of the time. During our classes teachers usually have enough help and support to be able to respond and focus for our 2 1/2 hour class periods, but as parents ourselves we cannot always do the same thing in our own families.
SYC philosophy is a great framework to guide us, but we all bring our own personalities and styles and enjoy learning new ways to approach teaching from each other through work and play.
… Stephanie Rottmayer, Director