so today . . . the relative ineffectiveness of "time out" was demonstrated once again . . .
i spend the first hour of my day at school monitoring pre-k kids who are mostly not in my class. since our facility is open for 12 hours a day, teachers' hours must be staggered to adequately cover it all. so i end up with a mix of kids until their regular teachers arrive.
i am a good teacher, but i am firm. i have clear boundaries in my classroom, and i expect the kids to stay within those boundaries whether they are in my room for an hour in the morning or all day long. most children adapt really well to this structure, but there are always those who think the rules don't apply to them--even at four years old. one of those children is janelle . . .
janelle and i have issues, the main one being i think she should listen to my words and do them; she thinks she will do them if she feels like it. which she never does. this creates a problem.
today, i had just had it! she has been ignoring my words all week. i have tried in many different ways to communicate to her that it is important for her to listen to my words and then do them, but nothing seems to be getting through to her four year old brain. so i finally put her in time out.
i am not a big fan of time out--i think it is highly misunderstood and generally used incorrectly, but i was out of ideas. when i took her over to sit in a chair i said, "janelle, you are going to time out now because you are not listening to my words. i will be back to talk to you about it in four minutes."
as i walked away, she was looking at me like, "what did i do?"
when i went back four minutes later (because to her credit, she did a good job of sitting there quietly,) i gave her the speech.
"janelle, why did you have to go to time out?"
"because i hit someone?" she did not hit someone--this time. but the kids have learned that if they hit, there is no warning--they go straight to time out. and since hitting is really the only offense that usually results in a time out, this was a reasonable guess--it was just wrong. this time.
"no," i said, "you are in time out because you did not listen to my words and do them. when i say stop, you need to STOP. when i say come, you need to COME." i was trying to keep it very simple, because my goal really was to help her understand something she clearly did not. to check her understanding i said, "so, janelle, the next time i say stop, what are you going to do?" and she replied, "stop."
"yes, that's right," i said. "and when i say come, what are you going to do?
"come," she said.
ok, i was on a roll. i know i had just told her that, but she was responding appropriately, so i decided to go for broke and throw in something we had talked about the day before. "yes," i said, "good for you! and when i call your name, what are you going to do?"
she thought for a moment, tapping her little index finger on her chin, and then said, "that's a tough one!"
i couldn't help myself. i laughed. and she smiled. so i agreed with her that, yes, that was a tough one. and then i reminded her of what she should do when she heard her name called, gave her a hug, and told her to go play.
i have no doubt that tomorrow when i tell her to stop, or come, or call her name, she will once again ignore me. because stopping and thinking about the appropriate response is not what four year olds do best . . . what four year olds do best is smile.