A friend of mine has just reversed his car over his laptop! Doh! Have you ever had a ‘Doh’ moment? Perhaps a time when you spilled the milk? You know, when you have done something careless or silly. It happens to us all at one time or another. How we respond to these moments really shows what sort of person we are. I believe that everyone is resilient and resourceful and has within themselves the grace needed to get up, brush themselves down and try again.
Children have these moments too. Imagine Dexter who is so busy helping his dad look after their dog that he forgets to hold the end of the lead. Or Katie who was so keen to show her picture to her teacher that she knocked over the painting water. Sometimes these moments can also arise when children are risk taking and perhaps attempt to do something very tricky. We always need to use our professional judgement to recognise when intervening will support the child or when it will actually prevent the child learning something first hand.
It is not your job as an educator to prevent children from taking risks. If we wrap children in cotton wool they will not learn. They will be robbed of the opportunity to learn how to judge risk for themselves, they will not experience the joy of overcoming obstacles and doing something challenging.
It is not your job to jump in immediately when a child encounters a problem, in order to remove those feelings of frustration, annoyance and even disappointment at not achieving something. This would take away the opportunity for them to learn to problem solve, think creatively and use their initiative.
It is not your job to always stop them from failing.
But it is your job to instil those qualities that show them that it’s OK to take a risk, it’s OK to fail, it’s OK to get it wrong and this is what we do about it. We learn from it. We get up, brush ourselves down and try again.
Yes, we want the tasks we set our children to be achievable so that they have those feelings of competence, but we want to ensure that we gauge the level of challenge just right – think 80% can do – 20% challenge… so that children have the opportunity to have a go, to persevere and be persistent in their learning. You may even like to set up a scenario when you fail at something, or you spill the milk. Then show your strength, your resilience and your determination to sort it out for yourself…
It is when children are challenged that those characteristics of effective learning really shine through. So lead by example: get up, brush yourself down and try again!
About the author
Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.