Children's responses to "would you like to share your feelings today?"
This list of feelings emerged in our circle time conversation today. I would like to share the complexity of feelings that emerge in our group time. It was a very honest and organic conversation.
Some days, I plan our circle time. Other days, I am spontaneous. Most days, the kids let me know what we're doing, whether verbally or just showing me that they aren't interested in my plan. Circle time is pretty flexible. We're always ready to change the course.
On this particular day, we would be singing songs. Before circle time started, I noticed a little wooden toy on the floor. I asked the child sitting next to me to put it away. When she returned to circle after putting away the toy, her seat had been taken by another child. I waited to see what she would do and she seemed content to sit in another spot. Normally i would save that spot since she was doing a job, but she didn't seem bothered in the moment and didn't ask for her seat back.
However, as circle time progressed, I noticed she had a sour facial expression and didn't seem too thrilled when it was her turn during the good morning song.
When that song was over, I announced to the group that I noticed some feelings at our circle time and asked if anyone would like to share their feelings.
I reminded them about a story from the day before - a story where a grumpy joey (baby kangaroo) who woke up feeling grumpy. It's a very sweet story, where the mama kangaroo tries to cheer up the joey. However, what I honed in on in this story was the mother kangaroo's persistence in cheering up her baby. When one strategy didn't work, she would move on to the next - hugs, distraction, jokes, games.
We talked about the idea of cheering someone up versus trying to change their feelings when they don't want help. We talked about ways to ask for help, for instance asking for a hug or asking to be cheered up. Sometimes we just want to feel our feelings, which is a trend that I've observed with this group of children. That's not to say they are unique in this way -- perhaps I have not tuned in to this with prior groups.
The same day, a child at story time didn't like the way I corrected her behavior, and she was quiet with folded arms (something I'd describe as "pouting"). I felt uncomfortable by her sadness and wanted to comfort her. Moreover, I wanted to control how she perceived me in my teaching efforts. I offered her a hug. She declined. I let her have the space to feel the emotion and she recovered quickly. But I SO BADLY wanted to "fix" her feeling.
A couple of guiding principles of my teaching philosophy are:
1. no one is in charge of anyone else's feelings
2. feelings, positive or negative, are okay and normal parts of our life.
We welcome and talk about feelings A LOT. Not in a way that creates a sense of victimhood and "poor me". We talk about feelings in a matter of fact way. It's okay to have them, feel them, not have them (because sometimes I really want kids to feel the "positive" feelings!).
I let the children know that when they share their feelings at circle time, I won't try to change the way they feel. They get to have whatever feeling they want. Feelings are welcome in our safe space. This seemed to allow them to get more vulnerable and share the darker feelings (as you might notice on the feelings list in the photo).
Each child went around the circle and each person was offered time to share their feelings. If they chose to share, they were asked if they'd like to elaborate. I wrote the feelings down (and made little faces to depict the feeling so the children could "read" the feeling). I wanted the feelings to be visible, reflected on this paper where we could see it, have a little more sense of perspective around it, let it be a word and not this whole nebulous overwhelming experience. I wanted to validate the experience while allowing the children to feel bigger and empowered over their feelings.
After all, we are not the way we feel. We are not the feeling. Feelings aren't facts. They feel like facts. But they are fleeting experiences. And when we know this, we can offer coping skills and ways to reframe their experiences when the experience is overpowering. We are building emotional literacy, so we can be members of the community who feel compassion and sorrow and excitement and hope, without acting irrationally and impulsively based on a fleeting emotion.
The child whose space was taken at circle time - perhaps she needed time. Perhaps she wanted to explore the feeling and just sit with it like a friend for a minute. Maybe she needed words to label the feeling and thereby understand it.
My most important role is to create the space, hold the space, allow the space, and be there for when (or if) the child needs my more direct support.
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