Sunday, 15 February 2015

Judging children as adults.

4 year olds can be sophisticated, funny, articulate, creative & skilled negotiators but they are ultimately 4 year olds!
Last week Channel 4 showed a 'fly on the wall' documentary of a handful of 4 year olds as they settled into nursery. (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-secret-life-of-4-year-olds)  It was filmed over 6 months & edited down into an hour. 
As a nursery class teacher I loved it. I could see traits of some children in my current class in one or two of the children & could identify with many of the struggles the children went through. The programme was a pretty good reflection of all the personal, social & emotional skills that children learn at preschool. 
What I didn't like about the programme was the reaction of adults to a couple of the children in particular. I purposely stayed off the main social media sites during & after the programme as I knew there would be horrible things being flung about by adults about little children.
Those who unleashed vitriol on 4 year olds, showed themselves up. The children showed more maturity than that! These were 4 year olds, not adults, some may have only been talking in full sentences for less than 2 years & yet adults were judging their behaviours as unacceptable! As a nursery teacher, I saw inappropriate, rash, impulsive behaviour but nothing that wasn't perfectly acceptable for someone who had only been on the earth for 4 years or less! Anyone who spends anytime with 4 year olds knows they can be totally irrational & driven by emotions when it comes to decision making. It is perfectly ok. What people should have taken away from that documentary was how many skills the children had to develop or hone in a short time & what a crucial role the adult has in a preschool setting. We spend our time, especially in the first term, modelling how to negotiate turn taking, sharing resources, making friends, solving arguments etc. None of this just just happens, it has to be modelled over and over, all through the year but the payback when a child who previously snatched resources or cried when they wanted something, begins to use an egg timer for turn taking or verbalise why they want something so badly is well worth all the tears & tantrums. 
I hope that the parents who chose to allow their children take part aren't regretting this experience in light of the horrible reaction by some grown ups. It was a brave decision & most likely at times uncomfortable viewing for some, no parent wants to see their child in a bad light or being rejected by others. I hope they could all see the progress that had been made after 6 months as the children gained more skills in their journey to becoming valuable members of society.
As for the argument that it was an invasion of privacy as the children couldn't give permission, if people are going down that route then be prepared to stop all observations in preschool & put the cameras away. 
I think this programme should be seen as a valuable insight into just how hard working with preschoolers can be, it is messy, emotional & exhausting but when it comes together it is the best job in the world.
Please remember that we, the adults, should never ever look at a child & judge them as a peer. They are just finding their way in the world & need all the support & understanding we can muster. 
More importantly, never underestimate the negotiating skills of a 4 year old, there is a reason why most young children have their parents wrapped round their little finger!

I enjoyed this review from The Guardian of the programme (http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/feb/11/secret-life-of-four-year-olds-review)  - anyone who spends time with young children knows they really do have the best way of trading insults!

2 comments:

  1. Very true. I thought the show was fascinating and just wonderful - watching all of the little characters finding their place in the world! I just wish that we could have hidden cameras in all of our nurseries for use in observations and for planning their next steps! Imagine the insight we would get!!

    - @EarlyYearsIdeas (A nursery teacher of many years)

    P.S. I can't get the link to theguardian.com that you've posted to work - just a heads up!

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    1. Thanks - think I got the link working now. I agree how much easier would it be if we could review video footage at the end of each day! Thanks for popping over & leaving a comment.

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