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Powerful Interactions

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Think of a teacher who made or express affection or
a positive difference in your gratitude. As a teacher, the
life. Try to recall an interaction interactions you have with
with this teacher. What did your young children can make a
teacher say and do? How did positive difference in their
you respond? Take a moment to lives, just like the teacher
reflect on the ways this teacher who came to your mind dur-
made a difference for you. ing your reflection.

Interactions are the daily
exchanges in words and gestures You make a difference
we have with others. Sometimes,
we don’t think about them, they Your interactions with
just come naturally. At other children affect how they feel
times, though, we think very about themselves and how
hard, for example, about how to they learn. Who you are as a
ask for a favor, let someone know teacher—your professional
that he or she hurt our feelings, development and emotional
intelligence—shapes your
decisions about what you
Amy Laura Dombro, MS, develops say and do as you interact
resources with and for teachers and with children. Your smile
families, including stories of suc- and sense of humor, the
cesses, challenges, and lessons
sound of your voice, the
learned. She is currently gathering
stories about teachers’ powerful inter- words you choose, the inter-
actions, and is based in New York. ests you share, and your
amydombro@aol.com curiosity are like that of no
Judy R. Jablon, MS, lives in South other teacher.
Orange, New Jersey, and brings more Every day you have doz-
than 30 years’ experience in educa- ens of interactions with chil-
tion to her work as a consultant, facili-
dren. As preschool teacher
tator, and author. Originally a teacher,
her work in early childhood education Ramona describes it:
focuses on the importance of relation-
I think of interactions as a
ships, effective communication, and
dance. Sometimes I’m in
assessment. judy@judyjablon.com
the lead, sometimes the
Charlotte Stetson, MEd, is an inde-
child is. An interaction
Photos © NAEYC

pendent consultant from Hancock,
may last a moment, like
Maine, who specializes in teacher-
child interactions, observation and when I give Daria a smile
documentation, assessment, and of encouragement as she
curriculum content. For 25 years prior looks up from the enclo-
to becoming a consultant, Charlotte sure of blocks she is
taught young children, ranging from toddlers to second-graders, building for the farm animals. Or it may last all day when I
in a wide variety of settings. cstetson2@roadrunner.com shadow Tyrone, guiding, distracting, reminding, and hold-
Photos © Ellen B. Senisi except as noted. ing him to help him to express his feelings in words instead
®
of biting. Sometimes we are in sync. Other times our dance
1, 3 is one of missteps, like when I interrupt a child.

12 Young Children‡-DQXDU\

. you may be more planned and Education n. and demonstrate advanced lan- Other times. In the Children’s positive relationships with their teachers words of Hamre and Pianta. “The quality of everyday class- lay the foundation for children’s exploration and learning room interactions in the form of instructional and emo- and enhance the likelihood of children’s engagement and tional support moderates the risk of early school failure” achievement in school. Preschool children who have posi- (2005. 2008). They are also more inclined to s 4O CONVEY A SILENT MESSAGE OF SUPPORT 9OU SIT QUIETLY s MAKE USE OF LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN THE CLASSROOM. tive relationships with teachers tend to know more letters. Sometimes you may interact without thinking ahead. have higher math scores. Building positive relationships tant role in their emotional well-being and learning. Gallagher & Mayer purposeful. Emotional Intelligence: A 21st Century Skill for Children and Adults Your powerful interactions with children play an impor. when you are more aware that your interac- guage and literacy skills (Center for Social and Emotional tions can make a difference. For example. Howes & Ritchie 2002.d. 13).

“What you s MAKE FRIENDS. next to Roger in the block area and pay attention as he adds cylinders to his structure. Your message is.

are doing is important.” Your presence alone may help him s ADJUST TO CLASSROOM AND SCHOOL.

stretch their thinking and Accepting. activity.” Mirror talk lets the child know you see exactly what you? Your interactions with children have an impact on they are doing because you tell them what you see them do their lives—now and in the future. You can tell Henry how you feel. child you currently teach. We define powerful interactions as those in which you intentionally connect with the child while at the same Respectful. under- similar interests to work on a project together. I see that you have drawn many lines and circles on your drawing. how you interact as him or her about how to manage them. Young Children‡-DQXDU\ 13 . Acknowledge a child’s emotions and coach learning. you thought about a to enhance thinking (Mayer & Salovey 1997).” Personal. and use their emotions and emotional knowledge At the beginning of this article. Show your interest and appreciation for chil- about you. 13). and accepting. I can tell you do it shapes how well a child learns (Dombro. Ask permission before joining in a child’s time saying or doing something to guide the child’s learn. No matter what you teach. planning. For example. you model for them how before you decide where to put it. You acknowledge Erihana’s feelings. forthcoming). talk with her opportunities to support the development of children’s about friendship. These interactions are also out. children are forming a sense relationships: You talk with 5-year-old Erihana’s mom about of who they are and what they can do. personal. Have conversations with children about topics What are powerful interactions? that are important to them. on Friday you were so excited about going to your cousin’s birthday party. stand. and coach her to join another child with emotional intelligence: the ability to perceive. respectful. Jablon. As you nurture your relationships puzzle? I notice that you are looking at each piece carefully with children in ongoing ways. tionships well after they leave the program (NAEYC 2008. and about being in your dren’s efforts by using mirror talk rather than saying “Good classroom. Interactions teacher who made a difference for you. “Marla. What do you hope this teenager will say about job.” to learn and. you are very upset about Henry stepping on your sand & Stetson. I’ll go with you. “Deborah. Now think about a that promote positive relationships have common qualities. and problem solving. AND focus on his actions and lead him to new discoveries about s ENJOY SCHOOL AND ACHIEVE BENElT FROM EARLY POSITIVE RELA- blocks. How Powerful interactions are not the same as everyday inter. may I sit with you while you work on your ing a small step forward. respectful. Fast-forward about 10 years and They are validating. “Bobby. “Jeremy. and accepting. or say. castle. at the same time. Erihana feels left tive feelings about themselves. imagine that this child (now a teenager) is telling a friend Validating. her preschool teacher. personal. They are validating. s 4O SUPPORT A CHILDS LEARNING ABOUT HER EMOTIONS AND In the early childhood years. did it go?” actions. Every interaction why Erihana seems sad and find out that her best friend with you is an opportunity for children to develop posi- has become friends with another child.” Interactions that promote positive relationships have common qualities.

encourage them to try something new. She continues. understanding of child development and learning styles. and recog. Stay thoughtful and alert—pay attention they model curiosity. NCEDL found week and now you can do it. “Wow. Every interaction Being intentional Interactions that supported learning were few and far between (Early et al. but what was teaching if not a series of see you would like to use the red truck. How did you figure out how many you needed?” Take risks. the teacher’s responses and Model curiosity. actions.” Elizabeth Every interaction is an opportunity to nudge forward a child’s develop. and ask open-ended questions. 3). maybe you’ll make a pepperoni pizza. Reggie. Incorporate varied words as you talk with children. You can add to that what looked like natural-born genius in the ment or learning. That must feel good!” that though classrooms were gener- ally friendly. I wonder what birds we might see on our walk to the park this morning. In all the examples earlier. Is that right?”). and take advantage of opportunities to provide interac. standing still when giv- esting new vocabulary.” 14 Young Children‡-DQXDU\ . Teachers promote learning when act intentionally. “I don’t know what that part of an insect is called. leading the child to feel greater in learning about things. “I decision. Samantha. take risks. Green writes about a teacher who “noticed ment or learning. is an opportunity Interactions work when your responses are 2005. “Hmm. best teacher was often deliberate technique in what children know. Let children know you are interested questions were purposeful.” Introduce new vocabulary. Let’s see if we can find the name of that part. Remember how last week you state study of prekindergarten programs and a study of couldn’t go the whole way? You have been practicing all statewide early education programs (SWEEP).Supporting learning Recognize learning and development. introduce inter. “When you cook dinner today. on your knowledge of individual children as well as your nize children’s accomplishments and progress. Tell children when you observe them thinking. “I don’t know. Suk Won. teach how to find answers.” and suggest ways to find answers. when a child points to a toy. “It was the tiniest language (for example. and words. encourage to yourself and your emotions.”  7HDFKKRZWRÀQGDQVZHUV Say. Find bite-size moves just like that?” (Green 2010. Let’s get one and try it together. “We never had a papaya for snack. Teachers need awareness—of their impact on children tions that support learning during daily routines and while and the children’s impact on them—in order to speak and children play and explore. the quality of instruc- tional support was surprisingly low. Here’s our insect book. introduce new vocabulary. intentional rather than just automatic reac- to nudge forward tions. disguise”—in this case. or a big cauldron of butternut squash soup!” Encourage thinking. You put out just the right number of paper cups. Try new things with chil- dren. a child’s develop. and model ing directions. Pianta 2010). some roasted chicken. Draw thinking. In “Building a Better Teacher. “You did some good thinking as you set the table today. you made it across the climbing Development and Learning (NCEDL) conducted a multi- bars by yourself today. say. Help children be aware of and reflect on their progress and accomplish- Researchers at the National Center for Early ments.

” “friends share answers (Stremmel 2007). You can become a more effective teacher by staying aware. including you. not perfect ones There will always be times when your interactions are clumsy—when you and a child seem to step on each other’s toes. it is important to bring your authentic self open. It can be more challenging to interact with some children than with others. John 2004. burying it deep in your I was 6 years old. I saw deer and heard an owl. Emotional intelligence can help you know which of your emotions to set aside and which ones will help you decide how to best support the child (Mayer. They know when allows you to connect with children and promote their you are being genuine and when you are not. children will sense your enthusiasm and action more effective next time?” probably enjoy it too. Hester. This can make your relationship even stronger and support the child’s learning more effectively. respect the boundaries of what’s not appropriate to share. or their interactions powerful by applying several techniques. It is an ongoing process of inquiry that requires s 3PEAK NORMALLY AND AVOID TEACHER TALK 7HEN YOU HEAR curiosity and the ability to ask questions and look for yourself saying things like “use your words. Share something about your combined pressures can slowly drown out your curiosity childhood. your facial expres- teach. with each other. and then reconnect in more effective ways. Having powerful interactions. For example. is as important as what you do” (Pawl & St. As a teacher. think more deeply about a prob- lem. But as you pay more attention to the interactions you have with children. you can begin to recognize when you are out of sync with a child. The reality of everyday classroom life presents many s 3HARE INFORMATION ABOUT WHO YOU ARE AND YOUR LIFE OUT- pressures. “What did I want to convey s &IND WAYS TO INCORPORATE YOUR INTERESTS INTO YOUR CURRICU- to children? What did I do? Why did I do it that way? How lum.” Be sure to subconscious. Roberts. issues that may be controversial within a community. become more aware of individual children’s unique personalities and needs. and curious about your own practice. That’s real- ity. It may be that your emotions are causing interference. Your attitude into the classroom: matters. side the classroom. Emotional Intelligence: A 21st Century Skill for Children and Adults confidence. They depend on your emotional intelligence. Powerful interactions begin with you Be yourself Powerful interactions begin long before you first meet or Young children have an uncanny ability to tune in to the talk with a child. themselves questions such as. or attain some other goal. enjoy an activity. and logistics. if you did the children respond? What can I do to make my inter. They can read attitude about your work as a teacher and the children you meaning in the sound of your voice. Young Children‡-DQXDU\ 15 . Teachers can keep their spirit of inquiry alive and make such as how you feel about other children. 3). You can step back. “Your story about camping. how you hold yourself and move. standards. reminded about and awareness of your ability to make a difference me of a time I went camping with my mom and dad when in the lives of children and families. which sions. add pictures of your fam- outcomes. Whether it is baking cookies or studying turtles. families.” and “use your inside-voice. Teaching is more than following a curriculum suc- cessfully. & Barsade 2008). These ily to the wall of family photos. from varied sources: curriculum. They begin with the way you think—your important adults in their life.” pause and Effective teachers reflect on their practice by asking check whether you have slipped into automatic pilot. administrative procedures. “How you are emotional and intellectual growth (Mayor & Salovey 1997).

(It’s hard to have positive interactions when your back aches Look for clues from perching on a small chair!) Building relationships and supporting learning are the Add personal touches to the room. They reveal a dren. I play dealing with stress. Ask and reduce stress. ing to the 5-year-old whose support. Keep it in a deeper level. s focus more on what they are doing. (cont’d on p.Fuel yourself Remember to laugh. Pick play in the house today. they may quotes in a notebook. and actions that include every. Through this more s crawl into your lap. or quote can restore happy feelings Children will give you clues about how you are doing. ite poster. they become s catch your eye and smile. observe. including joy and sat. As the teach- at the photos and read the ers begin to trust us. detailed descriptions of her interests and activities add some pillows. too. offering a painting activity. You can ease your frazzled nerves with a yourself if your interactions are meaningful. Teaching is reward- are chrysanthemums to put on the table. mango to enjoy during your break. s make connections to the real world: “That book is s 3HARE RESPONSIBILITIES FOR Be physically comfortable. Here are some questions to ask yourself: s #AN ) hBE THEREv FOR CHILDRENˆBE TRULY PRESENT Arrange your classroom so you can be relaxed Do I pay close attention to what they are doing or saying? Or am I just going through the motions? and at the children’s level at the same time. poem. you may see children bunch of flowers for each ments. we have listened to will initiate interactions with you. As you develop positive relationships. bring in a chair or lengthy.” turns shadowing the toddler your room—places where you can who tends to bite or listen- settle down to listen to. s test limits by continuing to do something after you Keep your energy tank thing from wiping up spilled juice say no. place where families can add open sharing. Here are some also illuminate a wide range of s silently show you something they made. one to start with. Put a star next to the s tell you what they are going to do before they begin Talk together about working three most important items you playing: “I’m going to pretend to be a daddy when I some stretching exercises want to accomplish this week. or perhaps a fresh how you are doing and be aware of yourself. you will notice and respond. Take Are there places for you to sit in with my mommy. Glancing at a favor- two most important outcomes of powerful interactions.” other one day a week.” “I’m an snacks to share with each ing and demanding work. Look actions with children. Depending on their graphs and keep children’s teachers’ stories about their inter- age. their stories become s run over to you with open arms.” regularly. You can also find clues in your own feelings and behavior. a CD of favorite dancing music (you’ll never the way the children react to you. as the three of us (the authors) have Powerful Interactions thing this week that made you laugh? Surprised you? worked as teachers. Talk with colleagues to baking muffins to planning and about ways you can support s tell you stories about their life. to it and enjoy their chil- more meaningful. Watch children to see have a shortage of dancing partners!). periods of feeling bored s incorporate new vocabulary into their play: “Here s "RING IN HEALTHY AND TASTY or burned out. 19) 16 Young Children‡-DQXDU\ . trusting that you will not react harshly. room or the teachers’ room. Look over your a weekend of gardening? to-do list. Arrange your classroom so you can be can be overwhelming. feelings of isolation. and. relaxed and at the children’s level at the same time. Are you stiff after Set priorities. for some. They each other. Here are architect building a house. then observe vase of flowers. fueled. about a mommy and a boy playing together. wide range of daily responsibilities s call you over to see what they are doing. too. a few suggestions of things teach- ers can do to energize themselves: s solve problems together: “I’ll give you the red s #HECK IN WITH EACH OTHER marker and you give me the green one. s 4AKE TURNS BRINGING IN A isfaction in a child’s accomplish. children Amazed you? Take photo- and as authors. photo. and talk with children? If not. need a boost. with teachers. Children and Did a child do or say some- For the last 30 years.” into movement time. children’s words when you willing to share themselves at a s cry and come to you for comfort. As you support learning. hoping ideas: emotions.

my interests. they can experience shifts and changes in their identities. s $O ) REALLY LISTEN $O ) GIVE A CHILD TIME TO SHARE !M ) shifts that create changes in the way they see themselves open to what he or she might say? Or do I assume I already as teachers or see children as learners. nothing more important than keeping track of the stories of ing on to my own agenda? who we are and of those who have influenced us along the s $O ) FEEL AT HOME AND COMFORTABLE IN THIS SPACE WHERE ) way. mov. (Meier & Stremmel 2010. s !M ) A CURIOUS. Emotional Intelligence: A 21st Century Skill for Children and Adults Am I always thinking about what’s next instead of what is [Stories] enable teachers to tell and relive the stories of happening now? their personal and professional experiences. 4) spend many hours every day? Does the setting reflect any. In the process. Perhaps there is know the answer? Do I brush off what the child says. Stories are strong forces of change. Record (on tape or in thing about me. and/or family? Or do I come writing) some of your stories so you can see how you are to work and count the hours until I can go home? changing over time.

Often it is hard to see ourselves ing and new vocabulary to children? Do I invite children to accurately. Share you hear the same stories about how your words coming out interactions make a differ- of your mouth over ence. roles to find the answers: researchers. professional develop. Just think—if interactions more you have three powerful powerful interac- tions a day and you How do we promote teach five days a more powerful child- week. and interaction behav- most important of all. Here are is a major step some ways to join in the toward expanding conversation as you work your repertoire of together with colleagues strategies. Do you to make your interactions have difficulties more powerful: personalizing your interactions with Record and share each child? Do interaction stories. tion to yourself. Do the same for others. that would be teacher interactions 15 powerful interac- through professional devel- tions during each opment? Our field is trying week. telling you what he or she sees and hears. Find a trusted person to watch and be a mirror solve themselves at times? Do I genuinely recognize accom- for you. ONGOING LEARNER $O ) INTRODUCE INTEREST- Work with a partner. can actually have each day. we iors and patterns believe. A lot of chil- to answer this question. follow a curriculum? Am I often bored? Your answers to these kinds of questions are a conversa. Pay atten- ers. ment specialists. teachers. This can plishments and challenges? Or do I often feel I’m on auto- give you valuable feedback and help you raise questions matic pilot as I offer learning opportunities? Do I blindly and change practices. Be realistic. Ask colleagues for and over? Are you their stories as well: Young Children‡-DQXDU\ 19 . Change takes time. college Recognizing your course instructors. Our actions may be quite different from our problem-solve with me? Do I encourage them to problem- intentions. many powerful self up in down times and interactions you feel terrific in good times. program lead. It dren would benefit will take all of us in various from your support. Have realistic expecta- tion with yourself. They tions about how can help you to bring your. Perhaps your goal would be You can make your to have three each day.

Forthcoming.schoolclimate. and Charlotte ORDER ONLINE: W W W. 2008. & M. J.fpg. Multi-State Study of Pre-Kindergarten and study of State-Wide Early Edu- cation Programs (SWEEP): Preliminary descriptive report. B.D. Standard 1: Relationships. 2008. Early.J. How you build relationships to guide learning. Labor and Pensions Committee hearing: ESEA reauthorization: Early childhood education. Powerful interactions: you as they guide children’s learning a small step forward. Pianta. Education. 2008. D. DC: NAEYC. 1997.senate. How you are is as important as what you do . in making a positive children’s amazing structures. Washington. Annual Review of Psychology 59: 507–36.. J. G. Closing thoughts During the course of your busy day with children. ZZZSRZHUR¿QWHUDFWLRQVFRm.D. Bryant. St. 2005. Young Chil- dren 63 (6): 80–87. Research in Review. New York: Basic Books. & S. Narrative inquiry and theory with practical strategies for stories—The value for early childhood research. March 2. & P. J.org/files/ teaching children how to construct ISBN: 978-1-928896-69-2 naeyc/file/Publications/VOP_MeierStremmel. Roberts. 3 A Constructivist Hamre. toddlers and their families. The authors blend Meier.. K. Item #352 Voices of Practitioners 12. edited by P. D. DC: Author.edu/~ncedl/pdfs/SWEEP_MS_ summary_final.C.. Jablon.pdf Stremmel. A matter of trust: Con- necting teachers and learners in the early childhood by Rheta DeVries and classroom.ORG/STORE Stetson. New York: Teachers College Press. John. J. Clifford. R. and to References enjoy your interactions with children. Connecting early educa- tion to K–3 through professional development for Learn more from the authors’ Q&A summary online at effective teaching and learning. For reprints or permissions information. . Your powerful interactions with children make a difference Crawford..unc. Stetson. These two experts on Piagetian Mayer. Can instructional and emotional support in the first-grade classroom Approach to Physics make a difference for children at risk of school failure? Child Development 76 (5): 949–67. www. Judy Jablon. Center for Social and Emotional Education. O. May 25. F. Building a better teacher. Mayer. D. Green. Sluyter. & W.J. Enhancing development and learning through teacher-child relationships. Barsade. DC: ZERO TO THREE.org/event/ramps-and-pathways. & C.html. Salovey. . A. Making even one The authors invite you to share stories with others at their small change each day will result in significant improve. ¿QGDJURZLQJVHULHVRIPDWHULDOVDERXWLQWHUDFWLRQVFUH- ated with and for teachers and an evolving conversation about powerful interactions. Barbarin.. & S. Pianta..naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/vop/Voices-Stremmel. What is emotional in- telligence? In Emotional development and emotional constructivism present highly intelligence: Implications for educators. www. 20 Young Children‡-DQXDU\ . R. The value of teacher research: s Member price: $16 20% savings s List price: $20 Nurturing professional and personal growth through inquiry. School climate research summary. Voices of Practitioners.C. A recent NAEYC Comprehensive Member Benefit difference for infants. 3–31. website. M. C. Pre-kindergarten in eleven states: NCEDL’s for them now and in the future. & A. http://help.org/climate/documents/schoolClimate children will benefit from their powerful interactions with researchSummary. 2005.G.C. Ritchie. 2004.H.. R. 2010.L. 2002.. & R. Burchinal. www.K.pdf The latest in science research! Gallagher. naeyc. A few times each day be intentional about your interactions. to slow down.NAEYC. engaging experiments with Ramps Palovey & D. A. 2007.D.nytimes.d. US Senate Health.. 2010. n. Weaver. www. Washington. Christina Sales Human abilities: Emotional intelligence. Mayer. & Pathways. allow yourself a little time to be curious. E. Testimony to the www. where you will ment in your interactions as time passes. Chang. Stremmel. The New Ramps & Pathways: York Times Magazine.naeyc.gov/imo/ media/doc/Pianta. as well as colorful photographs of Pawl. with Young Children Howes. & K. www. contact the authors at SRZHURÀQWHUDFWLRQV#JPDLOFRP.pdf TOLL FREE: 800-424-2460 Copyright © 2011 Amy Dombro. 2010. When you do.pdf a deepening understanding of force NAEYC. com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Teachers-t.pdf you—interactions that deepen children’s relationship with Dombro. Includes numerous 2011 s 112 pp s Softcover NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standard and related vignettes of teaching and learning accreditation criteria. Washington.finding that your interactions always focus on counting or the alphabet? Don’t get upset or give up. A guide to the and motion.