Seminars help teachers to deal with preschoolers

August 20, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

In a story about a preschool teachers' convention that appeared in The Sun on Friday, Sybil White should have been identified as the head teacher of Gan Yeladim Day Care Center in Baltimore.

The Sun regrets the error.

World leaders struggling to resolve conflicts might try sitting a while in one Baltimore preschool's "peace chairs," where those who disagree must face each other until hostilities cease.

No peace talking means no play time with the peer group.

The idea of peace chairs and 3-year-olds ironing out their own problems was aired at the annual preschool conference for early childhood teachers held yesterday in Eldersburg.


"By sitting and talking to each other, the children learn to think, verbalize and listen," said Lynn Lazear, an education consultant. "It offers them an appropriate method of working out aggression and expressing feelings.

"Crying is natural, but, if they learn to talk to each other, they might not have to cry so much."

Beverly Schmidt, a teacher at Northwood Appold Preschool in Baltimore, shared the lesson of the chairs during a workshop on conflict resolution at the 33rd annual Pre-School Conference.

Nearly 300 early childhood educators attended hour-long seminars addressing the young child's physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Participants discussed how to handle separation anxiety, temper tantrums and the "he's-poking-me" syndrome.

To give everyone an idea how annoying those pokes can be, Ms. Lazear gave an occasional jab to those sitting next to her.

"Children are tactile by nature," she said. "We set limits and boundaries. We teach them problem-solving and lay the foundation for them."

The gathering, sponsored by the Baltimore/Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, was open to faculty from religious and secular schools. Scheduled in the last weeks of summer vacation, it "starts everybody off on the right foot," said Ruth A. Baumgardner, director of Early Years Learning Center at Wesley-Freedom United Methodist Church, site of this year's conference.

"It lifts us up and gives us wings to fly through the year," she said.

Participants took a look at the latest teaching tools and methods to educate, stimulate and animate the 2-to-5-year-old set -- an egocentric group who see themselves at the center of the world.

"Our job is to move them from the center to the outer circle, and to nourish the body and the spirit," said Linda Fowler, director of Woodbrook Early Education Center in Baltimore County.

The job begins with nurturing trust, because "a child who learns to trust knows it's safe to be separate and to love back," she said.

Ms. Fowler urged the group to "use literal descriptions so children can make sense of religion."

Calling church "God's house" leaves a child wondering why God is never home, she said by way of example. God as a supreme being is about the only abstraction children can manage, she said.

"Parents and caregivers are the human face of God for children," she said.

That face will help children develop willingness to be part of the family of God, she said. Whether changing a diaper or telling a story, teachers should "be a calm presence and a model" for their students.

Young children can't process all the information related to their questions, so teachers must learn to condense answers, said Ms. Lazear.

"We talk too much," she said. "When a child asks where he came from, maybe mother's belly is all he wants to know."

Discussion leaders also offered ways keep in shape, avoid stress and deal with childish energy.

"Two-year-olds have great energy, curiosity and exploratory drive," said Sybil White, director of Gan-Yeladim (Garden of Children) Day Care in Baltimore. "As adults, we must match those levels with the same energy."

Jean Hevey, assistant director at Early Years, dressed up in a floppy hat and a Mother Goose dress to declare, "The sillier you are, the more children love it."

Let them have fun, the teachers agreed.

"When they are pasting pieces together, don't bother them about what goes where," said Ms. Hevey. "They might be concentrating on the glue that day."

Props can be useful, too, she said.

"I once had two boys jump over these small candlesticks for 45 minutes," she said. "We had to drag them away."

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