This is my first blog (of many -I hope); when asked to contribute by Kate Moxley, I felt the emotions of excitement and nervousness. I then thought; what I am going to type who wants to hear what I think; but then after a moment of calm breathing and sensibleness I was able to think back to my Mental Health First Aid Training (an amazingly insightful course- I cannot recommend it enough) I considered the effect of non-judgemental communication and listening both for adults and children. That’s the official name for listening and hearing what is being said without letting your own preconceived thoughts effect the
response or attitudes towards the other person.

As a teacher and educator when working with children; we often adopt this approach with the oldest and youngest children within our care. Once a relationship has developed between yourself and the children these happen organically without us even having to think about it. This past week; with the return to Nursery after the holidays I have seen how easy it is under the pressure of roles and responsibilities – it can be missed as a wonderful tool to aid all children in settling in Nursery. We all have new starters, who bring a number of experiences through the door with them; some children have little or no English, some children have never left their parents and others have lived through events which we will never comprehend. There was a small child who didn’t respond to the repeated words, “It’s OK, Mummy will be back soon.” I went and sat next to her. I did a lot of talking and consoling; asking her what she wanted to do? But my breakthrough moment came through a giggle due to my bottom knocking over a basket with name cards in and this caused the child to laugh, this giggle was heard by another child; for whom English isn’t her first language, came over joined us and starting giggling. We then discussed the snacks and what we could all do together after we had drunk the milk! As soon as they finished, we went to the playdough table. I am not saying that you have to turn into Mr Tumble or The Chuckle Brothers but the shared moment without words, was the moment which bonded us together and helped the child feel a little bit more settled in this alien environment.

I hadn’t realised that over 50% of messages we share are conveyed by non-verbal communication (NVC). This could be through our body movement or positioning, expressions, gesturing, and how we use our voice to talk; tone, pitch, pace volume and even the warmth we convey. Babies, toddlers and children learning new languages use the NVC to support their understanding and this is perfectly natural. It helps to breakdown the nervousness feeling of a situation; I know when I deliver training or in a meeting; if somebody smiles around that room; the opioids and dopamine levels are released, combined and the feeling of flight and fight are reduced and I then have control of my reptilian brain. It has even been known for me to enjoy these moments.

So with the new children or even staff within our settings (– they are experiencing
similar feelings!) Smile at each other, consider what we say and how we say it!
A couple of things to try to enhance these interactions with the children; based upon
the work of Henrietta Mclachlan, Liz Elks and Jo Belsten in their Elklan Language
builders series they give some ideas to try to enhance their adult child interactions.

Think about how often you:

Listen to the sounds or words the child made and interpret the gestures they use to
work out their message?
Use your NVC to help the child to understand what you were saying?
Ensure that all the children including the reluctant communicators have had
interaction throughout the session? Do we sometimes need to re-dress the balance?

Well, I hope this was an enjoyable read; and if there was a sense of teaching Granny
to suck eggs; you must be doing the right thing and keep on doing it!
Remember to smile and laugh.

 

Suzanne Dunn

As someone who has worked both in and alongside schools and settings for more than fifteen years, I am completely committed to:
• Facilitating a good education for all the children I work with, and
• Creating a positive experience for those working with children.

In the ten years I spent working as a teacher and leading the early years, I was (and still am) completely dedicated to raising standards and accelerating children’s progress. I provided an inspirational curriculum and regularly introduced new initiatives, which paid off as children progressed from low starting points to both reach and go beyond their expected level of development.
Later, in a local authority role, I supported improvement in children’s centres, nursery, primary and special schools including pupil referral units.
To complement my early years education consultancy work, I am a Reception teacher, one day a week within school, to ensure my knowledge is current and I’m better equipped to support schools and early years settings with the challenges they face today.

 

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