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Viola and Nancy exchanged more friendly words, and Viola maybe wiped away
a tear. After the two parted and Viola was getting into her car, she suddenly
remembered Nancy. “That kid?” Nancy’s ceaseless energy and independence
had driven Viola bonkers every day of that classroom year. But because of the
relationship Viola built with her, Nancy never knew.
From a proactive positive relationship with a child comes a teacher’s motivation
to figure out how to accommodate the child’s unique pattern of behavior and learn-
ing, including how to modify the program. Only then does the program become
truly developmentally appropriate, for—in my view—a program is only develop-
mentally appropriate when it is DA for every child in the group.
It is my experience that early childhood programs become developmentally
appropriate for children when they operate like good summer camps. Adults in
these active and creative settings do not feel compelled to enforce academic and
behavioral standards they know to be inappropriate. Instead, teachers in these
settings build relationships responsive to the children’s needs and developmen-
tal circumstances—leading to whole-child, developmentally appropriate learning
experiences. Curriculum in developmentally appropriate programs tends to be
emergent, not rigidly preset, and teachers act not as technicians, but as guidance
professionals. These professionals do assess children’s progress to be sure, but they
do so through minimally invasive, authentic assessment, which does not dictate
inappropriate content and teaching methods.
About This Book
The topics in the chapters that follow cluster around building on proactive positive
relationships with every young child in the group. Having worked often with short-
form writing—articles, columns, pieces for encyclopedias, etc.—I intend for every
chapter to be its own essay. By this, I mean that each chapter starts with informa-
tion from preceding chapters and recasts that information from a new perspective.
To the extent that the approach works, at the end of each chapter, the reader should
have a clear picture of a particular dimension of guidance practice in early learn-
Also, readers should know that the book reworks material from my NAEYC
writings over the years—writings that focused on teaching conflict management
skills to young children through positive teacher-child relationships. We can call
the work a retrospective if you’d like, a bringing together in one place of several
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important guidance ideas I’ve worked with, presented as a hopefully clear over-
view. For new readers, my wish is that these ideas have personal meaning for you.
For veteran readers of my works, I hope you consider the book a reinforcement of
important concepts—and not just the old-dude professor carrying on about the
same old things. My fate is in your hands.
Vignettes As readers of the Guidance Matters columns know, I use vignettes to illustrate the
ideas I discuss. These anecdotes help ideas come alive. The vignettes in this book
begin with actual experiences, either mine or documented by colleagues. From
time to time I change names or add a detail to make a point, but the vignettes
all essentially happened as I represent them. In addition, each chapter contains
numerous references to the scholarly works of other authors; this is my effort to
connect the concepts discussed to accepted core ideas in our field.
People sometimes contact me to share their stories, and I am always pleased
when this happens. After they swear on their Good Book that the incident hap-
pened as they describe, it goes in my electronic notebook for possible future use.
“For a short time only, present company is included in this special offer!” (Notice
there is no expiration date.)
In your years as a student, you probably witnessed teachers using sarcastic humor
to put individuals or groups in their place. Embarrassment is likely the most
common form of punishment teachers use to control situations and students.
Friendly humor is different, laughing with children, not at them. It is a good thing
to smile discreetly when a child says something unexpected and charming—even
when what they say may not be appropriate in adult life. Teachers should just plain
grin when a child is asked to use the magic words, and he responds with, “Abra-
cadabra!” Or when a child in conflict is told to use her words, and she exclaims, “I
can’t find any!” Certainly, a teacher should chuckle when she says it’s raining cats
and dogs outside, which results in the reply from a preschooler, “And elephants
even!” The modeling and support of friendly humor can awaken the latent sense of
humor in every child—to my thinking, a lifelong gift and strength.
I use humor in this book not always adroitly but always in well-intended ways.
Friendly humor lightens situations and lessens stress, tension, and concentration
fatigue. It builds human connections, and it can add that spoonful of honey that
helps interventions go down. If one cannot smile often in the presence of young
Introduction COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL