Recently, my wife and I worked on getting our two year-old son potty trained. Throughout that process, I found some similarities between what effective teachers do in their classrooms and potty training...
Process: potty training is a process and I needed to honor this process. My son becoming potty trained over night was not going to happen. I needed to understand that it could take days, weeks or even months. We could have our good days and then we could have our accidents. The process looked different for both of our first two children and that is okay. In our classrooms, each child learns at a different pace. We need to understand and value the process that each child takes when learning. We cannot rush a child and that is why it is important to know our children.
Motivation: potty training needed to start with Abe and his desire to go in the potty. No matter how much my wife or I pushed him to go, if he was not motivated, it was not going to happen. This is evident when my wife tried this process a few months ago and it did not work because he was not motivated. In our classrooms, we must find what motivates our children. Maybe it is a certain book or a toy that makes noise or in and out work or water work… before children can be expected to learn, we must know what motivates them to help them achieve. We must present them multiple opportunities and experiences to provide them chances to develop an interest and motivation in their work. No learning can occur unless a child has that intrinsic motivation.
Patience: potty training involves a great deal of patience. For those of you who have potty trained a child before, you understand what I am talking about. For those that have not been through this experience yet, just wait :-) Patience is a key for this process to fully come to fruition. I heard over and over, “I need to go to the bathroom.” In my mind I am thinking to myself “how is that possible? You JUST went five minutes ago.” However, I had to remain patient and go through the motions to honor the process. There were times he went and just sat there. There were other times he actually went to the restroom. If I would not have taken him to the restroom each time he said he had to go, he might have had an accident and not wanted to keep trying. So, as difficult and time consuming it was for me, it is what he needed at the time. I had to remain patient as he learned how to go the restroom. In our classrooms, it goes without saying that patience is essential. When we have children crying, upset, acting out, not listening… we need to be patient. We need to be patient so we can meet THEIR needs… not our own.
Focus: potty training requires a great deal of focus. Obviously, there is the focus for our son to use the restroom and keep it all in the toilet. But there was even more of a focus for me … early on I needed to remind him to use the restroom every so often otherwise there would be an accident. I had to focus on my son and remind him and constantly ask “do you need to go to the restroom?” At times, I felt like a broken record! In our classrooms, having that focus is essential for the children to learn and grow. We need to know what we are doing with each child on a daily basis. We need to be focused on our outcomes and the learning experiences we are providing them each and every day.
Praise and Encouragement: potty training involves lots and lots of praise and encouragement for his efforts. There are times when he would tell us he needed to go and we praised him for letting us know he needed to use the restroom. There are times that he woke up from a nap with a dry diaper and we praised him for keeping his diaper dry. There are times that he had an accident because he was playing too hard and we still praised him for trying and encouraged him to let us know the next time he felt like he had to go the restroom. Each time we praised him or encouraged him, we made sure we were specific on what we were giving praise or encouragement to. It was not enough to simply say “good job”. Good job for what? In our classrooms praise and encouragement need to be specific and timely. In order for a child to understand what he/she is doing well or what he/she needs to work on, our timely and specific feedback is essential.
Celebration: potty training involves celebrations. Not only do we not need to spend any more money on diapers (a huge celebration for us!), our son has the satisfaction of being a “big boy” and wearing his “big boy Lightning McQueen and Mater underwear”. There is a tremendous victory in the fact that he now is potty trained! We celebrated his accomplishments by giving him specific praise. We told him how proud of him we were for his efforts and his accomplishments. In our classrooms, we need to celebrate. We need to celebrate each child and his/her efforts and accomplishments on a daily basis. These celebrations need to be genuine and meaningful to the child to continue the passion and love for learning.
So, there really are some similarities between the classroom and potty training! There can be happiness in our classrooms and in the mind and heart of our son!