Coaching in Kindergarten
I’m a kindergarten teacher and spend my days with five- and six-year-olds. When they’re in an argument, and really in all aspects of their lives, they’re used to having adults intervene, and to counter this I spend part of my year allowing them to ask powerful questions to learn how to arbitrate their own disagreements.
One way I help them build the coaching skill of asking powerful questions is by having a rotating role that is called “The Coach.” They take this role very seriously and, like other jobs, they practice being the coach for one week when it’s their turn. This means that they all have this responsibility several times during the year. Here’s how it works.
Someone yells, “I need The Coach,” and the coach has permission to stop whatever s/he is doing and go to the kindergartener who calls for the coach. The first thing the coach does is ask, “What happened?” and then listens to each person involved. Often a child will want to interrupt another during the telling of the quarrel, but the coach is very good at learning to say, “No interrupting, I’ll listen to you next.”
For example, let’s say that two children are in the block corner, and Jack knocks Stephanie’s tower down. After they each tell their version of what happened, the coach asks, “What would make this better?” The children talk it over and might decide to start all over and build something brand new together. Before the coach leaves, the coach often says, “Do you want to shake hands?” and they usually do. The coach also looks directly at each kindergartner and says, “Are you all right?” and listens to the answer. If there is still a problem, they call me, but ninety-five percent of the time, they solve it themselves.
I model and teach the coaches how to ask the other kindergartners what will solve the disagreement rather than have the coach decide the answer because that just repeats the expert role rather than teaching them a coaching role. This can take much of the year, and sometimes a couple of children don’t learn this partnership role. They continue to tell the children how to solve the conflict. The good news is that most can demonstrate the coaching role by the end of the school year in June.
Other coaching tools I use several times a day are silence and taking a breath. Sometimes a kindergartner will ask to do them or want the whole class to relax using those approaches. We do little mini-meditations that help the kindergartners ground and center. I take those breaths with the students, and they help me, and my staff members, too!