Hey teachers, don’t cry over spilled milk!

We are excited to welcome Bethany Doverspike, 4C central registrar and administrative support specialist, to the Growing Children blogging team! Bethany brings fifteen years of preschool teaching experience and a passion for telling stories that any teacher can relate to, like this one:

As a preschool teacher for more than fifteen years, I understood and valued the importance of creating and maintaining a safe learning environment for the children in my care each day and I took it very seriously. I was often called the playground police officer as I was always watching for and “policing” preventable dangers such as holding the rail while on the stairs, keeping shoes tied and not going too high while on the swings. My room was methodically laid out to ensure there were no blind spots, I cleaned and checked the toys on the shelves weekly for any that may be broken or unsafe and I rarely sat in a chair, I stood a post.

Create a classroom environment of physical AND emotional safety!

One day early in the school year while my class was eating lunch, I noticed one of my 3-year-olds with her head hanging very low, not eating. As I walked closer, I saw a small puddle of milk on the floor and when I reached her, I noticed her pants were soaking wet with milk as well. As I knelt beside her she looked at me with tear-filled eyes at the embarrassment of spilling her milk at school, enough so that she sat in wet pants afraid to tell me what happened.

It struck me in that moment that while I had worked so hard to create a safe physical environment for the children, I needed to create a safe emotional environment as well. Wet pants were the least of my problems. And while there are so many teachable moments in that situation such as how to use a cup and clean a mess, what I really needed to teach those children that day was that they could trust their teacher enough to tell me when they made mistakes! It was important  for them to feel safe when I was pushing them on the swings, helping them in the science center, laying them down for nap and when I was serving them lunch. They also should feel emotionally safe enough to trust me not to punish or scold them for doing things most 3-year-olds would do.

After a few napkins to clean the floor and a quick and discrete wardrobe change, I showered my young friend with reassurances that spills happen and that I would always help her. She was no longer teary-eyed but actually wide eyed with a big smile when I told her teachers spill too! By the end of the next week, the entire class had learned that it was okay to actually shout out their mistakes which was great! When I heard “Teacher, I spilled!!!” from across the lunchroom and saw them smiling and waving their hands wildly to notify me, I knew the only thing I had to worry about was wet pants.

1 thought on “Hey teachers, don’t cry over spilled milk!

  1. Bridget

    Very good story and a great reminder for all of us ECE Professionals! 😀 Thanks Bethany!

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