At Open Door School, we help children reflect on their thoughts and feelings and encourage them to listen to and understand others’ thoughts and feelings.
Conflict resolution may be viewed as a central part of what children learn in school rather than an impediment to implementing the curriculum. Learning conflict resolution skills and strategies helps children become more independent and self-reliant. Then, children feel confident when interacting with their peers.
It should be noted that conflict in the preschool classroom is not necessarily a bad thing; it aids children in finding their place in the group, understanding others, and solving problems. However, unnecessary conflict and aggression can and should be avoided.
In general, if a child doesn’t ask for help and doesn’t seem distressed by a situation, we don’t intervene. This is true whether a child is struggling with a button on their coat or dealing with another child taking something out of their hands.
We don’t make a problem out of a situation a child doesn’t see as one. On the surface, this might seem unfair or detrimental. However, when considering a child’s innately developing sense of ethics, it’s more respectful of both children to allow them to decide what is fair and what isn’t.
As the children grow and mature, their sense of “fair” and “unfair” will start to look more like ours, and the same child that allows a toy to be snatched from them today may protest loudly tomorrow. When that protest occurs, we will recognize that the time for guidance has come and will help the child.
At Open Door School, children can resolve their conflicts as much as possible. This doesn’t mean, however, that the teachers never intervene.
When children are in conflict, the teachers watch closely. If the conflict escalates to the point where a child seems overwhelmed, or no solution seems imminent, the teachers objectively mediate without posing a solution or taking sides.
This is usually achieved by leading a question-based discussion with the children’s involvement. It helps bring clarity about each child’s point of view. If the conflict becomes physical, the teacher may separate the children to ensure their safety.
We’ve noticed that there’s often a direct connection between the children’s choices during free play or art and the character imagery present. Typically, seeing the imagery of commercial characters guides children to reenact the ideas of adults who created those images.
We believe the best way to foster children’s free-thinking abilities is to provide open-ended materials that engage their imagination. Commercial imagery, in our opinion, influences and hinders children’s thinking.
Our woodworking room has real materials and tools and offers children invaluable learning opportunities. Mathematics and fundamental laws of physics are part of measuring, fitting, balancing, and using force. Practice in coordination, decision-making, and planning are all benefits of woodworking.
To ensure the children’s safety in the woodworking room, we carefully review the rules about safety and the use of the equipment with the children. Our adult-child ratio is 1:4 maximum. We maintain close supervision, limit the equipment based on the child’s developmental abilities, and always require safety glasses.
Because the materials are natural, the children at Open Door School tend to have an inherent respect for the “realness” of their woodworking work. There’s a long history of safety behind Open Door School’s woodworking program.
Talk of violence is viewed as the beginning of children’s exploration of many essential questions, such as: What is power? What is right and wrong? What is fair? What is life and death? What is accurate, and what is fantasy? How can one balance the desire for power with the need for friendship?
When we ban the discussion, we’re sending the message that the questions are disturbing or frightening and that the best (or only) way to handle disturbing or frightening questions is to stop them from being asked. Therefore, discussion of violence and death is permitted at Open Door School. If teachers observe something that seems threatening or upsetting to a child or children, they will get involved and guide the children to help them see different reactions and opinions.
Children using derogatory language, name-calling, coercion, or exclusion would all be instances where the teacher would quickly become involved to guide the talk so that insults or hurtfulness do not become a part of it. Our goal is to make sure that all children feel safe and respected at school.
Open Door School doesn’t have toy weapons of any kind. However, imaginary weapon play is allowed for many of the same reasons that talk of violence is permitted. Superhero or weapon play is a way for children to explore such BIG concepts as power, independence, control, and fear. As with any play, rules regarding physical safety and respect for others are maintained. The three basic rules always followed are: don’t hurt others, don’t hurt yourself, and don’t damage materials.
Erin Demund, a former ODS parent and teacher, wrote a note to the parents in her class that we feel sums it up perfectly.
“Although our children are not always privy to why we seem so stressed and rushed around holiday time, they certainly feel it. Feeling that sense of hurry in my own life has made me realize how much I appreciate Open Door as a “holiday-free zone.”
I think it’s easy to see a decision not to include holiday celebrations at school as a nod to diversity. We won’t leave anyone out or create a conflict with anyone’s beliefs if we choose not to celebrate any holidays. I’m finding that keeping our school a calm, predictable environment, free from the rush of the season, is an even more important benefit to not bringing the holidays into our classrooms.
We know that the children will talk about what is going on at home and the fun that they anticipate having. We would never discourage them from doing so. But, just as we try to keep commercial characters home, we will keep our classrooms as free from reminders of the holiday season as we can.”
It’s possible that the creator in question won’t be bothered by the remark. If this is the case, the teacher says nothing. If the creator expresses distress through words or expression, the teacher might ask, “What do you think of that comment?” The teacher will acknowledge the feelings of the creator and very likely involve the other child in that acknowledgment by encouraging the creator to say something like, “That hurt my feelings.” The teacher might then ask the creator if they like the creation and point out that that matters more than someone else’s opinion.
When children’s lunches reflect the importance of good nutrition and environmental consciousness, it lays the foundation for respect for one’s body, as well as for the planet. This is directly related to an individual’s ability to make mindful choices and develop self-discipline.
There are no gender restrictions at Open Door School. The children are respected for their individuality. Boys and girls are allowed to use any of the materials available to them without judgment. This applies to everything, including dress-up.
Every day, there are numerous opportunities for hands-on math and literacy exploration in the classroom. Measuring, sorting, making patterns, playing memory and rhyming games, and creating stories are regular activities at Open Door.
Materials in the older children’s classrooms that contain the alphabet and numbers often spark children’s interests in writing and math that evolve into different projects. For example, children in the 4/5s class have been known to create mailboxes where they leave notes for one another. Whenever a child expresses interest in writing letters or numbers or starting to read, the teachers nurture their curiosity.
The belief that Open Door School doesn’t focus on academics is a common misconception of our philosophy. Aristotle defines “academic” as “relating to studies that are liberal or classical, rather than technical and vocational.” Our students think “outside the box” and practice self-discipline and the ability to focus on specific tasks, all of which are crucial for true educational success.
When children are involved regularly in the discussion of ideas, their curiosity and hunger for knowledge grow. Activities at Open Door School, from cooking to block-building to drawing, promote the true understanding of the concepts that underlie the basic academic processes taught in kindergarten. Open Door nurtures preschool children’s natural tendencies to think concretely and to learn from experimentation so that children will learn to ask questions and seek the answers for themselves.