Transitioning out of the Egocentric Big Cats and into the Rule-Oriented Penguins can be a tricky process for some students. This challenge for students has led us to create the Kestrels, a discrete transition group. The class structure and design allows for students to be aspiring to a Rule-Oriented perspective but still be supported at Egocentric. We would expect students to only stay in the Kestrels for a maximum of a 18 months before fully transitioning into the Penguins.
The Focus of the Class
The Kestrels need to have the opportunity to fall back into Egocentric when stressed and the chance to aspire to Rule-Oriented when engaged.
The Kestrel is learning to see that others have wants and needs that are important to happiness too. They need time to talk through what is happening and to discuss emotions and ideas.
This shifting perspective means that the Kestrel is starting to look at what others are doing to help them see the value of their own choices but then, when stress or confusion assails them, they fall back into their self-focused perspective, where the needs and wants of others fall to the wayside. Challenged by their new perspective of others as key to their happiness, they will make or design things to be “like” the other but not fully perceive the similarity or difference at any nuanced level. Watching Kestrels perform a group dance is a perfect example as they will try and mirror the movements they are supposed to learn but change them along the way… yet they don’t notice. They will be terribly angry if you suggest that it is not completely right.
Time starts to make some sense and they start to remember the past as a means to hold painful or unrealistic memories. This stage will remember the last time they went to the beach as a marvellous and amazing time full of adventure and magic and they will be saddened by it not being the same. The future is still a shadow of meaning to the Kestrel as they struggle to plan for even an hour ahead. Temporal concrete experience is still developing.
The classroom teacher is usually the first non-parent “other” they are trying to actively learn from. The Kestrel will search for boundaries and rules, desperately wanting approval. The tension for the adults around them is to provide them with the encouragement to learn and improve at these cultural norms like reading and writing, whilst nurturing them as individuals. It is a great time to start sharing what you “like” about their work as a way of giving them the feedback they demand, rather than blanket approval of it as “good”. By saying you “like” something allows you to point out that people like different things because people are different. Consequently, what they like is more important for them to know than what you like as it their work they are trying to improve. In the Penguin room this tension really begins to form a difficult conflicting set of needs that can be very challenging.
The Kestrel, like the Penguin student, is able to remember what happened at break and who was there (a bit), but unlike the Penguin they will often forget the details altogether and all that will be left is the outrage. The teacher has to spend considerable time with the Kestrel student finding out what happened and delving into memories to try and get to the actual issue. Taking another perspective is very difficult for them and they always need support from an adult to do this.
Conflict negotiations are sometimes conducted between the individuals, with the teacher moving between each one separately to gain their perspective. This Egocentric-like process starts to foster some more communication depth as the Kestrel develops their Rule-Oriented perspective. This means their conversation will start to include both children at the same time, as they start to be capable greater empathy. The demand for fairness starts in this room as well with the teacher expected to be “fair”. “It’s not fair!” really still means they didn’t get what they wanted.
The Kestrel expects the teacher to be “fair”, which at this stage still means give them what they want.
Completing Focused Tasks
The Kestrel is mainly interested in friendships and relationships at this stage. They will complete tasks and projects IF they fit with their relationship plans. The caring and trusting relationship with the teaching staff is therefore essential for the Kestrel as it provides them with impetus to “take part” so that they can maintain that relationship.
One-on-one learning is useful at this stage but the need from the Kestrel is for paired or triad work, so the teacher will allow for this learning format as much as possible. The Kestrel’s teacher is challenged to keep the energy and activity engaging for the small groups to stay connected to the class group rather than breaking off to do their own thing.
Similar to the Penguin’s room, this is often the first time that we start to hear the phrase “this is boring”, which is secret code for “I am not sure how to do this.” To work with this can be tricky for the Kestrel as when stressed they fall into their own feelings and can be very resistant to feedback. Consequently it can be challenging for the teacher to find out the core problem. The Kestrel teacher soon learns the balance of positive reinforcement versus gentle correction for each child—an essential skill for the Kestrel teacher.
Transitioning to Caring and Sharing
The developing empathy in the Kestrels can make for exciting times as we watch students move from deeply appreciating the needs of others, to falling into a tantrum-like response, all in the space of 5 minutes! It is really important for the adults in the Kestrel’s life to remember the huge challenge they are facing as they realise that their happiness is so closely linked to those around them. The earlier stage that they are moving away from is still very compelling and comfortable when they are stressed as it allows them to just focus on themselves. It is our job to help them find a new way of gaining support and connecting to others that involves communication and compassion, whilst acknowledging their big feelings inside.
The phrase “This is boring” is secret code for “I am not sure how to do this.”
A Snapshot of the Kestels Base Camp
Every morning at BIS starts with a morning meeting. For the Kestrels it is an opportunity for the day plan to be shared, recorded and discussed. The Kestrels, like the Big Cats, still do this as a whole group as their ability to track their own activities or be aware of time is a long way off! The agenda is written up on the board to begin this tracking awareness but the teacher and aide are totally aware that they need to refocus students and keep them on task; they are not ready to achieve this alone. As with all the other classes this is also the time for Show and Tell and whole class skill practice (beginning rainbow facts for example).