Transitioning out of Ego Centric 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 seamlessly be supported at Ego Centric. We would expect students to only stay in the Kestrels for a maximum of a 18 months before fully transitioning into the Penguins.
This moving 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 way side. Challenged by their new perspective of others as key to their happiness, they will make or design to be “like” the other but not fully perceive the similarity or difference at any nuanced level. Watching these guys 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 but…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 marvelous 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 as 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 we want them to be 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 the memory 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 still sometimes conducted between the individuals, with the teacher moving between each one separately to gain the perspective for them. This ego centric-like process starts to develop some more communication depth as the Kestrel develops their Rule Oriented perspective. This means they 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”, which really still means they didn’t get what they wanted.
Completing focused tasks
The Kestrel is mainly interested in friendships and relationships at this stage. They will complete tasks and projects IF it fits 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 try to 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 about others
The developing empathy in the Kestrels can make for exciting times as you watch students move from deeply appreciating the needs of others, to falling into a tantrum-like response, 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 stage they are gaining distance 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.
A Snapshot of the Kestrels
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).
First session – Lab 1
As with all the other rooms the morning begins with focused academic tasks but the developing ego means that individual is still at the centre of the planning. The student will work with the teacher, teacher-aide and parent helpers to achieve regular progress as they must be supported to complete tasks. The Ketrels teacher will often have a one- on- one lesson during this time or small group activities with their Teacher-aide working with the other group. Standard activities cover academic essentials of early reading skills, beginning maths and developing a love of problem solving and writing. Whole class learning games begin with the group as a means to help them to learn to follow rules; and they will love it!
Second Session – Lab 2 or OMNI Project
Across the school, depending on the day of the week, the whole school is working on exploring ideas and projects based on science, history, geography, technology or the arts. The design of these sessions is through an exploratory model that allows students to deeply explore concepts through their own prism of interest. Therefore during these Lab sessions the Kestrels may work on a variety of tasks, depending on their skill level. This is a busy session with students moving around the class to work topics they need, going out on mini excursions, researching and making. The Kestrels still need a lot of teacher support for refocusing during this sessions as they can easily lose focus and disappear into play with their best friend. Sometimes this can be useful and provide a much needed pause in their processing but it is indicative of the challenge they have in seeing that consequence of actions. Once they start to experience the notion of “cause and effect” with their work we know they are ready to transition.
Lab Session 3 – Cultural and Individualised Program
After such a busy morning the afternoon session gives the Kestrels time with the Penguins or Big Cats or to relax and take a back seat as their teacher enjoys quiet reading or relaxation with them. Students begin to learn some very early relaxation techniques with the focus on resting and relaxing, this sometimes leads to a room full of snoring children! Some days there will be Whole School Meeting or an afternoon sports session with the whole school. This part of the day is always about connecting to self or connecting to others. It is the chance to review the day, think about tomorrow and dream.