By Mirella Gaines, Preschool Lead Teacher
Preschool teacher, Mirella Gaines, on how she is empowering her students to understand the impact of their actions and take charge of their world.
I build my classroom around the word impact, defining how I will impact my students, my coworkers, and the student’s parents, as well as how my students will impact one another and myself. This “magical word” is the foundation of my teaching and has helped me set up a classroom environment that is a welcoming place where children feel safe, empowered, loved and cared for. The classroom is an “enchanted forest” where imagination has no limits and inquisitive minds are being fostered.
I love teaching young children and have been blessed to have done so for the last 20 years. Teaching three-year-olds is a particular joy. At this age, children are becoming more independent and are learning how their choices impact others. Following is a glimpse into some of our daily classroom routines.
Each day begins with singing a good morning song as we greet one another. One of our favorite songs is “Rise and Shine” by Dr. Jean which always puts a smile on everyone’s face. We share about our feelings, our jobs in the classroom, and we dance. We dance a lot in my class. For young, active children, moving their bodies is so important, and when we do it together, it teaches the children about teamwork, following directions, and to not be afraid to try something new.
I love empowering my students to take control of their world. This helps them to make their own choices and to be aware of the impact those choices have on others. As each week passes, I see how this empowerment assists with independence, self-respect, active listening, and self-confidence. Everyone is a leader in my class, and we are all part of an amazing leadership team.
One technique I use to empower my students is to declare each of them a superhero. I tell them, “You are a superhero with amazing powers to make smart and right choices- use your power wisely.” They love superheroes and they take this responsibility very seriously. When a moment comes that a student is having difficulty following directions, or not using kind words or actions, I ask them if they feel they have used their superhero power wisely. Sometimes if a student makes a wrong choice, we place their superpower into an imaginary bag; after discussing their choice, and when they are ready, they can take their superhero power out of the imaginary bag and move on.
All children have the ability to be honest; however, it is important to nurture this characteristic and for children to understand its importance. In a supportive, loving environment, children will feel safe admitting that they made a mistake or made a wrong choice. In my classroom, my students know that they are still amazing kids, and it is simply the choice that they need to work on. At first, when a student talks to me about a wrong choice, they will whisper in my ear to let me know what they have done. As time passes, they become more comfortable speaking up and admitting to errors and I am always amazed how they respond to this. Recently I had a proud moment when a student raised his hand and said: “Ms. Gaines, I made a wrong choice in P.E. I chose not to listen. I will fix it.” My response was: “I am proud of you for owning it, for being honest, responsible for your actions, and that you have a solution.” I asked the rest of the class to give him two thumbs up.
As an educator, reminding myself about the definition of the word impact is important. Educators know that being flexible is a must. Every moment of every day has an impact on the lives of those in your class. Planning each day is important; however, having the flexibility to let go when you need is a skill with which all teachers struggle. Lessons might not go exactly as planned, and some projects may take longer to finish, but when my students make kind choices and use their superhero powers wisely, it is a very successful day. When children feel successful and are in charge of their choices, they feel confident in taking responsibility for their world and problem solving. They are not only leaders in my classroom, but they are also teachers, leading and teaching one another through their actions.
Preschool Lead Teacher
Read Mirella's Bio