Aniyah, Aniyah, Aniyah…where do I begin? First, I feel frustrated with shortcomings in my own efforts to develop a strong relationship with her over the past four months. While we have some days and weeks during which she responds positively to my attempts to engage her in classroom activities, I see little constant progress in her behavioral skills.
Second, I cannot help but feel frustrated with her. Aniyah has done well academically, but persistent obstacles to her social development make me concerned for her overall progress in the future. She frequently likes to “do her own thing,” as Ms. Morrison calls it. For Aniyah, her own thing is pretending to be a dancing cheerleader, regardless of what the other children and I are doing. We focus a great deal on respecting each other by listening to friends and the teacher during discussions. Aniyah, however, frequently does her cheers while the other children are responding to a question or trying to focus on my lesson at the whiteboard.
In addition to using positive reinforcement to focus her on our class rules, I give Aniyah many opportunities to express herself freely, both within the context of our large group activities and on her own before the activities begin. I integrated her interest in dancing into our morning meeting by allowing the students to dance during our greeting song. We also frequently cheer the names of our friends (to the tune of B-I-N-G-O) and we use cheers to learn our high frequency words (e.g., “Give me a ‘T.’ Give me an ‘O.’ What does that spell? To!). I have also built in free movement and singing time right after naptime and before gross motor time. I tell Aniyah she can cheer and dance all she wants for a few minutes on her own, but then she has to join the group for a quieter activity.
Still, Aniyah chooses to “bring it on” at inappropriate times, literally, with the cheers from the movie of the same name.
For a little while, these compromises worked. But, lately, her disruptive behavior has increased. When I try to talk to her about choices and different activities for different times, Aniyah just keeps saying that all she wants to do is cheer and rolls her eyes. She has even said, “I want to cheer. I don’t want to learn.” Positive reinforcement to keep her focused on the rug now works only sporadically. She more often looks away or down at her shoes.
I understand that cheering is her interest, and I really want to give her many chances to express herself. Yet if I allow her to “do her own thing” all the time she will not only miss out on our lessons, but she will have serious difficulty adjusting to kindergarten where the teachers will most likely give her little or no time to express herself on her own.