I love Teacher Tom and his incredibly thoughtful blog.  He is an experienced preschool teacher in Seattle that really strives to teach the kids to become adults in this world.  He treats the children, as adults should–with the utmost respect.  He believes each child have the knowledge and skills to do what they need to and want to do.  He works with them to guide them and never talks down to them.  There is a sense of equity between the kids he works with and him–an intrinsic mutual respect.  From those things, equity and mutual respect, Teacher Tom and his kids develop and maintain very strong and healthy relationships–from which they learn, grow and have a lot of fun.

I read his writing often and it always inspires me.  One point that comes up frequently is the “12-15 second wait.”  In TT’s experience, he has found that 4-5 year olds tend to need a good 12-15 seconds to respond to a question or a command.  This allows them to process what was asked or said and formulate a response.  In the following post, he outlines how waiting out a scuffle may result in some deeper learning than if he had intervened immediately.

Teacher Tom on the 15 second wait

If we think back to our own play as kids, how many times were adults present?  How many times were there teachers, moms, dads, grandparents or nannies to tell us to stop before we were able to work things out ourselves.  I’ve heard adults say countless times, “stop”, just as the kids are starting to play in a way the adult thinks will become unsafe.  I’ve done it.  When this has happened for me, the history of the child or children comes into focus and often I have a feeling about where the play will go.  Or I can see that one child is having trouble speaking up for himself or herself.  However, what is lost by my intervention?  Will the child who goes to far and doesn’t know how to read the social cues or practice empathy ever learn to do so if adults are constantly stopping him?  And, will the child who is afraid to speak up and say “stop” every gain the confidence to do so if adults always come to the rescue?

These are important thoughts to consider.  I think we need to really think about why behaviors are repeated–and what kids learn from their social experiences and adult intervention.  Yes, of course, we need to think about safety.  But, think back to your own childhood again.  How many times were you in an unsafe situation while playing without an adult present?  And, if you had found yourself in one, would you have learned how to get yourself out of it if there was an adult present and intervening?

I think Teacher Tom’s point about waiting the 12-15 seconds with preschoolers is so important (in the blog, he does talk about younger kids and their need to be guided by an adult since they are not developmentally ready to work a problem out or exercise the self control to stop themselves or “short arm” during social play).  We must think about what we take away from kids when we command, dictate or stipulate.  And, we must think about the future of these kids.  If they don’t have opportunity to think about or practice empathy or self control, will they ever be able to work with others?  This is a question we really need to consider, every time we think about jumping in.

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