Teaching

Safety • Kindness • Play-based Learning

1. Safety and kindness first. Always.
2. Play-based learning.

We believe that children should be allowed to be children.

We respect their choices and physical space, which means we do not force toilet training or demand eating 100% of their lunch. We do not employ punitive strategies such as isolation (time outs), shouting, withholding, shaming or threatening. We are not dismissive of children’s emotions but introduce tools for naming and understanding feelings. We are guardians and guides, not disciplinarians. Our job is to establish trust with each individual and to teach safety, self-care and concern for others.

Our Presence conveys messages of peace, protection, and caring
Our Hands convey messages of connection, support, and kindness
Our Words convey messages of encouragement, respect, and nurturing
Our Eyes convey messages of warmth, reassurance and understanding

www.gentleteaching.com

We believe that play is a child’s work; learning should always be enjoyable and age-appropriate.

As evidenced in Finland’s school system, which is ranked among the world’s best and does not introduce literacy until the age of seven, early introduction of formal study doesn’t equate to smarter children. We will never test your child or train them to be show ponies. You will recognise your child’s progress as they start to speak and understand English, singing songs from school in the bath; when they tell you about the crafts they bring home and all the fun facts about dinosaurs, oceans and houses they learn through curriculum-based, structured play. We want your child to feel as comfortable, safe and happy learning at Ryozan Park as they do playing at home.

Interview with co-founder and consultant,
Margaret Reid

Can you tell us something about the methods you use in the classroom?

Margaret:
I was trained in Japan by experienced Japanese daycare workers in English preschools, so my methods are an attempt to bridge cultural, social, and language issues for Japanese children and staff working in English-only environments. Our classroom mirrors the structure of the Japanese classroom. I think it’s important that Japanese children are able to easily transition from and to Japanese schools so although we are speaking English, they need to understand the basic expectations of a Japanese school

What are the typical traits of a Japanese structure in the classroom?

Margaret:
Manners, turn-taking, respect for others, respect for property, ownership and pride in the classroom, caring for others, helping each other etc… Not that these things don’t exist in western classrooms but the emphasis is different. Japanese culture is more group oriented so helping kids to express and recognize concern for others is important even though we use English. They need to have a structure in their social interactions so they can establish membership in the group.

That said, we do try to serve each child’s needs and nurture their individual personalities. Some kids don’t like dancing or art. We set it up so they can enjoy the group activity without being overwhelmed. We respect their choices and physical space which means we do not force toilet training or demand eating 100% of their lunch.

What would your ten commandments for teachers be?

Margaret:
My “rules” are questions because there are no rules with kids. Success in the classroom is the result of preparation and performance so rigorous self-reflection is key. Teachers must be active critical thinkers who can make sound decisions on their feet. I would have my teachers ask themselves:

1. Did you sleep/eat/drink enough?
2. Did you prepare all your materials including the classroom environment?
3. Have you welcomed each child warmly?
4. Is there anything that might affect the child today and have you made contingency plans?
5. Are you communicating individual children’s needs with co-workers daily?
6. Do your coworkers know how to help and lead activities today?
7. Are you keeping the schedule and proactively preparing the next activity/ day/ event in a safe and fun manner?
8. Are the children initiating original English?
9. Have you allowed children to discover concepts on their own or are you trying to “finish” things?
10. Are you reflecting on and taking responsibility for being your absolute best in class so that children, coworkers, and parents are happy to see you?

How is teaching non-native speakers differ from teaching children who speak English at home?

Margaret:
Facilitating fun requires constant non-verbal elicitation strategies – which means constant engagement between teacher and student. Teachers must play detective, looking out for non-verbal communication from the kids like micro-gestures and possible cause and effect sequences.

Scientific behaviour management plans are necessary to support positive child development especially since toddlers are mostly non-verbal when they join at 15 months of age. Preschool is also a time of tantrums so if teachers don’t have rapport we can’t make a good plan for drawing students back into activities.

Can a child really learn to speak English properly from just 3 days per week?

Margaret:
Yes. We have children who are doing it but it depends on the child’s personality, the level of family support and the general context of language use.

Children acquire language by actively using it and watching how we use it. Teachers and parents should ask questions like: Is English fun for the children? Is English stressful for the children? Do we use English more when we are angry? Do we praise children consistently when English is used?

How do you measure success in the classroom?

Margaret:
I measure it, again, with questions:

1. Are the children happy using English?
2. Are the staff supported and confident in class?
3. Are activities age appropriate and safe?

Apart from its location in a shared office community, what makes Ryozan Park Preschool different?

Margaret:
The student experience: it’s a gorgeous space and I believe the physical environment to be a teacher itself. The space has been created to feed the senses of the student with tactile materials like soft mats and wood, the outdoor rooftop space, lots of natural light and vibrant yet soothing colours. The parent experience is also unique because it offers a community and encourages work-life balance and free dialogue with teachers.

The teacher experience is also very positive in terms of compact school size, teacher-student ratio, a shorter workday and our curriculum foundation.

Finally, when you dream about the future, what is it you want to see?

Margaret:
A new norm: Daddies putting in at least one year per child as the main caretaker on paternity preferably toddler year, so mommies can be free to crush it in their careers.

Classroom Interactions

We would like your support in working with our toddler class with social interactions, specifically physical aggression.

There are many ways children try to understand the world as they grow. One way and stage would be at around 9 months when they put everything into their mouths. Another way and stage to explore their world would be at 12-36 months when they hug, pull, or push others.

Our goal is to allow the children to develop self-control, something that continues well past preschool. In Ryozan Park, a minimum number of rules are used to set and maintain limits since our students are still babies and toddlers. This is done in a consistent and positive manner with simple reasons and explanations.

Here are some tips:


Teach alternatives before situations happen

When your child is calm, read stories or look at pictures about feelings. How does he feel? He’s angry. He wants the toy. (gestures) Encourage them to use words or ask for help from an adult. Say, “Toy, please.”


Reinforce good behavior

Try to catch your child being good. Reinforce good behavior with lots of physical (high fives or hugs) and verbal praise. “I like how you gently hugged your friend.”


Keep your cool

Verbally or physically intimidating (shaking, pushing, threatening tone) only reinforces misbehavior.


Set clear limits

When your toddler is aggressive, immediately and calmly remove them from the situation. Start counting silently to yourself and avoid eye contact. After a minute, offer correct behavior “Be gentle, okay?” Gesture on yourself and invite them to copy. Return the child to the activity and support or model proper behavior.


Give logical consequences

Avoid lecturing since they only understand simple consequences. “Do you want to play?” “We don’t hit/ grab/ bite.” (Gesture with yourself). Apologies should be quick to reduce attention. She is sad. Say “I’m sorry (name).” Return to the activity and quickly praise them for appropriate behavior.


Be consistent

As much as possible, respond to each episode the same way each time. Set up a pattern that your child eventually learns to recognize and expect. Increase the connection between desired behaviors and consequences.

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”

Oscar Wilde
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