Solution Focused Approach in Class.

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Feeling empowered, even for a short moment, shines a bright light on your possibilities and opportunities. Mind opening moments ... for you(th).

WEDNESDAY, 28 JULY 2021

Self regulation with the help of a patient teacher.

Most times you read about grateful pupils leaving primary school and about grateful students starting their secondary school with the help of a wonderful teacher and mentor. When you are a pre-school teacher it's not something you can count on. It's the hugs and cheerful smiles what makes you warm inside while ending the school year. It's enough.

At the end of this year I'm grateful for the bruises at my tibia and the remembrance of a soft spoken "Sorry" and of two hugs. All coming from the same student on a morning just before the end of the school year.

Being a substitute at a school for special educational needs is not easy, but I love it. Up until the school holiday would start I am there one day a week. In this small class of pre-schoolers.

Jessy has a hard time taking it in. What is this all about? A new, different teacher? Why??

The first day we meet she shows me how many ways of sitting on her chair there are. Very few of them came close to siting straight while looking at me. We started the day like they are used to: sitting in a half circle while doing the routine songs, repeating the calendar plus what is going to happen this day? Jessy managed to push her neighbour far away from her, kick a classmate and shouting the answers to me without ever raising her hand.

We are able to found out what works best for the two of us. Sometimes it is harder than other times. (Why do I want to play a board game with them? Jessy's losing the game takes a lot of both our strengths to cope with it.) Together we make the best of my substituting days.

When I manage to react very slowly it means that most of the times it turns out very well. Like that moment when I saw Jessy taking her chair and walk with it towards the tiny paddling pool we had in class. We have a project 'Summer' and next to the small tent there is this baby pool with 3 centimeters of water in it to put the dolls in for a swim. While I was thinking 'Ohh, HELP!! WHAT is she going to do now??' Jessy puts her chair in the middle of the baby pool, sits on it with her arms loosely hanging down looking straight ahead and says: "I'm a life guard." This time the theme wasn't 'summer at the camping site', but at the beach :-)

The last morning, though there was no escape. We start, as usual, with short time of playing while waiting for the last children to arrive. Jessy makes a class mate cry within a few minutes of time. Crying, comforting and a warning is what happens next. I'm staying very close to her to prevent a repetition to happen. But it did happen. Now Desha cries because Jessy hits her in the face. The routine in the half circle gets an update and everyone is happy with the very short version. I want to speak with Jessy. Unfortunately she manages to kick Aldin, as he walks in front of her with his chair. Aldin kicks back and I get some kicks when standing between them.

Jessy's kicking doesn't stop. She tries to pull her hand out of my firm grip. She starts cursing adding "I want to bite you. I'm a monster.". We are now standing outside the class. My head is in the door opening so I can see the other kids in class. I'm able to nod supportively and communicate with them when they have a question or show me something.

I don't say a lot. After what seems to be 'for ever' Jessy calms down and says she wants to sit down quietly. I'm sitting next to her. I want to prevent any argument due to grasping clay from her friend with whom she wants to play. I want to help her become at rest. One moment I am too late. I'm looking at her friend with a positive "conspiracy" smile. Her friend smiles at me and the playing continues.

When I notice that Jessy has really calmed down I want to hear her saying "Sorry".

Jessy: "Wy?"

"Well ... Because you've hurt me while kicking. And I also want you to tell Aldin you're sorry. Youve hurt him too."

Jessy looks at my with a face that looks like 'stubborn and angry'. I am afraid we've lost the calmness just regained. Jessy doesn't say anything but walks to the wc.

When I'm picking up marbles from the floor together with four kids I hear a soft "Sorry". I look up and see Jessy. I squeeze her to my side for a second.

"Good! I'm happy with that! Now you'll tell it to Aldin."

Jessy: "No. I don't want that."

"Come. I'll walk with you."

Hand in hand we walk to Aldin. He doesn't look at us. He's busy with his jigsaw.

Jessy: "Sorry"

"Did Aldin hear that, Jess? Aldin, Jessy wants to say something to you."

Aldin looks at me, at his jigsaw and for a short moment at Jessy.

Jessy: "Sorry"

Aldin reaches out his hand to her.

Aldin: "It's okay. It doesn't matter to me."

I'm smiling, Aldin is working on his jigsaw and Jessy asks what time it is.

This morning I get two warm hugs by Jessy. She asks me what I am going to tell her mum when school is over and her mum is going to pick her up. She knows it is the first thing her mother will ask, like every day "What did she do this time?". Expecting bad things have happened. Jessy has said to me once "I want to stay with you. Here at school." I know her parents put a lot of attention on the negative "wrong" things that occur on a day. What has gone "wrong" today at home, before starting school??

I tell mum that the day started not very good. It had been a challenge that morning to move in the right direction. But we've managed! For the majority of the time in class it has been a very good day. Mum is happy to hear this. Jessy asks her if she gets an ice cream while looking at me for a short moment.

The next few days my bruises are getting more clear and I am happy with them! I'm grateful for my work. When seeing (and feeling) them I also feel a hug from a girl who has to deal with inner fights at school. Fights that can lead to inner calm with the help of patience, calmness, love and good examples. Inner calmness is creating a huge possibility of positive contact, connectedness with classmates, the teachers, staff ánd with oneself.

Again I am surprised by the attitude of (pre-school) children attending schools of special educational needs. All Jessy's classmates want is that every child is feeling OKAY; is doing OKAY. They all are very forgiving. They don't want long speeches about what went wrong. Saying 'Sorry' and ... go on! Go on with what we were doing that was okay. Maybe that's why I love to be a solution focused substitute teacher at special educational schools!

Ella de Jong

WEDNESDAY, 9 AUGUST 2017

Creating a Happiness Notebook: a self-help tool

Suddenly there is this marvellous idea in my head: tomorrow I'll start with a Happiness notebook!


As a teacher of 11 and 12 years old kids who are nervous about going to secondary school, who have all kinds of hormones flying around in their bodies, who are trying to find out how to cope with challenges at home and who seem to be very cool at school while meanwhile ..., I want to give them a helpful tool.

A tool unique for them, to use in situations they choose. A tool that makes them smile and in the moment of a (starting) smile, there is this chance to 'turn around' , get your hope back and look at things differently, in spite of everything.

I'm getting all exited and happy creating this idea in my mind! At least once a week we are going to work on two pages in our Happiness notebook. One page for writing and one for drawing. So, at the end of the year they will have at least 15 ideas about how to feel (a little bit) happy. Next year I'll start right away in September :-)

  • By doing this we make it concrete: what can be consulted, where can we turn to when we are not feeling happy at all.
  • By doing this we practice in thinking about 'happiness stuff'; what makes us smile?
  • By doing this we hopefully remember the assignments while being with someone who could use an uplifting smile
  • By doing this we realise what is important for us.

It's all about creating tools to empower yourself, to enlarge your well being in moments when you're not feeling okay. For my beautiful kids in school I love to think by reading in their Happiness notebook it makes them feeling more okay in their own changing, unfamiliar skin. For all adults I know it makes it more easy to change their stuck mind and activity because they read something they have written for themselves!A few assignments I have in mind: 1. Drawing a small mandala while hearing instrumental music. Colouring the mandala with dark colours and drawing and colouring everything around it with light colours. Write on the page next to it about a problem you have and also write about 'the good things' in your life (do you have a place to sleep? do you have friends? is there something in school you like? etc.) 2. Write down everything you can do to make someone smile, just for free. Draw various smiles.3. Write down what kind of activities make you smile, make you feel good. Make drawings of things you like to look at.

Just stock your possibilities to smile again in a Happiness notebook and consult it when feeling down and depressed. At home or at school!

Smile, Ella

MONDAY, 3 APRIL 2017

Substitute compliments rock! ( Connectedness in class - part 2 )


Getting compliments is nice.Getting them from your own teacher is very nice.Getting them from a substitute really rocks!
Jimmy is new in classSo am I that morning.His table is next to the teachers table.I know it's for a reason, mostly not for fun.
Jimmy doesn't pay attention to me, unless I specifically ask for it.He does pay attention to the kids in class and Ronny in particular.He tells them what to say and do, mostly what NOT to say and do.I hear words I don't want to hear in class and try to stop it.I manage to stop the class from responding to Jimmy
Jimmy keeps on doing his talking and shouting stuffI give a thumbs up when Jimmy is quiet and looks my wayI manage to walk by all the kids and tell them they're doing greatThen I see Jimmy working for a few minutesI walk towards him and tell him:"I see you're working hard. You're doing great!""I'm doing great. I'm doing great." It was Jimmy's immediate response to my words.
Jimmy is new in classHe get's compliments from his teacher, I'm sure of thatAnd from his parents, I'm sure of that tooBut today a new person told him he was able to do something great.
I like to give classes 'free time' when they have been working hardI was able to compliment Jimmy and all kids in classI started with 5 minutes 'free time' even before an hour had passed!"Miss, this is so much fun! This rocks!"


Getting compliments is nice.Getting them from your own teacher is very nice.Getting them from a substitute really rocks!
Jimmy still had his moments of needless interferingI had to guide him throughout the day,but he sure did earn his free time!I was glad to have seen his tiny moments of 'doing great'Jimmy was so much more at ease throughout the dayComplimenting him on those tiny moments, sure paid off!

Ella de Jong

MONDAY, 20 MARCH 2017

A hard day at school. What tools to use?


Dear little Emily,I see what you do,I have to walk towards you.I hear your small voice,I have to bend forward to you.I feel your tensionI have to lead you.
Dear Emily,You don't know meI'm your temporary teacher.You don't know what to do.You are only five years of age!Well, you do know ... These are your tools for dealing with it:You aren't listening. You do 'what ever comes up in your mind'. You tease other children. You are constantly checking whether I see what you are doing.
Dear Emily,I understand it is difficult for you!I have to walk towards you and speak to you in a fierce voice telling you to stop teasing.I have to bend over to you and summit you to come directly, like all other children.I have to take your hand and guide you towards the door where everybody is waiting.At the end of the day we are both tired.We say goodbye and 'perhaps we'll meet again'.That's it.Only two days we've been in each others lives.
Dear little Emily,I was so happy to see you one week later!I was teaching an other class.You saw me in the hall and walked to me."I know you!" and while I recognised you and we both smiled, you came closer and we hugged. Such short contacts. Such warm connections in spite of difficult behaviour. Those "wrong tools" ... you can't help it.

Ella de Jong

SUNDAY, 12 MARCH 2017

Connectedness in class - part 1

As a substitute in primary school I try to follow my own 'rules' about connecting communication. What a challenge! I can hear what the children are thinking when they first see me: "What are YOU doing here today? We don't know you, so ... we will be very creative in resisting you and your rules!" What a lovely surprise it was, that Thursday when there was this 'high five' for me initiated by the most creative one in class. Patrick, the most creative one, even added "Sorry, miss, about what just happened."! What happened wasn't at all trivial and in the afternoon Patrick still found it extremely difficult to deal with me. Strange, new teachers: you can't trust new people. This was what Patrick seemed to think and he sure made me aware of this conviction of his :-) And yet, when I think about the high five and his words I can only smile while remembering him. What made Patrick raise his hand inviting me to connect for a split second?

He wanted to thank me. I was looking for him so I could tell him his computer time was ending but I hadn't seen him hiding in a corner very close to the computer he had been working on. So I was searching for him. After some helpful kids told me his secret, I looked again, now under the desks. While I was searching he jumped out of his hiding place and surprise me with a big smile and eyes franticly checking my face: "How is she going to react?". His action first startled me and then made me laugh (very loud because of the effect). I think he was afraid I would tell him to move his body asap to his chair and desk, BUT ... I laughed at him and with a ferm shake of his shoulders I told him he would be a very good special agent one day. We agreed he was allowed to have two more minutes before shutting the laptop."Yes!!" + hand raising + "Sorry about what just happened" was his response and I loved it! "What just happened" wasn't trivial (far from it!) and his actions in the afternoon weren't nice all afternoon, on the contrary. And yet, I remember our high five moment and I smile. Connectedness ... Patrick showed a genuine happy face these few minutes. For Patrick every short positive moment with strangers is very important. Next year will be a challenging year, secondary school has so many more teachers than primary school ... I hope he will remember our mutual genuine positive minutes as a resource: every tough day can have some fine moments.

Smile, Ella

TUESDAY, 26 MAY 2015

Write your own Happiness notebook. Does that work?


Suddenly there is this marvellous idea in my head: tomorrow I'll start with a Happiness notebook!


As a teacher of 11 and 12 years old kids who are nervous about going to secondary school, who have all kinds of hormones flying around in their bodies, who are trying to find out how to cope with challenges at home and who seem to be very cool at school while meanwhile ..., I want to give them a helpful tool.

A tool unique for them, to use in situations they choose. A tool that makes them smile and in the moment of a (starting) smile, there is this chance to 'turn around' , get your hope back and look at things differently, in spite of everything.

I'm getting all exited and happy creating this idea in my mind! At least once a week we are going to work on two pages in our Happiness notebook. One page for writing and one for drawing. So, at the end of the year they will have at least 15 ideas about how to feel (a little bit) happy. Next year I'll start right away in September :-)

  • By doing this we make it concrete: what can be consulted, where can we turn to when we are not feeling happy at all.
  • By doing this we practice in thinking about 'happiness stuff'; what makes us smile?
  • By doing this we hopefully remember the assignments while being with someone who could use an uplifting smile
  • By doing this we realise what is important for us.

It's all about creating tools to empower yourself, to enlarge your well being in moments when you're not feeling okay. For my beautiful kids in school I love to think by reading in their Happiness notebook it makes them feeling more okay in their own changing, unfamiliar skin. For all adults I know it makes it more easy to change their stuck mind and activity because they read something they have written for themselves!A few assignments I have in mind: 1. Drawing a small mandala while hearing instrumental music. Colouring the mandala with dark colours and drawing and colouring everything around it with light colours. Write on the page next to it about a problem you have and also write about 'the good things' in your life (do you have a place to sleep? do you have friends? is there something in school you like? etc.) 2. Write down everything you can do to make someone smile, just for free. Draw various smiles.3. Write down what kind of activities make you smile, make you feel good. Make drawings of things you like to look at.

Just stock your possibilities to smile again in a Happiness notebook and consult it when feeling down and depressed. At home or at school!

Smile, Ella