Criers: How to Handle Criers in Your Class
How do you handle criers?
Let’s begin with my first experience with criers. 20 years ago, when I first came to Japan, I had naively/ optimistically/ stupidly (call it what you like) agreed to teach 10 new 3 year olds with no Moms, no other teachers. It was a disaster. As soon as the Moms left, 3 children burst into tears, crying loudly. 2 others soon joined. 1 even wet his pants. But the other 5 children were fine. I decided that I could do nothing about the criers on my own. But I could keep the other 5 from joining the crying group by singing, dancing, playing games….. And it worked. The 5 non criers never cried. And some of the criers saw that we were having fun and joined us.
Over 20 years of teaching at Dave and Amy English School (www.daveandamyenglish.com), we have developed a few policies to pre-empt/ handle criers:
Prevention is the key. Hopefully, with the following 2 points, you can pre-empt any crying:
- Greet all kinder kids at the door with a warm, friendly ‘ Hello, Risa. Come in. Let’s sit here.’ Most your criers will be young kinders. So it is important to get them in the door and where they need to be in the classroom as quickly as possible. Hanging around, feeling confused, might make them realize they are missing Mom and start crying.
- Get the children doing something as soon as they come in. In our classes, the children will come and in a do a puzzle at the table. They are busy right away. Hopefully having fun and not tempted to cry.
But, if your prevention techniques did not work and you have a crier, try these steps:
- Get Moms/ Dads away as quickly as possible. A child will cry much longer if the good-bye is long. Make the good-bye short and sweet and get the child in the door, away from Mom as quickly as possible. And by away, I mean Mom out the door and out of sight. Be wary of Moms who are waiting behind the door—so that when another child comes in (opening the door), the child can see his Mom and start crying all over again. In our classes, I will take a crying child from Mom’s arms, open the door for Mom to go and carry the child to their seat (taking off shoes myself). Without Mom hanging around, most kids will stop crying in 5 minutes.
- Allow the child to watch from a safe distance. If the children are doing a puzzle at the table and 1 child is crying VERY LOUDLY, we will move the child to a chair in the corner of the room (the room is not that big so they are still fully able to see/ hear all that is happening). This is good for 2 reasons. One, they will not disturb (as much) the other children who are not crying and trying to learn. And two, from the chair, the child can see what is happening. Hopefully, they can realize that the other children are having fun. And that the teacher is not a monster, but actually quite nice. And will calm themselves down and stop crying (more on integrating the child back into the lesson later).
- Don’t try and console, reason with the crier. This advice is for if you are a teacher teaching on your own. Of course, if there are 2 teachers, 1 teacher can try and console the child. But if you are own your own, you have all the other students to take care off. If you spend time consoling 1 crier, you might find you have more criers joining the crier. And if you are a foreign teacher who looks different to anyone the child has seen before, YOU are most likely the reason the child is crying. Consoling, reasoning won’t work when the child can’t get past your brown hair and green eyes. The only consoling I recommend is calmly saying shhhh, shhhhh and gently rubbing their heads every once in a while as they sit in their chair away.
- When the crying stops, bring the child back into the activities. We find that most crying stops after 5 minutes and the child is fine for the rest of the class, subsequent classes. If you have placed the child away from the activities because of loud crying, when they stop, let them join in with the other students. Of course, if they start crying again, it is best to place them in the chair away until they stop again.
We have found that with the above policies, most children DO NOT CRY. And the ones that do, will stop in 5 minutes. Good luck,
Dave and Amy