Małgorzata Koc: Mixed groups work best in kindergarten

We are only at the beginning of our understanding of this situation and at the moment it is difficult to even see how a unit with only Ukrainian children works. Maybe the kids will be fine? Or maybe, with so many of them, we just have to create them? For now, mixing the children is a better solution.

With Malgorzata Koc, a kindergarten teacher from Toruń, former president of the Preschool Education Association “Initiative and Creativity”, talks about Katarzyna Piotrowiak

In the context of the current educational situation, Ukrainian children are most talked about in schools. Do the children also come to the kindergartens?

– Ukrainian children have the right to come to kindergarten and there are more and more of them in our establishments. In Toruń, but also in other towns, they also attend kindergarten groups, where the number of Polish children has reached the upper limit of 25. There is, however, a general agreement to accept Ukrainian children. On the other hand, it is rare for there to be 100% occupancy in pre-school groups, there are always absences, for example due to illness.

MEiN has increased limits at its branches, including children from Ukraine. According to the amendment, a maximum of 28 children can attend pre-school classes. Do such groups emerge?

– It happens, but – as far as I know – the organization of the care of Ukrainian children is not yet a problem. The problems are more related to communication. Almost no one knows the Ukrainian language, and the younger generation of teachers also does not know the Russian language. I am from the generation that tries to communicate with children with a mixture of Polish-Russian words.

How are the groups run when it is difficult to communicate with the children?

– I noticed that many of my friends had printed simple lexicons with simple sentences, questions: do you want to drink, eat, go to the toilet, etc.

They learn Ukrainian?

– It may be too much of a word, but they need to learn basic sentences to understand children. Otherwise, it will be difficult to help them. Of course, a child can show us a lot of things on his fingers, but we must remember that he is lost in a new environment, he also has a lot of experiences behind him. For now, apps in phones are enough for continuous translation of simple sentences and commands. At present, we need a goodwill to settle and solve some questions related to the newcomer in the easiest way. The main thing is to provide children with psychological comfort, to create a good atmosphere as much as possible. We don’t know and probably won’t know what transitions are behind them, but it’s easier for little kids to detach themselves from difficult subjects, which doesn’t mean they don’t survive the war like their colleagues. older.

How do they adapt in Poland?

– When it’s fun, they dance in circles, when we go to the park, they hold hands, when we have dinner, they sit at the table. They learn by imitation. They will also probably have an easier time with language than with older children. Therefore, for us teachers, the translator on the phone is enough for now. They are small children, they rarely shower us with questions, they rather ask: “Is it allowed?”, “Is it possible?”. Our languages ​​are similar, so much can be picked up without an internet “translator”.

The favor of teachers is huge. Each of us understands that the situation is very difficult. Like other teachers, I am of the opinion not to create, if possible, separate kindergarten units for Ukrainian children.

Let’s not create ghettos. Even if these groups are larger than these two or three children, we are able to control them.

(…)

Currently, the youngest children in Ukraine are often cared for by their mothers and grandmothers. But they will no doubt soon begin to be massively sent to kindergartens.

– We kindergarten teachers are aware of this, but it is difficult to say when it will start. For now, recruitment for the next school year is behind us. Are Ukrainian children included in this recruitment as an extracurricular? Hard to say. There are a lot of questions, but I haven’t heard of any work on details. This is a problem for kindergarten principals. We see gaps everywhere. Mainly staff.

There are no psychologists?

– We’ve been missing them for years. All the psychological and pedagogical support, the whole idea of ​​inclusive education works. The needs are enormous. It would be good to have constant access to a psychologist in kindergarten. The reality, however, is stark and local government units are underfunded. For various reasons. But it is not even necessary to talk about it.

Perhaps we should re-diagnose the needs of kindergartens. More hours of speech therapy could help, because that’s where the problems increase.

We are already used to the fact that a speech therapist comes to the kindergarten for a specific number of hours, but this is still not enough for such needs. I will discover nothing new if I say that everything depends on money, and that there is generally no money for specialists. You can meet a psychologist in an insertion center, but in an average center – very rarely.

Shortage of staff, overcrowding – so far here and there – of preschool groups, an increasing number of children in difficulty. Also, Ukrainian children with war trauma. How to live with?

– That is why we do not even say that a psychologist is needed, but rather an assistant for each kindergarten teacher. Let’s imagine that in the Polish group there is a child who has a disturbed emotional and social development, who is aggressive, throws objects in the room, and a Ukrainian child enters all this. It’s not simple.

Managers deal with the lack of staff in various ways, most often they hire people from the interventions of the employment agency. However, these are not the people who can conduct the therapy with the child.

These are the ladies who make sure that this screaming child does not hurt others. Lack of staff is a constant problem. The rotation is great.

Perhaps Ukrainian teachers could fill this position?

– Why not, but nobody has access to a database of these teachers and we don’t know if they are available. The possibility of employing Ukrainian teachers in Polish education is still a poorly recognized subject. Secondly, such a teacher should know Polish.

Back to the preparatory departments – while in the case of students they can prove themselves, not in the case of such young children?

– We are only at the beginning of our understanding of this situation and at the moment it is even difficult to see how a unit with only Ukrainian children works. Maybe the kids will be fine? Or maybe, with so many of them, we just have to create them? For now, mixing the children is a better solution. Thanks to this, the little newcomers will be better helped in the acclimatization, in the daily adaptation to the new conditions. It seems to me that it is easier for a child traumatized by war to find himself in a mixed group.

Even if he doesn’t know the language?

– The kindergarten plays a role of care. It is also didactic, because even if a child does not know the language, he hears songs and participates in various productions. Many activities, games, songs are illustrated, not just based on words. This word will come with time. A small child intuitively assimilates certain terms and learns through good emotions. And it’s a good situation because the child becomes bilingual. Of course, if a Ukrainian family decides to stay longer in Poland, their child’s education will need specific support. However, when we talk about difficult groups, situations can be difficult even without Ukrainian children. Especially when the child doesn’t have a decision or an opinion yet, and the parent is maturing just to go see a psychologist because he shifts the problem, believes the child will be fine, and the school will go better.

So teachers double and triple, they face different results. It all depends on what the child is struggling with.

Sometimes it’s psychomotor hyperactivity, sometimes an emotional and social disorder, autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Be that as it may, the difficult behavior of such a child is an additional trauma for everyone. Then, we would like to use the help of a pedagogue or a psychologist. However, this support option is still rare.

(…)

Thanks for the conversation.

We present to you excerpts from the interview published in GN n°15-16 from April 13 to 20 of this year. All in a print and electronic edition – https://e.glos.pl

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