Wednesday, November 9, 2016

After the election

I think with the best intentions, we included children in discussions about the election.  But I wonder - are kids really ready for the gravity of what's going on in the political arena?

How do we support children during this tumultuous political climate? How can we protect their childhood, protect them from political tensions and fears, while also using current events to extract learning opportunities that are age appropriate?

In these situations, I fall back to what I do best - let the children take the lead.

We sat down for circle time and, after singing a very lighthearted good morning song, saying each of their names with a "horray" that they came to school today, I asked if anyone had anything on their mind that they'd like to share about. Not a single child talked about the election.  As we went around the circle, children shared about their upcoming playdates, injuries they've had recently, their siblings' birthday parties, where they're going to dinner tonight, what they brought to school today.  The really, really important things for the kids. 

The children seemed resilient to what is happening politically, and I guess my job is to preserve childhood in the best way that I can, by doing what I do every day - play. And if they are trying to sort out stuff they're hearing and seeing, it's going to come out in their play.

So here we go back to what we do every day. Foster love. Encourage children to live from their hearts and their own personal and pure sense of right and wrong. Focus on what binds us and unites us rather than what pulls us apart. Value what is important and give them a voice to express their feelings and thoughts and ideas. Be the outspoken leaders of tomorrow. And today.


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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Seasonal changes in classroom dynamics

This week has been really amazing for me. Just seeing how grounded the social interactions have been in our philosophy and what we want for the children. Strong assertiveness coupled with sensitive responsiveness is something I aspire to myself with other adults as the children are modeling it right before me.
As a teacher, I'm constantly looking at ways I can grow in how I support the children's optimal development. As we move into a time of year when the group has congealed and created their own unique group dynamic, different from any other constellation of children before them, they get into a very comfortable space where they test each other's limits and even test their own limits. What we often see this time of year leading into January is that the kids start exploring power dynamics. The good thing is they are so motivated to continue their games that they often self-correct and find their own answer to the question "where does my power end and yours begin?”

We've also seen a lot of bossiness arising. This is simply because they have strong opinions and haven't gotten to practice how to express them appropriately.  They need practice!

My knee-jerk impulse is to shut it down. Pat phrases like "use a gentle voice" or "have a calm body" or "say that again more beautifully" solve one problem, but it's not the problem that Beansprouts wants to solve for the kids.  The problem it solves? My need for them to talk the way I want them to (aka my need to control them).

The real problem? Helping them find an appropriate expression of power. They can express emotions and opinions while keeping others emotionally and physically safe. I trust them to be able to do this, so I don't have to hold their hand and lead them step by step (though some younger twos may require this). I trust that if I offer gentle parameters to what's appropriate and inappropriate, they will figure it out.  I don't want to undermine my trust in them by sending a message that they are incapable of handling their own internal and external stuff.  If I over-explain, over-empathize, I'm communicating my lack of trust in their ability to get thru it. 

THAT SAID, they also need to know that ultimately we are there to support them.But when faced with situations involving strong emotions — rather than correcting their tone/body language, I'm trying to do more acknowledging of their need to express something big.  I absolutely hate when I feel a big feeling and have no outlet.  sometimes I need to swear or cry or shout. and...there are appropriate ways of doing that.  I'm not gonna do it in front of the kids, or lash out at the bank teller. It's my job to find ways to appropriate handle my feelings even if they are overwhelming.

With the kids, statements of acknowledgment might be — "it sounds like you have something really important to say" or "you're feeling big feelings, but we need to find another way to express them" or simply "can you say how you feel without yelling at other people?".  They don’t have the luxury of years of developing impulse control, and may need to be given some leeway, but eventually they will establish their own ways to cope if we can just hold the safe and loving (and reliable and firm), space to do so.

It sounds so basic, like preschool teaching 101, yet it’s something I must continually look at in order to avoid falling into bad habits.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What we leave behind - a reflection on Dia de los Muertos

On this Day of the Dead, I'm contemplating what we leave behind. In the context of working with children, I'm thinking about the memories and impressions I leave with the children that I interact with each day.

When I was a child, I went to preschool. We were not a family that could afford preschool every day, so I think I only went one or two days per week. And I remember very little about it. In fact, I have only two memories. One is being told that circletime has begun and I needed to come out of the play kitchen.  My memory is not of the words, but of the feeling that I had gotten in trouble. Guilt. The other memory is of me crying at the door. Or maybe I was seeing someone else cry and taking on the emotions around it. It's foggy.

I remember small snippets of my childhood, brief interactions and the way I felt during those moments.

When I interact with children, I often reflect on what memory I will leave with them. What if this is that one memory that they carry away from preschool? What if this moment is my one chance to leave their lifelong impression of their first teacher?  What if they don't remember my words, but remember instead the feeling that our interaction invoked within them?

Today's post, this post after years of absence from this blog, is a question...a reflection. Not a statement, nor an answer.

What can I do to take each moment as an opportunity to leave behind a legacy worth remembering?

Wrestling is good for children.

Originally published Sept 2010 Many of our parents seemed shocked when they came to pick up their children from Beansprouts and found the...