Friday, November 27, 2020

Yesterday's Children

Many, but not all parts of the world, have come a long way in the manner in which they view and treat children and respect their rights.

In an ideal world children are valued as competent and capable citizens from the time of birth. They are treasured and protected . 

Childhood is viewed as a time of potential.

Not long ago, circa World War II, children were viewed quite differently. In many countries and homes they were needed to help support their impoverished families so they began working as young as seven years of age. There was little if any time for play. They were seen but not expected to be heard, they had no voice, no rights.

My father, born on January 23, 1935 in Ofena a small town in the Apennine Mountains of Abruzzi tells a grim tale of how children were treated in his time.  

His mother was a stern disciplinarian and used biting as her form of punishment for any transgressions on the part of her children. The saying it takes a village to raise a child had a meaning of its own in his town. If an older villager asked a child to do an errand, and the child refused, that would merit some sort of physical punishment which was doled out twice; once by the villager and then again at home by the biting mother for having embarrassed her in front of others for refusing an elder.

Schooling often ended as early as seven or eight years of age. Perhaps that was a good thing given that teachers were harsh in their treatment of students; using embarrassment and physical punishment to control them. Donkey ears were fashioned out of paper and placed on children's ears when they could not answer questions. Unruly children were made to kneel for hours on sharp objects. Belts, bats and other instruments were used to beat the children leaving some seriously injured.

So where did the children of yesterday find their joy or reprieve from a world that cared little for their rights?

Certainly not with the adults. They found small measures of joy with other children in stolen moments.

It's a wonder that many of the children of yesterday were able to grow up to become loving parents to a new generation. 

Although the cruel acts of embarrassment and physical punishment are no longer permissible in our schools, we should reflect on other treatments of our youngest citizens which could be equally as damaging.

Every child matters, every child is someone's child, every child's voice should be heard, every child should have the freedom to voice their concerns, share their fears and joys, every classroom should be adapted to support all types of learners. 

School should be a place to share knowledge, share lives, forge relationships.

 It should be a haven for all.









Friday, May 29, 2020

Respect for the Child


Our schools closed mid March, 
 for what we thought would be a two week shut down to protect against the spread of Covid 19. 

Here we are almost three months later.
As with all things in life, every situation no matter how bleak should provide us with an opportunity for growth. 

For the past three months I've been cleaning and organizing the classrooms (10 in total) and refreshing the environments. When you undertake such a large task you become reflective of the practices in your school and you begin to develop a plan for improvement on many fronts.

As an educator, with a career that spans 40 years, I've come to know that the best teachers are the ones that have   
 a deep and abiding respect for children and childhood.

Respect can be measured in many ways. The most observable is the way in which teachers engage with children on a daily basis in conversations and behaviours. 

Beyond this there are many telltale signs which can be found in 
 the smallest of details.


The care for children's
 personal effects in their cubbies; shoes together, hats and scarves tucked into coat sleeves; items hanging on their hooks; cubby pictures printed properly; photos up to date; extra clothing in clear bags properly labeled and replenished; beds labeled with old tape removed and blankets folded; children's portfolios neat and organized; books kept in good repairs; broken toys removed from the room. 
The list is endless.

On a larger scale, I turn my attention to the environment because it is here that children negotiate learning.
How a teacher cares for her classroom speaks greatly of her respect for her children.

The environment cannot simply be about making things look aesthetically pleasing, it has to be much more.

Materials should be organized, sorted, and available.

Beyond looking nice this is an important element in the children's abilities to negotiate experiences.
Think of it this way, if you decide to bake a cake and you're half way through the ingredient list only to discover you have no baking powder, how frustrated do you feel?
The same can be applied to a child who begins his work only to have to shift through a mountain of items to find what he needs, to run out of parts to complete a pattern, to have to spend most of his time hunting instead of thinking.
Some may argue that the hunting, shifting and looking is part of the learning journey. Perhaps, but only to a small extent.

A teacher who is invested ensures the classroom is ready for her students. 

Rushing is a teacher's greatest folly; it is what hinders her from meaningful relationships with her children and the environment.

Ask yourself what you are rushing toward?

A teacher who repects children and childhood has no cause to rush; she savours every moment and draws from it, looking for meaning and joy.
Before she leaves at the end of her school day, she pauses to reflect and then plan for tomorrow.
She takes the time to say goodbye to the children, to prepare, to unright a toppled picture frame, to staple a piece of loose documentation, to dry water from the bathroom sink so children don't soak their sleeves.
She is unhurried and this is a sign of the respect she has for the children who are entrusted to her and the art of learning in a negotiated setting.
If a teacher cannot commit to this type of practice then she is in the wrong profession.
There cannot be a 50 percent teacher.
She is all in or out.

Three months at home?
How many webnars have teachers watched?

As with all things in life, the greatest rewards come when we live our passion.






















Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Think beyond Paper

The First Week with the Colour Orange

A traditional approach to engaging children in the exploration of colour is to give them paper and paint or perhaps crayons or play dough.
Observe what happens when a vast array of orange loose parts is used to entice them.

These are some of the first discoveries the toddler made with the materials.



















Saturday, February 8, 2020

Keep Your Sense of Wonder

Someone recently asked me when I would be retiring or if I at least was thinking about it.

Without hestitation I replied, "I'm working until I can't anymore."

Why?

The answer is simple because I don't consider what I do everyday as work.
My choice of careers comes from my deep commitment to making certain that, with my team of teachers, we provide the best possible preschool experience for our youngest citizens.
Each day, as I engage in my craft, I never lose sight of two important things; to keep my sense of wonder and to bear in mind that
 the early years have a formative impact on development in all aspects; relationships, emotional health, self regulation, cognitive function. Poor care and nurturing in the formative years can have devestating effects on brain develepment and emotional function.

How do I stay passionate about my work?
I've never lost my sense of wonder and I believe that is what keeps me connected to the children.
Children are amazed by the smallest of things; a bug crawling across a leaf, a budding flower, a first mark on a piece of paper, the first snow fall. The things that most adults have long forgotten how to appreciate.
I see the world through their eyes and I am amazed each and every time I am with them.

I am moved when I enter the classroom and they greet me with excitement ready to share their stories and their latest work. I listen attentively to their adventures, both real and imagined, I appreciate their sense of humour, I wipe a tear from their cheek, take a tissue to a runny nose and sit with them to share a lunch. I readily leave a pile of paperwork on my desk and trade it for a morning of messy clay or time spent in the loose part studio.

After all what's the hurry?
Nothing is as important as the small eyes that seek you out, the tiny voice that calls to you or the deep sense of gratification that comes from knowing that in the smallest, yet most profound way, you are making an impact on another life.

I recently became a grandmother and being with my grandson has rekindled my commitment to the betterment of educating and nuturing young children.

We can never lose sight of the fact that we must not only nuture their minds but also their souls.

So keep your sense of wonder and live through the eyes of a child!









Friday, November 22, 2019

Never Quit and Greatness becomes Inevitable

I often find myself reflecting on children's abilities to tackle new tasks, solve problems and meet  challenges with undaunted determination.
In their first year of life alone they learn to lift their heads, roll over, crawl, walk, eat on their own, babble, talk, dance...The list is endless.
Children are an unstoppable force.
If we could harness that ability and carry it with us throughout our lives we would all achieve such greatness.
I'm not referring to the stuff that legends or heroes are made of, I mean the greatness that comes from doing and being the best version of ourselves; applying ourselves to the work we choose, the relationships we have and simply the way we respond to whatever life throws at us.

There are a handful of women who have been part of my life story who live and lived this way. The unsung heroes who set examples for others and in their own way make a huge impact.

I keep them in my heart and in my mind as I plunge ahead and greet each new day.


































Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lost in the Noise


If you are a baby boomer you will remember a childhood filled with adventure; days playing hide and seek, street hockey, family picnics at conservation parks, hop scotch, dodge ball, tag. Our parents left us to our own devices-often not hollering for us to come inside until the sun had set.
We skipped stones in rivers, fished, dug for worms and lost ourselves in the art of play.
We had little in the way of toys and certainly no electronics.
We made our own. We were imaginative and intuitive.

That was the childhood of yesterday.
It's no wonder the baby boomer generation will be remembered as one of the most successful in history.
Our children, the millennial's saw some of this as well. 

Much has changed in the last 40 years since I became an educator and a mother.

Today a barren landscape sits before us.
For the most part parks are empty, the roads are devoid of warriors playing ball hockey or tag. 

Where have all the children gone?
Are they sitting in front of computers, tablets, wrapped in video games and the never ending droning of baby shark songs?

Is this what childhood has become?

Parents running from one organized activity to another, thinking more is better, with little time for their children to erect block towers, splash around in rain water and dig for worms.

Children are handed tablets in infancy and people think its magnificent that an infant knows how to swipe.
Trust me its not.

This is a generation with their noses buried in cell phones-concerned with who has the most likes and followers, all the while the beauty what makes a good relationships escapes them.

Let's face it, technology will only become more sophisticated. It is here to stay.

However as a society we must find a way to return to many of the things valued by the childhood of yesterday.

Our children deserve it and we must demand it!



Monday, June 24, 2019

Find Inspiration in Experiences from the Past

It can be challenging to be at your best all the time. Being a teacher is exhilarating but it is also physically, emotionally and intellectually exhausting.
So, it's perfectly okay to turn to your past experiences with children and use them to prompt new work and discussions around a project or topic. You don't always have to reinvent the wheel so to speak.
In fact, make it a habit to find ways to preserve work so you, like the children, can scaffold your learning journey.
In this instance, I used a book that I made to prompt the children.






Thursday, May 30, 2019

There is Always time to Marvel

It's hard to believe that at times you may feel that you are at a loss as to what to explore with your students. In these moments just turn to Nature for inspiration, especially in the Spring when life begins anew.

All our children have been quite busy with all manner of bugs, birds, animals, trees, flowers and so much more.

With loose parts, we like to think big!






Friday, March 22, 2019

The Liminal Space-The Great In Between



What is the Liminal Space?
"The Latin word for threshold. A time between the what was and the what's next. A place of transition, waiting and not knowing. That moment right before you are about to take the plunge, next step and make a decision. It is an important space filled with choice and great power
www.jothi.ca

It is where all transformation takes place.

This is where children exist, in the Liminal Space as they are in a state of constant transformation; between the familiar and the unknown, a place where old beliefs are challenged and new ones are formed.

A space where there is no fear to move forward. As adults, fear is our greatest inhibitor. It holds us back because we have a need to know all outcomes.
Children do not have these limitations because their life experiences have not left them jaded and afraid. They have no need to control outcome so they plunge in new directions without fear and limitations imposed by fear of choice.

Childhood is a time of great joy and discovery.
By their very nature, children are inquisitive, eager to know more, they test their limits and seek answers. They are constantly making choices.

 The only way to move forward and break boundaries is to exist in the Liminal Space. 

Children are constantly making connections, most times subconsciously between what was, what happened and where to go next. I'm not referring to the choices they make knowing what consequences will follow, such as acceptable behavious.

 Instead I'm referring to the plunge into exploring, delving, seeking, questing and adventuring.









Saturday, October 13, 2018

Let us Wonder Together

This week I found myself redesiging the JK-Sk classroom. While I was in the room, I kept my ears on the children's conversations and my eyes on their experiences. As I often do, I was listening for possiblities to move in new directions.
I glanced over at few children who were erecting a structure in front of the projection screen. There was no conversation between them as they were focused on their task. I couldn't help but marvel at the shadows that were being cast. In fact, even Oliver's glasses were distinguishable on the screen.
I made my way over to them.
"Your shadows are amazing!"
The children looked at me as if to say, "Would they be anything short of amazing?"
Then, I posed a question.
"Do your shadows do the same work as you?"
They did not respond to my question. Instead they turned to the screen to reflect on their shadows.
They moved their arms up and down and jumped.
Oliver turned to me and said,
"They do the same as we do!"
I questioned him about the size of his shadow in comparison to his actual size.
He looked at the shadow and thought about my question.
However, he did not respond.
I knew this would be a point to return to once I prepared the documentation.  I would address the question when he could reflect on the photo.
The next day, I printed a poster sized print of this picture and presented it to the class.
I told the children why I'd taken the photo and I also mentioned the intial question I had asked Oliver and his classmates.
"Do our shadows do the same work as we do?"
The children assured me that they do.
I then asked a few other questions.

"Do our shadows wait for us when we wake up in the morning?
Are they always with us?
Can we always see them and if not are they still there?

Once the group dispersed, I asked Oliver to reflect on the photo to see if he could answer my previous question.
"Why does your shadow seem larger than you?"
He looked at me with a question in his eyes.

And so we begin a new journey of wondering together.