Friday, September 17, 2021

Mateo and Nonna

 

Mateo and Nonna

Many of you have asked where I've been for the last while as I've been absent from this blog and my life at Reggio Kids. I've taken a short break from my career.




For the past 5 months, I’ve been on a leave of absence from my adult life spending the better part of my days with my toddler grandson. There’s a lot to be said about giving yourself over to the life of a child. Without the distraction of phone calls, social media, a hectic work schedule or television, I’ve delved into the world of this extraordinary toddler with his exuberance and unrivaled joy for meeting each day and the wonders it offers.

Our days together....

Every morning I find him waiting for me in his crib with his ever present infectious smile. We are in no particular hurry to go anywhere, so I allow him the time to get ready for his day on his terms. He may choose to bounce around in the crib, or have a bottle of milk as he surrounds himself with his binkies and pillows. He likes to have many of his favorite snuggle toys. Many being the word he uses for more than one.

When he’s ready he asks to come up and then he romps around his room or we play timber which entails falling to the ground and rolling around with our legs in the air. He learned that word when he fell off his riding toy and I said, “timber.” Now anytime he topples, its timber!

In lieu of a few rounds of timber, he may decide to hide in his closet or in a pile of pillows and blankets.

Eventually he allows me change his diaper and dress him and we make our way to the kitchen for breakfast. At times we pack it up and eat it on route to the park or in the backyard or porch where we begin our day of adventure. He has little patience to sit in his high chair for 15 minutes to consume his feast.

Where we spend our day depends on the weather, too hot means under the deck with water play, sand, collecting rocks from the yard or riding toys down the hill of grass. Mild means the park where we chase the geese, play on the equipment, dig in the dirt, or run up and down the hills. We make time every day to go down to his fully equipped play room.

I’ve watched him kiss trees, follow tiny ants, run across a field, attempt to play basketball with the big, big net, kick soccer balls, chase the geese while screaming, "ducky, ducky, ducky", gaze into the pond as the geese swim or fly in, all in the span of a few hours or less. Not to mention swing, slide and dig in the dirt.








He likes to go high, high on the swing. When he gains height or its windy, I ask him to catch the wind. He stretches his arms out and throws his head back, “windy” he says. When the sun hits his eyes, he says, “too sunny”.

I’ve forgotten what it means to be an adult as I spend the day through his eyes, stomping, going down the slide, sitting on riding toys as we race across the room, running, chasing and laughing abundantly.

Every new discovery is a wonder.

He has no fear, no inhibitions, and no expectations. He simply lives to unravel the mysteries of the day.

I have no agenda and he knows I am present in his world, every ready to tackle whatever the day brings. The concept of tired does not exist as I devote myself to being his partner in crime.

Five months is a lifetime in terms of change on all levels.

His language has increased exponentially. Words come at a rapid pace.

He is stable on his feet and can ride his bikey or vespa like a pro. I run alongside him as he scoots along. I watch him for behind as his body rocks the vespa, his little behind swaying back and forth. The movement of the wind through his hair is a clear indication of his speed. The bumpier the path, the happier he is. “Big bumps,” he says as he pushes his vespa onto grassy mounds. When he catches an incline he raises his leg so he can coast along. He’s come to understand that he has to wait at the end of his driveway so I can check for oncoming cars before he can cross. When I say, “okay,” he repeats the word and off we go.

He waves hello and goodbye to people while saying the words and occasionally adds a, “see you.”

He discovered a wind mill on a neighbor’s property in early spring and he loves to watch it spin. Now as he scoots along, he always remembers to make a pit stop to see the windmill, a word he says quite clearly. He has a clear view of it from his change table his bedroom.

In early May, his parents had some work done on the outside of the house. I stood him on the window ledge as a small bulldozer dug up dirt. I called it a dig dig. A term that stuck with him which he now associates with all large construction vehicles. Whenever we go out, he looks for dig digs.

The sound of his little voice as he calls out to me to join in his antic, “Nonna!”, meaning nonna do it, nonna go faster, nonna get moving, always makes me laugh.

He has an amazing sense of humour, often teasing me with a possible bite of something he’s eating or a suggestion to hop onto one of his ride along toys, only to quickly consume the food himself or hop onto the toy before I get there. I sing the eetsy bitsy spider with a big voice or a teeny tiny voice and he makes me change voices many times in the same breath. He changes his voice big or tiny to indicate which one I should use.

He is forever hiding around corners, under blankets, in his tent. Finding him brings huge peals of laughter.

He loves ice cream and choco. Treats which I give him sparingly and he’d love as his main meals. He says, “choco” and I say, “broccoli” and so the game begins of yelling, “choco” as I say, “pasta” and on and on we go with peals of laughter in between.

These are a few of our favorite things!

We’ve now come to a new path in our relationship as he integrates into life at daycare. The foot prints of the memories we created over the last five months will remain with me forever. Mateo will have no memory of them but I can only hope, that the love and devotion will last a lifetime.

Tomorrow is a new day for Mateo and Nonna!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

A Child's Perspective

 We read much about child development,  milestones, what children think, what they should know and on and on it goes. Mommy blogs, advice blogs, professional blogs, INSTAGRAM fill the universe with endless how to, don't do, should do.

Here's my two cents on the infoverse. I write this without prejudice or judgement!

When I look for information I'm likely to turn to the sources that inform from well lived experiences. My thinking is how can we teach other's to be teachers if we've never been in a classroom? How can we guide other parents if we've never reared a child. I've raised three children and what I thought I knew, and trust me I thought I knew alot about children, given my education and line of work, in reflection could have been much better. NOTHING arms us better than experience. If I could go back and raise my children again, knowing what I know at 60, I wonder at the mother I would have been!  Not to say that they are not remarkable adults :)

Having said this, here is my thinking for today that can be added to the infoverse!

Children truly are a marvel and no other time in a human life is as remarkable as childhood.

They live with abandonment. From the minute they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed at  night, they seek, explore, experience and marvel!

They are not scarred by the pounding of life's daily struggles, hurts and disappointments.

Children are fearless! They leap into the day not concerned with outcome. They don't plan their day based on a perceived outcome. They live in the moment.

The wonder of being becomes fragmented and jaded when children engage with soured teachers, unfit parents, malicious peers. Over time LIFE beats them down and the flame begins to fade to embers. Hopefully the embers do not burn out.

Everyone grows up, we have no choice. Time is an unyielding master and he pushes us forward.

So, what can we do to ensure that the we leave our students and our own children with the potential they are born with?

We cannot pound children with expectations. Read faster, count quicker, play sports, toilet train at 12 months, paint like Picasso, write like Shakespeare. Care to educate yourself so you understand the stages of development they are in and know that each child moves at their own pace. No need to rush. They will all learn to read and write. Children are not trophies and do not need to be showcased to validate our existence.

Acknowledge that a child may have struggles. No need to pave the path with fairy dust. Life is not perfect. Their journey will not be perfect. Struggles define character and teach children to solve problems.

Give your child the gift of limits. Everyone needs boundaries! Set them early in life so they do not devlop of sense of entitlement. It's okay to say no when it is required. Simple expectations such as tidy your toys, eat meals at the table, don't colour on furniture go a long way to helping children accept when expectations become greater. 

Listen, listen, listen!

Create a culture of sharing daily experiences in your class and home. Each child has a voice. Put down you PHONES, stop rushing and care to know about your child's day. Even an infant, by gauing their mood, can express themselves. Stop putting your children to bed at 6 p.m! They nap at school so why are you rushing them off to sleep. Go for a walk, play, extend bath time, throw a ball. These days will  never come again. Your own need for quiet time at the end of the day is not a priority anymore. There will be plenty of time for quiet later on and then you will seek the noise!

No single material possession that you give a child is greater than your time.

Read books. The act of sharing a story is in itself a time for bonding.

Connect children to the nature. No toy or loose part can replace or provide more value than a walk through the woods! 

Cooping a child indoors while you widdle the hours away on your phone and glance at them once in awhile is a pathetic way to be with your child. Lift your eyes, one day very soon that child will be walking out the door on their own and you will wonder where time has gone and the regrets will begin to fill your heart. You can NEVER go back. 

You can fail at many things in your life. Failing as a parent or teacher leaves lasting ripples and the direction of those ripples cannot be changed once they are set in motion.








Monday, January 11, 2021

One Million Reasons to say Thank You!

 When I began this blog 10 years ago, I never expected to see so much response to our work!

Although I may author these posts, I am only a small partipant in the journey of learning that is shared  with our children and teachers.

 Everyday is an adventure, whether we observe a baby's first encounter with paint or travel the adventurous road of a long term project with our JK-Sk class.

Time is a fickle master, so tomorrow is uncertain.  However, for as long as we can, we will continue to meet you here, in these posts with our children and teachers, always grateful for your support.

One million strong and counting!





Friday, January 8, 2021

In the Spirit of Collaboration


The word collaboration, when combined with educational perspectives, is tossed around more than a ball in all children's and sports games combined.

The question is how much do we truly practice and believe in it. 

My thinking is that to be truly collaborative, whether it is within our own context, or with others outside of our workplace, there must be the absence of ego. This is where it gets complicated, complex and sometimes down right nasty!

Many, in the pursuit of their own fame and glory and their need to leave a mark in the world, knowingly exclude, omit, hide and avoid including notables in their field of work in order to keep their own position as top dog.

I've met only a few people who have little need to be placed upon a pedestal because they are leaders in their fields. A true leader seeks to shed light on all those who are part of a journey of learning. No one person invented the wheel. As children scaffold their learning, so to do adults whose research and work is based on the ones who came before them.

Children are the greatest example of what it means to be truly collaborative. They work in unison, learning with and from one another. There is no ego, no need to stomp on others to get to the front of the line.

The true collaborator stands back and allows the team that surrounds him/her to shine brightly.

The footprint we leave behind, similar to the footprint made in the soft ocean sand, will be forgotten when the wave rushes in to wash it away.

What we will endure is what we brought to the light through our work with and in unison with others.

There is no me in we my friends!





Many years ago this group of preschoolers collaborated to make this fallen tree trunk function as a teeter totter. (This is in one of my earlier posts)
Imagine what could be accomplished if we all worked in unison, without ego, for the betterment of our world!



 

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 of 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.