He’s so bad. She’s shy. He’s going to be a doctor. She’s a troublemaker. He’s chubby. She’s an artist. Have you ever heard someone say something like this? Have you ever said anything like this? Labels (positive and negative) are powerful and can follow a child and impact how others see them and how they perceive themselves.
As parents and educators we need to create connections based on empathy and grace. We need to understand that a child’s struggle does not define them. We need to find the root of the problem. We should be proactive guides armed with the tools and strategies that will help them move past this bump in the road.
It starts young. When children observe the people they care about picking up trash on a walk, helping a neighbor mow their yard, or donating food to a food bank being kind and giving back becomes just part of their world. In your school, you can imbed opportunities for helping others in the classroom (as discussed in the previous post) and in your local community.
The basis for building successful friendships begins early in life. During these early years, children are learning how to navigate the tricky friendship waters. They are learning how to be patient when it doesn't seem possible, how to be kind even when unkind things are happening, how to be flexible, how to really listen, how to comfort, how to share, how to be empathetic and how to formulate a meaningful apology.
Over the last few years I have been thinking a lot about what I want for my kids (honestly from society in general!). As I read about gun violence on a college campus, a child taking their own life, and the hate permeating much of society I now have a better answer to what I want for my children’s future.
Do you ever get to the door of the classroom and realize that you’ve carried a backpack, lunchbox and jacket while your child has skipped into the classroom empty handed? It sometimes seems easier to be the one in charge of carrying everything but in the long run it actually becomes a burden. In order to facilitate independence in young children it is our job to ensure they are responsible for their belongings.
As I write this my body is flooded with adrenaline. My mind is racing. My heart is pounding. A little while ago I received a text from my middle schooler. It is the text that every parent fears. “Something has happened at [school]. We heard a loud explosion and the windows shook.” While I frantically texted (trying to appear calm to my son) to get more information, my husband took to social media to find out what was going on. We quickly learned there was an explosion on the block next to his school. A building collapsed and was on fire.
Let me tell you, I am incredibly nervous and my anxiety is in overdrive! For the first time in my adult life I will be standing face-to-face with a legislator stating the reasons why we need to do better for our youngest children. It is an issue that I am well versed in but I am afraid I will stumble over my words or forget the major points I want to make.
My oldest child tested what I thought I knew about early childhood development. From the time we brought him home, it seemed that he was fussier and needed more than I knew was possible. I had been a nanny of a newborn, spent time with lots of new mothers, and did my Master’s partially focused on children under the age of three. I was a teacher, special educator, and worked with parents regularly giving advice on child rearing.
When I facilitate in person workshops I always start by telling a little bit about myself. I talk about how long I’ve worked with children/families, what ages I’ve taught and why I decided to leave the classroom to work with teachers. I also share that I am an introvert with a generalized anxiety disorder.
One sentiment that I’ve heard echoed from infant and toddler teachers across the country is that they don’t feel valued by their peers, administrators or classroom parents. This is a feeling that I know all too well. During my time as a toddler teacher it was hard for me to see the connection between being a caregiver and an early childhood educator. I spent my days changing diapers, redirecting, settling big feelings and tidying up. If I couldn’t see my value as an educator then how would anyone else? It took years of reflecting and researching before I truly understood the importance of the work I was doing each day.
My philosophy as a director was, if the teachers are happy, the children are happy and if the children are happy, the parents are happy. While that formula is not 100% I promise in most situations happy teachers will make an administrator's job much easier. Happy teachers do not come without a lot of time and nurturing from the administration. So, how do you create a culture where your teachers feel safe, challenged, and encouraged?
In Part 1 of my blog post on professional growth I share the reasons why growing personally and professionally is necessary. It is important to remember that growing and reflecting on our teaching practices is not something that we rush to complete. I am twenty years into my educational career and I am still learning and growing. There are often times I wish I could turn back the clock so that I could apply my newly developed skills in an early education classroom. Instead of focusing on the past I take to heart the saying “when you know better you do better” and I share the gifts of this new knowledge with educators so they can transform their teaching practices.
You might have guessed that the topic of professional growth is something that is near and dear to my heart. Our entire business was created to provide continuous opportunities for teachers and parents to reflect upon their practices. It may seem like a convenient focus for a blog post but in reality it is something that has weighed heavily on my heart for a long time.
In my house we have a bit of a book obsession. Recently I ran across a book my husband purchased for my 13 year old following his many inquires about how things work in the business world. The book was called, The Visual MBA by Jason Barron. On the cover he touts “2 years of business school packed into one priceless book of pure awesomeness.” He had my attention!
The foundation for learning in my last school was based on a hands-on, play-based approach where children had open ended time to explore. There were adult guided explorations and a flexible daily schedule. Children engaged in extended periods of play that was uninterrupted by an adult. During those years I noticed that children’s ability to engage in unstructured play, compared to their same aged peers, often related to the age they enrolled.
We thought about it, we talked, we researched and now we are ready! Carrie and I are launching our Transforming Early Childhood Education blog with this post.
First, a little about how we got here.
TECE has been years in the making. It first started as an idea that Carrie held alongside her teaching career spending her first year out of the classroom designing and facilitating in-person workshops in early childhood programs and conferences. Then grew as I came on into a more expansive dream including online professional development courses. As we talked about what we wanted to do with our lives in education we had many overlapping ideas and goals but what it came down to is both of us wanted to reach and support as many teachers as possible.
Now, we are busy creating!
We travel all over the east coast facilitating in person workshops and conferences, we are digging into producing online courses for teachers, and creating free parent videos. We are currently planning our inaugural conference, beginning our blog, and working on a free digital resource library for teachers and parents.
What will you get from this blog?
This blog will cover a range of topics inspired by articles and books we read, conferences we attend, and inspirations we have from working with you! We hope you will engage, share your thoughts, and become an active member of our community. You can expect new posts weekly beginning in February.
Danielle and Carrie