Author Archives: angiegood

Smart devices in the classroom: the good and the bad

I was driving into work the other day and heard an advertisement for something called smart pajamas.  The smart pajamas app the corresponds to a set of physical pajamas will apparently read a story to your child at bed time.  I’ve also seen all kinds of smart phones and pads for children and adults on the television that seem as if they will make you smarter and life easier. The thing that strikes me about these pajamas is the lack of human interactions that are required. Children can hear stories from a smart pajama. They can communicate with friends in partially spelled words and abbreviations like LOL or BRB. As adults, I even notice that people don’t always make eye contact when they communicate. They will speak while their staring at their ‘smart’ device instead of making eye contact with the person they are with.

Smart devices in the classroom: the good and the bad

I admit, I have a smart phone. I use it to communicate with friends and send me reminders about different things happening in my schedule so I don’t forget. I will also admit that I purchased the same smart phone for my kids because I needed them to be able to teach me how to use the thing.

As much as I love the ability to text and use my ‘smart’ phone to organize my life, it could never take the place of the friends and family that provide lots of support to me as I navigate life. I am lucky that I have many people in my life who do support me in all I do. When I have a difficult day, I share a cup of coffee with my Aunt and she provides a listening ear. When I have exciting news to share, I make a cake and share it with my family so that they can celebrate with me. When I have questions to ask of my supervisor, I walk into her office and discuss the things I need to learn more about.

When I look at Ohio’s Early Learning and Development Standards, I see many opportunities for children to learn how to develop skills to interact with others. Within the Social and Emotion Domain, there are topics such as attachment, peer interactions and empathy. Ohio has created an implementation guide to support teachers in planning for these newer domains. For example, a goal within the topic of empathy for toddlers is to demonstrate awareness of the feelings expressed by others. There are many ways for teachers to support children in achieving this goal.  Teachers could read books that model compassion. Teachers could provide children with positive feedback for children who attempt to comfort one of their peers. Another best practice would be to model the behavior that is expected.

Smart devices are popular because they are so convenient. I’ve seen teachers use them in lesson planning and for documentation of learning. Some of the skills that children can learn through the use of this kind of technology are incredible. Among all of the knowledge that comes with smart devices, the most important skill to teach children is how to know when it is time to put their smart device down and be conscious of what is happening in the world around them.

–Angie G.

New year, new possibilities!

I can’t believe that it’s 2014.  I’m not sure what truly happened in 2013 that made it soar by so quickly, but here we are in the first month of a new year.  If you’re like me at all, you’ve already made your list of resolutions and are jumping on the band wagon to make 2014 the best year ever.  I have a mental list of all the things I would like to improve upon this year (anything from organization to fitness).

While you are preparing for a new year in your ECE program, don't miss out on what is happening in the here and now!

What does your mental list look like?  Classroom teachers, are you planning to rotate your materials to make your environment more interesting to the children?  Do you have goals of documenting children’s learning that happens through photographs?  Administrators, have you revisited everyone’s professional development plans and discovered what new and interesting workshops your staff could attend this year?

Making lists of all of the things that we resolve to do in a new year can feel very overwhelming.  So I think I have decided that the biggest resolution I have for myself this year is to slow down and just breathe. 2013 went by so very quickly that I can barely remember all of the important things that happened.  I hope that you will join me in taking time to slow down and enjoy the present today.

Whether you are a classroom teacher worried about keeping your portfolios up-to-date or an administrator navigating a new quality rating system or licensing regulations, take time to observe what is happening around you and appreciate the beauty of day-to-day life.  Classroom teachers, I hope that while you are keeping track of the goals that are set for the children in your classroom, you take time to play games with them and share their joy when they learn something new. Administrators, as you go through your checklists to make sure your teachers have all of the certifications that they need, I hope you also notice the good work being done in your classrooms and acknowledge their efforts. Wishing you and yours a memorable and productive 2014.  Happy New Year!

-Angie G.

Stick to your classroom routine—especially during the holidays!

The holidays are upon us and no matter which holidays you celebrate, I would guess that you have some family traditions built in that include food. In my family every celebration that we have includes food. There are birthday celebrations with homemade pastas and sauces. There are Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings with homemade pizzelles, a special Italian cookie that is only made for very special occasions. And, I can honestly tell you that the meals we serve are not the healthiest or the most balanced.

Stick to your classroom routines--especially during the holidays!

The challenge for me is that food is connected to so many of my family traditions and I also know that food is fuel for life. When I think back to my time in a classroom after certain holidays, I know that children behaved differently than normal because their food and sleep habits were disrupted. Within our child care programs, it’s important that we maintain consistent routines and schedules and food so that we can set children up for the highest success rates possible. We need to be certain that we include the appropriate amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to provide their bodies with the right fuel. When children have the right combination of sleep and nutritious meals to get them through their days, they have a better chance of handling the holidays with ease.

As you approach this holiday season inside of your classroom, I hope that you take time to talk with the children about the various traditions that are celebrated within their families. I hope that you share with them the traditions that you and your family celebrate as well. Most importantly, I hope you provide a consistent environment for the children you work with. As a mom, I truly appreciated the work of my children’s teachers to bring a sense of normalcy during a time when the world can seem upside down and inside out to a little one. As a teacher, normal during the holidays may seem a bit boring, but I would bet the children in your classroom will appreciate it more than you may know.

—Angie G.

The smell of change is in the air…

I have to say that fall is one of my favorite times of year. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of children headed back to school and participating in autumn-themed activities. I like the cooler temperatures and the changing leaves. There are smells and foods associated with fall and the changing seasons that just make me smile from the inside out. I truly welcome this change every year.

Embracing change in your ECE program

In addition to all of the typical changes associated with fall, there are also changes throughout the state of Ohio with Step Up To Quality.  The set up of the program standards document is different.  The terminology related to the rating system has changed.  The organizational systems used by many programs for years seems like it’s changing too. In Kentucky, there have been updates to licensing regulations as well. These changes seem to be causing confusion. No one seems to be smiling about these changes in the same way that a child might smile when they jump into a pile of crunchy leaves in the fall.

I want to encourage you to recognize that just like the physical changes that happen every fall, this type of change is good too. Even though we have to learn a new set of words and maybe even create some new systems to organize our paperwork, it’s all in the best interests of the children.  My hope is that as you take time to learn the different pieces associated with Step Up To Quality in Ohio and licensing regulations in Kentucky, you also take time to breathe and enjoy the good work that you are doing for the best interests of the children in your care.

When you face a challenge because of some of the changes that you see before you, please know that there are supports all around you.  At 4C for Children we have leadership networks and coaches who are able to answer questions and provide supports through these changes.  You can also reach out for support from friends and colleagues who are traveling this changing path with you. Accept the new systems and know that children will benefit. Most importantly, keep in mind the reason behind your work: the wonder in a child’s eyes as you teach him about what happens when summer turns into fall, and the smile on his face as he jumps into a pile of leaves and embraces the changing of seasons.

-Angie

Welcoming children and families into your early childhood classroom

Not too long ago, I received something in the mail that was unexpected and not so appreciated. I got a jury summons. When I saw the date listed on the front of the envelope, I cringed.  I thought to myself I don’t have time for this. I have reports to write and emails to send and teachers to visit with. I can’t possibly have time for jury duty. So, I opened my summons hoping that there would be some sign that I wouldn’t be eligible to participate. It wasn’t the case. I had to go.

To tell the truth, I was less than thrilled at the idea of driving downtown, finding a place to park and walking inside of the courthouse. What if I got lost? What if I didn’t find the right parking lot? What if once I got there I couldn’t find the right place to be? What if there wasn’t a restroom nearby? Was I allowed to take my lunch? I tried to stop the level of panic that I felt about this by reading all of the instructions on my jury summons. Nothing about this experience was feeling normal, so my imagination went wild predicting that I may be held captive at the courthouse, never to see my children and family again. One of the big reasons that I had so much worry about my jury service was that I didn’t know what to expect. I was worried taking care of my most basic needs.

Should you have a classroom orientation for your early childhood classroom?

Imagine a new child walking into your classroom. They’ve never been there before. They haven’t met any friends yet. They don’t know what the rules are. They don’t know what toys they can play with or where the bathroom is. They don’t know where to keep their special blanket safe or where their parent ran off to. What kinds of behaviors might you see from them if they have as many worries about entering your classroom as I had about entering jury duty?  When children don’t know what to expect and have worries about the things that are happening to them, lots of behaviors can occur, and they are usually the behaviors that no one wants to see.  Within the culture of your classroom, it’s important for children to understand that they are welcomed and accepted for who they are. How do you communicate that to the families and children you encounter? Is there an orientation for children and families? Do you post a welcome sign on your door letting them know they are in the right place? Is their cubby ready with their name already posted so they know that they belong? Do you have a picture schedule available to help children know what to expect?

I was very fortunate that I met someone who was excited to hear that I was called for jury duty.  He was able to explain the parking situation. He gave me an overview of what to expect in my first few hours and most importantly told me that there was a juror orientation that would answer all of my questions. On my first day of jury service, I was able to get where I needed to without many challenges. I found the right room and when I checked in someone even said good morning. Day two of jury service was much more enjoyable than day one because I knew what to expect.

As you have new children and families enter your programs and classrooms for the first time, I hope that you remember the importance of welcoming them into your space. Although they may enter your classroom or program with some initial worries on day one, with consistent orientation processes and a positive attitude from those in charge, day two should always be easier and even more fun. And if you are ever called to jury duty, just enjoy it. I can honestly say that once I stopped worrying, I did.

-Angie

The Culture of Child Care

I had the opportunity to live in Seoul, South Korea for about a year. I was able to experience all different kinds of people and food. I had the opportunity to live in a busy, urban area and only use public transportation. Grocery stores were different. Everything I experienced while I was there was different.

But I hope you noticed that the word I used to describe my experiences was ‘different,’ not ‘bad.’ Sometimes, things that are different make us feel uncomfortable. Because we are uncomfortable and experiencing something that varies from our version of normal, we place judgment on those differences and label them as bad or wrong. Things that are different aren’t bad or wrong, they’re new. They provide us an opportunity to see things from a new perspective.

How can you make families feel at home in your program?

Each and every day new families enter our child care facilities and see things that are very different from what they have at home. These families are experiencing a new culture: the culture of child care. One that is naturally very different from their home environments. And it’s good that it’s different! For some children and families, the culture of child care can feel very overwhelming. There are so many people. The food might be different. The place they sleep probably feels different. The way people communicate might feel different. It might even smell different.

Knowing that child care has a culture all of its own, how do we make families feel welcome? Do you shuffle kids and families through your doors, expecting them to know just what to do? Or do you take time out to say hello and be available to chat with them about some of the new things they are experiencing?

When I arrived in South Korea with 2 young children and way too much luggage, I was greeted by a very large gentleman who spoke no English. I’ll be honest.  I was scared until he smiled at me, tapped my hand and pointed me in the right direction. His smile showed me that even though I couldn’t communicate with him verbally, that it was going to be okay. It showed me that all these very different things would likely be fun because I was surrounded by people who were friendly and willing to point me in the right direction.

I sure hope that you will take time to smile and point a new family in the right direction.

– Angie

Are you on your check list?

Lately, it just seems as if life is moving so fast. It’s the end of the school year. Kids are taking tests. Schools are hosting end of the year concerts and taking field trips to local parks. There is so much to get done and so very little time to do it all. I don’t know how to get all of the things done that need to be done. I am overwhelmed. I am also task oriented, so I knew it was time for a check list.

One of the items on my check list was to attend a retreat with my colleagues titled Searching for Your Heart of Gold. When I first arrived at the retreat, I had a laundry list of things that I could be getting done racing through my head. Breakfast was served and still, all I could think about was pushing forward to the next big thing so that I could hurry even faster to something else. Finally the speaker arrived and she gave an assignment to complete: define who we are. I was so grateful to have something to do so I could push forward to what’s next that I was quick to get started. But I realized that rushing through her assignment wouldn’t do me any good. I took a deep breath and slowly began to open myself up to the activity of defining who I am.

Are you on your check list? The importance of self-care for early childhood educators.

We couldn’t define ourselves by the roles that we have like being a mom or our jobs. Rather we had to define what characteristics make us unique, what qualities feed our souls. I’ll be very honest, it was so hard to do. It took me many moments to define me and remember what feeds my soul. It’s something that is still on my mind, how can I take care of myself when I am losing myself in the day-to-day checklists I keep creating.

After the speaker finished and we had time for lunch and reflection, I took a walk around the space we were in. The sun was shining and I literally took time to slow down and think about the things that make me, me. I am creative. I am faithful. I am observant. I am kind. I am reflective. I am a thinker. I am a reader. I am passionate. I am a planner. I am a worrier. I am loyal.

I realized that in creating my check lists, I wasn’t part of the list. Everyone and everything else was on my list, but I was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t nurturing my soul so that I could continue to be the best me I can be!

In the field of early childhood, there are so many check lists that need to be taken care of, observations that need to be written, toys that need to be cleaned and rotated, parents that need to be greeted, children needing lunch, tables needing to be cleaned and sanitized. I could go on. My hope for all of us professionals in the field of early childhood is that we take time to add ourselves to our check lists. Take time to care for yourself so that you can continue to be rejuvenated and refreshed in the work you do each day.

– Angie