I’ve decided I want to get the word “Be” tattooed on my wrist as a reminder. For me, it would be a reminder of a lot of different things. Relax. Be in the moment. Let the children be. Let the activity be. Watch. Observe.
It’s becoming increasingly stressful to be an early childhood educator. The demand to get children ready for school is an ever-present thought in every educator’s brain. My reaction to these demands is to BE. Be with the children. Grasp those teachable moments. Be in the process. Give children finger paint and let them explore. Be outside. Participate in the wonder of nature. Be amazed at the children’s curiosity. Read books. Be in the story. Be quiet. Listen to the environment. Listen to the children. You may be surprised at how much children learn during these moments. You may also be surprised at how much YOU learn, as well.
As we are being, we are teaching and children are learning. Children are learning the scientific process while interacting with paint. They are learning about textures while exploring nature. Children are learning writing skills while using crayons and markers. They are learning math skills while working with blocks. Children are learning self-regulation while engaged in dramatic play.
Most of all, children are learning to BE. They are learning to be competent learners. They are learning that school is fun. They are developing a passion for learning. Children are learning to trust their adults. They are learning to trust themselves.
My advice to early childhood educators? Bask in the attention that’s currently being paid to our field. Showcase your talents. Advocate for your children. Educate society on what the children are learning because you are BEING with them. Have an understanding in theory and developmentally appropriate practice so that your BEING is rooted in a firm foundation. Know why you are doing what you are doing. Soon enough everyone else will realize the value of being, too.
On October 8 at 7:35 p.m., I was blessed with my third little angel, Kenneth Abraham. During my pregnancy so many people asked if I was planning on going back to work. My reply? “Of course! Why wouldn’t I? This is my third baby!”I thought I would just jump right back into the swing of things because I was such a pro, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think this one has been the hardest transition for me because I know he is my last!
As my older two were growing up I used to say, “I can’t wait until he can roll over,” or “I can’t wait until she can talk,” but with Kenny I want to cherish every smile, every tear, every cry and every giggle! He slept for 8 and a half hours last night and while a part of me is jumping for joy that we have a sleeper, I am feeling sad that the midnight “dates” he and I shared in the rocking chair by his bedroom window snuggling close together every few hours are going to dwindle away. I’m even becoming a little jealous of his caregiver because she often gets to see more of him than I do.
Those of us who care for these precious little ones have such a huge responsibility. Have you ever stopped and thought about who you are caring for each day? Mother and Father’s sweet baby, Grandma and Papa’s dear little ones, Auntie’s little stinker… what an undertaking! In the office we often use the phrase “success by six” to describe just how important early childhood is. Children’s brains are developing at such a high rate and it is our responsibility to make sure we aid in this process, which means knowing the rules and regulations and learning about what is developmentally appropriate in our professional development each year. We aren’t baby sitters, we’re child care professionals! Being a mom, being an early childhood educator… they’re both the best job in the world.
Being new to the position of leadership coach at 4C but also having plenty of experience in the field as a director myself, I have noticed that one of the largest hurdles is getting staff to workshops willingly!
Getting staff on board with the idea of training during “off hours” can be a challenging and stressful job for the administrator. It can be overwhelming and time consuming, especially when you are trying to orient new staff to your program.
Acclimating new staff to what is expected of them as a professional can be a little like potty training a puppy. It’s not easy! Veterinarians say that it can take up to a year to fully potty train puppies, and even then some never step up to the challenge. To successfully train puppies (and your staff!), it takes time, effort, rewards and consistency.
Sure, staff need to understand the atmosphere of what makes your program tick, but they also need those basic skills that will help them enter the classroom with confidence and knowledge. What if the employees don’t understand what is developmentally appropriate? What if they don’t know how to write a lesson plan and what content they should be teaching? What if they don’t have creative ideas about behavior management? What if they knew what to say in an interview but had NO IDEA how to carry it out when they are faced with the actual children in a classroom?
Professional development is invaluable in building the confidence and knowledge that contribute to a great staff member. When teachers have exhausted all of their good ideas in the classroom, workshops offer them the chance to refresh and to explore new approaches to learning. So often I see teachers in workshops writing down ideas with excitement, ready to take what they have learned and apply it to their classroom.
Challenge your staff to take on professional development for their own growth. As a team look at what is offered and register for classes that will aid in their progress. Challenge yourself to not only attend the workshops yourself but model the growth process for your staff! Never consider yourself fully “trained.” There’s always more to learn!
One of the best gifts that my mother ever gave me was a large stack of drawings that I created when I was 5 years old. I was flooded with joyful memories of painting and drawing as a child, how much I enjoyed communicating my feelings with crayons and paint!
As an adult, I am comforted by the feelings that I was able to express; and more importantly that my explorations of art as a child allow me to continue to express myself this way as an adult. My parents and my teachers encouraged me, and not in the ways you might expect! When it comes to children’s art, the best thing that we can do as educators is to give the child control over what they are creating. For example, avoid labeling. Instead of telling the child what they’re drawing (“That is a great picture of an elephant!”), ask the child to tell you about their picture. You might be surprised to find that what you thought was an elephant was actually a picture of you! With the child’s permission, write down exactly what the child tells you about their picture. Storytelling can play a very large role in children’s art.
One of my childhood drawings!
Educators should also avoid modeled art, where the project has a very particular finished product in mind. Instead allow the child to enjoy the process: the flow of the paint, the movement of the crayon, and watch their imaginations roam!