Tag Archives: school

Moving On

tough-transition

“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” —Chinese Proverb

In a little less than two weeks, my son will enter fifth grade, and my daughter will enter kindergarten. My son, who just recently turned 10, has gone to the same early childhood program since he was 6-weeks-old. This is the same program my daughter currently attends, and she’s been there since her first few months of life, as well. Both of my children have been there full time since infancy. When he began first grade, my son continued to attend this program for before- and after-care during the school year, and then summer camp when school was out every year since.

A couple of weeks ago, we dropped the bomb on him that this would be his last summer there— his time there was coming to an end because he was simply too old to attend anymore. Next summer it would be time to move on to somewhere that was more age-appropriate for him.

From under the brim of his baseball cap, I could see tears welling up in his big, blue eyes. “But, mom, I’ve GROWN UP there! I LOVE that place! I don’t want to leave.” I understood him completely. To be honest, I didn’t want him to go, either. The people that work at that program literally helped my husband and I raise our children— they were our village. He was safe there, he was loved.

Many of you reading this have children in your programs that are going through similar transitions this time of year. Whether you’re saying goodbye to your school-agers, sending your preschoolers off to kindergarten, or transitioning your infants up to the toddler room, there are many things that you, as an early childhood educator, can do to help ease the uncertainty of this process.

  • Develop a transition plan. The first thing to keep in mind, when helping a child transition to a new classroom or setting, is that this will be a transition for not just the child, but for their family, as well. Meeting with family members to develop a transition plan before the actual transition takes place is a helpful tool to get everyone on the same page about how and when everything will occur. Get input about what the child might need to make the transition a successful one, and find out what questions or concerns the family may have about the process. . If possible, have both the child’s “current ” and “new” teachers be part of developing this plan. The “current ” teacher often has knowledge of how the child functions in a school setting that would be helpful for the “new” teacher to know.
  • Provide age-appropriate activities in the classroom in preparation for the transition. When children are preparing to move to a new classroom or educational setting, classroom teachers can provide a multitude of activities to help ready children for their move. Keep in mind what skills or knowledge would be helpful for the child to have in their new setting, and start working on those things while they’re still in your room. For example, a toddler who’s moving to a preschool room might benefit from working on self-help skills such as throwing their own items away after lunch or snack, or pulling their own pants up and down when beginning to use the potty. A school-age teacher might role play with his/her class how to shake hands, look someone in the eye, and introduce themselves.
  • Involve the children in conversations regarding their upcoming move. Having positive conversations with the children in your care about their new classroom or school can also be helpful. Use their new teacher’s name (if you know it), show them photos of their new environment, or even take a walk or a field trip there.

Ironically, as much as we care for the children in our programs, as early childhood educators it is ultimately our goal to help children reach a place where they no longer need us. Growing up and moving on are good things—they are natural parts of life that can be exciting and wonderful!

Supporting children through changes, big and small!

The office in which I work recently moved. As the big day approached excited chatter filled the air. We planned our new routes to work. We discussed the neighborhoods and restaurants surrounding our new office and strategically planned to visit each new restaurant. We talked about decorating, furniture placement and meeting areas.

In the middle of the excitement and packing I found myself becoming a little sad and a bit reflective. I reflected on all of the “beginnings” I’d had within the office. I began a new job there. I built new friendships and relationships in that office. I started a new chapter of my life within those walls and I decided I was going to miss being there.

Children struggle with change just as adults do. Early childhood educators have the power to make it a little easier on them.

As I reflected, I started to feel out-of-sorts and a little moody. My family even noticed the change in my mood and commented that I seemed distant. I am an introvert by nature and I deal with change and chaos internally. I escape into myself and ponder my thoughts, feelings and reactions. I scrutinize everything and look for ways to calm the storm within.

As one thought often leads to another I began to consider not only how I was coping with this change but I thought of all the children who deal with change and chaos on a daily basis. My change was a planned and scheduled change. I knew about it months in advance and was a part of the moving process. My thoughts began focusing on the children in our programs who sometimes don’t have the luxury of even knowing when a change, whether large or small, is about to happen. Many times children and their families are moving from place to place. Many children are going from household to household and back again as parents battle for custody. Children sometimes have no idea where the next meal is coming from.

How can child care providers help our most vulnerable population deal with change? How can we support them through the chaos of life? One thing providers can do is offer consistency. Each child needs to know when he/she enters the center for the day that there are some things that will always be the same. Consistency in teaching staff means safety and security. Children need that one adult in whom they can trust and build a relationship.

Children also need a consistent daily schedule and routine. A daily schedule provides some security in knowing what will happen next each day. Children need to know that each day after free play they will go outside. After they go outside they will come back inside to wash hands and eat lunch. A consistent schedule allows children to relax within the environment. Children who are relaxed and feel secure in the environment are more prepared to learn.

Providers can provide understanding and support. All children react differently to change. One child may adapt easily to a new baby in the home while another may experience stress and anxiety. One child may show no outward sign of stress while another may act out by screaming, throwing toys or simply by becoming more clingy and crying more often. It’s important to recognize the signs of stress and provide unconditional love and support during a time when our children need us the most.

I am happy to report we are settled into the new office. We are each adding a personal touch and adjusting to the newness. In reflecting upon the last few weeks I realize that as an adult I have survived the move and I am able to move forward in dealing with the change. As providers, it is our responsibility to help children feel supported and loved during times of change and chaos in today’s ever-changing world.

Let the children BE

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.

Children learn best when we can relax and remain present in the moment. But what's the best way to do that?

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.

– Christine

Stickers for good behavior?

We should encourage good behavior for good behavior's sake, allowing children the opportunity to enjoy a job well done.

In a recent meeting, the topic of rewarding children for good behavior came up. This can be a touchy subject. Although I have my own opinions on the subject I chose to sit back and listen as the discussion unfolded.  The conversation became quite spirited: raised voices, red faces. As my colleagues argued, I reflected upon my own knowledge and experience with reward systems and young children.

Rewarding children for good behavior is giving a child something tangible (for example, stickers or small toys) for successfully completing a required task or successfully exhibiting the expected behavior in a situation. Teachers often implement a reward system in their classroom to ensure children follow the classroom rules. The reward system is often in the form of a chart. Children can collect stickers or tokens for the chart each time they behave the way the teacher wants. Children can later swap the stickers for a reward.

A classroom reward system can help a new or struggling teacher focus on children’s positive behavior instead of the negative. Working for prizes can be motivating and that motivation can help a teacher and her students feel less stressed throughout the day. In fact, as a young and inexperienced teacher I often used a reward system to make it through the day. I simply didn’t have any other tools to get the desired behavior from my 4-year-old students. The reward system worked. I began to feel as if I had some control in my classroom, the system was easy and the children seemed happy.

However, I soon found out that a reward system is only good as a short-term fix. My students became wise to my ways and they upped the ante. I soon noticed I needed to provide more and larger items to reach my desired results. Also, some children simply no longer cared about the reward. I needed to do something different and I needed to do it quickly. I needed to allow the children to feel the pleasure of a job well done.  They needed an opportunity to experience choices. They needed permission to grow based upon the choices they made, not on the reward I had to offer that day.

I began by weaning them off a reward system that was based upon tangible prizes and I began to really communicate with my children. I became more intentional and consistent with my expectations. We reviewed the rules and expectations daily. We discussed what may happen if we leave puzzles on the floor. We talked about how it feels to be hit. We talked about what will happen if someone chooses to hurt a friend. We became problem-solving partners in the classroom. Instead of adding stickers to a chart I added specific praise and encouragement. I often told my children how proud their faces look when they remembered to put their work away.  I told them they were being good friends by offering to work together with someone instead of keeping the blocks to themselves and I coached them through arguments. We made classroom books that included pictures of them following the rules. We showed respect for others by saying “please” and “thank you.” The children began to own their behavior and they began to experience how good it feels to do a good job, to be a good friend and make a good choice for the sake of doing it, not for the prize at the end of the day.

Creativity and Academics Go Hand in Hand!

As a teacher and a parent I have always encouraged creative thinking by providing lots of open-ended materials such as books, blocks, dramatic play items and art materials. When I was at home with my 4-year-old daughter one of our favorite activities was to draw a squiggle on a piece of paper for each other, and then we would each create a drawing from the squiggle. Then we created a drawing from the squiggle. I was lucky enough to have her in my preschool classroom, too, where she was happy and well-behaved, her days filled with creative activities.

Photo courtesy of Selena N.B.H.

Photo courtesy of Selena N.B.H.

But when she went to kindergarten, my daughter’s enthusiasm for school waned. She was anxious and struggling with her work. Her teacher reported that she was well loved by the other students and always participated in all of the activities, but she struggled with her assignments. When I asked to see an example of her work, her teacher showed me a paper where the children were to draw two fish alike. But instead of completing this assignment, my daughter had drawn two detailed fish with purple with pink polka dots.

When I asked why my daughter’s assignment was “wrong,” the teacher produced another child’s assignment where the child had drawn two fish that were exactly the same. And then she produced another, and another, all perfect examples of modeled art. What could have been a creative opportunity was instead a test, and one my daughter had “failed.” I walked away from that conversation with her teacher knowing that I needed to find another learning environment that encouraged creativity, namely, both convergent and divergent thinking.

Convergent thinking is the ability to come up with a single correct answer. This type of thinking is measured through standard testing methods. Divergent or creative thinking is the ability to come up with new and usual answers. Both are important! Let the children in your classroom explore and allow them to express their thoughts and ideas. You’ll be supporting curiosity, flexibility and originality in their work and play, and encouraging unique and effective solutions. Teachers should strive to help children explore their academic potential and their creative potential.

– Stephannie

A Breath of Fresh Air

This past Thanksgiving, my granddaughter went over to the sliding glass window, smiled at me and pointed outside. The next thing I knew she was holding my hand and we were heading outdoors.

She did this several times throughout the day, and we’d always go out for 15 or 30 minutes at a time. At first I felt that I was going outside “for her,” but after awhile I realized I was going outside for me, too. The fresh air was a welcome relief! Together we explored: collecting sticks, watching our scarves blow in the breeze, climbing, running and just enjoying each other’s company. We had more time to talk – and listen! – to each other once we were outside.

Outdoor play is often abbreviated during the colder months, but it doesn’t have to be. Playing outdoors supports all aspects of a child’s development, helps prevent obesity and reduces the spread of illness. Not to mention it feels good just to get out of a stuffy classroom! If you and the children are properly dressed for it, take the fun outside. Blow bubbles, play with hula hoops, have a winter-themed parade with noisemakers or enjoy some dramatic play out of doors by doing a little “yard work.” We’ve written before that there’s no perfect temperature for outdoor play, and it’s true. Head outside! The fresh air will do everyone good.

Looking for fun? You’ll find it at the library!

Advertisers spend billions of dollars telling children exactly where to find happiness and satisfaction: fast food restaurants, toy stores, amusement parks. But there’s another place in town offering our children happiness, satisfaction and a lot more: your local library! Most libraries can’t afford a splashy ad campaign to entice our children, however, so it’s up to us to get them interested!

Begin by promoting weekly library time for your family in your center or child care home. Schedule the library to come into your center for monthly visits and make this as special as a TV show or holiday.

Educate the parents in your programs about the importance of the library and all the library has to offer. Share with them that the library offers comfortable places for them to sit with their children and enjoy books together. Reading stories to your child can be a time of closeness and sharing.  Be sure to build in time for it at every library visit, and explore the other resources your library has to offer! The children’s section in many libraries includes magazines for the very young, puzzles, tapes to listen to and toys to play with. Libraries are now equipped with computers and computer games, but nothing beats a good old fashioned story time.

Get to know your librarian. You want children to see that librarians are approachable grown-ups who can introduce them to good books. Question the librarian about where to find books that are age-approproate. Ask about special events at the library: movie nights, craft activities, puppet shows, cooking lessons and much more. Librarians know lots of ways to keep children interested in stories and books. Watching one in action is a good way to pick up some tips on reading to your own children.

Try to end each visit by following a predictable routine. You might look at something interesting such as an aquarium or a favorite picture first, then check out books and wave goodbye to the librarian. Doing things the same way each time makes it easier to get your children to leave the library, but if you’re lucky, they won’t want to!