Archive for the ‘early childhood’ Category

I wonder how many times we step in and “do” instead of helping young children be the do-ers.

I think about how teachers bring in a variety of books appropriate for a specific topic and make them available for children to discover and peruse.

And I wonder… “what if …”

  • what if … we interact with children when they are exploring a topic or object and we suggest or they suggest that a library book would provide more information.
  • what if … we make a list of topics that we want to research when we go to the library.
  • what if … the children help write an email for the librarian, asking that he/she gather some related books for the teacher to pick up or to be available when the children go on a library field trip
  • what if … the children help write a thank-you note for the librarian in appreciation for the help
  • “What if” … we teach children how to plan ahead, how to seek out knowledgable supports, how to request things and how to give thanks?

    “What if” … we taught children HOW to do research?


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    I saw this message shared through the Dalai Lama’s Facebook page:

    We have to think and see how we can fundamentally change our education system so that we can train people to develop warm-heartedness early on in order to create a healthier society. I don’t mean we need to change the whole system, just improve it. We need to encourage an understanding that inner peace comes from relying on human values like, love, compassion, tolerance and honesty, and that peace in the world relies on individuals finding inner peace.

    This is what I have been looking at. This is what we need to be focusing on as we teach all of the other skills that the next generation needs.

    Teaching a child to feel that sense of inner peace when he is in a conflict situation or meets a barrier in his path of some goal, for example, is absolutely vital to the health and well-being of the child as well as that of our society as a whole.

    Do you role-model this way of being? Do you nurture it in others, empower it, teach it, guide it?

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    Recently, there has been several discussions about the difference between collaborations and cooperations, initiated by the blogs of Justin Schwamm. Although I’m not sure I totally understand the differences that were discussed, I had to take a closer look at the two words from my own perspective.

    When I think of cooperation I think of Sesame Street and lessons taught about getting along, about cooperating. Wonderful lessons! Today, as I mesh it with the other Wisdoms, other discussions about community, I see it as a “me” and a “you” (your “me”), each with our own agendas working together harmoniously, perhaps on the same project but still from the “me” perspective.

    Collaborating, on the other hand, from my perspective, is about bringing my “me” and your “me” together, sharing knowledge, Wisdom, and skills, (etc) as one community, one “we”, with the goal of contributing together for one community and for the larger community. It is about bringing the Fire of Truth together for a common goal.

    Collaboration vs Cooperation

    The above diagram is a visual for my view of the two concepts, based on the focus of education.
    With collaboration we are all part of a community which is connected to another community, which sits within a larger community, each impacting the other in some way. “I” am just another circle in the mix.

    Cooperation, on the other hand, separates the communities, looking at them one at time, although by touching they do have an impact on other units. “I” am at the centre of the wheel.

    Empowering Collaboration
    First, we have to understand collaboration and we have to believe in it. Why is it important? How does it have a positive impact on the individual, on society, and on our world as a whole?

    Next, we need to believe that it is worth the effort to empower it, to build it. We have to have it as a priority motivation in the big scheme of things. With so many things on our plate, can we fit this one more concept and skill into our interactions with children? Will we have to give up something in exchange? Will we be motivated by the desire to empower this perspective of relationships?

    Belief, Motivation, Skill & Self-Control: Self-control is about the strategies we will use to keep collaboration as a priority. It is about making it happen on an ongoing basis. And, now, that leaves the skill part of the components of change. How do we build and empower collaboration within a classroom?

    Collaboration is about a common goal so identifying this as a group is important. How do we get everyone on board? One component of this is using the Fire of Truth – ensuring that we are bringing each student into the community based on their interests, their skill levels, their passions, and their personal gifts and talents.

    From the perspective of early childhood education, I picture a conversation about fire trucks. Some children will want to read books about the topic, do research. Others will want to draw pictures, perhaps create decorations for the room. Still others will want to build a fire truck or a fire station. Each child, from his/her perspective will bring their skills and knowledge into the mix, sharing information, insights, and contributions to the big picture.

    Cooperation, on the other hand might look like this: the teacher brings in a big box that will be turned into a fire truck. Everyone shares ideas of what it should look like and how to transform it into a vehicle. The students cooperate and work on the project together. Some children might end up watching after a few minutes; others will wander off to do something else; some will struggle with cooperation and fight over how they think it should look; and some will be immersed in their favourite activity of building. And the teacher will be busy reminding the children to cooperate, to get along, to take turns, to share, etc. With collaboration, we respect, empower and utilize each child’s unique perspective of the topic.

    Collaboration, I believe or I envision, is about that deeper connection to life. It is about contributing to the greater good. If we want to enhance this perspective then we need to use the words. We need to empower through labeling of what is happening and why. “We are a community here. Everything we do impacts each other .. and our classroom… and our school… and our families … ”

    Collaboration is about thinking beyond the four walls. We can encourage and plan for activities that involve the larger community. “Johnny’s great-grandmother is going to a nursing home today. What do you think we could do to help her feel welcome in her new home? What about the other grandmothers and grandfathers who live there? What other thoughts, questions, or ideas do you have?” Each child brings his/her ideas to the circle. The ideas are meshed together in a way that empowers each child, that connects each child with the bigger circle, the bigger community.

    Older children may mention a complaint they have about their school or community or society. “So what can we do about it? What can we do? What difference can we make and how do we get there in a healthy, positive, contributing way?”

    And …
    what other ways can we empower collaboration, the view of community instead of “me”?

    And …
    how do you see collaboration and cooperation? What are the differences and similarities?

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    Earlier this week I wrote a piece about respect and the stories that I heard about people not respecting their elders because “old people” don’t have anything valuable to give them.

    I shared this with a preschool community and Deborah Stewart commented with these wise words:

    “it is when I give you my respect that I am ready to begin learning from you.”

    This quote has touched me to the core. It really shifts my vision and understanding of respect. It’s not about you earning my respect; it is not about me respecting you because of your actions or “just because” on a Spiritual level … it is about the relationship that is built because of this unconditional respect.

    Respecting someone or something because we are all equals (as I wrote the other day) is great but, it, too, is more of a “me” thing than a “we” thing. Deborah’s Wisdom takes it further. “It is when I give you my respect that I am ready to begin learning from you.”

    When I give you respect I open my eyes and ears and Spirit to listen to, to look at, and to feel the teachings that you have for me. I no longer just see “you” but I see you as a Wise one, as someone who has lessons for me, someone who has had experiences that I haven’t and has learned lessons or neglected lessons that I can learn from.

    I give you my respect. I am here to learn. Teach me.

    Several years ago my lesson of the year was that we need to share our stories. We need to tell of our experiences and the lessons that we learned from them. Adding to that Wisdom is that we need to seek out the stories of others and not just wait for the book or movie to appear. I think of that homeless man that I mentioned in the last blog — what is his story? What are the lessons that he has learned and the lessons that he has been blind to? Who has asked about his story? What happens if nobody asks? … If nobody sees his story, if nobody asks about his story, then his story, his lessons, are trapped within him and we all lose that piece of the Fire of Truth.

    And how do we teach this to young children? I used to play a game with my children when we were waiting in the car for their Dad. We’d people watch and come up with scenarios about where the person was coming from and where they were headed. What we were doing was imagining their stories. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was teaching them to “see” people, to see their stories. If I had known then what I know now, I would have expanded this activity to include words such as respect and equal, Wisdom and lessons.

    What else can we do to teach children to give respect and be open to learn?


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    Respecting the Elders

    Yesterday, twice I heard a statement that really bothered me. It was about not respecting the elders of the community. Really?

    In the first instance, since it was posted in a teacher’s network I can only assume that it was written by a teacher and the comment went something like, “If as an elder you don’t have something positive that I can learn from then I can’t respect you.”

    The second story came from a high school classroom. One of the students made a comment that old people have no use in society and should just be gotten rid of.

    Both of the statements have left me with a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and in my heart. They have also left my brain spinning as I contemplate what these messages mean as it pertains to our society as a whole. How did these beliefs get planted in their minds? What does this say about our society’s value system? What impact is this type of mentality going to have on our communities in the future? Has these beliefs always been around but I’ve just been oblivious to them? Why did I get these two stories on the same day…

    That last question is an easy one. There is a message within the synchronicity and I need to write about it. So here we are. I’m writing!

    Respect. No, wait, let’s look at the “if you don’t have anything to give me” then you are no use to me. This is the underlying message of both statements. Where does this come from? One contributing factor, I believe, is the reward system.

    “Do your chores.”
    “What will you give me if I do?”
    “Not good enough. Not worth it to me.”

    What are we teaching? That unless there is a worthy carrot being dangled then why bother? There has to be something rewarding in it for me. What we are doing is validating the “me” perspective. “I” won’t do it unless I want to; “I” won’t do it if I don’t see that I am going to get something from it. “I” want something in return.

    Is this really what we want our society to be like? Wouldn’t you rather have the individual think something like, “If I choose to do this, will it have a positive effect on the community?” Don’t we really want to build a healthy community and not just a “what’s in it for me” bunch of individuals sharing the same space?

    Ok.. now let’s look at “respect”. Respecting one’s elders. I get the whole “earn one’s respect”. I believe in that. I’ve used it as a mantra during parenting programs. It isn’t just a given. Your actions are what develops respect from others. But then I read the statement that if there isn’t something positive to learn then there is no respect and I want to go back to all the parents that I have worked with and add to my teachings.

    There is earned respect from the interactions. And then there is a respect for all things, period. Every thing and every person has a story and each of us has our own journey to walk and our challenges to overcome. We each have our burdens, our distorted perceptions, our mistakes, and our Wisdoms. And we each have lessons that we can teach others in the community, others sitting around the Fire of Truth.

    We are all doing our best to make it in this world, to survive, to be, to become and in some way to contribute. I respect that. And I want the next generations to respect that. I want the next generations to respect all things, period. This doesn’t mean that they have to put everyone on their mentor list or keep a relationship going with all individuals. “Live and let live.” “Live, RESPECT, and let live.” Perhaps this is my new mantra.

    And still my brain is in a whirlwind. I keep picturing a society of youth, not wanting input from the older generation, not respecting what has taken place because of them, not recognizing that they, too, are still contributing to society in some way.

    I recently saw a picture online, one of the “most powerful photos from 2012” or something like that. It was a photo of some fashion models and to the side sat a homeless man. What is the message here? Who has something greater to contribute? Who is wiser? Is it the models? The photographer? The viewer? The homeless man? Or are we all equals. Does the homeless man not deserve respect? Does he not have a story that we could learn from?

    And then I think of the endless number of stories of veterans who come home and bury their emotional pain with alcohol which leads to a break-down in relationships. I think of the children who have no respect for their parent because of the post-duty behaviours. And I think of the honour, integrity, bravery, commitment, and other traits that are part of these soldiers, the part of the people that is being forgotten. I think of the relationships that are lost because of this loss of respect.

    And so I start to see the two-sided coin of respect. There is the mentoring respect of the “now” -the direct relationship between behaviour and perspective and there is the Spiritual respect that lies underneath or over top or intertwines through all things: the respect for all things because we are all the same, all on a journey here on this earth, all with his/her own story. And I respect that. I do not know you. I have not walked a mile in your moccasins. I do not need to. I understand that you are me, just on a different path and I respect you.

    How do we teach this Spiritual Respect? We use the words, we plant the seeds. We provide experiences to listen, to be empathetic, to contemplate the possible underlying stories. We create situations for interactions, for giving and receiving as well as sharing the lessons and the Wisdom.

    I want to end with a special story that still touches my heart today. I used to facilitate a drop-in playgroup for children and parents at a hospital rec room. The elderly patients would use the space as well for their therapy sessions.

    One sunny day, we arranged for the seniors and the children to go outside and the children were going to play with bubbles. It was lovely. And then I had the honour of watching this interaction between a four-year-old and a frail, elderly gentleman.

    Boy: You want to blow a bubble?
    Man: (silence)
    Boy: Here. Blow. Your turn. (and he held the bubble maker up to the lips of the gentleman.)
    Man: (nothing, no bubble blowing, no smile, no movement.. just sitting in his wheelchair)
    Boy: You can do it… just blow. Like this, See? (and he blows a bubble and returns the wand to the man’s lips.)
    Man: (exhale … and the slightest of wobble is made in the bubble.)
    Boy: that’s it!! Just a little harder. You can do it. Blow….
    Man: (a bigger exhale… and a tiny bubble popped out and floated into the air.)
    Boy: You did it! You did it!! I knew you could do it!! Yeah!!!

    Behind the gentleman stood his daughter who lived far away and just happened to be there for a visit on that day. The tears flowed, the smile on her face was from ear to ear.

    I learned about respect that day — taught by a four-year old who had nothing to be gained, only to be given. And taught by the gentleman who exhaled…


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    I had a wonderful conversation, yesterday, with a daycare supervisor regarding the building of community.

    Community is SO important and should be a cornerstone of our goals with children. We want them to be healthy, contributing members of society and that begins in early childhood. We want them to be able to engage with other members of the community, listen to and learn from the other members, mentor, support, seek help from, create together, share, and bring in their own personal skills.

    What Communities Are There In A Classroom?

    A classroom is the home of many communities. There are:
    * the community of friends (children’s friendships)
    * the community of peers (the group of children as a whole)
    * the teachers/co-workers within a classroom
    * the teachers and children
    * the children and their families/caregivers
    * the teachers and the families/caregivers
    * the staff of the centre as a whole
    * the centre and community at large
    * the centre and the community’s governing body
    * the centre and the policy makers etc
    * the early childhood education community

    How Do We Build Community In The Classroom?
    1. We observe the interactions, conscious of “community” in order to enhance it
    2. We create situations that bring communities together, to talk together, to work together
    3. We incorporate the Fire of Truth – helping participants of the community listen to, respect, and learn from others as well as share their own perspectives and Wisdom

    Yesterday, as the daycare supervisor and I wandered through the centre, it was lunch time – a wonderful opportunity to build community! What types of conversations take place around the table? Is it food related? Eating etiquette reminders? Self-help support? And/or are there conversations about the morning? About upcoming events? About children’s interests? About community?

    Imagine a conversation that could go something like this:
    Teacher: what did everyone do on the weekend?
    Sally: we went skating.
    T: Skating. How fun. Where did you go to skate? To a pond? To an arena?
    S: We went to the arena. It was cold at first but then it was fun. And after we sat on the benches and had hot chocolate. Daddy fell down but he was okay. He had skates on. I just had my boots. But I was skating. That’s what Daddy said.
    T: sounds like a lot of fun. Hmmm Maybe we could create an arena here in the classroom.
    S: Oh could we? And then could we have hot chocolate?
    T: Of course. What do we need to create an arena?
    Johnny: We need ice! An arena has ice.
    T: How do you make ice?
    Johnny: Ice is just water but very very cold. You can make ice in the freezer but not in a refrigerator. It would melt.
    T: Melting would be a problem. Is there something else we could use instead of ice? [Teacher’s Mental Note or side conversation with co-worker: a great time to do some ice/melting/freezing experiments. Put ice and water in sensory bin. Use ice and powdered paint for creative activity.]
    Sally: plastic is slippery. I stepped on a plastic bag once and slipped and fell.
    T: James, your Dad works at ***, maybe he could get us a big sheet of plastic. Should we ask him?
    Class: yes!!!
    T: after lunch, let’s write him a letter!

    Not only have we built community around the lunch table but are reaching out to parents and the community at large.
    We have also completed a lot of planning, identifying activities for exploration, for sensory, and for creative art experiences! Bonus.

    That was just an example …
    What types of things do you do to create and enhance community within your classroom? What are your stories to share and inspire others?
    Building Community

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    Today, Justin Schwaam, in the ongoing dialogue about the education system, asks, “But how do we make time – or find time – for listening and community building in the midst of a rapid, rushing, important-seeming assembly line of instruction?”

    For me, it is about switching that around and fitting the instruction into the goal of building community. This is what we want, isn’t it – that our children are healthy, happy, contributors to our society, a joyful community, as Justin puts it?

    The media, the government, and the corporations all tell us that the economy is the driving force behind our society. Perhaps it is but is that really what we want our focus to be about? Isn’t the real goal to put a roof over our heads, put food on the table and to create opportunities for our natural gifts, passions and interests to contribute to society in a meaningful way? Isn’t this what really drives our society? Is the lack of joyful community the “why” behind the depression and anger that runs rampant throughout the world?

    Assuming that this joyful community is indeed our primary goal, how do we build it? What are the components of it? Some of it, or most of it, we have touched on already in this series of blogs about “beyond the 3 R’s”. We want our children/youth to:

    * respect each other and all things
    * learn from each other and from all things
    * support each other and all things
    * be empathetic, compassionate, empowering
    * know themselves, their gifts, their passions, their ways of thinking etc
    * use their talents in a way that contributes to society
    * seek Wisdom, learning from all experiences (good and bad)
    * listen to and share Wisdom with others in the “Fire of Truth”

    I am reminded of a Native story that says that a lesson learned by one is a lesson for all. With this perspective we give thanks to others for teaching us through their experiences and, then, through this we lose the judgement of others as well as our selves. It isn’t about being right/wrong or about choosing right/wrong (although choosing “the right” is our goal), it is about the lessons within each experience.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if after a situation takes place the joyful community comes together to share the lessons that they took from the experience and then said “thank-you” to the individual(s) who were involved in the event. “Thank-you, Johnny, for reminding me that self-control is important and sometimes difficult when someone takes your favourite things. And thank-you Sarah for teaching me about respecting the belongings of others. I am now a wiser person. Thank-you.” Imagine the healing that takes place during such a circle. Imagine the bonding of the community members, the respect, the integrity and honour.

    And imagine another situation where someone says, “I think we should try this strategy. Johnny, this is your area of expertise. What do you think we should do next? Can you do it? Show us? Teach us?”

    Or perhaps, more specifically, “I need to calculate how much ribbon I need to buy for this. I’m having troubles with that math. Sarah, you are good at this. Can you help me with the calculations?”

    And from specifics to a broader look: “I noticed that someone seems to be living in the park. What can we do to help this individual? Maybe there are others.” “Maybe we could plant a garden in the park so they could at least get free food? What do you think?”

    And the possibilities for the joyful community keep on coming!
    Joyful Community

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