A Culture With No Mistakes

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Education today is heading in a direction where play is being undervalued and testing is being overvalued. There are many challenges as a play advocate and it becomes discouraging to find just the right evidence that will convince others to support PLAY as a learning vehicle for children versus rote instruction, worksheets, and testing. Past and much of current education is designed on the model of following instructions and not on being leaders and thinkers. Yet, we want our children to become inventors, problem solvers, and successful active members of society. Part of being successful is failure … making mistakes. We grade children and ridicule them for such things … we teach them to feel shame for failing and not to learn from it. We create children that are afraid to fail and take risks. But, play does allow this. It is a free space to try and try again, to fail, to test out ideas, to take risks. Play builds confidence, self-worth, and a space for mistakes.

 

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Last week I attended a Playworker Camp-ference (yes camp not conf-) hosted by SCV Adventure Play and I started to think about just this … I started collecting and reaffirming the WHYS of PLAY. One of the playworkers there that most resonated with me was Fraser Brown … I found myself too deep in thought and listening to take notes or comment when he spoke. But, the one note I wrote down was on a scrap of paper … unconditional positive regard. It stuck with me … something all children deserve …   Carl Rogers a humanistic psychologist outlines it with a definition that states “Unconditional positive regard is where parents, significant others (and other close people to the subject) accepts and loves the person for what he or she is.  Positive regard is not withdrawn if the person does something wrong or makes a mistake” (Saul McLeod, 2014).

Rogers believed that people who were raised within this genuine and positive environment would be able to reach goals, achieve desires and wishes, and grow – basically raising children in a culture of being able to be accepted and receive empathy while learning from mistakes. And that is a HUGE reason of why I believe in PLAY and respecting children. Are you willing to support a culture that allows for NO mistakes or are you willing to support PLAY, risk taking and learning for children?

There is a Time to Write and a Time to Share …

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This is a time to share … with education likely coming up against some pretty big walls in the near future I was happy to see the NY Times driving some positive vibes on the EC front. Did you see the article that is basically saying that preschool is about PLAY and Relationships!!!!???? I mean if you summed up their portrait of the school you should be shopping for I essentially interpret it as that. So read on my fellow EC people, Preschool Shoppers, and the like!!! This is what preschool should look like and I feel lucky to say that my typical day is not too far off from this!!!

 

 

Be the Change You Wish to See…

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This morning I wish to use my platform of blogging… the place I spread my voice… to speak for change. I have been very quiet as an educator on this blog as of late and I could blame it on time, on lack of ideas, of putting my advocacy eggs in other baskets, and on feeling as if I am in a learning curve with little to share for others on what to do but rather on what I should be doing. But that is neither here nor there. I will find my way and I already have new ideas on how to be more active in all lines of my life. But, this morning I have to do this… I have to ask you to be a part of the change. As I see our nation heading in a direction that is unpredictable and possibly very scary for women, educators, and diverse members of our nation I ask of you to offer support – to be the change you wish to see- to not be silent but courageous. This morning I find myself at a keyboard when I should be at a march. But, I will not live in regret of that. Each person knows their limits and today mine could not bring me to the ground of the fight but it does not remove me from it. So if you are like me and could not be in the mix of the marchers – for whatever reason – you can still support the movement.

I post the following link because of my locality but google could likely point you in the direction of yours – if you prefer to support closer to home. I also am sure there is a link for the DC march which would umbrella the many masses – being the center of it all. Find whichever speaks to you or use the one I share.

https://womensmarchla.org/

 

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If you are like me and can’t thrive in the trenches of the crowd … you can still support the movement!!!! Follow this link to donate! I did and it is one thing I can be proud of this morning. Support the Women and People that are fighting for our rights. There is beauty in unity … be with them in spirit if not on the ground. This morning as I feel a little tender about not being there I set my goal to be brave enough to do this some day … to be a model for the children I will one day have so they too can be strong to stand up, no matter the crowds or anxiety that comes with it. This is a movement that deserves support and every little bit counts … so click and give in whichever way you can. I know many that gave their day and heart to be in the mix and march this amazing path and I send my love and support with them – you are the heros – you are the nation. Mark Twain said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it”.

Voting Time Again…

Time to vote again this year … This awesome group is up for a grant that can make Adventure Play dreams come true!!!! Please take the time to help. Deadline extended to Friday. 

This is their plug (it includes the link 🙂 for voting):

We need your support!

Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play (SCVAP) has applied for a grant to bring adventure play to children across Los Angeles county. We need your vote to help us do this!

The LA2050 grant will enable us to provide a respite from children’s over-schedule and coddled lives, by bringing accessible, unstructured time and space for children to imagine, explore and create their own reality.

The grant will fund us to take the Pop-Up Playground program to children’s own communities, and also help develop the first permanent adventure playground in Los Angeles.

To make this dream a reality, we need your support. We need to get the message OUT and the votes IN!

Here’s how you can help:
Vote! Even if you do not live in LA or the US… you can still vote.

On October 18th at 9AM PST, head to this link: http://bit.ly/voteSCVAP
Vote for SCV Adventure Play in the “Play” category (Voting closes Tuesday October 25th at 5PM PST)

Get the word out!
Please email your friends / networks to let them know about the bid. Every vote counts!

 

 

What I have learned this year as a preschool teacher…

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It is often challenged that Play = Learning.  So it came over me this evening (well actually many evenings ago, as I found this draft hidden in my folder and thought this should be published!) that I have learned so much just from listening, observing, and facilitating play and constructivist experiences with the children.  Now, I am not talking about what I have learned about teaching or how I have grown as a teacher or professional.  By Golly!  I have but that is a whole different story.  I mean how I have grown as a human and what I have learned about the world from the eyes and perspective of the children.  It only seems fair to share these moments because the nitty gritty truth is if these are the things I have collected from this year, I can only imagine that they walked away with 10 fold.

What I now know for sure:

  1. If you have tried all avenues of telling a friend that they are scaring you just tell them “get out of town”.  They will be so shocked that they will freeze and walk away or at least stop and listen to what you have to say.  Plus, if you offer a peace offering like, “Well – you could stay if you don’t eat us” most monsters will oblige with not eating or scaring you.
  2. Crayons are made of wax and “wax is like the things you put in your ears to stop the sound”.
  3. “The longer the tail is (on a kite) the better the kite is.  I guess it just picks up and pushes it to go.”
  4. Crayons are too fat for stencils.  If you need to trace something and you only have a crayon use a pipe cleaner to press along the edges of the stencil and create the outline with the shape of the pipe cleaner.
  5. If you make a mistake just flip the paper over and try again.
  6. All humans have families.  “We are humans and I am her brother and she is my sister because all people have a brother or sister so they don’t get lonely when they play, that’s why”.
  7. That you are only a monster if you want to be and if your spikes are in, just take your spikes out if you don’t want to be a monster and you want to be human again.
  8. If you want to hold a new pet or nature creature simply ask, “Can I say hello to him?”
  9. All living things need water because they get thirsty and leaves make good bowls.
  10. When making lemonade the hard work of juicing lemons is easier if you take turns with other playmates and if you sing “twist and turn” repeatedly, until the juice is all out.
  11. Snails are slimy.
  12. (Roaches are) He is brave for letting us hold him (them). (… and you thought it was vice versa).
  13. Gravity is what makes things go down.  Like when honey falls to the bottom of a lemonade jar. (Yes, they used the word gravity.  No I did not tell them what gravity was in a lesson.  Yes I let them talk and share their own ideas, yes and no questions get yes and no answers.  Listening gets you things like “gravity” to enter conversations.)
  14. What I now know about trees is “that they help people breathe by making air from the pollen that falls from the tree”.
  15. That if you want to learn your letters it is ok to trace them except for Os.  Os are for studying.  “If you are working on your Os you are studying them.  I am working on my Os.  I am studying them.  I like to trace my other letters but O is easy if you are studying it.  You just go around and around and around like a circle”.
  16. Wool smells good and it is soft and enjoyable to braid but wrapping treasures with wool or wire is hard.
  17. When you mix blue and red it “almost looks black”.
  18. Shaving cream: makes great “vanilla sundaes”, “smells like soap”, “turns white (even after it has colors mixed in), gets thin “because of the (cake) pipers”, is good for hiding treasures in, is “soft”, and can be put on your face – but “only crazy kids do that”.
  19. If you need a friend, ask: “How can I help you play today?”.
  20. If you like a project that a playmate creates you can say, “An invention, I’m impressed”.
  21. Racetracks are “delicate”.
  22. “All the good things turn pink”.
  23. It is a good feeling when someone includes your opinion.  It is ok to say “Yes!  You remember my idea!”.
  24. You can “unfreeze it with hot water (frozen play-dough) but it will get gooshy when the ice starts breaking”.
  25. A good friend “smells like cupcakes and cookies”.
  26. Chances are if you see a big rock  and trip over it, it is because it was a pebble and “maybe something knocked it over and it grew”.
  27. If you introduce yourself to a friend you should say, “I am (insert name).  I am from a home”.
  28. If you have a pain in your arm it is probably because you miss your pet at home, “my arm is killing me because it wants to pet her, it just misses her so much.”
  29. “Slow down” … I am always a better person and teacher when I listen to the children when they say slow down. The best moments happen when time is given. I am really good at being present in the moment but sometimes I forget to slow down and give the moment time to be born. So the best thing they have ever said to me is to ssssssssssssllllllllllllllllllooooooooowwwwwwwwwww ddddddddddooooooowwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnn …

In honor of 2015 coming and going … there are many more things to learn this year as 2016 begins. May I recommend approaching the world with the eyes and spirit of a child.

Capturing the Moment

There is No Pro in Progressive Education

There are two ways to capture a moment in the early childhood world: experience and documentation.

Experience is as simple as it states, just taking a moment to experience the world with a child/children. No strings tied, no assessing, all joy. Taking that moment and making a memory. Sometimes the most important thing we can give children is to be fully present. To turn off our teacher brains and just be human with them: no checklists, cameras, or analysis involved.

The education world these days is filled with many outcomes and standards. Children are very aware of when we have them on our radar. Often shifts in behavior happen when a child feels they are being observed for assessment – authentically or not. Once while recording a set of children during a conflict (that they were beautifully resolving), the child leaned into the direction of my recorder and said…

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Capturing the Moment

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There are two ways to capture a moment in the early childhood world: experience and documentation.

Experience is as simple as it states, just taking a moment to experience the world with a child/children. No strings tied, no assessing, all joy. Taking that moment and making a memory. Sometimes the most important thing we can give children is to be fully present. To turn off our teacher brains and just be human with them: no checklists, cameras, or analysis involved.

The education world these days is filled with many outcomes and standards. Children are very aware of when we have them on our radar. Often shifts in behavior happen when a child feels they are being observed for assessment – authentically or not. Once while recording a set of children during a conflict (that they were beautifully resolving), the child leaned into the direction of my recorder and said, “Right, Anna? We should  just be friends”. While I am sure he was sincere in his response, I am also sure that his response was shaped by the fact that he was highly aware that he was being “documented”. So while, I thrive on taking note of what the children are doing – collecting authentic evidence, I also know that they deserve moments where I set the task of documenting aside. Moments where they can trust being their authentic self without judgement or the teacher paparazzi in their face.

However, documentation (from my experience) is the most authentic, meaningful, and developmentally appropriate method of capturing a moment and collecting evidence. One of my favorite sayings is “it is not what they know, but how they have come to know it” – meaning that the process of how a child learns is the most valuable part of the journey and not the collections of facts and rote skills they can ramble off or demonstrate on cue. A collected story or documentation shows that they have internalized a skill so deeply that they are able to use it in their life, play, and the real world. Which is much more relevant and important than being able to “test” correctly on a piece of information within one moment (e.g. find their friends name to put a letter in in by knowing it has an A first vs. one day in December pointing to an A on a pull out assessment, such as a DIBELS or Get it Got it Go).

Last year, I had a conversation with a parent about how her child was highly aware of having enough muffins in the package while grocery shopping for himself, his mom, his dad, and still enough for him to have one tomorrow. In his mind’s eye he calculated that he needed at least 4 muffins and that there were more than that (6). She wondered what was more valuable, that he could do that or was he behind on his skills because his fellow playmate could count to 100 and he could not. I hands down feel it is the muffin quantity. He was able to apply his knowledge to a real life context. He utilized his knowledge just as I had seen him do in the past when fixing a Tonka truck, he was looking for one round circle to replace a missing tire on a set of four. Navigating through daily challenges using problem solving and real world knowledge is most valuable.

The challenge for a teacher is that this type of knowledge is difficult to assess and monitor. It has to be captured. Documentation is truly the only way to understand, record, and collect evidence of learning during these moments because it is the map to how the child shows they know what they know. I could mark on a checklist that Jonathan knows how to identify the number 8 but if I snap a photo of him playing office with a keyboard and scribe a story or anecdotal note about how he noticed his glasses when turned make the shape of a number 8 just like on the keyboard – that shows context to the information gathered. It also is likely that this information will stay with the child for a lifetime. Brain research shows that we store memories by meaningful moments. Which would be more meaningful to you – reviewing a set of flashcards or learning how to write Mom on you picture of a rainbow for her?

Have you ever crammed for a test, remembering all of the vocabulary words for the next day, ace-ing it and then not remembering it when it came to finals time? Did you use the information in between that time? So why do we assume that children are vessels to carry facts? Why do we assume they should be assessed as so? or learn by collecting data and not memories?

Each year my methods for documentation varies – but it remains my life line to showing evidence of learning and communicating with families and the community. I tweak and learn things that improve my methods. There are a few things that stay the same: note taking, photos, and collecting samples of language and work. These are always elements I include. The devices I use, the methods I use to share the documentations, and my style of writing  documentations might change. This year there are two new elements to my documentation process: the use of a private education app Storypark and the style of sharing the information. I know tend to use a phone/tablet without access to personal information, work only when with the children (to take photos, videos, and notes). This makes my accessibility to a device easier, it fits in my apron pocket. My time is also saved by being able to link the stored photo or data to the app that is on the phone/tablet without using a lengthy download process by transferring them from a camera to another location or device for documenting.  As for the style shift, a new style that I have been fascinated by is called Learning Stories. It is a way of writing a letter directly to a child – noting the observations and possibilities of a particular experience. I find it to be very open, detailed oriented, and child honoring. A link to a detailed explanation and example can be seen here:

https://tecribresearch.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/documentation-and-assessment-the-power-of-a-learning-story-10/

 

Also, here is one of my own examples of a Learning Story:

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(* Name and Photos edited and limited for privacy)

 

Edmon,
I marvel at the way you play family. You can often be spotted mixing something tasty in the kitchen or being the caregiver of a baby doll. Often when walking by the dramatic play area or playhouse I hear you negotiating your role in the family such as Brother, Daddy, or even pet dog. You are ready to take on your character with eager commitment. It is evident that as you play this nurturing role, you pour yourself into it- with lots of love and attention. An extra pinch or salt, a few more stirs, a tender hug – as you are practicing these roles, you are building your skills to be a kind and compassionate friend,  a collaborative playmate, and a tender father (much later in you future, of course).
Here is your story of ‘You and Your Baby Crumb’ :
Edmon:
“There’s a baby in my tummy.
I’m having a baby.
She is going to be born in one day.
She will be 6.
Her name is Crumb, like a cracker.
Here she comes. (Pulls her out and gently and snuggles her).”
Your smile as you look down at Crumb says it all.

Learning Tags: Social Emotional, Joy and Wonder, Dramatic Play

 

As an early childhood educator I feel taking the time to capture the moment deepens our relationships with the children and our abilities to be mindful and reflective educators. So with no further rambling I invite you to capture a moment: create a memory through experience or collect one by documenting the moment. Join the world of authentic assessment, document learning.