If There is One Thing You Will Do Tonight…

Source: If There is One Thing You Will Do Tonight…

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If There is One Thing You Will Do Tonight…

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If there is one thing that you will do tonight, do this!  Vote! Click the link below and vote:

http://myla2050play2015.maker.good.is/projects/AdventurePlay4LA

I could write about the many reasons why you should support pop-up play and adventure play (risk taking, independence, self-worth, innovation, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, etc.) but the truth is they (The Wonderful, Talented, and Fabulous Playworkers/Founders, Jeremiah and Erica Dockray) explain it best here:

So before you fall into your pile of pillows and shut your eyes for the evening click these links and vote.  It takes just about as long as it will take you to watch those buzzfeed videos your like, shorter than a TED talk, as long as it will take you to brush your teeth or scroll through Hulu or your Facebook newsfeed, Come on you can do it! Make a difference and click VOTE. There is one more day to get the votes to the top and I for one think it is well worth it.  I hope you do too. 🙂 Thank You, ahead of time, because I know if you took the time to read this – you will take the time to vote!

Literacy Development the Natural Way

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As a progressive educator, I have the privilege of weaving in many philosophies in my teaching practices. One thing that I really love about Waldorf curriculum is the slow awakening to the instruction of literacy.  The philosophy lends itself to inspiring creativity and imagination first, foundational components to literacy development that often are underestimated.

But the truth is that with the more opportunities to listen to and to create their own tales and stories using props and imagination, the more children find joy in literature and stories.  Joy is the most important step in the early years of reading and writing.  It is motivation.  Motivation for knowing and wanting to learn more.  A child is ready to learn the characters of the alphabet and enhance their comprehension skills when they ask for the information.  When the ask for you to scribe their stories, how to write a letter from their name, to read a book… then they are ready.

Many Waldorf practitioners refer to storytelling play as “learning for the heart” and not learning by rote memory or practice.  This is critical in preschool.  Our most important job as a teacher is to create connections and relationships, to create moments for “learning for the heart”. There are many ways to do this.

Providing invitations for children to connect to the world of stories and imaginary places is one way to support their natural journey to literacy based learning opportunities. Waldorf often does this with props for storytelling.  Their characters are made of natural materials such as wood, wool, felt, fabric, and pieces from nature. I have often been enchanted by these little small world props. I have created some of my own in the past – fairy worlds, castle scenes, farm worlds, and forest scenes. But recently the children have been in love with a small autumn fairy and pumpkin village.  It is a decorative one set up in the front of the school entryway.  They check on it often and seem to be so connected to the idea that it is a real living village! So this weekend I spent a little time creating some props for their very own pumpkin gnome/fairy village. I quite like the way it has turned out.  But, I think next time I will stick with keeping the props faceless.  Although it looks eery at times, the intention behind the expressionless faces is to allow the children to imagine their own expressions and feelings of the characters – uninfluenced by the pre-created details of a doll/character. I actually am intrigued by this and would like to try it. I leaves the whole story in the hands of the child.

But, for now I have a little pile of gnome people with wood platforms and a real carved pumpkin house. I will stage the invitation on the light table.  I can only wonder what stories and conversations that will happen here, a place designed for “learning for the heart”.20151025_211745 20151025_211715 20151025_204639

For the First Years

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In the car, the dark classroom at 7pm, the shower; this was me as a first year teacher in public school. The intensity of the newness, fitting into a team of K teachers that had already thrived without someone like me, the task of exposing children to testing, reward/punishment systems, and highly academic rigor at a stage of development that was inappropriate. Teaching is hard, it still is, but I love it now. Sometimes it is not only the first year but finding the design that better fits you. I imagine this happens for children too, but they don’t typically have a choice of shifting realms. NPR should write an article like this from a child’s perspective. I could write one but if someone as reputable as NPR revealed the pressure cooker children live in today, it would be ground breaking!

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/10/22/450575463/it-s-okay-to-cry-in-your-car-fighting-disillusionment-as-a-first-year-teacher

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/10/25/451202509/teachers-respond-veteran-teachers-cry-in-their-cars-too

“We Don’t Remember Days, We Remember Moments” – Cesar Pavese

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There are moments when I get caught in the wave of paperwork, pedagogy, politics, and the many layers of things that come with working in education.  But, if any of you are true early childhood educators at heart I remind you to get caught in the moment as you begin this year.

Get caught in play, laughter, discovery, and miracles.  If my week was spent on rule making, bulletin boards, assessments, worksheets, and punching out Ellison machine shapes then I might as well give in and sink into the ocean, let the waves of all the other nonsense take me down to the deep bottom.  Because that just isn’t who I am at heart.  I don’t belong in classroom of straight lines in the hall and desks in the room.  And I don’t believe that children do either.

Instead I believe in celebrating and exploring life, soaking in the sun while perched in a branch of a tree, finding joy in the simple things in life, and playing until your heart, body, and mind are full.  These are the ways we create memories.  These are the ways we grow as whole people.  In today’s world we are focusing much on testing and excelling on the academic charts.  But, I ask you:  Do you want our children to score high today and be at the top of academic charts or do you want our children to learn and grow into loving, thoughtful, independent, creative, and innovative human beings for the rest of their days on this beautiful earth.  I know which I want.  And I know that they need many days of a protected playful childhood to get there.

Take the world in through the eyes of a child…

20150909_100211From the branch of a tree soak up the sun and marvel at the rays dancing through the leaves,

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take in the miracles of nature and simple joys of life while watching the story of a monarch unfold from egg to caterpillar, 

(yes!!! we watched the Monarch actually lay the egg!  What an amazing life moment!  Too much in awe to snap the shot!)

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become pals with four legged friends and care for them with gentle hands and open hearts, 

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feast on the gifts of gardens and local crops, discover (or let a friend teach you) the simple tricks of tasting new things (pressing your finger in the center of a clementine to peel it), commune with friends,

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and PLAY!!!!

The Toll of Testing …

“To the bigwigs at Pearson, your child is just a number, a statistic.”    (excerpt from link below)  

And since schools spend a huge chunk of the year prepping your child and administering tests from Pearson and companies like Pearson what are we saying schools view children as or as a society as a whole?  

Food for thought… in this next link is a posting from just another blogger.  I can’t verify her experience or even give credit to the truthfulness of her post but it gives a scary perspective to what happens after a student is put through the process of testing.

I can’t say I even agree to submitting students to the stress and rigor of testing in the first place.  I feel the validity of test scores are questionable.  But even if we don’t consider who writes the questions, why these specific questions are even considered good measures of a student’s intelligence, or how appropriate it is to gauge student success by a single assessment each year without considering their whole human development – Even if we don’t… and we still end up to the point where we submit the piles of answers for scoring… what happens then?

How accurate are they graded?

Are they real reflections of a child’s answers?

Are these answers accurately representing what a student knows and has learned?

Are these questions representative of valuable knowledge?

It scares me to think how inaccurate or how lacking in valuable content the questions and data on a test are from the start and then to consider it being skewed afterwards is even scarier.

Visit this link to consider your perspective on the validity of testing and test scores:

http://portlyadolescence.tumblr.com/post/46335920624/test-scoring-at-pearson

Common Core, Testing, and Opting out in NYS:

Will Pearson continue to thrive in states like NY or will activists inspire change?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/19/educators-alarmed-by-some-questions-on-n-y-common-core-tests/

Pearson has been linked to many testing controversies, including brand placement in testing: 

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2013/05/what_do_american_girl_dolls_and_pearson_have_in_common.html

The toll of testing seems to be hitting the forefront of the education field, students, teachers, and families on a daily basis.  There is a lot of buzz and some advocates pushing for opting out.  One can only hope that enough buzz and push back will change education in a way that will end test-driven curriculum and high stakes testing.  

Opt-out in CA: 

http://www.pacificjustice.org/california-common-core-data-opt-out-form.html

Opt-out in NYS: 

http://www.nysape.org/refusing-the-test-resources.html

Take a moment to research and be informed on testing.  Explore the controversies!  Explore your perspectives!  

Learning from One of Progressive Thought …

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I had the most amazing experience of seeing Alfie Kohn himself last Thursday!  It was an amazing and rare experience to listen to someone who is charged with such passion and dedication to the field of education – from a progressive stance.  It is also refreshing to hear someone admit that becoming progressive is a process – once a traditional teacher of English Alfie has evolved into one of the most powerful promoters of alternative education pathways.

Seeing him made me want to share two things.  One, a document that Alfie outlines key factors of progressive education and Two, a piece of writing I have been saving with the debate of using it for blog purposes or publishing or what have you…

Tonight, I have decided that it was worth sharing.  So without further chattering:

One (The article from Alfie Kohn: “Progressive Education – Why It’s Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find”)

A must read!!!  Located at Alfie’s site:

http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/progressive-education/?print=pdf

Do not scroll further until you visit that link and read that article!!!!  You should read his link!  If you get anything out of this blog post, go there!  But, if you have an additional extra minute read this: 

Two (My piece of writing that I was reminded of when seeing Alfie, as I referenced him at the end of it):

The other day, I was reading Their Name is Today:  Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World.

I know, reading leisurely books is maybe not my strong point.  I was recently informed I should read Gone Girl or take another stab at the George R.R. Martin series, Game of Thrones.  But, instead I am reading Their Name is Today (Ok, and Always Looking Up but at a rate of about one chapter a week, so that may not count as a fun non-Early Childhood related book) and I am thinking I will read a book by Janet Lansbury next.  C’est la vie.  I am a little wrapped up in my field.  Anyways while deeply engrossed in a chapter on “taking back childhood” it occurred to me that my dad has given me one of the best gifts of childhood, the lack of expectations.  Don’t get me wrong it is not that he did not have a standard for us to live by but not in the same ways that children are held to expectations today (and when I was a child).  And because of this I feel I was given the freedom as an adult to pursue what I was passionate about and set my own expectations for greatness.  So what do I mean by this?  I was held to the standard of being kind, compassionate, hard working, and respectful but I was never pressured to be the captain of the team, the honor student, the math-lete, the lead role in the musical, or prom queen.  It wasn’t something that was ever encouraged or forced upon me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I played a few school sports.  I muddled my way through a few years of soccer, my best goal being one I accidentally scored on my own team.  I hung out with the brainy people as a quiz bowl team member or envirothon member, somehow having a knack for questions about the Jewish religion and soil.  Don’t ask me why or how, I just did.  I was involved in things… this group and that, etc. etc. etc.  I wasn’t as privileged as some but I did have many blessings that some children may have not.  I participated in life events of the typical public school child.  And it is not to say I wasn’t rewarded for things or encouraged.  Once my dad thought the idea of promoting good math grades could be motivated by a shrimp cocktail (it did work for a moment and it wasn’t the cocktail’s fault, I was really horrendous at math).  And I had family attend my sport games on occasion or the banquets at season’s end.  But, the reality was while I was at home or at school being a normal teenager some of my friends were being forced down paths they did not want or understand:  the next prettiest, funniest, smartest girl ever.  I dealt very little with that pressure and now I can look back and see how that has benefited me, even today.  It is not to say don’t ever enroll your child into a class or sport.  It is to say honor them in not creating every experience into a pressure zone or competition.  I see so many children today being pushed to go above and beyond for reasons that are far from intrinsic.  My greatest accomplishments were ones I desired to achieve on my own.  It turns out that they were things that my family could be proud of too but that wasn’t the main motivation for them.  I did not work hard so that I could obtain praise, trophies, ribbons, awards, etc.  But, I also did not crumble to the point of no return when I failed.  Today we teach children that failure is life ending.  We teach them to feel pressure from the very early years of life.  How many letters can you name?  What accelerated reading level are you at?  What color belt did you earn?  How many goals did you score?  Did you make it to the finals?  Are you scholarship material?  It never ends! The pressure for excellence is intense and it is taking a toll on humanity.  Children are programmed from the very beginning to not be comfortable with failure and live up to expectations at all times.  But, as adults I think we are missing out on how this impacts children emotionally and mentally.  Give children the gift of finding joy in their own accomplishments, step back from creating a child that needs a trophy to feel whole.

 

Fuel for your fire:

  • Alfie Kohn deserves mounds of credit for helping educators stray away from empty extrinsic praise.  Take a moment to explore “5 Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job”: http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm

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So all in all – props to the great parents, educators, and great change-makers of the world!

Who is your hero?

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Did you rough play as a child?  Cops and robbers?  Cowboys and Indians?  Did you jump from the couch and body slam your playmates like wrestlers on T.V.?  Did you chase someone down with a water gun?  Did you tie a cape around your neck as a superhero cape and run around like Batman, Superman, or Captain America?

I did.  Matter of fact once on a 4th July I remember telling an officer that we did have guns during a check for fireworks.  I am sure I even offered for him to play and somehow arrived to the explanation of having water guns.  But to a child around age 6 or so that was my reality of guns, they sprayed water at people.  My parents never seemed overly concerned; probably were the ones who bought them for us.  I am not trying to down play the reality of guns.  At some point I remember being told they were dangerous (I had heard the sounds of them go off in the distance as a child – whether during the night when living in the city or in the woods during hunting season) and only seeing one once when my father shot a rabid raccoon.  But, somewhere along the lines I began to decipher the difference between gun play and the real deal.  And maybe that is the problem nowadays.  There is no more conversation, no more sorting out of things as a child.  You just get the no, don’t, zero tolerance of it all.  Kids are being sent home and punished for pop tart pistols and others are not realizing the danger and permanence of a shooting and going to school with guns and becoming young offenders, changing their own and others lives before they have even began.  I don’t believe the world was that much less violent 25 or so years ago.  I don’t think I was that much safer than children today.  But, I did have the freedom to play and was given the chance to absorb knowledge on these topics in a child friendly way – and not only did I not turn out to be a violent offender, I turned out to be a teacher, a teacher that will probably never own or shoot a real gun.

Rough play was a part of my everyday childhood.  Maybe it was because I grew up with mostly boys.  For the first 10 years of my life I grew up in a fairly urban setting but most weekends were spent with family members in a rural area and I had the freedom to run about the fields and woods with whatever theme of play came to mind.  I am not sure if any adult ever intervened in the play, told us it was too dangerous, told us we were being violent, or asked us to stop.  At least I don’t recall.  Matter of fact the only time I remember being told to stop is if we were inside the house and too close to knocking over the furniture or if I played the girl card and screamed out “he’s hurting my spleen! (not that I even knew where a spleen was)”.  There was plenty of rough and tumble in my family and not one of us has grown to be a violent human being.

Don’t get me wrong.  It alarms me when the children sniper shoot each other behind the rocks or they don’t read the social cue of someone being sad and continue to growl at them or push each other over.  But, I wonder if we say zero room for rough play, if we don’t let them experience the difference of being the “bad guy” vs.  the hero- then how will they know before it becomes real.  Isn’t that what play is about: exploring the world and testing theories out, sorting the real from fantasy?  When watching the children rough and tumble or entering their play it brings a whole new world to the forefront, an awareness of what their fears are, how media impacts them, and what they believe are their rights and weaknesses.  Rough play may be scary but telling the children to bottle up their feelings and not explore the world seems even scarier to me.  If we ask them to stop they hide it and what if they bottle up all the curiosity, wonder, misunderstanding until they are older – is that not how we give birth to school violence and bullying?  I have to believe that there is value in this type of play.  I have to believe that we are taking something away from children by not allowing them to engage in it at all.  I am not saying to allow them to rough play without boundaries but just to say maybe it is not time to take the chance away from exploring who is the hero?

Maybe it is time to stop saying no and start saying how…

How can we allow rough and tumble in early childhood in a way that feels right for children, teachers, and parents?  What ways do you allow children to explore war play or superhero play?

Every community and every child is unique so each plan for allowing rough and tumble play adapts to each community.

Take the first steps: play with them, examine your own feelings when the children engage in this play, experiment with how you support play (providing capes, pool noodles, plenty of space and extended outdoor time, or playing music to support role play or set a relaxed environment).

Sometimes it is about allowing the role-plays to occur naturally and only intervening when safety seems to be an issue or if another child is alarmed by it.  Phrases like “I can not let you use the stick as a sword because I am afraid someone will get hurt, what can we use that is softer?” or “Are you OK if he pushes you?” are simple conversation openers to helping children problem solve rough play on their own terms.

I believe there are times around a younger audience that setting boundaries for the children may be necessary, “I see that Timothy looks scared so I am going to ask you to play something different right now” or “I noticed Bailey told you to stop shooting her but you didn’t listen to her words, I am going to ask you to not play guns until you are ready to listen to her”.

Other times it is just about letting the children design the rules and reflect upon their play, giving each child a time to have a voice.  Sitting down and discussing or writing the rules together that are child created helps the children set their own guidelines and share what is comfortable or uncomfortable for each person.  It also allows teachers to understand the play more deeply.  Often when examining how the children navigate this play discoveries of their empathy, creativity, fears, and ability to engage in complex play are revealed.

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So tie on your cape and grab your pool noodle!

Today might just be the day to let Superman fly through the classroom.

 

Some great online resources on rough and tumble/superhero play/war play:

http://www.joyfulnoisedaycare.com/December%202010%20newsletter.pdf

http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/files/tyc/file/V5N4/Carlson,%20F.%20Rough%20Play.pdf

http://www.ooeygooey.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/bang-bang-youre-dead.pdf

http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/playground/clips/pretend/120908.html