Moving Canvas

I love a good story.
During my breaks from teaching I travel around the country and I make up stories from my brain. I do this free of charge because I love a good story. When I arrive at the schools ranging from PreK-3rd grade without any books, children stare in disbelief because they are thinking “story time” will be with “books”. I mean right, shouldn’t it be? Duh. But no, I look at them and say, “You won’t believe this, I came all the way here and I forgot my booksBut I started thinking about where books come from?”
Then we talk about our theories of where books come from and answers range widely from an amazon box left on their front porch to a library. We narrow our theories and thinking all the way down to a computer and even further to paper. I ask, “Where do books come from before the paper?” Everyone stares. I point to my brain aka my nugget and mention “our brain”. I tell them I have a backup plan and I’m actually going to make up stories from my brain.
I make up several freestyle ones and some memorized. After, children are invited to make up their very own and/or illustrate my stories (or their own).
I am driven with this crazy idea that I want children to think and to create. I want our children to be inspired and see themselves as authors and illustrators. I also want them to see themselves represented in the story lines.  I want them to draw their characters too. Most often it represents who they are and what they care about.
When children care about the story, the rest handles itself.
*Author’s note: I purposely moved the words to the opposite side.* 

 

Jill Telford is an artist, advocate, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books. @jill.telford http://www.fromtheplayground.com

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Calling on Harold and His Purple Crayon

“Every line means something.”— Basquiat

Every child. Every human being is different. Each of us mean something just like every line does that Basquait was referring to. To draw a line in the sand due to these differences is indeed unfortunate. We are all a genius.  Genius in Latin literally means to give birth to. If we are all born a genius then how do we remain one as we grow over a human life span?

It’s really simple. It is all about tapping into who we are meant to be at our core. Being exposed to an open ended process way of being and becoming is as much vital for productivity as it is for the soul. How do we do this? How do we focus on the process and not the resulting product? Especially when we are saturated in a product driven world.

The following is what I’ve asked the universe for. And, I’m not going to ask for it again or repeat myself because I believe my deepest desire will manifest. I am already receiving and visualizing it into existence. Here is my vision:

*We take lessons right out of the playbook from a real life practicing developmentally appropriate preschool class room (school) and push it up as a model for our learners from birth through death. Early Childhood Education is from 0 to 8 — and birth through death when you deeply think about it. Learning in itself is for a lifetime. “Life-long learning” isn’t called that for nothing. Just google Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist and see how she rebuilt her brain with the help of her mother who was a former preschool teacher. You can also check out her TED talk here:

https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight?language=en

This leads me to ask: How are our children learning? How are adults learning? How is our elderly learning? What is our quality of life looking like?

For those who know me — they know I do NOT play Bingo so if they see me in a care home 60–70 years from now and I am there playing Bingo as a recreational activity (unless I grew to love Bingo somehow over the next 60 years)— I know on a soul level they would know that I’d much rather be jamming out to an old school R&B 90’s album or Motown (shout-out to the Temptations)preferably while also being outside in nature. With technology — that can happen. Golly, at least open a window!

When I visited a dear friend in a nursing home who had early onset dementia, he was unresponsive and disconnected. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to use the lower level of my brain and fight for his rights or flee and cry. But I did the only thing I knew how to do. I put early childhood education into practice as I met him right where he was to help him. I played some Motown and gospel songs from my phone. I knew he used to listen to that and rightfully should still be jamming out to it. He smiled. He bobbed. A tear rolled down his face. I got chills.

The next visit, I brought baby dolls, stress balls, scented play-dough. He rocked the baby. He squeezed the play-dough. He squeezed the stress-ball. He didn’t want to let any of these items go. He held the baby as though it were real and he started  rocking and humming a song. It reaffirmed that we are so connected to real life experiences. It’s the little things. — He is a father. His children are my age now but his connection to being a father and how he cared for them revealed themselves in the most intimate ways through intentional play. So yes boys and men hold baby dolls!

I also see this manifest itself in the college class I teach in the evening as well. Humans are craving something real and three dimensional. Students care about activities ranging from meaningful field trips, bringing in a meaningful object to write and talk about, having class outside to asking how are we feeling and even breathing together. Slowing down to learn, really learn and care. They want something that they can apply to their real lives. I find that as a teacher and learner when you care — the rest handles itself.

I deeply ask and reflect on how we are being developmentally and appropriately challenged? What is our approach to education? How are we approaching life? How are we taking care of ourselves and each other? Are we doing things just to do it and check it off our list or are we tasting the process? Are we experiencing life and being present?

Are we focused on the product? Or are we enjoying it as Harold did with his purple crayon (I’m guessing purple is his favorite color?) What is your children’s favorite colors? Who are they? What is yours? Working with children and families I face myself and ask myself who I am and who I am becoming. I draw on experience and reflect deeply about our practice and approach. Speaking of “drawing” — a pun very much intended.

Children often draw lines. For example, something like a star and we wonder why it doesn’t look like how we’ve been drawing stars for the past 100 plus years — but that’s where the magic lies. See when you really look at and study a Star and think like an astronomer or the five year old in your classroom — you really gaze and observe the many kinds of stars.

We can never recreate a drawing a child draws. It is intuitive. It is real. It is courageous. I look at the sky and see so many stars dim ones, bright ones and “connected dots” constellations. Children help me to connect the dots of our lives. For that, I am thankful.

We must arrive, see, smell, hear, taste, draw, talk, act, walk, create, shine, dim, fall, feel and die — like a star. Color outside the lines — like Harold. Draw your own lines — I wouldn’t suggest on the walls or floors though — unless BIG paper is covering it.

“Every line means [truly and infinitely] something.” — Basquait. That meaningful line like Harold’s crayon connects every single one of us. Keep connecting those dots to make this world better than how we found it and even better when we leave it behind.

Happy drawing and creating — here’s to you and our world.

The Collective Power of Our Stories

You are powerful.

You are creative. 

Most of all, together our collective voice screams our power and our courageWhere  does this kind of powerful energy come from? And, where   does it live and manifest  itselfget to see it manifest in the stories of our students from children to grown ups.  

Who we are and who we are in a process of becoming is just as important as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.           

By telling our stories we create powerful connectionsHow do you show and share your story? How is your voice heard? Where does your voice resonate the loudest? The softest?

Seriously think and reflect on this. Iit through poetry? Spoken word? Is it in art? Is it  found in a conversation? We recognize through our stories and our lives just how    connected we are and that we are all in a process of becoming. None of us really know  & when we think we do, change occurs and to grow we must grow and go with the change. 

This is how we grow and evolve. This is how we become. 

Tupac Shakur said, “I am coming out 100% real  and I’m not compromising anything.” 

We are found in a single sentence. We are found in a line drawn and extended magnified or minimized like an MC Escher sketch. “Every line means something,” said Basquait.  If every line means something in a drawing, then that also means every curve, every freckle each and every part of us means something too. Every “line” in this life means something.  

Each action or inaction affects all of us even when we don’t think it does, it  does. 

What’s your story? Who are you? Why are you here? How do you want to make your vision a reality and your voice resonate and connect? What are you doing right now to make your vision come to fruition? Where are you? When will you share your story — your voice?

We’re all waiting for you to become you and even when you become you, you will still change and grow. You will get growing pains and experience hurts. What will you do  with it all? You will change. You will evolve.  We are all in a never-ending process of becoming.  

Over and over again. Leveling up or leveling down and around like a run on sentence or drawn out lines. 

We never come to a complete end and when we think we have reached  the end we are reminded again that we are only just beginning.

 

Meditate on This. Breathe, Stretch, Shake.

Mr. Rogers asked, “What do we do with the mad that we feel?” 

Here are some more questions to add onto his first question. What do we do with the excitement we feel? Or the shyness? Or the anxiety? Or an overwhelming sensation? 

What do we do? From children to grown ups? Five years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night inside of a tent. I had shooting pains going up my arm. I was overweight. I had shortness of breath. Each and everyday.

I was already experiencing shortness of breath and day and night sweats. I was prescribed an inhaler due to not catching my breath at times especially on the playground. This evening was a red flag. I experienced a minor heart attack. 

I needed to change my life. What do you do with this? You change your life. I started exercising. My hurts, my hangups,  my exasperation, my sadness and my anxiety dissipated itself into my sweat. I started breathing better. I no longer needed an inhaler. I could breathe big and deep. 

Naturally I dropped into yoga like exercises. I changed my habits and this ultimately changed my life. 

Namaste.

Let Your Voice Ring. Sing Everywhere. Even if You’re Off Key. 

I remember singing in the car with my older sister during my formative years. Janet boomed from our car speakers: “Thats the way, thats the way, thats the way love goes.” We would sing our hearts out. I reminisced about my childhood memories of singing a lot during my last night drive with my other sister and we sang a lot during our road trip.

When is the last time you sang in the car? In the shower? With your family? Singing has endless benefits for our young and old. An Alzheimer’s patient may not remember their name but you know what they can remember? They can remember their favorite song!

Singing in the early education classroom is one of the keys for brain plasticity and growth. During the first five years of life the most connections (think synapses) are made out of the entire lifespan.  Every year of a child’s life is precious, but when it comes to development, the first 8 are the most important. This is when a child becomes the person they are going to be. It is when they learn appropriate behavior, boundaries, empathy and many other important social skills that will remain with them for life. Guess what else will stay with a child for life? Their favorite jams!

Babies are born with more synapses than adults. In a child’s early development stages, the speed of the synapse formation is the greatest from birth until 18 months of age. From 18 months until 3 years of age during the process of cognitive development in kids, synapses continue to form and expand. The number of synapses reaches about 1,000 trillion at this age and because of that a toddler’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain. This is also the reason why toddlers enjoy heavy outdoor activities such as running, jumping and climbing. From 6 to 9 years of age in kids’ development stage, the brain reduces the number of synapses which are not used and they eventually die off.

So sing. Sing your heart out! Play Motown to Country. Most of all sing and dance to your favorite songs and ask families for their favorites. Home school connection is powerful. Even change the lyrics to the songs.

Here are 7 benefits of singing. For more benefits click: https://takelessons.com/live/singing/health-benefits-of-singing

  1. Singing creates a better sense of well being and causes us sensations of feeling good.
  2. Improves concentration, alertness and memory.
  3. Singing strengthens the immune system. That’s right it’s good for our health like an apple. A song a day keeps the doctor away.
  4. Singing is in fact exercise
  5. It helps with sleeping well and getting a good night’s Zzz.
  6. It lowers stress levels
  7. It’s a natural anti-depressant

So, turn the speaker up and sing like no one’s listening or watching!

I AM a TEACHER. A Letter From Your Early Childhood Educators

198E4AED-2A49-44E1-B4C3-B541220137C8We need your help. Imagine, we’re playing basketball. We’re on the same team and my head is up and I’m looking to pass the ball as I dribble up the court. I need to pass the ball to you. Likewise, pass it back. Back and forth with a series of exchanges which is what we want to have, a good conversation. A conversation that will create an opportunity to score and most of all, solve something bigger together.

So here goes, most of you know we are not daycare workers. We are teachers. We even further distinguish ourselves as an integral part of the life-long learning process as we specialize in early childhood. We’re not elementary, middle school or secondary teachers. We are Early childhood teachers. NAEYC also pushes this with a major initiative called Power to the Profession found here: www.naeyc.org

We are Reggio Inspired teachers and we need help in closing the misunderstanding of who we are in education. We are teachers. We are early childhood educators.

Children learn best through their everyday experiences with the people they love and trust, and when the learning is fun. We, the teachers at TCS, specialize in this. We know how to meet children where they are and help them to where they are going.

A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to five, producing more than a million neural connections each second.

Moreover, the development of the brain is influenced by many factors, including a child’s relationships, experiences and environment. More info here: https://www.zerotothree.org/espanol

We, you and our communities are connected on the same page and goal of educating our children. We want them to be caring citizens of or world. We want them to be better than us. We want all children to be better than previous generations, no matter where they are from. Zip codes shouldn’t matter when it comes to access to high quality care and learning as all children matter.

There is a major wealth, educational and opportunity gap in our country and do we expect you to fix it? Can we fix it right now? No, but we need to talk about it. We need to start there. Reggio Emilia was founded in social justice. History echoes and now is our time to change and change happens from within a society and systems. We are society. We can lead and start doing the right thing especially since we have the resources.

Reggio Emilia came about during the post-World War II era in Italy, the “…desire to bring change and create anew” accompanied with great economic and social development, including in education.

We are calling for action on three things understanding that we are teachers, closing the wealth and educational achievement gap and most of all, what we teach children: taking care of each other.

With love,

The Play Alliance

#Preschoolisforever #tpa #pta #theplayalliance #thetpa #thepta #teachers #educators #children #families #firstweekofschool

The Power and Genius of Books

While at The Genius of the Book Exhibit in DC https://www.folger.edu/exhibitions/form-function-genius-of-the-book something came full circle for me. The exhibition also affirmed why I love and recognize the power of books. Historically, there was and still is a reason why people in power choose to burn books that challenge thinking, status quo and create different and opposing ways of being. Books are powerful.

When selecting books what questions and thoughts materialize in your brain? Many come to my mind each and every time I’m picking out a new book or picking up an old one to read again, especially when choosing literature for children, families and myself. I ask myself what do the illustrations and writing portray? What images are painted in µy mind

For example, look for illustrations of culture, ability and disability, race, gender, identity, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and many more. Are we being portrayed non-stereotypically and in powerful roles?

As noted by an NAEYC article, a list of common and undermining set of stereotypes are when people are portrayed as:

  • Strong, independent girls and women are “manlike”
  • Book-loving or nonathletic boys and men are “effeminate”
  • Latino men talk funny, are lazy, gang members, or wear oversize sombreros
  • Latina women are earth mothers or subservient
  • African American men are gang members, oversexed, or underemployed
  • African American women are too independent, oversexed, or “welfare moms”
  • LGBTQ people are invisible or sexual predators
  • Poor people are invisible or depicted as passively needing help from others
  • American Indians live in teepees, carry bows and arrows, or are half-naked in winter
  • People with disabilities are not independent or are to be pitied
  • Arab and/or Muslim men are terrorists
  • Arab and/or Muslim women are voiceless and passive
  • All Muslims are Arab

Some of mine I look for:

  • People are invisible or in a side role not empowering ones
  • Characters matter: who is the hero?
  • The storyline and perspectives in it
  • Gender and are women and men portrayed accurately?
  • Race, culture, ethnicity: is it an authentic and accurate portrayal?

When I see stereotypes in the drawings/illustrations or writing in books, I put it down and move on to another such as suggested: http://www.teachingforchange.org/selecting-anti-bias-books

I am also starting to write letters to publishers.

Another tip: look at the dates and authors. Dates and writers matter.  Research and support people in comparing and contrasting. Also ask why is a book written?   Books are like people, they serve a purpose. For example, If you got a book entitled: Firemen Fight Fires, time to move on because the term Firefighters include everyone and they do more than ride in firetrucks fighting fires anyway. Just saying.

Books and children’s books continue to be an invaluable transmitter of messages we absorb influencing who we are and how we see each another.  Media and books are transmitters of cultures, perspectives and values.  Books reflect our personal identities, diversity and varying relationships among different groups of people.  Books and media (AND ADVERTISEMENTS) portray who matters and creates a positive or negative self-image and concept.  Look at who is advertised/displayed on your outside arena where people perform or play sports. Who is displayed? Are women?

Looking at the Verizon Center, our students did not see women and said, “See, it’s true, we were right, women don’t play basketball.” We walked inside to see the Mystics playing. Talk about a transformative experience.

It is crucial to show and share an eclectic set of books about people like us and different from us (TO CELEBRATE OUR AWESOME DIFFERENCES) and our families. ALL of the books should be non-stereotypical and authentic. *Reminder items to look for: look for dates, portrayal of lifestyles, cultures, social identities, relationships, social change and justice, invisibility and tokenism.*

When discovering new books or reading classic books what questions materialize in your mind?

And speaking of choosing and reading awesome books by amazing authors go to: https://www.loc.gov/bookfest/ to check out when the National Book Festival is to meet your favorite and your children’s favorite authors!

Written with love. Lots of it!

Jill Telford is an artist, advocate, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books. More of her work can be found at http://amazon.com/author/jilltelford

@artbookstories @jill.telford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all Have a Little Fred in Us. 50 Year Anniversary of Mr. Rogers

I was eating lunch on Capitol Hill in Longworth preparing to visit staffers of Representative Anthony Brown when a group of veterans sat down at our table. They were fighting for better services and systems. They asked why we were visiting. As I bit into my pizza that had government domino style cheese and barely any sauce, I said, “We’re here advocating for children, families and ourselves for all children to have access to high quality early learning programs, higher wages and support in higher ed as we pursue degrees. We really need the Family Child Care Working Act passed.”

“There is a disparity in access and wages. Not to mention a child’s brain grows and develops by the time they hit 5. So, access to high quality and care will and does help change trajectories. I am a living example.”  An older stern man sitting across from me said, “I think children need discipline and a man at home. A father who’ll discipline em’. That’s the problem. Children lack discipline. Plus it needs to be handled on the state level not federal.”

These are exactly the conversations I enjoy having. I stared at him and pulled out my Head Start picture and shared how my father was incarcerated and in and out of jail coupled with my mother being in and out of the hospital. I had a sister who ensured I made it to school on time. Plus, I had awesome teachers at Head Start. Children can’t vote. Championing for children and families is what my colleagues and I do. I couldn’t vote back in 1990 or even before as I was not conceptualized BUT people did do the right thing by children and as a result, I had access to high quality early learning through Head Start. I got a “head start”. Now I have a masters and work to pay that kind of educational power forward so other trajectories can be changed as well. So others have a chance: children, educators and families.

Children and families must come first and as a result, we will have ROI’s unheard of for our country.

He did not say anything but wished us well. I wished them well too. Another military officer waited until he was up the hallway and out of sight and leaned in. She said, “I believe it starts in the nursery”. I looked at her and said, “Yea, that’s what I mean by preschool children: meaning birth through 8 and even beyond that through college and even beyond that!”

She said softly, “I used to watch Fred Rogers religiously.”

I smiled and said, “Me too.”

We all have a little Fred in us. Watch below to see Fred’s advocacy and testimony on Capitol Hill back in the day. Taking it back to 1969. https://youtu.be/fKy7ljRr0AA

Jill Telford is an American artist, author, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books.

More of her work can be found: http://amazon.com/author/jilltelford

@artbookstories @jill.telford

Show Up: Marching it Out Changes and Saves Lives

44216860-FF5B-4F2E-9C34-ADC031FAC6D6Please take 17 minutes to pray for the 17 young students and adults whose lives were abruptly ended. Let’s pray for the families and friends affected by this nonsensical tragedy. National School Walk Out Day is on March 14 to march out from 10:00am-10:17am in honor of the 17 victims of Florida’s shooting.

More detail here:

http://time.com/5165794/student-protests-walkouts-florida-school-shooting/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/18/us/national-student-walkout-womens-march-trnd/index.html

We have to take care of each other and stand up for others not to be hurt. Fred Rogers often reminded us to look for the helpers during chaos or despair. This is where hope lies. Hope in each other, hope for human kind. Hope to live and honor those who have passed on.

I can’t imagine sending my child or loved one to school for them to never return, again. Why does something like this happen?

It is easy to fall into despair when tragedy hits but this is when we need to come together. This is when we scream love into the world not more hatred. Hate in our hearts will consume us. Hate will kill us. Instead turn it into action.

Take action and reach out to your leaders. Find out who they are below:

https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

https://www.congress.gov/

https://www.house.gov/

Here’s a guide to the upcoming events:

March 14, 2018: National School Walkout

The Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group is planning a national school walkout on March 14, 2018, according to the group’s website. At 10 a.m. in every time zone, organizers are encouraging teachers, students, administrators, parents and allies to walk out for 17 minutes — one for every person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school,” according to the site.

March 24, 2018: March For Our Lives:

On March 24, 2018, student organizers, including those from Parkland, are planning March For Our Lives, a march in Washington, D.C. to call for school safety and gun control.

“The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues,” according to their website. “No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.”

More info can be found at the website and Facebook page.

April 20, 2018: National High School Walkout:

A growing movement titled #NationalSchoolWalkout is being called for by Connecticut student Lane Murdock and others. Murdock lives just 20 minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to NBC News. In December 2012, 20 students and six staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook.

The plan calls for high school students to walk out on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. No time has been specified yet. The plans are currently being housed on Twitter along with a Change.org petition page that has over 76,000 signatures.

Walking and marching together, letters/petitions  and calling leaders has the power to change laws. Most of all, it changes and saves lives.

Jill Telford is an American artist, author, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books. More of her work can be found:

Books: http://amazon.com/author/jilltelford

Art: https://www.zhibit.org/jtelford/

@artbookstories @jill.telford

If They Hit You Then…Hit Them Back?

You hear this on the playground by a child. “My mom told me if they hit me I could hit them back!” When our children and youth are told this kind of advice: “If they hit you then hit them back” they are learning an eye for an eye. In the late great Rita Pierson’s voice: Can we hit someone back at work?  If we hit someone at our job we will expect repercussions leading to termination.  The advice children are given is confusing.

Children are in a process of becoming. Children are learning.  Their brains are still growing and often they use the lower part of it. As adults we at times have a difficult time controlling our emotions in our brain. So, imagine this piece of advice in the hands of a 3 or 4 year old. Imagine it in the hands of an 8 or 9 year old. Imagine it in the hands of a 13-14 and so on year old.  If we don’t use this advice then why are we teaching it to our children?

When we give this kind of advice then we are teaching children not to solve problems and work it out with one another. We are doing the extreme opposite and teaching them to solve problems with violence. Meet violence with more violence. This is the bottom layer of this piece of advice as you scratch away the multiple layers of it.

The best advice is to not hit someone back but to use phrases such as “Stop!” as a child raises one hand up. Modeling a non violent reaction is vital so that a child will not become a victim (or abuser) and empowered to stand up for their rights. Our voices are powerful. Words are powerful.

Educators, families and communities have the power to empower the voices of children so they stand up for their rights and wellbeing. Ultimately, this teaches children to advocate for themselves in non-violent ways in order to get their points across.