The moment we walked in the door questioning eyes were on us: “Who are you?” my coaches asked my brother in law and father figure as he questioned them as to why I wasn’t getting any playtime on the basketball team. My brother is black and I am white based on societal descriptions. He always stood up for me and had my back. From elementary through high school. We would get side way kinds of stares by people who weren’t exposed to different kinds of families.
My mother died when I was turning 10. My (I think biological father) was incarcerated off and on. I was raised by my sister and my brother in law. We were rare and uniquely different. Looking back and reflecting on my upbringing, I realize just how thankful I am. I was exposed to what children normally are not exposed to and as a result I am an eclectic kind of person. I watched and listened to shows, movies and music such as The Sopranos, Poetic Justice and The Streets is Watching. However, I always had someone present and there telling me someone made it or it was directed by someone. Someone made it up from their brain and it was inspired by real life events. I always had someone like my sister or brother in law telling me to cover my eyes during the racy parts.
I have so many memories from playing ball, driving around pretending to be on MTV Cribs to witnessing drug raids to people dying. This was my reality. So, I understand many walks of life. I was and am blessed to be surrounded by real, authentic type love. A rare kind of love that you cannot find. They never had to buy love or material possessions. Getting Chinese takeout, laughing, yelling and crying a lot, playing monopoly and playing ball was enough. It was my foundation of what a family is all about. Not perfect but perfect if you know what I mean.
As a grownup, I am working towards planting seeds where children will make a better life and ultimately a better world by reaching mutual understanding across cultures and perspectives. A world where people will know who each other is the moment they walk in the door. Questioning eyes will fade. The who are you will turn into I know who you are. A place where different families exist and it’s cool and unquestioned. People will stop and stare for how beautifully dynamic and powerful differences are. A place where it’s cool and dope to be different aesthetically, creatively and intellectually.
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
- Singing creates a better sense of well being and causes us sensations of feeling good.
- Improves concentration, alertness and memory.
- 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.
- Singing is in fact exercise
- It helps with sleeping well and getting a good night’s Zzz.
- It lowers stress levels
- It’s a natural anti-depressant
So, turn the speaker up and sing like no one’s listening or watching!
We are preschool educators. After a discussion of how children learn and recognizing our many kinds of learners, we narrowed in on, noticed and talked a lot about recess and recognized the importance coupled by the lack of it. We call recess by another name. For us, recess goes by the name of play.
Often we inform our families to advocate for their child and the kind of learner they are as they grow, move on and become kindergartners. We do this in order for their new school community to be ready. We now realize how we need to take our own advice. So here goes.
Are you ready for our students? Our children will ask you questions: lots of them. Get ready. See, please understand we allowed and followed their lead. We facilitated and encouraged our students to solve many problems socially, cognitively, emotionally, physically, mathematically, creatively, linguistically through play. Not just any kind of play but intentional and meaningful play. We weren’t focused on getting them “ready” because we know you are ready for them. We hope and hold on to that.
As mentioned, we all learn differently and we believe it is a process and are looking to connect and build a relationship with you as we have a lot to learn from one another. We want to connect in order to facilitate and help bring recess and play back to our community. Back to your school. We know it won’t be easy.
However, it will be worth it for all. Our children are showing and sharing with us what they need, it’s time we listen.
Let’s talk and bring back recess.
a.k.a TPA: The Play Alliance
We 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.
The Play Alliance
#Preschoolisforever #tpa #pta #theplayalliance #thetpa #thepta #teachers #educators #children #families #firstweekofschool
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
While sharing who we were during a writing class I teach during the evening, one of my grown up students who is a Dad mentioned his three year old daughter Shelly, who is having a not so good time in school. He said, “In fact, I am having a better time than Shelly and recognize the importance of hands on [non-sedentary] learning even as an adult.” Shelly’s teachers keep pushing her to write her name and to read. Shelly does not want to go to “school”. My student said he doesn’t care if she can spell her name or not. However, a lot of the families in the school’s culture have unrealistic expectations of their children and want them to spell and read by the magic number of 5. Where does this number come from?
Where do we get our ideas from? Why are we pushing our thoughts and our desires of what children should be able to do? We keep pushing for “readiness”. We keep comparing and contrasting children. We even compare and contrast ourselves. Mediocrity. Ludicrous.
Why? I hear it and listen to the uncertainty as a families voice and tone will tremble as they ask: “Should I be worried that my child is not drawing and writing like the kid who is?”
No, we have nothing to worry about. Play the song Don’t Worry About a Thing and channel Bob Marley folks. Each and every child (and you know this especially if you have siblings!) learn and progress at different stages during a lifespan. We need to let that happen and not force or push children when the interest may not be there. We only project our fears onto them. I model my evening class after our preschool class pushing the model of a Reggio and creative inspired way of learning and being for my grown up students too. They love it. People love to think. People love creativity and challenges NOT busy work. I’m not on this Earth to waste anyone’s time including my own. Even when people don’t think they like thinking: they do. We ask questions, work together, draw, make mistakes, go into the community and most of all think creatively. The box doesn’t even exist in our classroom. From preschool through death as educators, families, communities we need to destroy the box and rebuild something better together. One major take away from this blog is destroy the box.
More than ever before we are driven by data. Data kept in boxes. Unfortunately, it gives a fragmented and skewed view of our children’s abilities but is tied to…funding. Children who do not have a voice are left behind and so are amazing educators, families and communities. We are all connected. What happens in a classroom, community and family is immeasurable. Intuitively, we want what is best. Somehow we got lost in the sauce wanting our child to be the best as opposed to doing their best. This is not the purpose of life long learning. Making mistakes is what makes us. Failure and learning from it. Accidents happen. This is our purpose, truly. Why are we pushing children to read by the age of five when we know these skills take time from birth through third grade to develop? Anybody out there listening please this is an SOS! Help our children, families, educators and communities get this. Why are our politicians pushing jargon and buzz words without reading it for themselves?
Don’t knock at my door and ask for my vote and say, “I want every child to read by the age of five because I did”. This is ludicrous. Why are we saying how math and reading are so important but we are not reading about reading and math and HOW TO MAKE IT DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE for children. Here’s a buzz word that is misunderstood so read about it. It’s called PLAY. Playing to learn. We need to learn to play again grown ups. Check out www.naeyc.org. For Pete’s sake, just google the word play. I don’t want our children to read to read, I want them to read to understand. I want them to love and care about writing, drawing and reading and then the rest will handle itself.
Speaking of play don’t forget the 10th Annual Play Day: http://letsplayamerica.org/upcoming-events/
And speaking of 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
While there are many stories from preschool that resonate with me, none affect me more than being in the middle of our own classroom stories. The poem by Robert Fulghum illustrates it best:
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.
These are the things I learned:
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
I learned these life lessons shared by Robert Fulghum even before Kindergarten. I learned these little life lessons in Head start where I started preschool. These are the same lessons that I now pass on in words and action almost two decades later in a preschool classroom and playground.
I work at being the kind of grown up I needed as I a child. Families do their best with what they know each and every generation. By walking, working and moving together we create a reciprocal relationship where the best kind of learning takes place: from one another.
Best of all, children rise up and pass it on. I was a child who rose up. Preschool changes trajectories. Preschool definitely changed mine. A group of people worked together with or without knowing the power of the early childhood education profession. Not to mention the power of tuning into Fred Rogers. http://www.fredrogerscenter.org/
However, that is for a whole other post. In the meantime, here are some of the lessons from Robert’s poem in real life action:
We share. We come up with questions and solutions. “When can I play with it?”, “Is there another one?” or “I’ll play, read or create something awesome in the meantime.”
We often play fair and when it doesn’t feel fair we talk about it. Racing faster than cheetahs teaches us a lot on the playground. “Is it fair to run before finishing the sentence: “Ready steady, go” or “On your marks, get set, go!”
A game of tag teaches us gentle touches without having to say, “Don’t hit.” When frustrated we verbalize it. When we can’t we rip paper, pound and squeeze play dough, paint, hit a pillow, yell among so many more strategies.
When it comes to saying sorry, we go a bit deeper. We work to fix what we did and help our friends to feel better. We get to the root of the problem. “What happened?”, “Why”, “What can I do?” and “how?”
Our hands are very dry. You know why we keep lotion on standby.
We flush. When we don’t, we still flush. It’s called a courtesy flush. Because, we all forget sometimes.
Warm cookies are delicious especially when we followed the recipe but sometimes we go overboard with the amounts we shake in. We just can’t control our excitement for making these cookies right now! (Side note: Doesn’t have to even be cookies could be anything: play dough, Oobleck or just putting it together to see what happens as we wonder what will happen as we test out our theories). If children getting excited about mixing flour and water doesn’t remind you to appreciate and marvel at the little things, I don’t know what will.
Robert covers living a balanced life in the poem itself. If you don’t see living a balanced life in action at your child’s school or at your work then it’s time to find a new one. Living a balanced life looks like the bolded words below and STILL applies to grown ups.
“Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.”
We take our naps. We sprinkle magical sleeping sprinkle dust after reading a few stories and making some up from our brains. It works…every time.
Most of all, we sing each and everyday.
When walking up the sidewalk, we sing. We sing: “Stick together like peanut butter jelly.”We think about what else could be as sticky. We change the words to gum, play dough, tape, duct tape, hummus, yogurt, glue and the list of words never end. We hold hands. We look out for one another. We stick together. Not only do we watch out for traffic, we watch out for each other.
Jill Telford is an American artist, author, storyteller, educator and creator of children’s books. More of her work can be found:
With the results of the election, holidays and inauguration looming I am feeling tension and unlike myself lately.
I chalked it up to the full moon and it’s power of making waves. In fact, there has been a cataclysm of events making waves. Lately, I have been hanging on to hope and resiliency. I stare at a photo of 6 year old Ruby Bridges who endured and triumphed standing as a metaphor and reminder that “what doesn’t kill you does in fact make you stronger”. At 6, Ruby Bridges showed a courage that resonates today. I had the opportunity of listening to Ruby Bridges speak in 2015 at the annual NAEYC conference. The kind of courage and poise she personifies and how it connects with us, children, families and educators will be written about in a later blog.
Holidays are hard for many. For a lot of my own life, holidays were often off for me and awkward. There are empty chairs of those we miss and love. You feel the infinite loss and ache of missing loved ones. It is easier to send a gift and/or photo of smiling faces saying Happy Holidays. It is the thought that counts but what do we do for those who feel alone? How do we help others cope during grief or a sense of loss? What gifts can you give to the broken-hearted?
Here are gifts to give:
- Gift of Memory: Take a moment to remember and honor the memory of a loved one by a hug, card or phone call. Although there is an empty chair at the table fill it with memories and honor their memory.
- Gift of hope: We experience both sadness and joy. It’s deeply triggered by the holidays. Show up and offer to help those you care about. From the daily routines to collaging and scrap booking memories.
- Gift of Love: Be in the moment with those who are still living. Show them you love them. If you are the one feeling sad tell them it is hard but stay hopeful.
- Gift of friendship: Invite and include those who feel sad even if they may cancel or decline from shopping to having dinner.
- Gift of Surprise and Spontaneity: Encourage doing something unusual such as a road trip or a flight to visit loved ones still here. Follow through.
- Give the gift of time: Its about time well spent with those you love so spend it wisely. Spend some time whether over coffee, a movie, a stop by visit or something special to do together
- Give the gift of food for the soul whether baked goods or a home cooked meal to enjoy together
- The gift of listening: remember, it’s not not knowing what to say but listening and being there.
Looking for more gift ideas? Visit Sympathy Solutions at:
Most of all, ensure to reach out, don’t expect someone who feels alone to reach out to you.
There are many reasons why we do or say things the way we do. The truth makes some of us uncomfortable. It is said “truth hurts”. However, it is always better for us to be 100% real with each other than to pretend. That is if we want to form long lasting relationships built on trust.
On the other hand, think about your day-to-day life. How often do you lie? How often do you think you are lied to? Call it lying or being untruthful, both are the same. A lie is a lie is a lie.
One of the biggest lessons to learn is to protect your heart. Share it but protect it. Deception and betrayal are real.
When you catch someone in the act of lying how do you feel? It’s easy and natural to feel betrayed, hurt, and/or angry. How about when a child lies to you? The feelings echo the same sentiments. But want the honest truth? It’s normal and typical to lie.
Everyone lies at some point; however, we do have the choice to be truthful. When you want to get off the phone you may say something like: “I have to take this other call, it’s urgent” or “I have a meeting in five minutes”. How about minimizing something such as running a red light as you are pulled over for it. Why do we do this? In the depths of our being, we are hoping to get out of paying the ticket. Most of all, when we lie we want to get out of or away with something.
It all comes down to solving our problems realistically even if it hurts. Hurting is good if it is equivalent to growing pains. We need to teach and guide children to face the problem and solve it, not find a way to get out of problems or find excuses for them.
We wonder why children lie. The answer is the same as why adults lie in general.
- To avoid hurting someone else’s feelings- white lie
- To avoid getting caught or getting in trouble- not so white lie
- To get attention- white or not depends on the situation
- To get out of doing something that we do not want to- white lie?
- To lead separate lives- not white at all
- To establish self identity or pretend identity- not white at all
When addressing lying with children, don’t make things complicated. Understand the underlying cause and address the root cause of it.
- Be specific about the situation (Don’t beat around the bush)
- Be simple, clear and direct
- Assure them that honesty is valued and lying has more negative consequences than the mistakes themselves.
- Don’t close up, always be open
- Do not argue
- Give a consequence if a natural one did not present itself
- If you give a consequence, ensure it connects to what happened (for example, if she lied about doing her homework and instead played video games, state you will not be able to play your video games especially not until homework is complete)
We all have values. Many people talk about honesty but the reality is that many people lie. It’s a problem that can be solved by modeling honesty and integrity in every way of being. It is about walking the walk. Action speaks louder than words.
In the meantime, we can teach and coach our children to show others who they really are with courage and integrity. We can teach them to own their mistakes and learn from them instead of covering them up or running away from them. This is the way we can make a change. Now and in the future.