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.
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 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:
Imagine an individualized learning plan that meets the needs of each and every child? This idea is not out of reach. Every child is different. So, why are we treating them all the same? There is not one mold for learning and doing.
So many ideas and thoughts materialize in my mind as I prepared for a panel on keeping play alive for children at the World Forum. We are surrounded by giants in our field of early education. Some of those giants materialize in my mind such as Diane T. Dodge, Sue Bredekamp, Barbara Willer, Dan Gartrell, Becky Bailey, Mimi Brodsky to name a handful. We too are giants and owe it to the giants before us to do the right thing for children even when it’s hard to keep fighting. We are also surrounded by children who are the bigger giants. In Sue’s words “we must stop using kids for research and use the research to help our children”.
When I stepped foot inside of an early education classroom I knew it was where I was meant to be and I knew why. It was safe, welcoming, kind and an environment where children took care of one another. A space where children could create, collaborate and connect. Most of all, children played! I believe that this model should be pushed to higher grades.
At times I hear adults say “Children don’t play anymore, they are always inside.” If this happens during a conversation (now it tends not to because my circle knows) I immediately ask what is the solution? What can we do? We can blame it on technology or the changing of the times.
However, I want to also blame it on ourselves: the grown-ups. We live in such a fast paced instant gratified kind of world that taking a moment to listen to the birds or really see the images hiding in the clouds does not happen as often as it should. There are easy solutions to challenging or in Gartell’s words mistaken behavior found in play. If a child is a rough and tumble kind of player, a game of tag would be one of many play solutions.
We find out so much about children from observing and guiding children in play. More than we do during a standardized test. We are so busy getting children “ready” that we need to remind ourselves each year that they don’t need to be ready for us. We need to be ready for them.