Category Archives: Image of The Child

jessie

Rituals

jessieThe following post is a guest post from Jessie Gill an Early Childhood professional who practices at Moss Rock Preschool.  Jessie has been an Early Childhood Educator since 2007. She studied at Vanier College in Montreal. She then went on to get her BA in Education and Cultural Anthropology.  She has strong image of the child, educator and Family and we were so happy to have her join our team at Moss Rock Preschool.

A Preschool is a cultural community; one that includes children, families, teachers, and community members. In beginning my new position as Educator at Moss Rock Preschool, my main objectives during the initial weeks was to observe the culture of the group and begin the relationship building process. In my observations of the children and how the group navigates through their morning, I have begun to notice daily patterns occurring, that the children, parents and educators move through with confidence.

 

I was recently reading a blog written by a particularly reflective Educator that brought to light the distinct difference between routines and rituals within an Early Childhood Environment. We all have routines in our lives that are repetitive and perhaps we go through the motions without giving much thought to what we’re doing. However, Danielle, Morgan and the children of Moss Rock have established some routines that hold significant importance for the group. Despite their apparent simplicity, I argue that they are more than routines, but in actuality special rituals. Coming from a cultural anthropology background, I studied rituals of all kinds but had never really taken the time to notice the incognito rituals that enrich Early Childhood Environments.

 

Cracker Time at Porter Park

It’s 10am and the group is dispersed around Porter Park, some children play in the spacious sand area, others groupings of children are tucked away in the trees, others stand or crouch a top the mossy rocks. The children appear deeply engaged in their work, their play. Wendy approaches Morgan in the sandpit area and asks, “Is it cracker time? Cuz I’m hungry!” Morgan replies with enthusiasm, “Yes yes yes!” The two of them head over to the coniferous tree that is our gathering place at various times throughout the morning. Wendy announces “CRACKER TIME” with gusto. The message of cracker time is passed amongst the group and children flock to the big tree. Circling around the educator, eager anticipation can be seen on the children’s faces. Morgan retrieves the crackers from the backpack and hands out crackers to the children, acknowledging each child as they are crowshanded a cracker “one for Rory, one for Polly, one for Gerta” and so on. Our park cohabitants, the crows, swoop to lower branches in anticipation of fallen crackers. The children munch on their snack and some notice and comment on the crows behaviour. As crackers are finished, the group naturally returns to play.

 

Rituals don’t have to be complex, but they must offer a sense of belonging and predictability to the children. Cracker Time can be initiated by any group member, however all participants have active and important roles. I wonder if Cracker Time would exhibit the same message of care and group belonging if the children didn’t gather all together under the same tree each day, or if the Educator didn’t acknowledge the children as the snack was handed out. From my point of view, this ritual provides children with more than a daily snack. It is a ritual that the group collectively looks forward to, where the children willingly break from their play to spend a moment gathered together with other members of their community. It is more than a routine; it is a daily ritual that holds value for the children and Educators of Moss Rock Preschool.
Jessie

 

Puddles

Puddles are part of life here on the west coast of Canada. Water gathers where it can, in the cracks and dips of sidewalks, in the depressions of a grass field, in the contours of a pathway. There are distinct categories of  puddles, the shallow watery ones that you can barely make a splash in, the almost invisible ones looking for all the world like grass, until you step into it and sink with a deep sucking sound. There are the puddles that hover on the edges of streets that you need to leap over when you cross, or leap away from when a car drives through it.  There are mud puddles, the rich chocolatey brown puddles that just get better with some stomping action, and the puddles that are really small ponds, sometimes becoming a place for ducks to gather.

Children and puddles seem to call to one another, as though a magnetic force pulls them together. And adults seem equally called to make sure puddles and children don’t get too intimate.

In the world of early childhood this means educators send out warnings: “You don’t have boots on!” Your boots will fill with water!” If you splash you’re going to get wet!” “You know you don’t like getting wet!” Most of these warnings go unheeded, but still we keep sending them out.

Why?

Last week at a centre that I regularly visit, the children, the educator and I went for our usual walk and came to the mother of all puddles, a lovely large, deep, brown puddle that stretched far and wide across a pathway. The children ran to it and waded in without a moment’s hesitation. We watched as they jumped and splashed and stomped, or simply sat in the middle, trailing fingers in the rippling water.  The educator stood back and watched, laughing with delight at the sight.

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Wet socks? Oh yes. Wet faces, hands, arms, legs, and boots filled with water. And happy happy faces.

Were there consequences of succumbing to the puddle? Sure, we headed back inside a little earlier than planned as the chill eventually set in for many wet bodies. Muddy buddies had to be hung to dry, some socks and pants needed changing, but…these things dry.

I wonder why we try so hard to keep kids out of puddles?

 

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I am sitting

In the middle

Of a rather

Muddy puddle,

With my bottom

Full of bubbles

and my rubbers

Full of Mud.

While my jacket

And my sweater

Go on slowly

Getting wetter

As I very

Slowly settle

To the Bottom

Of the Mud.

And I find that

What a person

With a puddle

Round his middle

thinks of mostly

In the muddle

Is the Muddiness of Mud.

Dennis Lee

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The Good, The Bad, The Mindful and The Self-Regulated

IMG_7269Sometimes when I have a few minutes free to myself I like to peruse the parenting or education section of bookstores to see what is being shared. My last visit to the bookstore the shelves were inundated with books with mindful, present, self-regulated in their titles. I was bothered.

I was at a professional lunch not long after when a colleague said “I just want the children to be more mindful.” As the word mindful slipped out of her lips I felt an inner cringe occurring deep within me. I was rejecting this word.

A week later I found myself facilitating a professional group discussion on practice. The word mindful came up several times in our conversations.  As the word came up again and again I could feel my body rejecting the word, cringing at its use. I wanted to interject into their conversation and ask “What does it mean to be mindful?” I knew though I may use a judgemental tone in that moment that wouldn’t convey a desire to understand but more a desire to reject that word. So I listened to their thoughts on it, as well as my own body and thoughts. What was it about this word that upset me?

What does mindful mean?  When I looked it up Mindful was defined as being conscious or aware of something. I have watched children consciously kick or bite someone. Would people label that behaviour as mindful? Probably not. To me it feels like mindful is another way to label a child. Being a mindful or self-regulated child is just another way of telling them they are a good child.  Telling parents they are not mindful or present parents is just another way of saying they are bad parents. Who decides who is mindful and who is not? Who decides how much being present makes you a good parent?

We as educators know it is wrong to label people as good or bad. We know that we internalize these labels and no longer see our choices as good or bad choices but ourselves as good or bad people. We know this but yet we still struggle not to label a child or parent. These words mindful, present, self-regulated, etc… are still labels no matter how enlightened they are.

I think all children are mindful. I think they are very aware of the choices they make good or bad. I also think parents are some of the most mindful people I know revisiting and examining  every choice they make as parents. I also think all children have the ability to self-regulate, I think we as a society just don’t like it when their way of regulating feels like chaos. I believe language has power, it’s probably one of the most powerful things I have as an educator. Words like mindful and self-regulated are not used in my practice because it requires me to make a judgement about someone and that is not my job.

 

Taking Action with Green Tomatoes

The central ethical and political question now becomes: ‘how do we live
together with human and non-human others?’
(Taylor & Guingi 2012)

 

“I think we should make a trap…..yeah we can trap them with green tomatoes, that will make them sick! Then they won’t be able to work!”

 

This sinister sounding plan came from two boys as they watched city workers radically prune 15 feet off the trees in the park just outside the play yard fence. The boys were disturbed at the sight of the trees being so damaged, and devised this plan to lure the workers to eat green tomatoes, theorizing that the tomatoes would make the workers too sick to continue. Deviously brilliant!

On my visits to the centre I have observed these children on many walks through this park and have repeatedly been surprised and impressed by the attentive care they have shown to creatures and plants.

IMG_4366 copyThey gently hold slugs within a flower

IMG_4093 copyUse fallen leaves  and gravel to create small works of art

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Beautifully arrange flowers for passsersby

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Build homes out of grass and sticks to protect a wounded bee they found in the grass

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And taste frost.

The educator at this centre makes these walks a regular part of her program, and is attentive to what children notice, the stories they imagine, the naming of places, particular trees, a pile of rocks. She doesn’t impart much ‘scientific knowledge’, rather she asks and listens to the knowledges the children bring. She and I have discussed at length the compassion children show to the creatures, the curiosity to know them. In our ‘teacher role’ we sometimes assume our job is to teach the names of plants, the habits of hibernation or how slugs travel, and these are certainly interesting things to know. But in our rush to teach, we miss what children know. And knowing that a bee will climb on bark if you gently guide it is pretty impressive knowledge. Knowing how to carry a slug, naming it, spending time simply being with it, is another kind of important knowledge. Creating beautiful arrangements of flowers, tasting frost, piling rocks artfully, all these are ways of knowing as well.

This kind of knowing builds compassion, creates a relationship, a kinship. So when the trees are threatened the children are willing to take action. Isn’t this kind of awareness, of responsibility to all ‘human and non-human others’ just what we need?

 

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Readiness

IMGP2231I’m having a day. One of those days where I just wished I was the kind of person who didn’t cry at the drop of a hat. Where I wished I was one of those people who could keep their emotions in check, who is able to appear to be “professional” at all times. I am not that kind of professional!!! That’s right I am crying and it’s an ugly cry. My mascara is running, my chest hurts and there is nothing pretty about the way I look or feel. I feel raw.

I want to tell you the story of how I got here to this raw place but it’s not my story to tell. Instead I will first repeat what I said on Facebook earlier:

“It is not my job to get children ready for kindergarten. It is my job to honour the person they are right now.”

Secondly I will say thank you to all those who liked our status, commented on it and shared it. You reaffirmed why I am so passionate about early childhood professionals.

Thirdly I will rant.

Can we just get rid of the words Kindergarten Readiness from our vocabulary?! Please! I think we need to stop using these words for a few decades, in fact let’s just plan not to say them for a century. Heck lets just never say school or kindergarten readiness again. ever!

Can we adapt our programs to the children and not expect the children to adapt to our programs! Maybe I am out there but when a child enters our program and it isn’t working for them I look to see what I can change. I am feeling like we are quick to point to the child and say something is wrong with you.

Can we realize that for a short time parents and children are letting us into their lives and that is an honour.  With that realization can we recognize that time should not be squandered on things that aren’t worthy of our time, like kindergarten readiness! Young children are some of the most interesting, creative, risk taking individuals I know. I want to immerse myself in their thinking and research. Someone else  preconceived ideas of what they need to know doesn’t interest me. I want to know what the children want to learn about. What questions do they have? What far flung theory do they want to try out today and how can I help?

Lastly can we all just stop getting children ready for the next phase of their lives and acknowledge the phase they are in now? Who they are right now is immensely interesting and deserving of our time.

Sidenote: Years ago at my first Leadership Institute session Rita Chudnovsky  posed the question “Why can’t we be leaders who cry?” I obviously took those word to heart.