Tag Archives: children

My daughter in a bubble.

The Bubble

My daughter in a bubble.
My daughter in a bubble.

The bubble is wonderful, it’s a place where children are respected, curriculum is built around the children and educators interests and families are welcomed in as equal partners in learning. In the bubble you never see product oriented art, children don’t stand in lines, children aren’t shushed for speaking, expected to sit quietly or told that they can’t go to the bathroom. In this bubble we spend our days being inspired by the children, educators and families we work with. The Bubble.is.a.great.place!

I lived in the bubble for years. I was happy in the bubble.

Then I came out of the bubble. I saw educators doing product oriented art with infants and toddlers. I saw them using the hand over hand method to make sure the googly eyes went in the “right” spot. I saw children sitting in circles, crisscross applesauce, with their mouths closed listening to long winded circle times. I saw classroom spaces where the visual clutter was so overwhelming I wanted to run. I saw young children being described as having behaviour problems because they could not sit still for circle, did not want to do art and told the adults in their lives this very loudly and firmly.  I wanted back in the bubble. I couldn’t go back into the bubble though, if this is what children, families and educators are being subjected to. I wanted to change this! Not wanted, needed to change this.

When I was first confronted with this outside the bubble practice, I realized the best way to affect change was to inspire, not to preach, not to judge but to share. Share ways in which my practice changed, to share the ups and downs of my pedagogy of listening and relationships, my stories of building curriculum around children’s interests, designing spaces that invited children, parents and educators to think together, spaces that created community and spaces of beauty deserving of children and their wonderful ideas.

Living outside the bubble is hard. I can’t log onto Pinterest or Facebook without seeing questionable practice. Things that make me ask “Is this still a thing?” So today  I find that I may need to get up on my soap box and preach.

“If you have to hold a child’s hand and move it for them please do not call the activity you are doing art! Call it what it is a Pinterest fail, a craptivity, a so called parent pleaser.”

               “If you tell a child no when they ask to go to the bathroom, you are contributing to a larger problem. Although it may seem like a small thing. You are essentially telling a child they don’t know their own body and that its okay for someone else to call the shots on its functions. Do you see what I am getting at?”

               ”If you have so much stuff on your walls that you forget what colour your walls are, you may have a problem.”

Look I hate preaching but I am tired. I am tired of seeing children being disrespected and controlled. Compliance isn’t the goal. I am tired of seeing outdated practices being touted as good programming. It’s just not. I did my education twenty years ago and it wasn’t good practice then, it certainly isn’t good practice now. I understand the pressure, trust me I do but instead of giving into it we must advocate for the practice we were educated to deliver.

I am going back to my bubble now. I am tired.

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

 

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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.

 

The Dead Duck

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So yes that’s a picture of a dead duck. A duck the children found on the beach. A duck I tried to keep them away from. A duck I was worried little fingers would poke. As I tried to usher the children away from this duck a child stood their ground and said “But we have to do something. We can’t just leave him here!”

“Well what do you think we should do?” I asked.

“We should put him in the Ocean.” I was told.

“Well okay.” I said “But I am not touching it so we need to find a long flat piece of wood.”

The children searched the beach for the right piece of wood. It was found rather quickly and I slid the duck (without touching it) onto the long flat log. We walked it down to the water’s edge. I had visions of sending the duck off in a Viking style funeral sailing it out on his wooden pyre. (there would be no fire in this ceremony though) It would be a more sailing off into the sunset type funeral.  I place the log on the water and hold one end.

“Should we say something?” I ask.

“Goodbye dead duck. We will miss you.” Says a little girl.

As I go to launch the duck into his last sail across the sea, he falls off and I am left with his body lapping in the waves by the shore. I was always taught to be respectful of the dead creatures we find. So as I try to push him out to sea with my failed pyre I find myself apologizing to the duck.

Finally the duck starts to drift out to sea. The children are wishing him well. “Go to the sunset.” one little girl yells to him.

WP_20131011_009 (768x1024) Eventually the children and I walk up to the driftwood where we were first playing.  The children start talking about death and the duck.

I ask “What does it mean when you die?”

“You never see them again.” says a little boy.

I listen as they talk about death with such honesty. I am moved by their openness to discuss it. I have had a year full of death. I have had to say goodbye more times then I cared too this year. With all this death I had been witness to I had never once engaged in such an honest and philosophical conversation. As I listened I could actually feel a swelling of emotion. There I was on a beach trying not to cry over a dead duck.

A young boy comes up to me, puts his hand on my shoulder and says “Danielle its okay.” And I brace myself for it, that big truth this child is going to share with me. “There are lots of ducks out there.” he says.

 

 

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A Solution

So Spring is in the air and children in my centre are in love. Asha chases Jim and Jim taunts Asha with his charm. Asha declares “I’m going to get you Jim and then I am going to kiss you.”

Words that have me pondering how to proceed. Do I allow the game to continue? Do I allow Asha to kiss Jim? What will the families think? What about germs? Should I stop it?  which leads to questions of  Am I the only one uncomfortable with this? Am I really uncomfortable? Hmph….

See over my career I have been instructed to say different things in similar situations. “Hugs only at preschool” , “Kisses are just for moms and dads.”  and many other scripted statements. Which by the way all make me gag. The idea of me saying any of those things now seems ridiculous.

Here is the other memory that goes through my head. Craig Knolton the preschool heart throb shouting at me from across my lawn “Danielle if you catch me you can kiss me.” Swoon oh Craig Knolton if you only knew I compared most of my suiters to you for years. A true testament to how powerful the preschool years are. (hahaha)

All this by the way is going through my head in the span of ten seconds while I am deciding if it is necessary for me to interject in Asha and Jims kissing game. I finally decide yes and for very selfish reasons. Our class has been plagued with stomach bugs, colds and runny noses and I want it to stop.

“Asha and Jim lets not play the kissing game today. We have all been sick and kissing can spread germs. I don’t want to get sick anymore do you?” Saying this sort of made me gag too… I am sure at two in the morning I will think of a more respectful way to say stop kissing Jim.

Asha stops chasing Jim and goes to the a table and starts drawing. You may think the story ends there but it doesn’t. Asha draws the most awesome picture. I know from looking at it, its a monster.

001“What is it?” I ask.

Asha looks up at me with a satisfied grin, puts it up to her face and shouts “IT’S THE KISSY MONSTER!”

Asha then proceeds to chase us all around screaming “The kissy monster is going to get you.”

There was a lot of laughter and fun had by all including me.

I love how Asha took the problem (me being a spoil sport and stopping the kissing) and came up with a solution. Germs were the problem well a mask of paper is the solution.