Saturday, December 15, 2018

Taking a Break and Readjusting to Routines

A teacher friend just sent me a very funny video of a teacher getting ready for the winter break. And there are countless memes in this vein - hey, we work hard, are ready for some rest, and who doesn't need a good laugh! I know I do right now!

As early childhood educators we also want to come back refreshed and ready for the children, who always seem to grow in so many ways after time away from school. And sometimes they regress and it is like starting over again. Both are true.

Many children really miss school, familiar routines, and their teachers. While we may be literally running out the door on the last day, let's make sure our children are prepared for the break and ready to return.

NAEYC's Teaching Young Children has a lovely, short piece called Ready, Set, Return Helping Children Readjust After Winter Break with great tips for supports children's return to the classroom. See the link to the article for more detail but briefly they are:

1) If you haven't already, begin to talk about the break, no matter how long or short it may be.
2) Send home a bridge activity that they can do at home and bring back with them when they return.
3) Stay in touch through messaging apps or postcards or photos sent home on the last day.
4) Modify the schedule when they return - a shorter meeting, more time outdoors - don't change the routine but adjust it to reduce stress.
5) Revisit successful experiences by offering activities that reestablish confidence in the classroom.
6) Reintroduce and give explicit presentations on materials and centers. How blocks are used, handwashing routines, centers, etc. in whole and small groups, and one-one. Don't assume they will automatically fall back into routines.
7) Sing. Use rhythm, rhyme, music to reinforce routines - even if you make up a handwashing song to Old MacDonald.
8) Create sources of comfort, share control with children as they ease back in.

I'll add my own -
9) Offer new challenges once children readjust to school.

Children really do grow after time away and beginning a new project related to a Big Idea they can really dive into will start the year off right! Here is a link to a past blog with some curriculum ideas for Big Idea themes related to Martin Luther King Day - Martin's Big Words - Studying Martin Luther King

Here are two past blogs related to winter break, the holidays, and taking care of yourself.

Rethinking Holiday Gifts
5 Steps for a Renewing Winter Break

Enjoy a well-deserved break.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Columbus Day: Shifting Thinking and Habits

Teachable moments come to us in all kinds of ways. We don't know when or where they will appear and you have to seize them before the moment passes. Last week Mayor Joseph Curtatone made an announcement that Somerville will be joining other cities and towns, such as Cambridge and Brookline, by observing Indigenous People's Day On October 8, not Columbus Day. Curtatone noted "Columbus Day is a relic of an outdated and oversimplified version of history. We all know there’s more to the story than a nursery rhyme.”

And yet, in many schools, the nursery rhyme version persists.

When faced with shifts in thinking and practice, we can sometimes balk: Wait, I can't celebrate Columbus Day anymore!?  

But the larger question is: Why would you want to?
This leads to an even deeper question: How do my practices perpetuate myths?

So we are at a crossroads - one path is our old habits: 

1) The pictures of a smiling Columbus and his boats sailing across the ocean to "discover" a new world.  

2) The other is that teachable moment - if we dare to take it up. It will mean looking at ourselves, and making some changes. 

It is also an opportunity to teach things in new ways. Even young children can understand that encounters with those different from ourselves can result in conflict, but that as humans, we hope that we can build relationship. 

Columbus didn't "discover" people who were already here and there are great lessons about sharing space, materials that even young children can understand. We can talk about who Columbus was and his journey without glorifying what happened next, which for many is a day of mourning remembering genocide and enslavement - not something to celebrate.

Somerville Early Education has a new literacy curriculum rooted in the idea that working with Big Ideas as a foundation for all content areas makes learning relevant and inspires children to contribute and discover more.

The Big Ideas connected to building community and relationships with others, and how to treat people kindly and fairly resonate with young children and are great jumping off points for researching what discovery is, and how to engage is successful encounters with those new to you. Aren't these the messages we want children to embrace?

At the cornerstone of our  Community and Relationships curriculum are Big Ideas such as:

● We are members of a group.
● We form relationships with each other.
● Members of a group work together for a common goal.
● When we all take care of each other’s bodies, feelings,
work and the classroom/environment, we can have
the most fun and learn together. 
● We are all learning new things and how to do things for ourselves.
● We all have our own feelings, sometimes our feelings are different than our friends’
● We belong to different groups/communities: family, neighborhood, class, school,
city, team, etc.
● There are helpers in our communities.

The resources below can help you think differently about that day we have off from school in a few weeks and how to address it with children. 

Rethinking Early Childhood Education by Anne Pelo

Teaching Tolerance: Rethinking Columbus Day