Recently, a Newberry Award winning author visited our school. Even though I loved reading his books for older elementary students, I wasn’t particularly excited about his visit with preschoolers. I wondered what a YA (young adult) author could possibly say that would resonate with our class of 4 year olds.
I walked away from the encounter completely blown away! Not only did this author know how to connect with the very young crowd, I even found myself taking notes on what he had to say!
I have compiled the following slides based on the notes I took.
I just happen to love all these books, and many more besides! I know I could think of some to add to the list. Which ones would you add?
As my youngest child recently turned 10, I’ve been spending some time thinking about what my hopes are for my three children during this, their second decade of life. Ultimately, my dream is that they would develop and pursue their own dreams, but here are my dreams for them:
I want to give them time and space to grow into their true selves.
I want them to discover who they are and what they love and what they are good at.
I want them to play without feeling self-conscious, to allow their imaginations to roam freely.
I’d like for them to try new things and to experience grace to make mistakes and even fail, because learning to pick oneself back up after falling is an essential life skill.
I want them to develop friendships that are fun and build them up, and I endeavor to give them tools to communicate clearly and with kindness and humor.
I want them to be able to say no without apology and to accept another person’s boundaries.
I want them to be intrigued by interesting educational challenges and to have opportunities to solve real problems.
I expect them to try their best and praise them for their efforts, hard work and determination.
I want them to make choices and to live with the consequences of those choices.
I want them to value literature, art and music.
I want them to wonder, to question and to care. I want them not give up until they find the answer, or figure out how to be the solution.
I want them to know that they are LOVED and to feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves.
I want them to not be afraid.
My hope for them is to be confident, competent and compassionate towards others. But mostly, my desire is for them to have dreams and to know that those dreams are valuable and within reach through imagination, hard work, determination and effort.
I like routine and boundaries and rules. There. I wrote it out loud. I suppose it’s part of my personality, and I realize that not everyone is wired like that. My husband, for instance. He has more of a “rules are made to be broken” mentality, or perhaps, more of a “Who are they to tell me what to do?” kind of an attitude. In short, he balances me out pretty well.
One of downsides to my boundary-based disposition is my inclination to criticize or judge those who do not follow the prescribed set of rules that I deem to be important. I’ll give an example:
Every day, I take a group of my students down to the street level to load them into cars of waiting parents. There are five or six teachers, loading children into about 30 cars, and the whole process usually takes about 10 minutes. The winding line of cars makes it difficult for regular traffic to pass by, so we try to expedite the process as quickly as possible by having the drivers stay in their seats while make sure the children are safely inside the cars.
As I open the car-door, I ask each child whether they need help buckling into their car seat of if they can do it themselves. Every day, certain children and parents say that they are capable of doing it themselves and I close the door and move on to collect and load the next child. Every day, I see some cars drive off with the child standing up in the back seat, waving at us through the window, and all of us teachers wave back while yelling, “Buckle up!”
This used to bother me a great deal! I fought back for a long time, reminding kids, buckling kids in, making passive aggressive snarky remarks to parents… until I realized that I am not in charge of the world. As soon as I hand off the children to their own parents, the parents are in charge. I can remind them and cheerfully call out “Buckle up!” as I release them to the parents’ care, but beyond that, I need to learn to let go and to stop judging the behavior of others. (Side note: we live in a country where traffic laws are not enforced, and therefore implemented, in the same way as they are in North America and Europe).
Last week, however, I had a relapse of my old ways. A mom arrived in a five-seat BMW to pick up three children for a play date. She had a toddler already strapped into his car seat in the back, leaving only three empty seats with buckles, one of which was in the front. All of the girls going in the car are five years old. The mom got out of her car to buckle her own daughter and one other girl into the back seat. I looked up to see her then proceed to load another girl into the front seat of the car. The front seat rider is slightly taller than the other two girls, but not by much, and certainly not anywhere near the size of a 12 year old which is the required age of sitting in the front seat in a car with an airbag.
I couldn’t stand it! With my heart pounding loudly in my ears, I approached the mother and said, “Do Q’s parents know that you are putting her in the front seat?”
The mom looked startled and stammered, “Well, yes, they know… I don’t have enough seats and it’s just a short way…”
Having broken the conversation barrier, I continued, “If they know and are ok with it, then it’s not a problem, but they need to know.” Then I threw in the stinger. “If it were my child, I would NOT be ok with it.”
Somewhat flustered, the mom got in the car and drove away. I waved cheerily at the girls and called out, “Have a fun play date!”
I stewed over it for the rest of the afternoon however, vacillating between disdain for the woman who put her own child in the backseat while seating someone else’s child in the front, and guilt for having offended her by saying something – especially throwing in that final comment. If it were her own child in the front seat, I would not have said anything, but it wasn’t! (Have I mentioned the part of my personality that avoids confrontation and conflict at all cost?)
The next morning, Play Date Mom stopped by the classroom. I grew nervous as she approached me.
“About yesterday,” she began. I wanted to crawl under the table.
“I had never thought about that before, but you are right. I should never have put a child in danger like that, even if it was for just a short distance.”
She could have knocked me over with a feather.
“Thank you for pointing it out. It IS really dangerous and I will not put a small child in the front seat again.”
I thanked her for telling me, and we made some small talk before she left her child with me for the day.
Lesson learned? I did the right thing by speaking up. I hope that if the situation arises again, I can do it without the snarky comment. But on the other hand, was the fact that I would have had a problem with it if it were my kids, the spark that ignited her thinking?
There is a child in my class this year who is not progressing and developing as we would expect. As you might imagine, we are concerned. We believe in early intervention, and have had several meetings with the parents about the situation.
These kinds of meetings are difficult, because most adults like to tackle problems logically.
1. Identify the problem
2. Brainstorm solutions
3. Implement new plan
4. Begin to see results
Unfortunately, children who are outliers developmentally, rarely progress in such a linear fashion. Up to this point, the “problem” has not been adequately identified. We skirt around the issue as we are not qualified to offer any kind of diagnosis. The teachers at our school are not trained in special ed, neither are we developmental or educational psychologists. We have, however, worked with children for a long time, and we know that something is amiss in this case and we are not trained or able to give this child the help that is needed under the current circumstances and we are trying to gently recommend that the parents seek appropriate assistance elsewhere.
Although we all want what is best for this child, sometimes our meetings with the parents tend to skew off track as the parents see the issue as a behavioral one. A recent meeting resulted in the parents complaining that we teachers are sending their child mixed messages.
Confused by this statement, I asked for clarification.
“In the morning, when we come to school, you hug my child and seem happy to greet her. I think she’s confused when you continue to show her affection even after she’s not complaint.”
Huh? I’m wondering what I’m supposed to do. Greet the child with a cold “Good Morning” (while hugging and being affectionate with the other kids) because there was some “misbehavior” the day before?
“Good morning. Please try to follow direction, focus on what you are doing and remember the routines today. I will recommence hugging you and being happy to see you when you stop making making mistakes.”
Here is my promise to parents and children:
I will continue to care about your children and to demonstrate this this care through kind words, a happy attitude and showing affection regardless of their behavior and the difficulties they face. I refuse to start a day with children harboring leftover resentment from the day before.
Children need to know that the adults in their lives are strong enough to handle children’s difficulties and shortcomings. They need to know they are loved and cared for and supported.
I refuse to withhold affection as a means to modify behavior.
(The fact that behavior modification is not a viable option to deal with developmental delays is a whole other issue that I choose not to address in this post.)
“Did you wash your hands?”
I wonder how many times I ask those two questions in tandem. I sometimes feel as though I sound like a broken record, asking them over and over again all the live-long day.
But now, it seems that research is backing me up even more than I had thought and that my incessant nagging might be paying off, without me even noticing. According to an article I just read, the CDC now states that up to a million deaths a year could be prevented and the risk of contracting colds, flus and other contagious diseases could be cut by 51% if only we washed our hands more!
Of course, simply running cold water over the hands for a couple of seconds doesn’t count as real hand washing – one must actually use soap and lather up on tops and bottoms of hands and between fingers.
I’ve found that the best way to develop good hand washing habits is to build it into the routine. I always schedule time to TEACH my students how to wash their hands at the beginning of every school year as a start. I also make it a priority to model good hand washing and supervise young children while they are doing it, and I’m not at all averse to making them do it again.
Lest I sound like a tyrannical witch when it comes to hygiene, allow me to explain how it is built into our day.
As children arrive at school, they have a few tasks they are required to do as a part of their morning routine:
-take off and hang up coat
-put attendance card in slot and folder in basket
-kiss mom/dad/caregiver goodbye
These four things are non-negotiables and must be completed every morning before entering the classroom to choose an activity.
Everyone also washes hands before snack time.
We wash hands again after playing outside.
Children must wash hands before they collect their lunch box from their cubbies and find their spot to sit down and eat.
We wash hands again after playing outside a second time.
That’s five pre-set times when the entire class must wash their hands at the same time. Does it take up a good chunk of time? Sure – but it’s worth it! (We have four sinks in our classroom that are child-leveled so that does help.)
Other times that children are required to wash hands are after they have used the bathroom, after we catch them in a particularly violent/wet cough or sneeze and before helping with snack or lunch set up.
The kids never complain about the constant hand washing because it’s just part of life and daily routine.
At home, my kids may not enter the common living areas after their arrival from school until they have washed their hands. With soap.
I wash my hands all those times too – and then some – especially after I have touched something wet (like a child’s hand or shirt-sleeve).
And you know what, we are hardly ever sick (knock wood) and the kids in my class very rarely miss school. Here I thought, all these years, that they simply loved coming to school so much! Turns out, it’s just because of our routines!
How many times a day do you and your children wash your hands?
A few days ago, my 14 year old daughter approached me when I was deeply engrossed in an important task that occupied my complete attention – you know, something super important like reading my book or catching up on my favorite blog or maybe doing the dishes – and casually asked if I minded if she downloaded a new app on her iTouch. I mumbled something about thinking about it, and then she proceeded to beg. I confess, I don’t really remember much from the ensuing conversation, except that she convinced me, mostly by telling me that she heard about it from her close friend and that this app would enable her and said close friend (BF) to chat with each other in a new way. BF and her 4th grade sister already have it, and I’ll admit: that was the point that sold me.
My daughter has been friends with BF for four years now, and although we don’t know her family well, they are a part of our school community and we chat at events and are facebook friends. The girls have grown close, especially during the past two school years and have a lot in common. They spend quite a lot of time at both our homes and we’ve come to treat BF as an extended part of our family and our daughter feels the same at their house. Our two families seem to be very much on the same page as far as what movies and other media we allow/encourage our children to watch and listen to and the expectations we have for our children’s behavior in general.
Thus, when my daughter said that her friend and the younger sister are “on” this app, I did not hesitate to give her the go ahead. During the next couple of evenings, I noticed her iTouch lighting up quite often and my daughter started commenting on the funny things BF was sending her, making her laugh. My 12 year old daughter also asked to download the app and I gave her a goal to reach (as she’s a bit behind on some schoolwork) in order to earn the privilege of having another time-sucking distraction in her life. The term Snapchat gradually seeped into my conscious vocabulary as the new thing that was part of their Middle School social scene.
We’ve only been back in school for 3 days, mind you, and I didn’t have a smidgen of a clue about this before Monday! Wednesday evening, my curiosity was piqued enough about this new phenomenon to begin to ask some more questions, since my daughter seemed be receiving quite a few texts which kept her entertained and laughing. I had originally assumed that they were texting, but no, they were sending photos.
This is how it was explained to me: a person takes a photo (of themselves making a silly face, or something they see or happen to be doing) and can then write on it and/or add markings of various kinds. They then send it to their friend after specifying how long the friend can view the shot (from 1 to 10 seconds). After the friend has viewed the photo for the allotted amount of time, the photo self-destructs. Funny, silly, real-time entertainment that no one keeps track of. Oh – and the kicker – no one can take a screen shot of someone else’s photo because the program doesn’t allow it (at least this is what my daughter believed).
Armed with this newfound information, I decided to conduct some research on it myself. I was immediately concerned when I started typing the term “snapchat” into my google toolbar and the second choice that came up was “snapchat sexting.” Maybe I should have looked into this earlier?
According to this article on CNN though, I shouldn’t necessarily jump to the worst possible conclusions right away. Although it doesn’t take much imagination to see how this app/tool could be used in sexting or cyber-bullying, it certainly doesn’t HAVE to be used that way. Farhad Manjoo of Slate writes, ”Rather than sexting, teenagers are more likely using the app to safely explore the sort of silly, unguarded, and sometimes unwise ideas that have always occupied the teenage brain. Give teens credit for wanting to communicate with their friends in a manner that won’t haunt them forever. In other words, they’re chatting with Snapchat precisely because it’s not like chatting with Facebook.”
As for the notion that everything on Snapchat disappears after a few seconds, I believe that is naive. Turns out that the program itself doesn’t prevent screenshots from being taken, as my daughter believed, but rather that if a person takes a screenshot, then the person who sent the photo will receive a notification that a screenshot has been taken. It didn’t take a whole lot of comment reading and amateur internet sleuthing on my part to discover how to quite easily circumvent this safeguard and to learn how Snapchat can be used in a negative way.
So what’s a parent to do? As my daughter told me, EVERYONE is on it! And also according to her, it’s just silly and fun. Right now, I have no doubt that this is true. She dissolved into tears when I sat down to have talk with her about some concerns I had after doing my reading. I don’t want to scare her or give her ideas. But neither do I want her to get hurt. Mostly, I don’t want my children to get hurt!
I HATE that this new app is so often preceded by the adjective “sexting” in many articles and headlines online. (Since when was that an adjective anyway, let alone an actual word?!)
But I digress.
I’ve heard and realized for quite some time that facebook will not stick around forever. Something new will sprout, and teens will want to create their own space away from their parents’ world, or a world that intersects with their parents’ world. I wonder, is this the new thing, or the foreshadowing of things to come?
What scares me the most is the lack of control that we have of keeping track and keeping up! I don’t have answers, but I am seeing this week just how quickly things can spin out of control. Control being the key word. Letting go is so hard.
I did not ask my daughter to delete the app. I know she didn’t even have to ask or tell me about it. I am honored that she did ask me and that she keeps me informed. I have to gradually let go and trust her, but at the same time keep informed and keep communicating with her.
The following are creations by girls who are 4 and 5 years old. No one told them to play blocks and no adult helped them think of ideas. I acknowledge that two out of the three are decidedly traditionally “girl” themes, but the point is to encourage them to express themselves in many different ways.
I never cease to be amazed by childrens’ imagination and skill!
This is a zoo complete with compartments for the different animals and paths for people to walk on.
This castle is a replica of a favorite puzzle of a fairy castle.
The doctors are taking care of patients in the hospital and the signs are to let people know that this is a hospital so they can come there when they are sick. (Pre-reading, use of symbols for communication)