Archive for January, 2013
We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes. – Fred Rogers
As responsive caregivers we are setting the foundation for empathy right from the very beginning of a child’s life. By responding appropriately to them we are showing them that we are aware of their needs and feelings. Through our actions they learn that their caregivers provide what they need, whether it’s food, a change or simply love and comfort. When infants get older and become mobile we begin to see them display empathy. I’ve seen many older infants and young toddlers bring a crying child a toy or other comfort object. They are beginning to respond to others in an empathetic way. Clearly we are born with a need for caring relationships, a need to engage others and even to empathize with them and to help. We are born with the capacity for compassion.
So what then do we do to nurture this ability in children? How do empathetic children become compassionate adults? How do we help children to learn to help others? How old do we have to be to learn compassion?
I think that the best way that we can help children to have compassion and to help others is through our own actions. Many of us donate our money and our time to help those less fortunate than ourselves, however, how much of this do our children see? If we’re simply writing cheques, how will our children become aware of our contributions? For those who keep busy schedules, sometimes the only way to contribute is financially, and that’s fine. I would encourage you, however to try to do this in a way that your children are aware of your contributions. Use the labels and cards that charities often send to accompany a donation. Tell the children where these items came from and what the money you gave went towards. If they are old enough, have conversations with them about what charities you support and ask what charities they would like to support by asking who they would like to help or how.
Some others ways to demonstrate compassion would be to make it a regular occurrance to go through your home and gather clothes that don’t fit, toys or household items that are no longer used. Pack these items up and take them to the donation centre together. When children are old enough they can start to make their own choices about what toys to keep and which to donate. If you volunteer and it’s appropriate, take your child with you. They might be too young to make a significant contribution, however, simply being present to see the work that you are doing will impact them. If we model these actions and behaviours right from the start, children will grow up with this type of work as a normal part of their lives and I think that’s the goal. As they grow and develop, so will their involvement and I think that children can certainly surprise us with their capacity to care and desire to help others.
My hope is that the next generation will be more caring, more empathetic and more compassionate than ever before.
It has become clear to me that perhaps I watch too many TEDtalks, however I will share my addiction to them with you all the same.
This one I have probably seen close to a dozen times. I especially love the clip he shares of his son’s mastering of the word “water”, about 4 minutes in.
This one I just came across this week, and I think that the critical period research on language development as it pertains to specific languages is very interesting.
Although it’s been an extremely busy week, I’ve still managed to sneak in a little bit of reading and here are some of the interesting articles I’ve come across this week.
First, something fun – Make a Photocopy Storybook from Play Create Explore.
This idea makes me feel really nostalgic because as a small child I loved playing with the photocopier. When I was really young my grandfather owner an office machine store, which of course had photocopiers, typewriters and I imagine all sorts of other gadgets. What I remember most is the smell of the typewriter ink, the light and warmth of the photocopier and that his administrator had “white out” (aka liquid paper) in all sorts of colours.
Another great post I came across is How I got my baby to sleep from Mama Eve. I think that this is a great piece for parents and caregivers alike. Suchada makes a good point that sleep isn’t a competition and that sleeping (like eating and toileting) isn’t something that can be forced. I also like how she shares what she has done with her youngest child.
Finally, for those Canadians who are reading (and for those who are simply interested) I wanted to share this recent blog post by Martha Friendly – Why high-quality universal child care is part of a more equal Canada for all of us. It’s a nice overview of some of the issues that affect child care in Canada.
What have you been reading this week?
The following is a post that I originally wrote on a private blog as part of an online course I took on Children and Technology.
The idea of “community” as it pertains to technology is an interesting one. I think the concern which has always encompassed any new form of technology has been how it will affect communities, and the relationships between individuals in communities. Even from the earliest forms of technologies, such as the written word, there were concerns arising that eliminating the need for passing information in the oral tradition would impact the way that we interact with one another. Socrates himself was opposed to the written word, which we know of course, because his student Plato wrote it down. I know for myself I have had concerns about the way that technology has changed and will continue to change my relationships with others and the community in which I live. This course has presented an interesting opportunity for me to reflect on these ideas.
Looking at the different types of “community” technologies presented in Chapter 6, it seems there are several different ways in which collaborative technology can be used. Wikis are a wonderful example of collaborative technology, in that they are contributed to by many users and shaped by those users, however although they are collaborative in a cumulative sense, they aren’t interactive. Many can contribute to a wiki and many can view these contributions, but users don’t connect directly to each other. Knowledge Forum seems to be a little more interactive, in that users are building on each other’s ideas and knowledge in a way that sets apart individual users comments, rather than Wikis, in which all users contribute to the same article. I am also intrigued by the language used in the Knowledge Forum, such as scaffolding. Coming from a Reggio background, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the how and why of scaffolding but this is the first time I’ve seen it applied through technology. It’s an interesting thought, as I wonder if online scaffolding would produce the same support as it does in the more traditional use. I also wonder what Vygotsky would think.
I’m most interested in the more “social” community technologies, since I think that humans by nature are relational beings and as such we learn and flourish best in relationships. I find the international opportunities to be of the most interest because this is the one way in which I think technology can really enhance both our learning and our ability to form more relationships, specifically those with individuals of other backgrounds and cultures. I participate in a Reggio listserve which has members worldwide, which has been a great learning experience for myself. Additionally, one preschool room in Hawaii did a project on Wind, and the teacher was communicating to the listserve about this project. What came out of that was collaboration with other preschool rooms around the world, who also began projects on wind and they were able to set up various interactions and communications between these classrooms so the children had opportunities to share what they had been learning. I hope that with our continued advances in technology, there will be more opportunities like this in the future.
All in all, I think there are benefits to all these types of communities and collaborative technologies, but I think that the best methods for learning with or without technology are those which are interactive and relationally based. This is true for young children as well as adults. This is why I’ve appreciated the approach that has been taken with this distance course. The use of the blog and social media has made this much more interactive than other distance courses I’ve taken and I’ve found that helpful to my own learning.
I meet a lot of early childhood education students, both at the college and university level and lately it seems like every student that I meet has an end goal of being a “teacher”. College students want to go on to university, university students want to go to teacher’s college. All the ECE students seem to want to move beyond being “just ECEs”. I understand that in Ontario, the field of early childhood education is changing. With Full Day Kindergarten rolling out and ECEs moving into the school boards, there’s bound to be a shift. However, this is not the end of child care, this is not the end of early childhood education and care as we currently know it, at least not completely. However, I’m starting to wonder if being an early childhood educator has stopped being the goal. I wonder if it’s become a stepping stone for many, an entry level stage they need to move through in order to get where they really want to go.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about teachers, I think that’s a great career to pursue, and I am actually in favor of the full day kindergarten program. However, I’m worried about what happens when we stop holding on to our early childhood education roots, when we move past ECE, when we let it go. I think that the specialized education that an early childhood educators receives that relates to child development, to play and to learning is essential. I think this education can be of great benefit to kindergarten teachers and to primary school teachers. I just fear that it will be lost if it’s just a hurdle to get past to get to the real goal, to get to teacher’s college.
For me, I’ve had a number of different positions in the field of early childhood education and care, and only a couple have been in traditional child care centres. However, I have always tried to hold on to my ECE-ness. I identify as an early childhood educator, even when I’ve worked with adults more than with children. No matter what degrees I earn, no matter what letters I can put beside my name, I will always be an early childhood educator. That’s my career, that’s what I wanted to be, that’s what I still want to be. I hope that this is just a transition period, that we’re all just figuring out what all these changes mean to our field. I know there are many out there who like me, are proud to be early childhood educators. I hope that the next generation will feel the same.
Without further ado, here are five of my favorite children’s books in no particular order.
by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault
Now I’m not normally a fan of alphabet books, however what I love about this book is that unlike many alphabet books out there, it’s not pushing an agenda. The letters are simply the characters and one by one (in order) they make their way up the coconut tree, where the inevitable happens and… spoiler alert… they all fall out of the tree. This rhyming book has a great rhythm to it (it’s probably the only children’s book I’ve read that has a section of scat), it’s easy to read and it’s fun. I have read it hundreds of times, in fact, I can read it without even needing the book, but I’ve never gotten tired of it. I even like the board book version, which just ends at the halfway point, catering to the attention spans of the littlest readers. For me, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a must read.
by Anna Dewdney
I have read most of the books in the Llama Llama series and they are all great reads, however, this one is definitely my favorite. When I have worked with parent groups, I would read this on an almost monthly basis because I think it really resonates with parents as well as children. It is the story of little llama going shopping with his mama llama. I think that it’s a very realistic depiction of an outing, where little llama gets pulled away from playing only to fall asleep in the car and getting woken up to go into the store. Inevitably little llama has a bit of a meltdown, but it all works out, as mama llama sees little llama’s needs and they finish the shopping together. This book has a great story, some great rhymes (the llamas shop at the shop-o-rama) and it’s a nice reminder that all parents and caregivers have the same struggles.
by Jeremy Tankard
Grumpy bird is another great book for toddlers and preschoolers (and their caregivers). Poor bird is in a bit of a mood and he’s out for a walk, but all of his friends keep interrupting that walk to join him. At first this just makes him even grumpier, but eventually he forgets all about his grumpy mood because he starts to have fun. What I like about this book is it’s simple story, as bird walks and the animals join him one by one. Predictable books are great for young children, as they can join in figuring out what comes next. What I also like is that this book is so truthful to children’s occasional grumpy moods, which I think makes it very relatable for caregivers and children.
Those are just three of my many favourite children’s books; what are your favourite books?
My unanticipated 16 hour long day which included stops in four cities has delayed my plans to write a post on my favorite children’s books. So that will have to wait until tomorrow.
Instead I thought I would share a quote with you from one of my favourite books, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr Seuss. Although many might consider this a “children’s book”, I think it’s a book for everyone, as the many adults that I have purchased this for or read this to, can attest. I have strong emotional ties to this book, as it connects to one of my favorite memories, of a much beloved teacher reading this to us on our last day after four years of being in her program. It was also her last day, as the program she’d run for so long was being cut, and so she had decided to retire. Mrs A. changed my life and I think of her often, especially when I read this book.
There are many quotes in this book, as it speaks to success, but also to the reality of things not working out, of having to wait, of feeling low. However, here’s just one of my favorites.
“So be sure when you step,
Step with care and great tact.
And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)”
-Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
I came across the inspiring story of children’s author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka this week.
He shares the story of how he became a children’s author/illustrator, starting from his childhood. What I really appreciated about his story are all the individuals who had such a profound impact on him, because it went beyond families to many supportive teachers and even to a simple comment from a visiting author.
I came across this video via the TEDBlog, and so accompanying it was an equally interesting read in Krosoczka’s 10 picks for children’s books that will become classics. You can read it here. Some I recognize, and some I will definitely be checking out in the future.
Tomorrow on the blog I will list some of my favorite children’s books, so be sure to check that out as well.