Clayton Early Learning
20Jan/17Off

Men in ECE Speak Up: Ugly stereotypes, the importance of male teachers and why we love this field of work

Samuel McCabe

Posted by Samuel McCabe

By

Samuel McCabe

Before I begin, I would like to thank everyone who responded to the survey attached to the last blog on Men in ECE. Without your open and honest responses this second post would not be possible.

Your feedback from the survey has been incredibly helpful to me in formulating this post and has provided Clayton Early Learning with valuable data as we continue to advocate for excellence in the field of early childhood education.

Since my last post, I had been eagerly awaiting the results of the survey in hopes of gaining some new insight and perspectives from other teachers, both male and female, parents and communityDSC00358 members. Some of the responses solidified my predictions from the last blog, while others presented a perspective I hadn’t heard before.

We will not necessarily try to debunk or support any specific point of view or stereotype here. My intention now is only to initiate conversations surrounding societal perceptions of men in this field so that we can support professional development and growth for all educators and to celebrate the contribution that men can make as ECE professionals.

Now, I am eager to share some of the responses that I received to the survey questions posed in my first post. For brevity, I have paraphrased the collected responses to provide a general sense of how those surveyed responded to each of the prompts.

Do you feel men in ECE are more sought after by employers?

A slight majority of replies to this questions suggested that yes, men are more sought after by employers to work in this field. However, this question received a variety of perspectives that suggest that employers attempt to remain unbiased in selecting their teaching staff. One respondent stated that the current trend in ECE is to advocate for more men in the field, therefore employers feel more obliged to hire men.

In your opinion, what importance, if any, do men play in the field of ECE?

Predominantly, the responses indicated that gender balance is an important benefit of having men in ECE classrooms. This balance can support positive modeling of communication and collaboration between male and female teachers. Responses also illustrated the benefit of having male role models for both boys and girls and the differences in communication styles, creativity and interaction that men display.

In your opinion, are there currently any stereotypes about men working in ECE?

This question elicited a variety of answers that many of the respondents were quick to include that they did not subscribe to. Some of the responses indicated that society perceives men in ECE as unambitious, that men choose to work in this field because they weren’t adept at working in upper level education classrooms, or that men in this field are choosing an easy job.

The majority of the responses revealed that ECE is still not considered a masculine profession, regardless of the push to employ more men in the field. One person stated that society believes “men should work with older children.” This leads into some of the more harmful stereotypes of male ECE educators. Several of the respondents wrote that society views men in ECE as predators. This stereotype is particularly harmful to the field as it often serves to discourage would-be male candidates from pursuing a career in early education. Conversely, a looming stereotype that male teachers have inappropriate interests in their work can be extremely harmful to the parent-teacher relationship. Knowing that a trusting relationship is critical in partnering with families, this stereotype is one that must be acknowledged and debunked.

It is disappointing, though not necessarily surprising, that the bulk of our responses indicate that those who participated in the survey believe men in ECE are generally viewed with skepticism and suspicion.

While the daily professional work of an educator is challenging in its own right, men in the field of early childhood education face the additional test of overcoming gender stereotypes that may impact their sense of efficacy as a teacher.

________

 

Despite the sometimes harsh reality of stereotypes of men in early childhood education, I was inspired to read the responses that men offered regarding their choice of profession.  Though this is a small sample of what was received, it speaks volumes to the diversity of men in the field - their approach to teaching, philosophies on education and motivations for working with young children and families. The responses below have been edited for clarity and brevity, but are completely authentic in tone and message.

 

Why did you choose a career in ECE?

“For the joy of working with young children.”

“I love children and I am amazed by their potential.”20150814_assessment_078

“I have taught secondary, primary and ECE. It is the most important age for children's learning, and the development of their dispositions. My teaching philosophy and mission is to empower all through education.”

“I wanted a job that would be nurturing in nature and where I could use my talents for communication and working with children.”

“Because I'm good with children and I enjoy their company. Children are very intuitive. I am successful in my work as a teacher because children can sense that they are safe with me and that I genuinely enjoy working with them.”

“To inspire and tap into little minds. I believe children can do far more than the general population believes they can and so I push my students to show the world what they can do.”

“It was exciting to discover that I was good at teaching preschool students. Being confident in my ability at work is a great feeling.”

“I wanted to make an impact on the lives of young children.”

________

 As I wrote in my last blog, male ECE teachers are a diverse group with many reasons for educating, impacting and improving the lives of young children. If you know a male early childhood educator, I encourage you to ask them why they have chosen this field. I guarantee you that their answer will inspire you with a new respect for their work.

We will continue sharing these stories, challenges, barriers and celebrations of men in early childhood education and hope that you will too. This is the first important step in overcoming harmful stereotypes and encouraging gender diversity in the field of ECE.

11May/16Off

Loose Parts Lead to Big Ideas for Children

By

Candice Leary-Humphrey

Loose Parts Basics

Though architect Simon Nicholson developed the “Theory of Loose Parts” over 40 years ago in 1972, the theory and movement has recently gained new momentum as parents and educators return to natural materials and environments to support children’s learning and creativity.

For young children, loose parts are simply materials that can be moved, arranged, manipulated, stacked, carried or combined in multiple ways. Loose parts are the most effective tool for providing open-ended play opportunities where children do not use any specific set of directions or instructions for how to interact with the materials that are available. Explaining the basis of his theory, Nicholson stated, “Children learn most readily and easily in a laboratory-type environment where they can experiment, enjoy and find out things for themselves.”

Both synthetic and natural materials can be included in a loose parts collection, though the bulk of what you will typically find in a loose parts center should tend toward natural materials. Here is a list of some ideas for parts to include in an outdoor loose parts learning environment:pans

Stones and pebbles
Sticks and logs
Pine cones
Buckets
Shells
Twine or rope
Tree stumps
Tiles
Fabric
Scrap wood
Straw
Baskets

  Opportunities for Learning and Development

One thing that many commercial toys lack is the opportunity for children to look at the toy as anything but what it’s been molded and marketed as. A battery operated toy microphone, for instance, is difficult to imagine as anything else; especially when the microphone is made of plastic, plays loud sounds and has been so specifically constructed. Loose parts, on the other hand, allow children to look at an object not as what it literally is, but as something that could be nearly anything that the child can imagine.

Open-ended play and loose parts not only encourage creative thinking; but also the development of sensory awareness and the opportunity for children to discover and master their environments. The autonomy that children gain through loose parts construction and exploration will support the child in building mental flexibility and adaptability as the child uses increasingly complex problem solving skills over time.mud sculpting

What’s most remarkable about loose parts play is that it supports learning in every single learning domain; language and literacy, science, math, art, music and physical fitness. An outdoor classroom with loose parts will:

Provide children with exposure to a broader range of vocabulary
provoke the child to construct higher order inquisitions about scientific processes and concepts; like life cycles, weather patterns and nature’s interdependent structure
challenge the child to use new strategies for accomplishing physical and mental tasks independently
Encourage gross motor development through ‘heavy work;’ pushing, pulling, lifting and rolling

Where to Start

Once caregivers and educators have decided to provide loose parts play opportunities, there may be some wonder about how to choose materials and whether the children will even be interested in the ‘new toys’ that have been offered.

Gathering materials must be done thoughtfully to ensure that there are a variety of sizes, shapes, textures and materials available. Quantities of each material should reflect the number of children that will be using the loose parts, and each different category of material should have its own space or storage so that all of the materials are organized, visually appealing and accessible to the children who will use them. A disheveled pile of sticks and rocks is very difficult to imagine as construction material; a basket of stones and crate of sticks, however, are much more likely to be selected by children who want to build a fort.

Outdoor learning specialist and loose parts advocate, Patty Born Selly, encourages parents and teachers to also be patient, and remember that “Chances are, these children have become accustomed to electronic toys or action figures.” If children seem confused about how to use the loose parts that are now being offered, or do not have an automatic attraction to the materials; parents and educators can serve as guides for the child as they become familiar with the new loose parts by using prompting questions (“What does the shape of this rock remind you of?”) or by modeling how to use the loose parts themselves. Once children see how one can build a town or racetrack from sticks and differently sized stones, the students will ask questions and engage because the teacher’s behavior alone is welcoming the children to explore. Soon, the instructor’s town is a distant memory as the children have become confident with their new materials and are now constructing a playground for the ants they’ve found nearby.

To learn how Clayton Schools use loose parts and outdoor learning environments to support child development, email us at info@claytonearlylearning.org
Arlitt Playscape

13Apr/16Off

Self-Care for Caregivers: A Smart Investment

By

Candice Leary-Humphrey

Parents and caregivers sometimes hear the reminder “Don’t forget to take care of yourself;” but wonder how self-care could be a practical part of their busy lifestyles. Further, most natural caregivers are uncomfortable prioritizing themselves because it feels selfish or unproductive. In truth, self-care is an essential skill that will only enhance the caregiver’s ability to effectively support others. Without the ability to nurture one’s self physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually; caregivers are at risk for burnout, fatigue and other barriers that will drastically impact the quality of care that they can provide for others.

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is the regular and ongoing way that a person actively participates in enhancing their health and quality of life. At the most basic level, self-care includes responding to your own physical and mental health needs such as illness, injury and chronic pain as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety. Caregivers who neglect their personal health are not as physically or emotionally able to effectively meet the needs of others and can risk developing much more serious health issues when personal care is neglected or postponed.

While personal health care is the foundation for an essential self-care routine, there are additional elements of self-care that must not be neglected. Social experiences, spiritual and creative practice, exercise and healthful eating habits are among the self-care basics that are most often overlooked by caregivers who falsely believe that spending time on these types of activities is selfish or indulgent. Instead, spending time with friends, attending church or participating in a book club all provide opportunities to rejuvenate the caregiver’s energy and ability to respond to the needs of others in a positive and intentional way.

Making Time for Self-Care

All kinds of caregivers can struggle with making time for self-care, though parents tend to be among the most resistant to prioritizing self-care; perhaps because their work is a 24 hour-a-day job. Regardless of the schedule, self-care can be integrated in a way that promotes the caregiver’s health and well-being while still meeting the needs of those in their care.

Find a space at home or at work where you can invest just 10 minutes in essential self care. (photo credit: madamenoire.com)

Find a space at home or at work where you can invest just 10 minutes in essential self care. (photo credit: madamenoire.com)

Small Doses Make a Big Difference

The most overwhelming myth that caregivers tell themselves is that they cannot spare any time for self-care. The truth is that every schedule can accommodate time for self-care; even if it’s only 10 minutes to meditate or write in a journal. Whether the time occurs before the caregiver’s day begins or during small blocks of down-time throughout the day; try starting with just 10 or 15 minutes for activities like walking, yoga, breathing exercises or a brief call to a friend. Even in small doses each day, intentional self-care boosts a caregiver’s energy, mood and resilience to challenging situations.

Ask For Help

Another story that caregivers tell themselves is that to ask for help would mean that the caregiver is less competent in their work or is weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. Effective caregivers know that by asking for help, they will have the support they need to overcome challenges and to maintain a positive approach to caregiving. Professional caregivers can ask colleagues for support and relief, even if it’s only a short break to take a walk outside. Personal caregivers and parents should reach out to family members and friends to ask for an hour of babysitting while they practice the activities in their self-care routine. Allowing loved ones to support self-care needs will not only provide the caregiver with personal time, it will also enhance personal relationships and model positive lifestyle habits for others; especially children.

Self-Care is a Smart Investment

When caregivers reach a point of burnout, chronic fatigue or depression, their work is no longer effective and the caregiver will need to invest a significant amount of time in self-care in order to regain the motivation, energy and general well-being that’s been lost. Instead of neglecting one’s self to the point of suffering, caregivers can integrate a regular self-care routine that only costs minutes per day and will enhance their quality of life almost immediately. Remember, self-care is not a single activity that one enjoys over the course of days, weeks or months. Instead, genuine and effective self-care is practiced daily to ensure that caregivers maintain the energy, desire, physical and mental health needed to perform such demanding work. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s the most selfless thing a caregiver can do to ensure the quality care of others.

Tell us your experiences with self-care. Do you have any ideas about easy ways to integrate self-care into caregiver routines? Share with us below!

14Mar/16Off

An Infant’s Journey: Star Wars and Development

Lydia McKinney

Posted by Lydia McKinney

By

Lydia McKinney

 

By now you almost certainly have seen plenty of commercials for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, heard the Star Wars theme song, read the latest updates about the movie stars, and probably went to a screening of the movie, maybe even a couple times!  One way or another you will be touched by the Star Wars phenomena, and I’m no exception This pop culture trend sparked an interest in me to find a connection between Star Wars and my day to day work. No, I’m not a Jedi, nor can I fly an X-wing, but I am an early childhood professional specializing in infancy.  So how do I connect my work with infants and Star Wars?

Infancy begins when a child comes out of the womb to when we celebrate their first year of life.  Infancy, to me, is the proof of humanity, its existence.  Infants never give up -- never!  No matter how hard the challenge is to over-come, they never give up and strive to succeed at every task.  Reflecting on the Star Wars universe, there are many instances where the various Jedi heroes struggle, just like our infants. As they develop from young Jedi trainees to Jedi masters, there are scenes where they crawl, hide, walk, run, and climb. This is what my students do as they learn to walk! First, they lay on their backs wondering what may come into their view.  Then, they attempt to move from one side to another until they succeed to get on their tummies.  Eventually being on their tummy is boring and they discover movement. Rocking back and forth, the crawl comes soon after.  The final stage is the walk.  When infants walk they soon run and then we officially welcome toddler-hood.  Just like the Jedi in training in Star Wars, the infants in my classroom need a teacher to help overcome these obstacles, to encourage them to keep pushing past challenges. I may not be an Obi Wan Kenobi, but my encouragement and helpful nudges along the way allow for the young infants to learn and move from stage to stage.

BW Shadow Pic

A Little Jedi Observes Her Shadow

Once a Jedi finishes their training, the real work begins. They begin to use the force and put their training to test in a world balanced between light and dark.  A few weeks ago, one of my infants discovered a shadow cast by my co-worker.  She carefully watched the shadow, eventually tried to touch it and noticed its disappearance.  Other students joined and explored the shadow, comparing its shape to their personal shadows.  The internal discovery of light and dark was taking shape in their young minds. Every move they made, they checked in with their teachers to ensure it was safe to proceed.  Eventually we added items which caused a reflection in the darker room.  Most of the children followed the movement of the reflection and every once in a while attempted to look to where it came from.  The infants attempted to find out where the reflections came from, an effort to make sense of both light and dark.

On the path to succeed at each step, infants rely on their teachers who ensure trust, challenge their capabilities and provide a sense of love which tells them they can do it.  Once confident in their “training” they put it to use, discovering and making sense of the wide world around us. Maybe I am a Jedi master after all!

 

 

Lydia McKinney is an Infant/Toddler Supervisor at Clayton Early Learning in Far North East Denver and has been in the early childhood field over 10 years, most of which with infants and toddlers.  Her academic experience covers a wide range of early childhood knowledge: a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and Public Policy, as well as a Master’s in Education in Global Studies in Education.  As an immigrant to the U.S., she hopes to provide a diverse opinion, with various viewpoints, of an infant/toddler teacher’s classroom perspective.

8Mar/16Off

Clayton Early Learning is Ready to Read

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank

By

Peter Blank

Overview

Clayton Early Learning has been working to increase early literacy skills with the help of the innovative Ready to Read (RTR) project since 2012. As the project moves into its fourth year let’s take a closer look at the various levels and true depth and reach of RTR.

Clayton received a grant to implement the Ready to Read project, in collaboration with our partner organization Mile High Montessori Early Learning Centers (MHM), from Mile High United Way. The goal of RTR is to foster early literacy skills through interventions, focusing on oral language and vocabulary, in children birth to three. RTR encompasses two different evaluation studies, one in center based care the other in informal care, in an effort to achieve this goal across various care settings. A variety of tools and unique curricula, including Dialogic Reading and Cradling Literacy, are being used to nurture these literacy skills in participating families and children.

Center Based Study

The RTR center-based evaluation study takes place at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning and four MHM early learning centers across Denver. Within these centers all participating classrooms are trained in and implement Dialogic Reading. According to Shelly Anderson, Project Manager of RTR, Dialogic Reading is an interactive approach to literacy “where the child becomes the storyteller and the adult takes on the role of active listener, following the child’s lead”.  By using picture books and letting the child direct the story, it focuses on developing oral language skills as well as a passion for storytelling and books. Dialogic Reading is designed for children birth to five, so even infants and toddlers can begin developing literacy skills at their young age.

In addition to Dialogic Reading, some center-based classrooms are supplemented by the Cradling Literacy curriculum. This additional intervention is an evidence based professional development curriculum for teachers. Developed by Zero to Three, it includes 12 two hour training sessions that cover various topics of literacy development such as the benefits of storytelling and working with families to foster emergent literacy skills.

Teacher reading to infant boy

Reading is for all ages!

Play and Learn Study

RTR isn’t just helping children in center-based programs develop early literacy skills. Five Play and Learn groups are also participating in the project. (For more information on Play and Learn, check out this blog.) Parents and caregivers at these Play and Learn sites also receive Dialogic Reading training and work on developing this practice during group sessions and at home.  Additionally, some Play and Learn families receive coaching and feedback on their language interactions with children via LENA recording devices. LENA devices are like a pedometer for words, capturing language interactions including child vocalizations, adult word count, conversational terms, and the audio environment like TV and radio. Understanding just how much and what kind of language children hear day to day is integral for emergent literacy and language development.

With a multitude of approaches and evidence based tools, the Ready to Read project has been truly innovative in its approach to early literacy. It will be exciting to continue reviewing the results for the remainder of the project, which ends in the fall of 2017.

For more information on Ready to Read, contact Shelly Anderson at sanderson@claytonearlylearning.org

29Jan/16Off

Clayton Early Learning Begins “I Love to Read” Month!

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank

By

Peter Blank

Debbie Baker, Child Family Educator and member of the I Love to Read committee, shares with our blog readers the in's and the out's of "I Love to Read" month, which starts February 1st.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

By: Debbie Baker

 

February is “I Love to Read” month at Clayton Early Learning. Early Literacy includes such activities as reading, singing, and talking with your infant, toddler or preschool-aged child. At Clayton Early Learning, we celebrate Early Literacy in February by tracking how many books parents read to their children, inviting guest readers and Clayton staff to read aloud to children, and promoting book sharing with dialogic reading classes for parents.

Ample research demonstrates that reading aloud to young children promotes the development of language and other emergent literacy skills which in turn help children prepare for school. Reading aloud to your child from birth gives your child a true head start in school readiness.  Every time you read to your child you are improving their learning advantage.

Parent and child reading together

We All Love to Read!

In addition to improving your child’s language and literacy development, reading aloud also impacts social and emotional development, cognitive development, and fine motor development. Babies and toddlers learn about trust and secure attachment as they share a book snuggled in a lap. They practice attending to the book and can learn about situations that are outside of their regular sphere of influence by reading about them.  Fine motor development is enhanced by the child’s desire to help turn the pages as an infant or toddler.

Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emergent literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent. In addition it can promote a love for reading which is even more important than improving specific literacy skills.

Look for our  “I Love to Read to You” poster in the piazza at Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning, and add your child’s name to the heart every time you read aloud this month. There is even a cozy reading area for you to share a book with your child as you drop off or pick up.

Join us for the kick off on February 1. There will be lots of books to share and popcorn to munch as we celebrate “I Love to Read” month at Clayton Early Learning.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

If you have more questions regarding February's literacy celebration or how reading impacts child development, feel free to contact Debbie for more information at dbaker@claytonearlylearning.org.

2Oct/15Off

Tools of the Trade: The Bracken School Readiness Assessment

Kristin Denlinger

By

Kristin Denlinger

Among the greatest benefits for children who attend high quality early care and education programs is access to tools and resources that will support the student’s readiness for kindergarten. Though the goal of school readiness for kindergarten bound students is clear, many families may wonder how readiness is determined and what tools are used to measure student growth and development.

Based on commonly identified academic criteria, one tool used to measure a preschool student’s development is the Bracken School Readiness Assessment. As children prepare to transition from preschool to kindergarten, the assessment is used to measure the child’s knowledge in areas including

  • Color identification
  • Letter and number recognitionresearch and evaluation
  • Counting and measurement concepts
  • Identification and comparison of shapes

Unlike traditional testing, The Bracken is considered a ‘receptive’ assessment, meaning that children only need to point to select answers and that the student is not expected to vocalize or articulate their response. The assessor must remain objective throughout the assessment, but is dually charged with supporting the child in maintaining focus or engagement and must also anticipate distractions, boredom and other factors unique to working with young children.

Early education professionals must complete a comprehensive training program before they are considered qualified and reliable to administer The Bracken Assessment. This training provides instruction in objectivity, strategies for observing young students and practice in accommodating unexpected factors that include behavioral and environmental challenges.

This fall, teachers and other ECE professionals throughout Colorado will participate in assessor training in order to effectively implement assessment, like The Bracken, into high quality early education programs.

Concurrently, many preschool children will be assessed by qualified educators who will use The Bracken School Readiness Assessment. Those same students will be assessed once more in the spring for the purpose of objective growth measurement over the course of the school year. Both rounds of assessment will produce data that is used to gauge the child’s comprehension so that schools and families can develop individualized instruction strategies for the student as they prepare to transition from preschool to kindergarten.

For more information about The Bracken School Readiness Assessment and other tools used to track early childhood development,

contact Kristie Denlinger of the Clayton Early Learning Research & Evaluation Team kdenlinger@claytonearlylearning.org.

 

11Aug/15Off

Celebrating My First Year as a Lead Teacher

Samuel McCabe

Posted by Samuel McCabe

By

Samuel McCabe

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

 

Sometime during my student teaching experience, I read “Educating Esme” by Esme Raji Codell. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” kind of guy, but this book really resonated with me as I began my own educational journey. ”Educating Esme” is an elementary school teacher’s diary of her first year leading a classroom; chronicling the ups and downs of her experience with a sincere, humorous and sometimes sentimental delivery. While I’m not technically in my first year of teaching, the end of this school year has reminded me of Esme’s diary and because I truly believe in celebrating my ‘firsts,' I have written this post to share some personal/professional reflection as I celebrate the closing of my first year as a lead preschool teacher.

Considering that I’m 32 years old and have had a degree in ECE for almost 10 years, this ‘year one’ milestone may not seem like much of an accomplishment and you may be wondering what I’ve been doing since graduating college? I would love to tell you that I’d been beachcombing the Mediterranean, but the truth is that I’ve been on a much more domestic journey; I’ve, in fact, been teaching.

In ten years, I have been a teacher of art to urban students. I taught Earth science and ecology to fifth graders at Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center, in Yellow Springs, Ohio where my classroom was a 1,000 acre nature preserve. I was a substitute teacher of physical education, general education and art for elementary through secondary school and for students with special needs. I taught foster children in residential care and students who were in ‘alternative’ schools at Community House, in Brattleboro Vermont. These students had previously been expelled from other institutions and had been sent to Community House because they essentially had nowhere else to go. There, my classroom was a 150 year-old Victorian house.

I didn’t really have my own classroom in any of those situations; at least not a classroom in the traditional sense.

I hadn’t planned on teaching in such a variety of experiences. After completing my student teaching in a public kindergarten classroom, I was as poised as the rest of my teaching program’s graduating class to begin my first year of teaching in September of 2006. Though I may have been academically prepared to settle into a classroom and begin plugging away toward retirement, I struggled with self-doubt and insecurity about whether I could actually manage and lead my own classroom. I mean, who am I to build up the minds of a future generation?

Like “Educating Esme,” I kept a student teaching journal that I recently revisited. It was back and forth communication between my advisor and me, but also a pretty reflective manuscript of vulnerability. While I had the usual encouragement and support from friends, family and advisors, I was still lacking the confidence to be a lead teacher. Maybe I felt like I hadn’t earned it yet. Sure, I had acquired a B.A., passed the Praxis II and even had a teaching license, but something was missing; something that can’t be taught.

So instead of leaping before I looked, I began with baby-steps into the teaching field; substitute teaching, tutoring, and Saturday art lessons. Little stuff. Safe stuff.

With each successive work experience, I felt myself gaining skills and began to recognize my own teaching rhythm. This was the post-graduate work that couldn’t be taught by a professor. It was hands-on. It was reflecting in a journal that no-one would read and participating in supervision with the person in the mirror each morning. This was educating me. Last year I began working at Clayton Early Learning at the newly opened Far Northeast campus. It was during that year as an assistant (a familiar role), that I realized that I had everything I needed to be a lead. I could do this. I had the behavior management skills, the curriculum knowledge, and the open-mind for new approaches. I also realized that Clayton would provide professional development and training, and a supportive supervisor to reflect on my practice. Most importantly, through my own trial by fire I had gained the confidence to lead my own classroom.

It’s often assumed that a teacher is the end product of their undergraduate studies and graduate work. Trust that there is a formula that can be administered and acknowledged with course requirements and licensing expectations. I would argue that teaching is a quest of personal growth for the teacher. Without reflection, how does a teacher set personal and professional goals? Without experimentation, how does a teaching learn new approaches? Without self-discipline, how does a teacher become a role-model for others? Before I go all Zen, I’m going to make one request, for all teachers, parents and supervisors: Celebrate the teacher in yourself. Celebrate all you did last year. Celebrate the personal growth in your life and set new goals for next year. Celebrate you as I am celebrating me and my first year as a lead preschool teacher

17Dec/13Off

Culture Night at Clayton Early Learning Schools

By

Kelsy Petersen-Hardie

It is that time of year again for Culture Night, a special night that gives the schools of Clayton Early Learning a chance to celebrate culture in a meaningful way with staff, families, young children, and community members.  Each year we strive to offer an experience that is not only fun, but one that provides opportunities for young children and their caring adults to learn about and reflect on their own culture, as well as a chance to come together to celebrate as a community.  This year the planning committee got excited about delving deeper into an aspect of culture that all groups share.  Families and staff voted for their favorite cultural element from a long list of topics and music was nominated as the focus this year.

In reflecting on what music means from my cultural lens, I had visions of my facabinmily gathered together listening to old country western records as my grandpa took turns dancing the grandchildren all around the living room of my family’s cabin, a crackling fire in the background.  Images of practicing my violin and choreographing dance moves to Paula Abdul flooded my mind.  Music played a part in all special events I can recollect, like weddings, parties, and funerals.

When we talk about culture from a theoretical perspective, we lose children and adults alike. Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t have a culture” or “I don’t know what my culture is”?  Culture is experienced every moment of every day, but we don’t necessarily recognize that we are living it because we are IN it.

I wanted to understand culture from my six year old daughter’s perspective so I asked her what she thinks about when she thinks of music.  She then gave me a laundry list of what music means from her cultural lens:  music as a school special, old country western records like Johnny Cash (that’s my girl!), music that people dance to, music from the Nutcracker, the rhythm and beats of jazz (she then proceeded to demonstrate the different tempos of jazz, illustrating the different lengths of notes with her stuffed animal collection).  There you have it, from the eyes of a young child.  Culture is lived.  Culture comes from experiences.  Culture is shared among people.  The special people in our lives touch us with these experiences, forever shaping our cultural lens.

What musical memories made the biggest impact on your life? What do you think about when you think of music’s impact in your family?

We hope you will join us at Clayton Early Learning’s Culture Night as we share the musical cultures of our staff, families and community, as well as engage in experiences that create new cultural memories among our children and our learning community.

Culture Night 2013:

Join us for an evening of celebrating culture through music as you mingle throughout the rooms, experiencing the movement, sights, and sounds of our School Family!

Tuesday, 12/17 from 5:30-7:00 P.M. at the Far Northeast Campus

Thursday, 12/19 from 5:30-7:00 P.M. at the Near Northeast Campus

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Would you like to join our Blog conversation? How do you celebrate culture in your community? If so, you can leave your statement in the Comment section at the bottom of this blog.

12Dec/13Off

A Tribute to Nelson Mandela: His Legacy of Walking in Cultural Humility

Shant'a Johnson

Posted by Shant'a Johnson

By

Shant'a Johnson

It is fitting to use this space and time to honor and celebrate the life of one of the world’s most influential and courageous leaders of whom we have recently lost-Nelson Mandela.  Mandela, a South-African anti-apartheid activist and revolutionary, also served as the first black South-African President from 1994 to 1999.

Over the past week, as I viewed news clips of his life and legacy, one theme continued to shine through about who he was and the life and work that he lived.  It was his legacy of forgiveness and resiliency.  This legacy is one that many of those on either side of the former apartheid system attributed publicly to being the unifying factor of the 52,981,991 people who live in South Africa today.  Being an African-American female in the U.S., who still feels the impact of racism, classism, and gender inequality; I am thankful to have an example such as Mandela to look to as I journey and grow towards cultural humility.

You might be asking, what is cultural humility and what does this have to do Nelson Mandela?  Cultural humility, is a concept first birthed out of the health field to address the issue of lack of patient compliance to doctor prescribed treatment.  In the article Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education, cultural humility is defined as being:

“A lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and critique, to redressing the power imbalances… and to developing mutually beneficial and non-paternalistic partnerships with communities on behalf of individuals and defined populations” (Tervalon, 123).

A young African American boy immitating a picture Nelson Mandela's raised fist during a speachMandela’s legacy embodies the very essence of cultural humility and its standing principles.  One standing principle that I feel reflects the life and legacy of Mandela is that of self-reflection and the life-long learner model.  Mandela states, “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself.  You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself…Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”

This principle deems it “imperative that there be a simultaneous process of self-reflection (realistic and on-going self-appraisal) and commitment to a lifelong learning process” (Tervalon, 119).  One must first be willing to “consciously think about their own, often ill-defined and multidimensional cultural identities and backgrounds” (Tervalon, 120).

Mandela is characterized as a highly self-reflective individual, he shows what he has learned about himself and accepted through the following quotes:

“I am fundamentally an optimist.   Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say.  Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.  There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair.  That way lays defeat and death.”

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find ways in which you yourself have altered”

We also can see Mandela’s process of letting go and forgiving in the following quote, as he reflects upon being released after serving over 27 years in prison, due to his involvement in anti-apartheid activism, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”

Mandela, with a firm foundation of understanding who he was, and the strength to accept what came, changed the course of a nation’s history and impacted the world.  If we were to take a closer look at his life’s journey, we can see one who lived by the principle of self-reflection and the lifelong learner model, allowing his life’s tragic events to transform him from being not only an influential activist against the apartheid, but also an advocate for the cause of peace on behalf of all.

In conclusion, let us all be challenged to take more time to self-reflect and accept what comes, using it to strengthen ourselves and others in this journey called life.  Together, we can have a hand in helping to shape the future for those little ones who will follow.

References:

Tervalon, M., Murray- García, J. Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education.  Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved; May 1998; 9,2; Research Library pg. 117.

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/278812-as-i-walked-out-the-door-toward-the-gate-that

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/367338.Nelson_Mandela