Friday, June 28, 2013

Chapter 2: Encouragement- Building the School Family

By Kimberly Macenko

We are enjoying the warm sun this week. I have enjoyed seeing kids in swimwear and the smell of sunscreen in the air!

This week we are moving on to Chapter 2. What a perfect time to learn about Principle #1, “We are all in this together,” as we head into our annual class transition time.

A word that is used often in this section is the word UNITY.  Unity is oneness, or being a unit. We are all working together to make this school work. We don’t see ourselves as separate classrooms but as a family unit. We rely on each other every single day. Not because we can’t do things independently but because together we can do so much more!

In Reggio programs family and community are integral parts of the school family environment. We are focused on connections -- connections between children, teachers, parents, school, and through which everyone interacts and works together. How does this relate to our transition times?

1. Teachers in different classrooms are connected to each other and to students even outside of our classrooms.

Our teachers are more than just colleagues; we are friends and often times extended family for one another. We spend time outside of work building relationships. We have staff meetings where we work on building team morale and many of us choose to come to the school on our own time to fix up our classrooms together.  We spend several hours together each day on playgrounds, in gross motor areas, and in the art room. We even swap classrooms occasionally. We know many of the children’s names outside of our classroom and work hard to develop special relationships with children who aren’t in our rooms. So, none of us are strangers, and transitions will be made into rooms where children are familiar with their teachers and have already started building a trusting relationship.

2. Parents and Teacher’s attitudes directly influence the children. Remember we are a unified family.

Change can be hard. We get comfortable with something and tend to like to stay there. But it is good for us, and good for our children. Remember in the last chapter when we discussed controlling our own upset? Our attitude towards life and what is going on around us is absorbed by our children. It is easy to look at new people in our lives apprehensively -- especially new people who will be working with our children. But, the way we as parents act towards new teachers is noticed by our children. When our children see us act positively towards new things and excited about upcoming changes they will follow our lead and be more inclined to feel secure and safe as we encounter change.

For example. My daughter will be transitioning into the Bear’s classroom.  She is naturally feeling somewhat apprehensive about the impending move. But two of the wonderful teachers at this school, Bamborough and Katie, are helping her. My daughter is very close to her teacher Miss. Bamborough so she took my daughter, Kaitlyn, over to Miss Katie and said, “Miss Katie is my friend. Miss Katie is also your mommy’s friend.” She let my daughter know that her mommy and she both trust her new teacher and it is safe for her to do as well.   This made a real difference for Kaitlyn and she is beginning to view her soon-to-be new teacher Katie with warmth rather than resistance.

So, remember, we can all work on our composure and show our children that they can feel safe as they move to new classrooms and meet new teachers and friends.  Learning to adjust to new experiences, environments and people is probably the most important learning that happens here at The Little School.  Through positively experiencing change in the context of a supportive and nurturing environment, children gain the social and emotional skills necessary to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dear Hillsborough class of 2013

By Jessica Larson

Every June as we prepare to say good-bye to our Pre-K class, I start humming “Sunrise Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof (I'm crossing my fingers that there are other Tevye fans out there). How is it possible that you are graduating pre-school? Many of you started as one of Shannon’s teeny babies, and one by one you all joined us and made our days grow sunnier exponentially with your presence. I remember when you REALLY needed me to hold your hand, missing Mommy and unsure about the merits of the Magic tree- now look at you! Brimming with confidence, you hardly look over your shoulder as you blaze past me in the morning, a blur of color as you set off on some amazing adventure. I remember taking a walk with you in the woods- you teetered like a wind up doll, and that log was seemingly insurmountable! I see you now, swinging from the vines at the magic mountain like the wild beast I always knew you were. I remember making up stories with you about evil witches, and the brave princess who saved the world. I will never forget the way you danced in the sprinklers, like a cross between a sumo wrestler and a butterfly. I remember debating with you whether or not princesses can wear pants (I still say yes!). I remember having to set out a LIGHT blue cup for you when you refused to drink out of anything resembling Duke blue. Sure, the teachers planned the lessons, but it was YOU who took us on epic journeys. Man, you made us laugh! We went through so many milestones together- from the trenches of biting, to the victories of potty training. You are amazing.

Though you have made a sweet unmistakable little place for yourself in our hearts, overtime we will fade away from your memory. You may have a vague memory of some nutty song taught to you many years ago, or of a wildly ticklish brush painting the bottoms of your feet, but our faces will slip from your ever growing mind. But we are ok with that! Every time you attack a puddle, we will know that we did a great job. When you ask the big questions, face that hairy scary new thing with a deep breath, or find the hidden wonder in a creek bed, we will be someplace brimming with pride. You did it.

And what next?  I asked our rising wonders to fill us in on the coming chapters of their lives.

“What will you be when you grow up?”

Henry A: A monkey climber
Tripp B: A racecar driver
Alex B: A scientist and dancer
Willa B: I want to be like, umm, to look and find things from deep down- kind of like Egypt because that’s the best place for it
Anna Leigh B: A princess and live in castles and wear crowns
Maddie B: A star ballerina… so, a pop star
Alex B: A pilot that flies all over the world!
Ben C: A firefighter!
Rhys C: Humm, lemme think…. I’m going to drive an airplane to DC, Washington
Carissa C: A respiratory therapist
Sienna C: A cowgirl!
Diego C: I’m going to be a doctor, a racecar driver and a puppy
Niko D: A policeman who captures bad guys
Elsie E: An underwater learner
Gabe G: A scientist who does a lot of science
Darwin H: It's a surprise! 
Wyatt H: I’m going to play basketball, baseball, football and soccer for State
Joshua H: Be a basketball player for the Panthers
Riley H: A cheerleader
Abigail J: A Barbie
Leah K: A yellow mermaid
Brandon K: A Jedi- Obi wan Kanobi
Andy L: A ballerina
Grant M: A pilot
Ian M: A pilot with my brother and Alex
Ryan M: A singer
Ali O: I’m going to be a teacher
Terra P: I don’t know! A ballerina with a pink outfit
Owen P: I don’t know! I think I will be…… an artist?
Nicole P: I don’t know yet. Maybe a doctor for pets.
Ellamarie P: A police officer
Thomas P: Too much people! Some of them are a firefighter, a policeman and a Dad
Marc R: Baseball, football, basketball!
Walker S: That’s a hard question. I think I might be a fireman with my uncle. He’ll ask if I am a fireman, and I’ll say yes.
Ryan S : Play baseball
Gilbert S: I’m going to be a police that catches bad guys
Quincy S: I’m going to be at a pet store and let people take pets
Shayna S: A princess
Olivia S: A person that works at spa that grooms pets
Sterling S: A veterinarian to help dogs survive and be healthy
Olivia T: I’m going to be a scientist that finds out about bigfoot
Maci V: A rockstar. I’m going to sing radio songs like Katy Perry
Veena V: Just a Mom with 10 babies
William V: An alligator hunter
William W: I haven’t decided
Logan W: I’m going to be a pilot and fly to my grandma’s house and Africa
Grover W: I’m going to be a scientist, a paleontologist that studies dino bones
Matthew W: A train driver that only goes to Africa, the airport, and home
Colin W: A policeman… actually, I’m going to be a fireman
Whitley W: I’m going to be a princess that shoots bows and arrows
Lucas V: A zoo keeper- ooohhh ooooh aahhh aahhh!
Lukas W: A pilot
Leyton W: A teacher

(Mr. Cole adds that he will be Mickey who skates on ice)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Conscious Discipline: Principle #4

-By Kimberly Macenko
Did you have a wonderful weekend? I sure hope you were able to spend some time giving your children uninterrupted acts of love through “I love you rituals!” My children and I did a few and we sure had some large laughs. Ask me about the hot dog ritual sometime. It’s a hoot!

The last principle of the chapter is Principle #4:  “Your job is to keep the classroom/home safe so children can learn. The child’s job is to help keep it safe.”

We need to let our children know that it is our job, as parents and teachers, to keep them safe. While doing this we can involve them in the process. How can they help with the process?  Here is one example: explain to children why they need to pick up toys. Have them help you pick things up while explaining that keeping toys off the ground, when we aren’t playing with them, keeps our bodies safe. Stay calm while doing this; always remember that we need to control our own emotions. Keeping control of our anger creates a safe environment for our children.

I am sure you have seen our “safe spaces” at The Little School.”  A safe space help a child feel safe and comforted while they are feeling insecure. As we are working on our composure, our children need to start developing those skills as well. An established “safe space” can help them do that. For infants a safe space can be you. They feel safe and learn to moderate their upset while in your arms. As children get a bit older you can establish a place for them to retreat to when they need to regain their composure. This is a great place for children to be introduced to anger management. Children might need help at first learning to go to their “safe place” but as we witness, at The Little School, children learn to go there when they need it. Children will ask for their blanket or other lovey and go spend some quiet time calming themselves down. Then when they are ready they rejoin the activities they will.

You can help children start to notice when they are becoming agitated. In Becky Bailey’s book, Conscious Discipline, she has a list of some things teachers and parents can look out for in children’s behavior to help notice that a child is becoming upset.  These include:

1. Darting Eyes - Children will look here and there with a high level of intensity, but with little focus.
2. Non Conversational Language - For children who can speak, when it feels like you have to pull teeth to get an answer and all you get is “fine” or “nothing” this is often a sign of emotional upset.  In preverbal children you can see read their emotional state in their body language.  They may clinch fists, hang their head, or pull their head or entire body away from a situation.
3. Busy hands and feet - When children are extremely fidgety this is often a reflection of agitation.
4. Moving in and out of groups - A child that was participating in an activity suddenly leaves the group and pulls away without moving towards something else in which to positively engage.
5. Off and on task - A child goes between multiple activities with very little sustained attention.

You know your children. So look for behavior that starts to become different than usual and help them learn to calm themselves before their frustration takes over. Remember we LEARN anger management. Help them learn it right from the start so that they will have an invaluable a skill-set they will appreciate for a lifetime.