Wednesday, July 31, 2013

She's not called Crystal for nothing!

I’m not exaggerating here, but Crystal is amazing. I had worked along side of Crystal for a few years now, without knowing much about her.  Last year I had the privilege of having her as my daughter’s teacher. My respect for Crystal grew with every interaction I witnessed, be it with a student or another adult. She is a wonderful example of composure, heartfelt love for the kids, and professionalism. She is that rock solid individual who flies under the radar, and sees no need in self-aggrandizing (i.e not at all like me). She is the definition of good people, and I assure you she will be red in the face reading this. Though she earned her BA in Leisure Sports Management and a minor in Business Administration, she has been working in Early Childhood Education for more then 18 years. Crystal is here because she truly loves what she does. A Mom, a softball champ (code name: Red), and surprisingly tender soul, we are so lucky to have her among us.  

I asked her to tell us a bit about herself:

How did you find your way to TLS?

I found TLS through the internet, or rather my husband did.  I was looking for a school closer to home than where I currently was.  My husband sent me links from 4 different schools he had come across while he was looking.  He spends much more time on the computer than I do. :) After interviewing and comparing the schools,  TLS was by far the most impressive! 

When looking at The Little School website my first impression was the menu! I was so amazed at the types of food that the children was being served.  Much different than coming from some where frozen food and food from a can was being served.  When touring TLS I loved the atmosphere and was impressed hearing how the teachers communicated with the children.

What do you value most or hold most dear at TLS?

My relationship with the children and how we communicate.  I love that we teach these children how to self regulate.  We help them recognize their feelings and emotions and what their peers are feeling.  We guide them in using their own words to communicate with us and their peers to socialize and problem solve.

What was the most interesting trip you have taken?

My husband and I went to Las Vegas.  From there we took a small charter plane and flew to the Grand Canyon. It was breath taking!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role?

Julia Roberts

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

Julia Roberts.  I guess its obvious I like her!

What would you listen to if you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life?

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

Friday, July 19, 2013

Welcome to Starr - Duke's new front office presence

Starr Williams joined The Little School at Duke on July 8th.  She will likely be the first person you see when you come by the main office in the morning.  Feel free to stop in and introduce yourself when you see her.  She loves the tight-knit community feeling of the Duke Little School campus, as well as how fast-paced and busy each day is.  In addition to helping Mary out with school administration, she spends half of each day in classrooms as a floater.  Of her new role at TLS Duke, Starr commented “I love the combination of learning how the school runs and still being able to connect with the children - I feel like this job is the perfect fit for me.  It’s also really exciting being a part of growing a school community.”

How did you find your way to TLS?   
My friend and former co-worker, Amanda, started working at the Hillsborough campus and she would always talk about how the administrative staff seemed to really care about their employees. She often spoke of how it was such a positive work environment - different and better than other places she had worked. She loved the fact that if the children didn’t seem to be interested in the “topic” of the week, you were allowed to scrap that lesson plan and follow the children’s interests.   This approach, which I have since learned is called ‘Reggio’,  allows you to focus more on the children and not on some detailed curriculum you have to adhere to even when children lose interest. Then there was talk of this “Magic Tree” and “Magic Mountain” - our favorite destinations in the woods nearby our Hillsborough school. It was Amanda who suggested that I apply at The Little School and I did. I came for the interview and fell in love with the school. I had never seen a preschool that looked like this -- there were lofts in the classrooms and the play spaces were amazing. I really liked  the fact that the children were able to get all dirty. Did I mention they had a chef?...Love it!

What do you value most or hold most dear at TLS?
I value the sense of community here. When I first joined The Little School community I started out as a floater. Everyone welcomed me and made me feel like part of the team. Being the new person is never easy. I had never heard of Reggio before starting here so I had a lot of questions. The teachers taught me about Reggio through their interactions with the children and answering my many questions. Also, there are always trainings made available to us. What I hold most dear is the bonds and relationships I have formed with the children, staff, and parents.

What is your educational approach? How do you find children learn best?
I find children learn best through play. For example, through interactions with their friends during play children are learning to share, developing patience when they have to wait for a friend to finish with a toy, and learning valuable social skills. They are learning a lot of key skills and not even realizing it. Also, by making learning interesting and fun by including it in what they already love to do, which is playing, I feel that the children are more likely to want to learn.

What was the most interesting trip you have taken?
The most interesting trip I have taken was to Fraser Colorado for the Captivating Retreat in 2005. This was the first trip that I had taken without family; it was just me and friends from school. The retreat was high up on a mountain. We were so high up it seemed like we could reach up and touch the clouds.

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
If I could be a superhero I would want my superpowers to be healing. There are so many sick men, women and children out there who need a healing touch.

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional. With whom would it be?
Mother Teresa.

 If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
No matter how many times you fall, get right back up again. This piece of advice is something you could live by for the rest of your life.

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
I would rather be a joyful simpleton. My motto is “There is beauty in simplicity.” Whether it’s a beautiful sky, sparkles on the road that shines when the sun hits it, sun showers, a child’s laughter, or a really old house that is falling apart. Those are the types of things that make me smile. You would be amazed at all the beautiful things you could see if you would just stop and pause for a moment to take it all in.

What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
I would wear a tutu every day and not only at work.

What would you listen to if you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life?
“Anyway” by Martina McBride

What is your favorite children’s book?
Oh, The Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss

If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?
I would be a photographer or a principal ballet dancer at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. 

What words do you live by?
In a world where you could be anything…Be Yourself.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Words of “Wisdom” from a long-time TLS Family:

Our new school year is around the corner. I can yammer on and on about the in’s and out’s of The Little School, but instead I turn it over to one of our most beloved Moms, who has just graduated TLS after 7 (sparkly & awesome) years! Her family will be hugely missed, but she leaves us with these spot on words of advice for new and old parents alike. 

-By Sonya Sutton

1.       Kids at TLS play outside. A lot. It’s wonderful to see them learning about worms, making mud pies and creating new worlds in the sand box, but you will discover dirt in all sorts of places when they get home. Find a good stain remover and keep the special clothes from Grandma at home.

2.       To find clothes you don’t mind getting dirty; check out consignment sales and shops. Ms. Mary is a consignment guru, and not only can she help you find new items, but she can also help you make some money on the stuff your kid outgrows.

3.       Chef Nate is fabulous. The food your child will eat at TLS sounds better than what most of us eat at restaurants (especially when we go out with our kids). However, if you don’t think your child is up for quinoa or mushroom quiche, don’t worry- they will love the fruit and bread at snack time and they are not going to go hungry during the day.

4.       Despite the comment above, your child will claim to be starving when you pick him up. A car snack is a great way to entice them to leave their friends and blocks and actually get home before 6pm.

5.       Take pick up times seriously. The teachers want to go home, too, and if you’re late, you’re using their time to finish up and leave the classroom. If you are late, fess up and offer to pay the penalty before the teachers ask. The teachers hate to ask for it, but it’s part of the policy.

6.       Take a walk to the Magic Tree with your kids.  It’s pretty awesome, especially when you see it through their eyes.

7.       Be careful in the parking lot and don’t think you can make an exception and park in the Red Zone or other restricted areas. Other parents see you doing that and we all have a ton of kid stuff to lug in every day.

8.       Bring fruit. Don’t worry if you forget now and then, but they really do use it every day for your kids’ snacks. Also, don’t worry if you have to bring in some shriveled up carrots or a lemon. Sometimes it’s slim pickings at our house, too.

9.       A lot of the teachers babysit. Take advantage of that! It’s great to have your kids watched at home by someone they already know and love.

10.   Accidents happen. Resist the urge to find out who the “friend” who bit/hurt your child may be. They can’t tell you, and you might be happy for that policy in the future when your child becomes the biter and not the victim.

11.   If something is bothering you, talk to the teachers or directors. There are few situations they haven’t dealt with before, and they really want to work with you to make sure you’re comfortable and happy with your child’s experience at the school.

12.   Read Ms. Jessica’s e-mails. What might seem like a mundane message about calendar changes might actually contact a little gem that makes you laugh all day.

13.   Go to a PIG meeting, if for no other reason than it’s fun to say you have a PIG meeting to go to. The meetings give insight into why things are happening at the school that might otherwise be confusing.

14.   Find a place for your child’s art. You may need an entire room dedicated to their creations. You also may need to weed out the 25 scribbled pages in the middle of the night to avoid a fight.

15.   Try to appreciate the wonderful time this will be for your kids. They’re going to learn so much. One day they’ll be inventing stories about princesses and super heroes who travel the world and the next they’ll be painting pictures under the table like Michelangelo. They’ll probably teach you a thing or two, too, like all the parts of an insect or how to make paper. They’ll leave confident and ready for their next big adventure, even if you wish they could stay just a little bit longer.