Friday, August 23, 2013

Staff Spotlight: The Ridiculous Laura H

Don’t be fooled by her laid back demeanor. If there is one thing to remember about Laura is that she is silly and sneaky funny. Growing up in the family bookstore, Laura is a huge book lover, and has a big giant brain that can see a grammatical error from 50 yards away She also happens to be a walking kids jukebox- she can pull out approximately a million hilarious kids songs at the drop of a hat. Need a song about an almond or a monkey? Laura’s got it. She has taken on the Reggio approach like a fish to water, and is passionate about exploring nature, play based learning, and digging deep into anything that excites the kids. She is wide open, and one of those folks who so clearly loves what she does that it's a joy to watch.

* What do you value most or hold most dear at TLS?
The woods! I can't tell you how much being able to retreat to the woods means to me. Not only is it a great place to learn about the world around us, but it is soothing in and of itself.

* What is your educational approach? How do you find children learn best?
I place a lot of faith in the brains of these kids. They are amazing! I look at it as my job to place appropriate challenges or ideas in front of them, and provide a little extra help if it's needed. I'd like any child that leaves my class to leave it confident in their ability to face problems.

* What was the most interesting trip you have taken?
I went to Japan in 2003. While I was there, I took a wrong turn coming out of a used bookstore and walked for miles in the wrong direction. In the rain. Good things happened, too. The South China Sea is beautiful!

* What movie or work of fiction has had the biggest impact on you? Why?
I love to read! I think the books that had the most to do with that were the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. They are the first books that I can remember reading over and over again, until long after the covers came apart, just for the love of the stories.

* If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
I'd love to be able to teleport, but I'd probably mostly use it to eat lunch at home.

* If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Assume positive intent. (seriously)

* What was your strangest job?
You mean besides the one where I cheer for people who are trying to use the restroom? I love this job, but I think the strangest and most hilarious things happen when you spend your time with small children.

* What did you want to be when you were 12 years old?
I wanted to not have to think about growing up. Check!

* What is your favorite children’s book?
I'd say right now it's Freight Train, by Donald Crews. I love how specific it is. It's not a choo choo, it's a freight train! It crosses trestles and has oil cars!

* What's your favorite tree?
There were several big banyan trees at a park near the house I grew up in. I loved them- trees with tunnels through them!

* What words do you live by?
The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them. - GK Chesterton

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ouch! Biting (still) Stinks

This post is an oldie, but a goodie and can never be said enough!

There’s no way to make this sound cute: Biting stinks.

Biting stinks, however, it is a fairly reliable step in children’s development. I could set my watch to it.

My daughter came home with a bite last week. I momentarily saw red. When I was a teacher in a toddler room a few years back we had at least 3 children who were active biters, and a solid 6 pinch hitters. We tried everything from shadowing children (this is where a teacher follows a child) smaller group sizes, crunchy foods, re-arranging the room, seeking expert help, and even shifting kids to other classes. We devoted a tremendous amount of man and brain power to the issue. We documented our days and saw that we had significantly more biting attempts then actual bites. Go team!  Even still, in our darkest hour, I passed out 9 oops forms in one day. I felt like a huge failure as a teacher. It was powerlessness at its best (worst?). Every time I shared an oops report for biting to a parent, I felt an awful sinking in my stomach. The faces of the parents on both sides of the aisle reflected a mixture of shock, confusion, sadness, sometimes anger, but ultimately a sense of hopelessness as well. And then, slowly but surely, it stopped. What happened? Did that 18th round of “biting hurts” finally sink in? Did I earn my angel wings? Nope. They got older. It’s like magic.

There are many reasons why kids bite, and none of them are because the kid is “bad” or their parents (or teachers!) didn’t do the “right” thing.  In fact, they may be looking for space, attention, that super cool toy, mimicking behavior, or even as simple as teething. The list goes on. Babies grow into toddlers... with independence, attitudes, wants, and yes, teeth. They often cannot yet talk and can only access their most primal emotions. Even if they did have a name for what they are feeling, they have no real way to express it. Multiply that by 12 kids, mix it up, and you have a perfect environment for biting.

Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block, argues that the first step in dealing with young kids is to accept this simple fact: toddlers are neanderthals. As I watch my one year old grunt and ball up her little fists in anger, I know this is a metaphor I can get behind. This doesn’t mean that we throw in the towel and take cover until they are 6. It means that when a child bites, we can say "this is a neanderthal, I'm not going to take it so personally." Our job as parents and educators is to learn how to communicate with our little cavemen and do our best to keep the neighboring cavemen safe. We acknowledge the child’s emotions and give them words for what they are feeling. We arm ourselves with lots of hugs and ice packs. What we don’t do is exclude a child. We remind ourselves, “It is not their fault. They, too, are suffering the pains of growing up.”

So tell us what you think. Have you had to deal with this yet? Has your child bitten? Were YOU a child who used to bite? Have you seen those tell-tale marks on your kids? Tell us how you got through it. Let this be a safe place where we can give each other support and a light at the end of the toothy tunnel.