Adventures in Early Childhood Development

The Spaces In-between….

I sat with one of my Pre-Kindergarten teachers this week. She wanted to discuss her class. It seems that since returning from winter break, the children were unfocused and incapable of moving forward in their classroom curriculum. The question was, should they push forward through the proverbial wall or pause.

 

As an American (and a New Yorker at that!) my knee jerk reaction is to push forward, break through the wall.  As a yogi I am a devout fan of the pause. I know that after an especially difficult yoga position, I look forward to the pause so that I can steady my breath and absorb my body’s reaction to the move and energy flow. The pause is as important to my growth, as the position (action) was.

 

Practicing not to react (pause) but rather absorb what was being asked; I paused and gave her the answer (I think) she was hoping to hear. Pause. Step back allow them to absorb what they have been learning, review, pause, relax, so they can integrate it into their base knowledge. Pushing forward at this juncture might cause them undue stress. Back off the curriculum, and enjoy the children and their many facets for a little while.

 

The curriculum at the preschool is very advanced and we teach and hold the expectation that all children can and will read before they leave our program. Holding back is not a recommendation you often hear from me. My belief is, that children learn at an extremely fast pace and need to be continually challenged; but it goes hand-in-hand with respect for the Art of Teaching. A well balanced program views the children as complete human beings with abilities and challenges, which need to be stretched and nurtured.

 

The pause allows each child to adjust to the new information, absorb and digest it. Then when they are restored, we can once again move forward. When teachers do not respect the pause, they may run into resistance, as the children cling to old ways or shut down. If children reach the point that the information is coming at them too fast and they have not been able to use the information they have, they will shut down. (This also applies to  people learning new information at any age).

 

When a child shuts down, they can manifest their frustration in many ways. Most of them negative but some of them will be less obvious and difficult to see. They may act babyish or unfocused or just plain silly, hoping to distract from the curriculum.

 

A pause is just that, a temporary break in an activity before continuing. The pause is short but sweet, knowing full well we will once again move forward. They will return to the curriculum refreshed and strengthened because their foundation has had a chance to solidify. A strong foundation is the basis for a solid structure. So we pause and respect the integrity of the child.

 

Peace & Light,

Grace

My Peace Plan for 2013

The holiday season is upon us and one can’t help but think about the concept of peace. Everywhere you look there are reminders of the ideal state of peace. We wish each other peace on our cards, signs, and in our songs and prayers. If peace is an ideal we all aspire to, then why has it eluded us? Or has it?

 

It might surprise you to know that society has actually gotten more peaceful. In the past we were members of war mongering bands. Each society only flourished if it was conquering another. To date more people live peacefully side by side then at any other time in history. We have been inching toward our ideal.

 

So why do we believe that a peaceful society is unattainable? Perhaps it is because the media perpetuates a feeling of desperation highlighting acts of cruelty and inhumanity. They play over and over until we think each separate viewing is an individual incident. The reality is that based on the number of people and the frequency of violent acts, we are becoming a more peaceful society. Not that we don’t need to move further along our path.

 

Governments will rarely be the catalyst for a peaceful change; they have too much invested in the perpetuation of war and power. Peace will come from individuals. So I propose that we develop our own Peace Plan and share it with our families and each other. A Peace Plan must be easy, doable, and effective under most, if not all circumstances. I have really given this some thought and checked research to verify my plan. Today I will share my Peace Plan with you.

 

Here it is: The main feature of my plan is smiling. Yep, that is it. I plan on looking everyone I encounter in the eyes, and smiling. Simple, doable and effective! How do I know it is effective? I know it because I have been trying it out on all of you for years. Your response has always been positive. Besides the practical aspect, there is research to support my plan. Conducted in Sweden, the research exposed participants to images of faces while monitoring their facial muscles.   They found that we mimic expressions we see, even if we only see it for seconds. Our faces will naturally react to others faces even when we are unaware of it.  I smile, you mimic me, simple plan.

 

They took the study further and exposed participants to video clips of people expressing: anger, sadness, happiness etc and what they found is that we will mimic the feeling we see. It is called emotional contagion and it has its roots in our ancestry. Our ancestor’s ability to mimic their neighbor’s reaction prevented them from becoming isolated. Feeling good is infectious, and so is feeling crummy.  I choose happy.

 

It is very hard to fight, when you feel good. So my Peace Plan is just that simple, I will smile.

 

Smiling my way to a peaceful 2013

Peace & Light,

Grace

Thanksgiving Gratitude

I sit here with a dozen posts started and then discarded. I was finding it difficult to find a subject that I can commit myself to following from concept to delivery. I have found it so difficult to write for the last several months, that absolutely anything will take precedence over starting and completing a post.

 

Today was a little different for me. I started the morning by completing the 40th day of a very difficult meditation I have been working on. The meditation helped me clear the useless thoughts that were burying what I needed to understand, and as I emerged form the meditation I could feel a lightness that had been missing for some time.

 

I arrived at school happy to see my staff. They were busy putting final touches on their classrooms as they prepare for an accreditation visit, which will occur over the next two weeks. The anxiety of the pending visit had started to dissipate, and they were becoming more and more confident that they were ready to place their best foot forward.  I could hear their laughter as they expressed their own shortcomings to one another. A sense of camaraderie passed from staff member to staff member. Even our newest member has proven her mettle.  They have all fought challenges, colds and extreme traffic to get here and complete their tasks.

 

Soon after, our little charges began to arrive. It gave me joy to watch families and friends embrace each other wishing a Happy Thanksgiving! Attendance in all the classrooms was low and the children who were in attendance were relaxed and playful.

 

The four year olds were in Carousel City, playing and enjoying their many opportunities with great dramatic flair. I happened upon a small group in the cafe, who were disorganized and having a difficult time organizing their play. I sat down and ordered a Thanksgiving Dinner. They began to focus. I commented that the table wasn’t set correctly, which led to a discussion about appropriate positions for napkins and silverware and how the knife needs to face into the plate and why. Menus were distributed and we ordered our dessert. I paid the wait staff and extracted myself from the play. They continued the play, taking turns being the server or the patron.

 

I returned to my office and sat down to my keyboard, knowing full well that I would be able to complete this post. I had been reminded of the blessings I have. I have immense gratitude for all of my blessings, the easy and the not so easy. I have the joy of being a member of a unique and sometimes crazy family, I have known the love of a good man, I have the love of a son who has matured into a man I am proud of, I have a job where I can sit down and play with children, I have a staff who believe they have the ability to change the course of the world one child at a time,  I serve families who love and nurture one another, I have friends who have stood besides me in my darkest hour, I have a yoga family who remind me to stay connected to the universal energy. And most of all, I have the lessons of the past, which help me build a new future.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Peace & Light,

Grace

A few weeks ago my school children were sent home with a brief synopsis of recent research indicating that young children who are exposed to violent television and games develop more negative social behaviors. Yes, this research was recent; no, it did not reflect any really new outcomes. For years, studies have been telling us that what children view on television and in movies affects their behavior. As a preschool director, I can easily spot which children have a steady diet of violent cartoons and video games. I know it because I spend a disproportionate time modifying their behavior.

 

Parents are often shocked when they stop and think about the viewing habits of their child. They have been lulled into believing that because a program has been marketed to children, it must be good for them. I challenge any of you to take a score card and watch one of your child’s favorite shows or play one of their favorite video games and actually score how many times someone is hit, maimed or killed during the course of the program. Forget about the cute characters, or lack of blood.  Examine their behaviors. What you find may be shocking.

 

Veering off the psychological and behavioral repercussions and focusing on the physical implications of a steady diet of violent TV and games. I would like to discuss the adrenal glands. That’s right adrenal glands. On top of your kidneys sit two little glands; their main function is to secrete adrenalin and cortisol when the body is under stress or anticipates a threatening situation. Adrenalin is the Go, Go, Go of your body’s defense system. It helps us to (quickly) get away from frightening situations or protect ourselves (fast) if we feel threatened. The byproduct of adrenalin is cortisol. Too much cortisol will cause inflammation in the joints and aging of cell structures. When children watch violent movies, cartoons, or video games, their body will respond as if it is under a threat. A constant flow of adrenalin and cortisol in their bodies begins to pull energy away from the immune system, draining the adrenal glands leaving your child’s immune defense depleted. It also begins to create an unhealthy dependence on the chemical rush.

 

So what can a parent do? There is so much marketing behind cartoons, super heroes and video games that children like them just to fit in with their peer group. Do you just give in, because it is everywhere? Or do you begin to find other parents who also feel that their child’s well-being is more important then the latest Disney craze? (Just because it is stamped ‘Disney’ does not necessarily mean it is OK.) Do you stop supporting businesses that promote and sell violent shows, movies and games? The answer is all of the above. (Except for the giving in).

 

Our children need to have more models of peaceful behaviors in society, in the media and yes, the products they use every day too. It is up to us to let the businesses producing the negative materials know that we want more positive resources. Let them know we will support them if they make the necessary changes. A peaceful society starts with us.

 

Peace & Light,

Grace

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