Sunday, March 30, 2014

Scaffolding & Extending Knowledge: How a Hairstyle Became a Teachable Moment



Educators spend a lot of time talking about teachable moments.  We know that some of the most important learning takes place when we respond to children’s curiosity rather than stick to the written plan.  In preschools, teachers place things in classrooms and offer unique experiences to try to spark curiosity.  I recently attended a workshop for K-12 teachers about how to purposefully peek curiosity by doing things like more dramatic presentations, using props and writing mysterious messages on the white/chalk board. All of those methods have merit as we try to engage students but some of the best teachable moments come from the unexpected and create magic.   The trick is noticing the moment and capturing it.  The teacher needs to be actively listening to and watching students in order to capitalize on the curiosity that can be shown in a split second. Parents can do the same at home.

Before and after
Last week, I got a haircut and changed the style.  I usually wear my hair in its naturally curly state but I arrived at preschool after my hairdresser had blown out the curls.  When I walked into the preschool classroom, the students paused.  Students looked at me.  They looked away and looked back.  They obviously noticed something, but what?  And how could their glances be teachable?

We gathered for group time and I asked, “What is different today?”  That led to all of this:

  • We used the comparison term "different."  We asked the children what is different today.  They named students who were absent.  They talked about the snow outside.  They talked about the cold.  They said a number of things that were different from the last time we were together.   Finally (and I do mean lastly), one student said, "Your hair is different."
  • We used memory and observation skills.  I asked, "What is different about my hair?"  One student asked if I got it cut and I confirmed that.  Then, one student added, "It isn't curly."
  • We learned that what you think of something is your opinion and everyone can have an opinion.  I asked each student's opinion so we could vote.  Each student said if they liked my hair better curly or straight.
  • We counted the votes.  Nine students voted for straight and six students voted for curly.
  • We used the math terms "more" and "less."  We saw that straight got more votes but not by much!
  • Just talking about my haircut is a life lesson.  I survived the dreaded haircut and maybe they will think of that when they are afraid of the stranger with the scissor.
Who knew that a staff members' hair could lead to such interest?!   The students were enthralled by the conversation.  The skills that we used are important cognitive skills and all are listed in the New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards.

When children stare at something or otherwise show interest in something in their world, don’t just tell them about what they see.  Ask them about it.  Help them to build knowledge through critical thinking.  You never know where one question can lead. 
                                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                  


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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cameras in Preschool Classrooms: Who Are They Really Watching?



It is hard to leave your children in the care of others but we have to do it.  We know that a good preschool experience builds socialization skills and self-esteem.  Many parents need child care so they can work to put food on their tables.  Children in developmentally appropriate and play based preschools develop a love of learning that is hard to replicate at home.  There are many reasons that parents seek the best preschool but the decision is not without angst.  Sometimes, parents find comfort when they are shown video cameras in the classrooms.  In some preschools, parents are given internet access to the cameras and in some they are not.  There has been recent controversy about internet access because parents have objected to their own behavior being caught on camera or the behavior of their children being watched by other parents.  Even if this access is not available or becomes less so because of lawsuits about right to privacy, some parents find comfort in the existence of the cameras.  It feels like someone is watching out for their children, but is that why the cameras are really there?

I teach professional development courses for early childhood professionals from all different schools.  More and more as I present ideas for engaging children’s curiosity, teachers tell me that they would love to do everything I present but they are not permitted and they are being watched.  They are forced to do circle times that are too long for even the average adult attention span.  They are forced to make children who are far too young sit with workbooks for 30 minutes or more.  They are not permitted to be creative in their presentation of new concepts.  They are being watched.  They describe school directors sitting in offices watching them all day long and jumping on the chance to admonish them for veering slightly off a scripted curriculum that has been handed to them (which in English translates to “it doesn’t matter what the children are curious about because this is only about making money off of parents’ fears.”)  The teachers repeated report that they are the ones being watched.  

If school administrators cannot trust their teachers, why are your children there?  There is something wrong when adults who have been educated in how to teach children in a developmentally appropriate way need to be scripted and watched.  One might argue that not all preschool teachers are educated in education.   The ability to teach is a skill set.  Teachers are taught about cognitive theories, classroom management, typical behaviors and strategies.  Just because people have knowledge or love children doesn’t mean they are qualified to teach.  But that’s an article for another day.  Suffice it to say, you want to find a preschool with qualified staff.  So again I ask – If you have found a preschool with qualified staff, why does the administration need to watch them all day long?  And if they do not trust their teachers, why do you?

Can you trust your child’s teacher if the school director does not?  It is possible that the teacher is a wonderful person trying to do the right thing for the children.  I meet teachers who are so frustrated by being unable to do what they know should be done with preschoolers.  They know what is good and right but cannot do those things because of the package that has been sold to parents.  Parents today are so afraid.  They are raising children in a test oriented educational society that has everyone worried that their children won’t measure up.  If you want your children to have a foundation for success, you must allow preschools to teach them in a developmentally appropriate environment that fosters a love of learning and builds self-esteem.  This cannot be taught with a script.  This will not happen when your children are frustrated by being asked to sit still too long.  This foundation is impossible to build when your child’s curiosity is invalidated by an adult agenda.  Just like anything else, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.  If cameras are required to ensure that promises made to you happen, then the promises are the problem.

This time of year as many of you shop for preschools, I implore you to ask about the camera systems.  I applaud schools that are protecting your children by having cameras for security.  Unfortunately, we need to deter crime by having visible cameras.  Security is different than mistrust.  Ask the questions – Are these cameras for security only?  Do you watch your teachers during the day?  If you do watch your teachers, why don’t you trust them?
                                                                         
                                                           
                                               


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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.          

Saturday, March 15, 2014

When There Is No Answer To “Why?”



Four years ago today, my cousin suddenly died while she was at work.  She was in her early 30’s with an adorable family which included two preschoolers.  We were shocked by the news.  Every year on March 15, we think of her immediate family and wonder why.  There was no answer to “why?” in 2010 and there is no answer today.  Sudden death, accidents, job loss – we all experience moments that we didn’t see coming but that shift our lives forever.  How do we explain these sudden and unexplainable jolts to our children?

When children ask questions, adults are used to having answers.  We are uncomfortable when we don’t.  It seems to be a natural instinct to either cut the conversation short or make up a reason.   Too often, adults miss the real lesson.  The real lesson is about what we do in those moments when we have no explanation and no control over events.   Life is sometimes unpredictable and random with no logical explanation.  We can shift and survive.  We teach our children the practical lessons – don’t touch the hot stove, look both ways when crossing the street, work hard to achieve.  Just as practical is the lesson that the point isn’t necessarily why but what you do with it.

Children look for answers.  Adults seek to give them.  In the face of the sudden and seemingly unexplainable, tell your children these truths:

  • I do not know.  You can be a role model for not knowing and accepting that.  We spend time trying to understand instead of focusing our energy on the task at hand – changing, shifting, accepting.  When you are a role model of not knowing, your children will more readily accept the situations that baffle them as they get older.   They will know that it is okay to simply not know.
  • Life is full of surprises – sometimes fun and sometimes not.  When great things happen and seem random, we don’t question why.  We are grateful.  We post statuses on social media about being lucky.  “Luck” is another word for “glad it happened but I don’t know why.”  Perhaps we could more easily accept the jarring randomness if we understood that the good was sometimes unforeseen, too.  Understanding that surprise comes in two forms – joyous and jolting – can help our children to see that events beyond our control happen all the time and our job is to merely determine our reactions.
  • Surprising situations are about what we do next.  We can be sad, shocked and overwhelmed.  We all will be at some point.  Life is about what we do next.   Explain to your children that they can ask for help.  There are people who love them who can help or find help for them.  Families can work as a team to get through tough times.  They are not alone and we will not dismiss their fears, sadness and uncertainty.  We will work through it together.

When my cousin died, her husband reached out for the guidance and the help that he and his children needed.  They worked to create a new normal.  We are constantly creating new normals in our lives.  A baby is born.  We are joyous.  Our family changes and we have a new normal.  Someone dies, a job is lost, a trauma occurs and we need to create a new way of being.  Grasp the opportunities to teach children that the answer to the question “Why?” is really another question – “What do we do now?”

                                                           
For more information, click on these titles:  "Talking to Young Children About Death" and "Teaching Children to Cope with Change"
                                               



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Read this blog for more articles.  Ask your parenting & education questions and learn about early childhood workshops for parents & educators on my website - Helping Kids Achieve
                                                      
Copyright 2014 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved

Please do not sell, post, curate, publish, or distribute all or any part of this article without author's permission.   You are invited, however, to share a link to this post on your webpage, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other social networking sites.