Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's Summertime! :)

It's hard to believe yet another summer has unofficially began. Our building today was buzzing with school-agers excited about being off for another summer and some preschoolers who were excited to about graduating to Kindergarten. There was definitely more noise today than last week.

I was fortunate to be trusted to develop my own Summer Camp for my group this summer and since a majority of them are going off to Kindergarten in the Fall, I felt like I had a big task ahead of me-- to keep them busy, engaged, and keep those "Kindergarten readiness" skills sharp. I wanted to share with you what I decided on doing....

So it's pretty self explanatory- Mondays we work on a big art project, Tuesdays we are going to be "visiting" different places (reading books and doing an activity related to that culture), Wednesdays is all about hosing them down- I mean them experiencing full-on water play, Thursdays we will be cooking, and Fridays we break out the Science experiments. I decided against a weekly "theme" to keep it open to ideas. I have 14 weeks of activities lined up, but if there is something in particular they really enjoy I am open to extending that.  In fact since I'm still getting to know these kiddos, I hope this lends itself to a lot of creativity on their parts.

We will also rotate centers and different materials through out the room as I don't expect all 17 of them to sit and do the same "camp activity" every day. I'm still working on room organization, and layout, and the walls (those dreaded walls...). I'm really excited to see how this goes. :)

What are your summer plans?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Transitions, transitions, transitions...

Transitions are probably one of the most difficult parts of a preschool day. Getting 15-20 kids to get on the same page and follow rules (ie. no talking in the hallways) is hard, especially when they are excited about what's next, or even when they don't want to be doing what's next.

So, here are my tips on transitioning with Preschoolers--
Number 1 and probably most important-- consistency in schedule and routines. If preschool children know what to expect they are more secure. If a child knows it's time to clean up but after rest time he will have a chance to play with the toy again, he will feel much better about putting that toy up. Keep your routines consistent too-- but don't be afraid to change up a song here and there.

2. Warn children before a transition. Give them a 5 minute warning. Do they know what 5 minutes really is? No, but they will at least know that they are going to be changing activities shortly. Children with special needs may need more than one warning.

3. Practice routines with children before they occur. This is especially important when a new routine is happening- field trip, guest speaker, picnic lunch, program, etc. I like to practice every day things as well with them every once in awhile like hand washing, or walking in the hall in our classroom. This way I can pretend like I don't know what I'm doing and they can correct me.

4. Don't freak out if a transition doesn't go quite right. It takes an adult doing something 8 times before it becomes a habit-- I imagine for a preschooler it takes a lot more! Remember they didn't come programmed on how to manage transitions in a preschool classroom-- they need to learn them just like how they learn to count to 10 or spell their name.

I've been gathering new ideas for transitions because I'm getting tired of the tricks I've been using, and I'm not a fan of shaming or pointing out who is not following an expectation. Here are some of the things I've found...

Dr. Jean has a wonderful YouTube video with some really good ideas- be sure to have a pen and paper handy while your watching it to jot down the ideas!

Here is a great blog post with ideas on transitions from Learning and Teaching with Preschoolers.

Jenny at Ignite Learning with Conscious Discipline uses the S.T.A.R. technique before clean up times or stressful transitions, you can read about it here.

What are some of your favorite ways to transition? Has there been anything you've tried that has failed miserably? I had a wonderful co-teacher who liked to do the "clean up train", she would announce she was the clean up train, and all the children would come over and form a train. She'd walk around the room making train noises and stop at each center and let the children off to clean up that center. It worked marvelously with the group we had that year. I tried it with my kids a few years later, huge flop. None of them wanted to get off the train! :)

Until Next Time- Play, Create, & Get Messy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

One door closes, another opens.

{Photo Credit}
After a very quick and successful job hunt, I'm back to work. Monday I start my new position, teaching a classroom of 3-5 year olds. I'm very excited to be joining the staff and I have nothing but positive things to say about the director. I can't wait to meet my new kiddos and get back into the swing of teaching.

I'm very excited (how many times can I say excited in this post?!) to have a mixed age group. While having just 3-4's was nice because almost everyone was on the same page, I like having a mix of 3's, 4's and 5's. I think the 3's learn from the 4's and 5's, 4's and 5's are also able to sustain play and initiate play themes allowing the 3's to follow along. 4's and 5's are so ready to do a lot more things that I can hopefully incorporate right away and keep everyone happy and challenged.

Plus Monday starts their summer camp, so I'm joining in right as the "academic" slows down and the having fun begins. :)

I'm packing my "first day-don't know what to expect-but don't want to be unprepared" bag this weekend... walking into an established classroom with kids who have been through a few teacher changes is always a little scary, but I know it's nothing I can't handle.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bullying in the Workplace.

As Early Educators we are charged with some very important work. We all know that most brain development happens between age 0 and 5 years old. We know we can lay solid groundwork for future learning and life skills. We have an understanding that children are born without social skills and these skills must be taught. 

It is no lie that working with other women can be challenging. In fact, this topic came up many times in my college courses. Avoid the teacher's lounge. Avoid getting caught up in gossip. Avoid the Debbie Downers. ETC. Which is all fine and dandy when you work in a large school or center. When you work with only 10 other women in a small center, this isn't entirely possible. The more I reflect and think about my most recent past work experience (and others), the more I see how I and others were victims of bullying or relational aggression in the workplace.

Since leaving my former place of employment, each night I have had a bad dream about a situation I had found myself in there. Sometimes the situation was dramatized a bit more, but overall I wake up feeling anxious, until I realize I'm out of that situation completely. I think back to how I was treated, and how I saw others being treated, and it makes sense now. (I'm hoping this realization will help me to move past all of this.) And yes, I can recall instances when I myself took part in the bullying so please do not think I think I'm perfect.

I'm struggling with the why part now -- when you work with young children, most of the time you have some inkling of compassion, nurture, and understanding. Why when working with the children this comes to the forefront, but when working with another woman it's placed on the back burner? Unlike young children, we as women have a pretty good understanding of what its like to walk in another woman's shoes.

So with any problem I come across in the classroom, I set out to research, and didn't find a whole lot. Here is what I did find....

Dr. Michelle Callahan's 10 Tips for Dealing with Bullies at Work

Woman-On-Woman Bullying from WorkplaceBullying.Org

And this Amazon List of books on this topic: List About Adult Women and Relational Aggression  

Childcare Exchange also offers this: Dealing with Difficult People

This book seems to have gotten the best reviews on Amazon- In the Company of Women, so I'm adding it to my reading list. My goal is to first and foremost-- never find myself in a situation where I am using bullying/relational aggression towards coworkers (male or females) and second never find myself in a position again where I am the victim.

So now I'm calling on you-- have you experienced relational aggression in the workplace? How did you handle it? How did you move past it?
If you would prefer to share your experience with just me and not the public, please email me... swimpancakes@gmail.com.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Not Sure What to Title This...

Life is the best teacher- it gives us the problems to work through first, and we figure out the lesson after. As someone who works in the Early Childhood/Child Care field that is not a school district teacher, I feel that it is easy to be taken advantage of. We truly do this job not for the income, but for the outcome- the kids. (I'm really trying not to use too many cliches but they really are the best way to say this...)

As a result I think sometimes we get into this fog of "do what's best for the kids, do what's best for the kids" and we lose sight of "do what's best for YOURSELF". In our minds whats best for the kids is us- our relationship with them, the safety in consistency, and the community you've built... and we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, or treated poorly by co-workers, supervisors, or bosses. We suffer through this because we want what's best for the kids. We don't want to leave the kids. We are pushed and pushed and pushed, until finally we are pushed out-- sometimes out of the field completely.

I was put into a situation this week where my bubble was popped, the fog was lifted, and I saw clearly for the first time what was really going on around me. The focus of the center as a whole was not where it should be (what's best for the kids, and growing as teachers) but rather on foolish things. I was so focused on doing what I thought was the right thing, I became unaware of how I was being treated. Until a co-worker was screaming at me for something that was her fault.

"Walk away from anyone and anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy." If you are in the field of Early Childhood or Child Care, please ingrain this quote into your mind. While you think you are doing what's best for the kids by sticking out a situation that you are uncomfortable with- you are not. Do what's best for you, surround yourself with people who appreciate you and your style of teaching and challenge you to be better-- this was a hard lesson for me to learn this week.

For me I hope this environment and opportunity is close by. I had it once at a wonderful place, but life took me in another direction. I am determined not to settle on a job, but rather to find someplace that serves me, grows me, and makes me happy.

If you are fortunate enough to be in a place that appreciates you, challenges you, and is most importantly-- doing what's best for the kids- savor and enjoy every moment.