TEAM WORK

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We talk about team work and how important it is in our personal and professional lives but not all of us know the true meaning of “team”. In other words, we talk the talk but have hard time when it is time to walk the walk.

After many days of planning the field trip and a picnic, they were cancelled on the morning of due to rain. Children were disappointed, parents who planned to volunteer were frustrated and some of the teachers were upset because of this cancellation. I was confused as to why everyone showed such negative reaction. We cannot control the weather and we must keep children’s safety and well being at the top of everything else. Should we have taken the children out in the rain? Should we have allowed them to sit on the wet grass? What would be better than cancelling the events?

You hear a teacher saying to a parent “Oh well, they just cancelled the trip on us!”. What do you think? How does it make you feel?

  1. Is this teacher being a team player?
  2. Is the teacher blaming the decision maker for making this call to keep children safe and healthy?
  3. How could the teacher share the not so happy news with the parent?
  4. Does the teacher prefer children getting wet and catching a cold in a 42 degree day?

It is important to think before saying things in any situation but it is a must especially when people are frustrated and or disappointed. It is crucial to know what to say and how to say it so that you are being a team player. Let’s rewind the video:

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“After many days of planning the field trip and a picnic, they were cancelled on the morning of due to rain. Children were disappointed, parents who planned to volunteer were frustrated and some of the teachers were upset because of this cancellation.” The teacher approaches the parent who is frustrated and says “I know it is disappointing but WE had to cancel it due to rain. WE will come up with a future date and let you know. WE are sad as well”.

When you are part of a team, you need to be in it all the way. Highs, lows, in between. Success, mistake, failure. Easy and difficult no matter what the situation is, you stand by your team. If not, you are not part of the team and no one in the team can and will trust you. When you work as a team as in “one band, one sound” the taste of success is sweeter, the experience is richer and the benefits are greater.

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Another analogy I like is the “puzzle”. Think about the puzzles in your classroom or your home. If one piece out of 20, 100 or 500 piece puzzle is missing you cannot complete the picture. Most likely, you need to throw it away because it no longer makes sense to keep it. It is the same with the team. All members need to work together and complete each other. It is not about the individual pieces but about the big picture each piece creates by connecting with another.

If you have a team member who is having hard time understanding the team concept, reach out to them. Model and explain how it really works. Focus on their positive sides and pull them in and up. This is also an example of team work.

Learning from experience…

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I picked up my son from school yesterday and rushed to the grocery store for a couple of quick items that I forgot to purchase over the weekend. Knowing that snow was on the way I was trying to be proactive by not waiting for the last minute. Almost every parking space was taken yet I did not allow it to discourage me. As I picked up my items in less than 10 minutes, my son asked for seltzer water. Normally I never allow him to carry anything in glass container but I was so determined and focused to get out of the store and head home before snow started coming down hard, I allowed him to carry the bottle. He knelt down all tired after a long day at school and “BOOM!!” went the bottle. Apparently he was walking and shaking it not realizing it is fizzy and the pressure would cause it to burst into pieces.

There I was… scared, frazzled and checking his face and hands praying that he did not get hurt. I notified the store right away, paid for the items and left the store. As we got on the elevator he started crying. I then realized how scared he was. We rushed into the car and I tried to calm him down. The bottle shattered into pieces so close up to his face and he was not expecting that to happen that his pupils were dilated in fear. He did not understand why it happened.

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After he was calm and no longer crying, I asked him if he remembered me telling him to be careful with fizzy drinks because I knew he loved bubbles. I explained to him many times how dangerous pressure can be and to let the bottle, plastic or glass, rest a bit before trying to open it. He said he remembered it but he did not know it could be this dangerous. I asked him if this experience was enough for him to learn and remember for the next time and his answer was a quick “YES”. I comforted him saying “your Guardian Angels were watching over you. You could have gotten seriously injured. Let’s be happy that you are fine”. After a nice hug and a couple of kisses we headed home.

I have done it, you have done it, we all have done it at some point of our lives. Our parents, friends or people we work with said things, warned us, shared their life lessons and we still wanted to live through it. Unfortunately, we learned the “hard way”. But I guess, it is just how life is.

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I have heard many things about myself from people who know me. Realistic, protective, perfectionist, serious, responsible, emotional, organized… One thing I can add to this list is “proactive”. I am a firm believer when it comes to learning from mistakes and or experiences. I do not believe in making the same mistake twice. I like to take advantage of what I learned and implement it into my life, both personal and professional. Why go through the same pain twice when I can avoid it in the first place? Why not share my experience with others to help them out? Though I realize you cannot force anyone to learn from someone else’s experience I still cannot give up trying.

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Life is about experiences. Good ones create good things and bad ones make us stronger and wiser. I hope we never encounter situations that we cannot recover from. This is all I can hope for all the people I care about and the ones I have not even yet met.

Do you believe in experiences? Have you ever encountered a situation that was a learning experience for you?

 

What do teacher candidates learn in college nowadays?

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US. Department of Education recently published the Notice of Final Rulemaking for the teacher preparation regulations. The purpose is to bring transparency to the teacher prep programs and to provide them continued feedback so that each teacher is ready o go into a classroom. This readiness is different and more than obtaining the degree itself. According to research top performing teachers generate minimum five months of more learning opportunities for students.

It may sound a bit weird looking at the title but I am really curious. I have been interviewing teacher candidates for a long time. Over the years I have had the chance to speak with many candidates who are in school or who recently graduated. In both groups of professionals, I see a trend. No matter how many years pass and how much the field changes including requirements for teachers working with young children, the understanding seems to be remaining the same.

Here is a sample dialogue…

Q: Please tell me about some of the activities you do with toddlers. Paint me that picture I would see if I am in your classroom.

A: My toddlers know their colors, numbers, shapes and they started to learn the alphabet.

Wow! These little people are either all geniuses or the teacher thinks they are learning but actually they are just repeating and memorizing. I cringe when I hear this type of answer and try really hard to keep a straight face hiding my disappointment. Here I am sitting across from this person who has been working with children, who is also in college, or working on her or his graduate  degree or has completed a four year degree in early childhood, child and family studies, or human development or psychology. You name it. Yet, there is a big piece missing from the picture. Developmentally appropriate practice. NAEYC has brought so much attention to DAP and best practices that it is almost impossible not to know the basics of child development, expectations and how children learn the best.

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A toddler does not need to know his or her shapes or the alphabet. They do not need pictures and flash cards to memorize “green-blue-triangle-square…” Is this a big joke or are we really failing in our higher education courses? What are we teaching in these classrooms? Why are our educators focusing so much on the academics and the product? We are definitely doing something wrong. The sooner we figure it out the sooner we can resolve this issue. The sooner we resolve this issue the more I can hear a different answer to my initial question:

Q: Please tell me about some of the activities you do with toddlers. Paint me that picture I would see if I am in your classroom.

A: I am on the floor. Building with soft large blocks. I am dancing with the children to the music. We are playing the instruments. Some children are painting on the easel or the table standing. They have several colors to pick from. A couple of the children are pretending to eat fruit or the food teacher pretending to cook. I may be reading with the children. We may take turns singing and clapping. We may look at the family pictures and describe who they are and how they are feeling……….We are having a lot of fun together.

Great education interviews for the Local News tonight, including Humboldt Stepping Stones 1 yr. anniversary!:

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Well, this sounds very age appropriate and developmentally expected and needed. These are the moments children get to hear a story or a song over and over again. This is the way they hear and develop language skills. Not by memorizing what a letter looks like and what it is called. This is how they naturally learn to share, take turns, play together, talk to each other and imagine.

I visited an early learning program and as I was walking by the window of the infant classroom I saw handprint turkeys with feathers on them. In fact, the teacher who was giving me the tour said “Look, aren’t they cute? Parents will love it!”. I was devastated but did not want to ruin her spirit. I went along with it saying ” Oh I see. They are colorful”. I could not get myself to say “Oh yes, they really are cute”. I took ten minutes or so to gather what and how I would say so I was honest and constructive at the same time. I ended up asking her what she wanted her babies to learn from the activity. She could not answer. She stared at my face smiling. Then I said ” maybe the texture of the feathers and the coldness and wetness of the paint?” She nodded as if she found an escape. I continued ” What a great idea! We all know it is about sensory experiences for infants and especially if you talked about how each of these materials felt, you just nailed it. How much fun it is to help babies feel it and look at you in amazement” I took advantage of the moment and tuned it into a teachable one for the teacher. I could tell she was puzzled and the wheel started turning in her head. I was happy because I accomplished my goal for that particular moment.

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Going back to my initial question, what are we teaching in higher education classrooms and what aren’t we doing quite so right? What is missing? Maybe the solution is identifying high quality programs and assigning students to observe and even work in the classroom. Allowing them to have hands on experiences before they graduate. High quality and hands on experience are the key components for us to create well trained and educated work force. Expectations and practice need to be correlated with the age and developmental level of the children.

 

Children have rights and we have to protect them!

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A two-year old child was hung at a day care center. 9-year-old girl is being forced to marry her rapist. Three year old boy is considered “not normal” by his teacher because he draws purple trees. Four year old girl is getting a red card in her second week of being in pre-K because she cannot sit still in the classroom.

We can see many of these on the news, on social media and in our daily conversations with colleagues, friends and relatives. Some situations are more severe than the others of course but in the end they all are hurting our children. Are we doing enough to protect them? Are we doing anything at all to be e remedy for some and to get rid of others for good? Maybe…

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I question adults who are supposed to be informed, aware and educated in these matters. I also question the adults who are in leadership positions overseeing these individuals exposing our children to such sad situations. Law makers, principles, parents… Do you take an action and stand up for these children’s rights when you see everything happening in front of your eyes or do you let it go? In some cases, do you allow it to happen?

One cannot drive before they are 16 or 18. Yet, they can be forced to a marriage while they have a long life in front of them. A life for them to figure out who they are, what they like and what they want to do in life. Their life can be ended by a delusional person who cannot control herself or who feels good after her sadistic act. They can be stressed out, crushed and pushed away with a label because of a teacher who is not capable of teaching and understanding basics of human development and psychology.

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It takes all of us to speak up for our children. To speak up and to encourage them to stand up for themselves. We need to have the tools and give them what they need to do so. I hear many people saying that they do not have the tools or the resources. Then I learn that the same people never even asked the question: Do you know anyone who can help me? Are there any self help books to give me ideas about the ways I can approach this problem or challenge?

Sharing is caring. Advocating is caring. Collaborating and fighting for the cause is caring. We need to start caring about children and stop acting like we are helpless or we do not know what to do. We have power as long as we are together. It all starts with a single step, a phone call, a meeting, a question. Don’t be afraid.

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When I was in elementary school, my best friend and I heard about UNICEF. We used to support the cause knowing that there are children around the world who were not able to meet their basic needs such as clean water, food, clothing, education ,and medical treatment. There are children who are being abused and raped by the adults they need to be protected by. We didn’t have jobs or any other income to make big donations but we were thoughtful. We started purchasing greeting cards that had UNICEF trademark/logo on them. We chose to do so because the proceeds were going to children from all over the world in different ways. We wanted to help break the cycle of poverty and inequity.

I was impressed and excited when I saw that my son’s school is ofering UNICEF club as an option in extended day program. When he asked me what it is I said “This is the moment”. He is an empathetic child and what can be better than him being involved in this club I thought. He came home the next day and said he was the only boy in the club. In fact, some of his friends tried to change his mind saying it would be “no fun” to be in UNICEF club. He did not care.

With his permission, I am sharing the poem my son wrote:

                          We should give clothing, water, shelter and love to the poor

                          Because shelter is for you to survive winter and rainy days

                          Food and water are essential to survive

                          Clothes are so you are not cold on cold days and hot on very hot days

                          Love, because people or kids that are poor should not be gloomy or sad.

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