Archives for posts with tag: Education Parenting Early Childhood School Age Learning Inclusive teaching developmental disabilities Group Activities Inclusive Classroom

The school age children had the day off from school. I worked a nine-hour day. My kindergarten charges joined me for the day as the kindergarten room follows the public school schedule. It was a test of my patience and energy as the curriculum was non academic for the day. I had forgotten Friday was a school holiday. I perused my curriculum and realized I would need to restructure it to keep the children engaged. I had thirty minutes before I was due to leave for work. I searched around my house for supplies I could bring in for added activities. I resigned myself to the fact that I would leave early and grab supplies from the local convenience store. As I prepared to leave, I spied a huge pumpkin on my deck.

My family used it for mere decoration I rationalized. My kids are young adults, they wouldn’t miss it. I grabbed the pumpkin and threw it in my car. Several activities could be had from this one pumpkin. I ran back in the house and found shaving cream. Another Aha moment, shaving cream puffy paint would be enjoyed by everyone. Sometimes I amaze myself at how quickly I can develop a project out of desperation and common household products. Flexibility is a major component in being a successful teacher. Successful adaptation to any situation ensures a lack of chaos in the classroom.

I dropped the pumpkin in my class and scurried down the hall to retrieve my charges that had been dropped off at an earlier time. We sat and broached the day’s activities as a team, killing time until the rest of the class came in. thirty minutes later we had a full house. We went to circle time and I pulled out a book that was on my curriculum. As soon as the children saw it they begged for me to read a book from a series we had used the past week. I took a vote. The Magic School Bus Scours the Ocean Floor Was retired in lieu of a book about children who couldn’t find their shoes and designed footwear out of the likes of meatloaf and bologna!

It was a vacation day for the kids so I decided to let them have a part in the curriculum and go light on them. After reading the book we observed and talked about the pumpkin. The children were enamored by the pumpkin carving kit I brought in. It was safe for children and I believe in a format that allows for independent exploration. In order to teach team work the children were broken into teams and I instructed them to draw four different faces that they would carve. I injected humor by stating that with four different faces we could turn the pumpkin around when we got bored with one face. After drawing their mark, we headed outside with the pumpkin and started carving. The children were extremely excited with the experience of using carving tools. After carving was done we proceeded to dig out the guts. Some children were apprehensive about sticking their hands in the guts so I offered gloves. They dug out and placed the flesh in one pan. The seeds were placed in another.

At this point the children were ready for free time and the pumpkin was temporarily laid to rest. Some children wanted to ask questions about the seeds and flesh. A mini science class ensued for the children who wished to continue our pumpkin adventure. I held the tiny seed next to the pumpkin for comparison. I explained how the pumpkin we cut open grew from a seed just like the one we held in our hand. This went on for thirty minutes or so. I was shocked at the interest. After lunch, I took the class on a field trip to the kitchen. We rinsed the seeds and flesh. The children remarked on the slimy feeling. I explained how the texture would change upon baking the treat. Cinnamon was sprinkled on our treat. We than baked these items.

At snack time I presented the items for exploration to the children. The pumpkin seeds were popular. I assume the children had eaten them in the past. The pumpkin flesh was viewed with a degree of trepidation. I inquired as to who liked pumpkin pie. The majority of the children did. When I explained that what they were looking at was the main ingredient in the pie they looked at me with confusion. I believe in exploration of the unknown, so I pushed the issue. I asked my little pessimistic friends to take one small taste. If it was not palatable they were welcome to spit it out. Most children were pleasantly surprised. A simple pumpkin had afforded the children a new experience.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

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I have been pondering exactly what autism awareness means. As a neurotypical living within a family sprinkled with aspergians, I have learned most likely more from my family than them from me. Mostly, to step out of my own little box and attempt to perceive the world from the eyes of an individual other than myself.

Awareness means knowledge, acceptance, and tolerance. Making an attempt to fix an individual is not acceptance and tolerance. It is merely attempting to make an individual fit into a perceived social mold, created from social mores and societal expectations. Allow me to make an analogy. It is commonplace for English speaking individuals to expect others to speak English when visiting foreign countries. When foreigners visit English speaking countries we expect them to speak our language as well. If we expect others to speak our native tongue is it not socially appropriate that we attempt to understand theirs as well?

In the case of an Aspergian living in a society where neurotypicals are the majority, the same principle should be used. Aspergians struggle everyday of their lives to conform to a neurotypical world. Wouldn’t it merely be appropriate that neurotypicals extend them the same reciprocal understanding? Embrace differences and the qualities that Aspergians bring to the world.

Aspergers cannot be cured, nor should it be. Individuals with Aspergers are not faulty computers that we repair with a few adjustments to their hard drives. They are individuals, just like the rest of society, who have done great good and brought great advances to our world throughout history.

They are the analytical thinkers of our world, inventors, engineers, scientists, actors, mathematician’s, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children. We can thank aspergians for many great contributions in the world.

Some of the individuals thought to have or have been confirmed with Aspergers or high functioning autism are:

The world renowned Temple Grandin: An author of many books that have expand and awakend the worlds knowledge and acceptance of autism. She is also a food handling systems designer, and much much more. Miss Grandin has given the autism community a great deal of respect and reduced the stigma associated to the autism spectrum through her candor regarding her life and public presence as a professional

James Durbin: American idol contestant- He brings us the gift of music through his wonderful voice

Bill Gates: Founder of Microsoft whose gift for technology brought us Microsoft. FYI without Mr. Gates wonderful development of Microsoft we would not be interacting with the world through in a literal millisecond via electronic communication.

Thomas Edison: He was the forefather of inventing the lightbulb, phonograh, and motion pictures.

Albert Einstein:  His theory of relativity unlocked the mysteries of the world and set fort a path of exploration for future scientists.

John Elder Robison: Author of many books such as “Look Me In The Eye” Through his brave willingness to publicly tell his story from childhood to adulthood, he became a role model for other individuals on the spectrum. He exemplifies the ideology that yes; aspergians strive for and do experience success within society.

Dan Akeroyd: He is brought a gift of humor and entertainment into many lives at times when they did not think they could laugh.

Holly Peete, and Toni Braxton: Just to name a few stars who have become awesome advocates for the autism community as a result of having children on the spectrum. They are perhaps the most humble and grounded public personalities in the entertainment business. Hence my comment earlier that we can learn as much if not more from our children on the spectrum than they learn from us.

Last but not least, an individual with Aspergers that is my hero and famous in my eyes. My young adult, determined, creative, electronics whiz son. He will always be a celebrity in my eyes:-0)

I could ramble on in regards to all the wonderful people who have Aspergers or are assumed to have it but would end up with a novel here. I believe I have made my point and you the reader get the idea.

I leave you with a thought to ponder. If Thomas Edison had been “cured” or shall I say “fixed” according to societal expectations we would be living in darkness, we would not have music cd’s which he paved the way for with the invention of the phonograph. We would not have movies on demand which were born from his interest in developing motion pictures. Without Bill Gates our ability to communicate thoughts via electronic technology would be minimal or nil.

Without the Holly Peetes and Toni Braxton’s of the world who use their fame within a positive venue to better the world for the autism community due to their wonderful children, awareness Autism awareness would be minimal. John Elder Robison breeds acceptance and takes away stigma through his wonderful books and public speaking. Without Dan Akroyds gift of humor, the world would be a sadder place.

James Durbin’s voice can light up a room. Without crooners like him we would miss the gift of music. Without the Temple Grandins of the world we would miss out on an exemplary human being and role model who not only spreads awareness and knowledge of the autism community but spreads knowledge for the neurotypicals who work and play side by side with these fine individuals.

In closing, and as a parent of a young adult son, a young man who incites my passion for children on the autism spectrum And is my hero with Aspergers (And no, he is not my ASPIE son. He is simply my son with Aspergers) I wish to remind parents that it does get better and yes many children on the Aspergers spectrum will grow up to be successful. You will find that some of the behaviors which are irritating in children with Aspergers will prove to be their golden road to opportunity as adults.

The child who over focuses as a child will turn that into perseverance towards inventing or fine tuning better ways of existence as an adult. The child who demolishes and corrupts your computer as a child resultant from their incessant drive to tinker, dismantle things, and put them together again will turn into our great thinkers. I.e. mathematicians, scientists, architects’, and research scientists.

The stubborn child will turn into the adult who perseveres and problem solves until they come up with answers and never take know for one when trouble shooting. The child who obsessively collects one item i.e. fans, dinosaurs, radios, baseball cards, will turn into the adult that uses their wonderful analytical mind to make sense of things like equations, cell mutations in cancer through a microscope, and more.

Upon my presenting my case here, would the world be better if we could “cure” Aspergers. Nah, I think not. Perhaps our other option is to step out of our own personal soapbox, fraught with personal perceptions of how people should act and accept each other for the contributions that our differences bring into society. Aspergians must attempt to understand neurotypicals, but we neurotypicals must learn to embrace and accept the wonderful contributions of Aspergians as well.

To all individuals past and present with Aspergers and their wonderful parents who did or still do encourage and strive to understand their children, I salute you and tip my hat to you for the awesome individuals that you all are.

May we all grow to live in a utopian world of commonality born from respect and acceptance for each persons individuality and an understanding of what would happen if society deleted the them and us ideology and replaced it with WE.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

Today I taught in every room from toddlers to school age. Staff was extremely short handed. I was asked to stay and work extra hours to assist in filling in the staff gap. I actually enjoy the variety and break in my routine. My personality veers towards seeking constant challenge and change. In my opinion this is a great trait to possess. As an educator, the ability to respond to constant change is non negotiable. The day is controlled by the children’s moods, and attention span. Without a flexible personality on the educator’s part, nothing would ever be accomplished. Adults have off days, and need to comprehend that children are human beings who succumb to the same mood shifts as us.

When working in different rooms, my eyes always scan, and my mind silently trouble shoots. I emphasize the word silently because a teacher’s classroom is their kingdom.  Suggestions by another educator are heeded with the same welcoming tone as criticism about their own children. That would be with defensiveness. I sometimes have to remind myself of the latter fact as I work in various rooms. Keeping my thoughts to me will protect future cohesiveness and camaraderie between the teachers. Negativity amongst staff is sensed quickly by children and breeds nothing but a negative classroom climate for the children.

My first stop was the infant room. It was a nice day and the door to the infant room was open to let in fresh air. The mobile infants were crawling towards the door. The door abuts a gated outdoor infant sized playground with a foam floor. Thus children can’t be injured by crawling into the road. However they do need to be supervised on the small equipment so their wobbly motor skills do not cause a calamity on the low little tike’s equipment. Staff stated that they were tired of chasing infants who constantly crawled towards the door. My observations found an obvious way to save the staff stress. When the weather is nice, put a safety gate across the opening to the outdoors. The staff will not tire from constantly retrieving the infants. The infants will be free to roam safely and freely. I made a mental note to make an anonymous suggestion to the director.

My next stop was the pre kindergarten room. The class was in the midst of a rousing rendition of “One Two Buckle My Shoe”.  Many children were engaged in playing with cars and toy farm animals. I silently felt that choice based creative curriculum does not mean playing with toy cars during circle time. Could choices made for children not interested in finger play and songs be restricted to more educational choices? Perhaps if the child does not wish to participate in the activity, other activities could be limited to using stencil letters, manipulatives, and other educational items.  This is just an observation. I respect the classroom teacher who developed her pre Kindergarten curriculum. I would never correct her. Who knows if my observation is wrong and her way possibly correct. I would not want a teacher coming into my school age room and doing such a thing to me.

My next stop was the preschool room. The children were transitioning into nap time. One child cried incessantly. I sat by her to comfort her. The staff referred to her as a whiner. This was a typical case of labeling. The child is two and one half years old. She transitioned to the preschool room in early September. Apparently the child is going through an adjustment period transitioning from the toddler two room where pacifiers are common. Instead of calling this toddler a whiner, perhaps observing the whole picture is warranted. How can one expect a child to transition to such a different environment so quickly? The crying jags are obviously based in the little girl’s fear of the “big girl” demands that are being expected of her.

As children arose at the end of naptime, a teacher actually told the little girl that she kept the other children up with her crying. The little girl was told to stay on her rest mat for five minutes while other children got up. I thought this statement was deplorable. How can one even expect a two year old girl two comprehend the concept of five minutes. In using time frames with small children a visual should be used. I have been known to put five strips of paper up on the wall. Each minute of time would include the removal of one strip of paper. The child would know that the time to get up was coming as less paper strips were visible. My week has been long and tiring. I will end with this entry.

Have a great week:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE

 

Hello – I have been observing opinions of the public at large regarding the state of our educational system. I have decided to express my opinions regarding this topic. Some may like my opinions some may not. That is the perogative of human individuality. One thing I believe we can all universally agree on is that we need to discard our THEM AND US IDEOLOGY  AND CHANGE IT TO A WE. All societies are dependent on one another for successful existence. May we all become a united front and remember our ultimate goal – our childrens future! Merely a thought to Ponder.

Education reform has always been dictated by societal needs. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was born from a need for high tech, academically savvy Americans who can compete in our interglobal society. The next generation of capitalists must be trained. American corporations are interdependent on foreign trade to survive. Foreign countries experience financial growth through interactions with America. Land Rovers and Lexus have Toyota Engine parts. Chevrolet Geo has Suzuki engine parts. Gas hails from Arabian oil wells. Patients from other countries frequent our hospitals for high risk, state of the art surgery. American educators travel the world teaching English to foreigners. American icons such as McDonalds, Pepsi, and Spiked hair cuts are noted in foreign countries. These examples are a miniscule representation of the relations and dependency that countries have on each other. Prosperity is the ulterior motive of these relations.

The ideology of No Child Left Behind is not new. Expectations in education have been cyclical throughout history. The influx of immigrants in Horace Mann’s era necessitated a curriculum that focused on Americanization of immigrant children. The intent of Mann was not altruistic. It was the assimilation of immigrants into American society as positive contributors to our economy. During the cold war era, emphasis was based on academics. A similarity to modern day schools is noted. Gone was the emphasis on the whole child. Education was reformed to produce American engineers, scientists, and mathematicians that could compete with the Russians. We had to build a bigger, better, space craft than our Russian neighbor’s.

In modern day America, as with our predecessors, molding and training students guarantees the survival of our country. In the fifties the economy depended on competing with other countries for prosperity. In modern day America, the goal is to be sought out by other countries. What deleterious effects does America’s preoccupation with growth and prosperity inflict on our society? “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” This phrase speaks a thousand words. The American ideal of survival of the fittest warrants focusing on the strongest members. The weak and assumed useless people are weeded out. Rather than find compensatory strategies that give all kids the same chance to succeed, each child is left to sink or swim. The ones who succeed will be our future leaders. The students who flounder will be left to languish in a hand to mouth existence with no skills. Children have become statistical data on an achievement graph.

Intelligence can’t be measured merely in academic form. A child may be musically inclined, athletically inclined, or artistic. A child’s learning may be impeded by learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, or a dysfunctional household. If compensatory strategies are taught the child will succeed. The standards used to assess a gifted child should differ from those for a learning disabled child. High expectations are non negotiable. However, what those expectations are differ from child to child. Challenges should be safe and individualized for each student. A challenge should create social and academic growth. If the challenge is too high, the child will shirk their academic responsibilities, and suffer irreparable damage to their self esteem.

Accommodations for individual children need to be in place in order for the academically challenged child to score within the median range on assessments. Unfortunately, accommodations cost money. In terms of education the basic mindset is less is best. A society, who will spend $150.00 on a ticket to a Football Game, yet will wage war at the threat of having real estate taxes raised for education. It is much easier to play the blame game. Blame the parents, society, teachers, and administrators. Taking personal responsibility for America’s educational dilemma would mean admitting that we all have a stake in children’s education. Not a comfortable idea for the majority of the population to ponder.

Teachers carry a huge weight upon their shoulders. The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to achieve success. A teacher who has the threat of her job dangled in front of her like a carrot on a stick is not going to feel success. They will experience burn out and become less productive educators. A child who does not pass the M.C.A.S. repeatedly will experience a sense of failure that will haunt them through out life. Watching peers graduate will breed a sense of futility. In the scenarios above, the outcome is predictable. For educators and children alike, frustration leads to apathy, apathy leads to indifference. The end result is that everyone loses.

Intelligence is genetic. However, it is manipulated by the environment. A bright child who receives no stimulation will underachieve. A learning disabled child who is safely challenged will rise beyond expectations. The chance of success can be increased in the right educational setting. Introduce safe challenges that a child is sure to succeed at. A domino effect will occur. Once the taste of success is felt the child will not be adverse to more challenges. Experiencing failure can cause even the brightest child to recoil from academics. Nurture can beat nature. It merely takes the right environment, realistic expectations, and an appreciation of each child’s individuality and learning styles. We all have a function to fill in society as an adult. In our democratic society, the government and stake holders should not decide what that function will be. Accept each child for who they are, and they will be accepting of themselves. No child should be left behind!

This is merely my opinion.

Stay well

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

1) Trapped gas experiment: This experiment provides an elementury and fun way to engage kids in learning about chemical compounds, and the creation of trapped pressure. i.e. What goes in must come out:-0) Provide children with a standard sized water bottle. Have the children drop six tablespoons of baking soda in the bottle. Provide each child with a balloon. Make sure the balloon has a good sized neck as the children will need to spread the neck of the balloon securely over the water bottle to trap the pressure.

I normally allow the children to insert the baking soda into the bottle independently. It gives them a sense of self empowerment and engagement in the experiment. I than encourage the child to hold the balloon in their hand while I insert baking soda into the bottle for them. My rationale is that the chemical reaction occurs rather quickly and if the child already has the balloon in their hand they will be capable of sealing it over the mouth of the water bottle rather quickly. Young kids will most likely lack the dexterity to pour the baking soda and seal the bottle with the balloon quickly enough. Hence, we do it as a team so they still feel independently involved.

Now for the fun part. When the balloon is sealed over the perfectly safe and nontoxic chemical mixture, the pressure will have no where to go but up:-00 Thus, the balloon that is sealed to the water bottle will inflate as if by magic!!!

This activity is an all time favorite learning experience, from the smallest kids to the eldest. The hands on component and seemingly magical quality keeps kids happily engaged in the activity.

2)Magnetism exploration: Have the children create a race track with posterboard and markers.

Tape a paper clip to the bottom of a small toy car. Provide the children with various size magnets and magnetic wands. Wave the magnets over the toy car to move them across the track.

For comparison, remove the paper clips and have the children wave their magnets across the toy car again.

This will create a springboard for a comparison and contrast discussion.i.e. Why did the cars move within the set we taped paper clips underneath of, and vica versa.

3)Weights and measures: Provide the children with objects of varying sizes and weights. Allow them to drop objects into a bucket of water. Ask the children if their object floated or sunk in the water. This is an excellent segway into a conversation and exploration into weights and measures. Perhaps children could weigh their objects before dropping them into the bucket of water to reinforce the idea that heavier items like a spoon will sink in the water, before light objects like a balloon.

4)Smelly Volcanoes: Provide the children with modeling clay after reading a picture book on volcanoes. The book will layer and reinforce concepts the children will apply in this activity. Encourage the children to create a volcanoe out of the modeling clay to provide a container for their eruption.

I am sure we all remember creating a volcanic eruption in a homade volcanoe by mixing baking soda and vinegar together in grade school.

We are going to add a little pizazz to an age old experiment that has been popular throughout time. Have each child add five tablespoons of baking soda to their volcanoe. NOW HERE IS THE FUN PART. Add several spoonfuls of red koolaid to the baking soda, than have the kids pour in the vinegar. The end result is a bubbly eruption that is the color red to simulate a real volcanic eruption. It will have a cherry oder as a result of the Koolaid.

As you can see, I attempt to encourage children to be as independently involved in their project as is possible. We must remember it is their project and learning experience, not ours. Yes, there will be spills and mess. However, that is merely a sighn of a hands on learning environment where children feel safe to explore. And Isn’t exploration the very thing that will shape our future thinkers and leaders of the world?

Have fun

Mar N. M.Ed., CECE

I sit here and ponder a situation that occured two years ago. I believe it would be prudent to share with other individuals as this is a scenerio that all parents and educators have grappled with to some degree. The dilemma of balancing emergencies at home with our professional responsibilities.

Today started off as an uneventful day. The morning program was running extremely smoothly. The children were all compliant. This is a scenario that does not occur too often. As the morning program came to a close I exited towards my car. I retrieved my cell phone. One voice mail was extremely startling. My husband was en route to the hospital. My son had been in a collision and was en route via ambulance. My fight or flight instinct kicked in. I calmly called the hospital and told them I was on the way. The mother I am, conflicted with the educator I function as. I calmly went back into work and told my supervisor my son had been in a car accident.

The supervisor stated that family always comes first. Nevertheless, I informed her that I would try my best to make it back for the afternoon program. My son suffered a mild concussion. My husband was to be home for the afternoon so I knew my son was in good hands. I emailed my supervisor and told her I would be able to resume work in the afternoon. My company was short handed. I knew the only person Site coordinator qualified was my boss. The responsible side echoed in my head. I could not expect my supervisor to cover my position and her own as well. My conscience grappled with my educational responsibility and my personal ones. Although, I opted to shut out my parental guilt, for returning to the classroom it did not mean my son was not in my heart.

Upon returning in the afternoon, my supervisor said “why are you here?” I explained that I felt a personal responsibility to my students and place of employment. My husband would call if the necessitated. As mentioned in class, one must always present a degree of professionalism. The ability of my role as an educator was tested today. My ability to separate personal issues from professional was exemplary. This happened to be a day when the children chose to challenge me. When requested to enter circle time, the children were sitting everywhere but in a circle!!! I calmly joked that perhaps I needed to place tape on the floor like the preschool uses. As school age children, the thought of being equated with a preschooler was a fate worse than death. They quickly formed a perfect circle and circle time was uneventful. Homework support was a challenge.

I managed to assist several children of multiple ages through their homework. My mind secretly wandered to thoughts of my son. I secretly wished for an assistant so I could get homework support done at a quicker pace. I caught my self wandering and refocused on the children time and time again. The jovial demeanor I presented to the children belied my real emotions under the surface. The children were never aware of what I grappled with. I have dealt with the toughest part of being an educator today. This is separating my human side from the educator.

The cohesiveness of my colleagues was also realized. As is probably evident, accepting help from others is not my strong point. I gravitate towards being the helper, not the helped. My supervisor has picked up on this fact. She was helping without being intrusive. She knew I would decline the help. Snack for the children was delivered to my class. I normally pick it up myself. A thank you note for all I do was in my mail box at the end of the day. She organized my class even though that fact was not made public. Having support on the school front makes traumatic times slightly more palatable.My demeanor is calmer. My son is at home. My friends are checking in on him. I know he is safe from mishaps as bed rest has been warranted for a mild concussion.

My program started off with an eventful scenario. A child vomited all over the rug. All first aid was done. Her temperature was taken and I attempted to clean up the room. The child was in tears. I attempted to comfort her with six other children at my ankle. The other children were demanding my attention. Attention that I couldn’t feasibly give at the moment. I attempted to keep judgment out of the scenario. I realized the other children needed guidance as well as the sick child. As much as I wanted to deem them all incorrigible brats, incapable of empathizing for their ill peer, I couldn’t. I stepped back, recalled what it was like to be a child and reminded myself that I responded with the same behavior at their age.

I processed the whole situation while continuing to comfort the little girl. I needed to divert the attention of the other children and keep them occupied. I decided that necessity warrants flexibility. These children were old enough to understand what a special privilege was. They were allowed to play the coveted play station and computer which was generally open for one hour in the afternoon. Children are only given ten minute time slots to play. The children were ecstatic.

Opening their coveted activities in the morning was a novelty. Their focus on the activity was strong. I was now free to give undivided attention to the other child. The child’s mother was called. A voice mail was left as she was not available. Two emergency contacts were working in Boston thus it would present difficulty for them to zoom down and pick up the child. I made a make shift rest area for the child complete with a pillow in a private area of the room. The human side of me was frustrated that the mother had not responded to our phone calls. My mind ran rampant with judgmental thought. As the readings have suggested, educators need to make a conscious effort not to judge a family. The realities of the readings were soon validated.

The girl’s mom responded several hours later. She works at a minimum wage job and did not have the option to check her cell phone messages. The mother rushed in the door and had already called the child’s pediatrician en route to the school. Her face was fraught with concern for her little girl. I silently experienced the feeling of personal embarrassment. I was ashamed for assuming that this woman was being neglectful because she did not immediately respond to my phone call. I broke a cardinal rule of educators. The rule that states we should always look below the surface of a situation. An educator’s role is to assist children towards positive self efficacy. If we let our own bias decide how we handle a situation, it can be deleterious for the child. This child’s mother is attempting to make ends meet for this little girl and her younger sister.

This day played as much of a role in educating me as my course work does. I felt that I was immune to preconceived bias and judgment. Today emphasized the fact that I am as fallible as any of my peers. I have learned to consciously observe situations from the inside out. Not from the outside in. What lies below the surface of any given situation or behavior is more informative to an educator. A well known phrase would be appropriate to emphasize right now. “You can’t tell a book by its cover”.Today my son returned to school driving my truck. I left the house at 5:30 in the morning with a stern warning to him. He was to call me and leave a voice mail on my cell phone stating that he arrived safely. The day was gray and rainy as it was on Monday when the accident occurred.

I kept my wits about me and oversaw a morning arts and crafts session of paintings made from shaving cream, glue, and food coloring. I marveled at the different personalities and how they approached this project with various levels of interest. One child wanted to paint, but does not like to get his hands dirty. He was perfectly content to be involved in the project as long as he could spread the puffy colored shaving cream concoction with his fingers. Another child not only stuck her hands in the contents, but mixed the colors to create other colors.

She not only painted the paper, but proceeded to paint her arms up to her forearm. She than put some of the greenish mixture she developed on her chin and created a beard. I believe children learn through exploration. Every child is an individual who needs to be respected as such. I still make attempts to get children to step out of there box and accept safe challenge. Challenge is a learning experience. If children are not exposed to new experiences their view of the environment remains quite limited. A balance is necessary to assist a child to step out of the box. Too much challenge can reverse the affect of assisting a child in accepting safe risk taking. Too much challenge causes a child to retreat into a shell. I step back and observe. I consciously halt my ability to judge instead of assess. Those are two very different forms of observation.

Assessing can aid in creating a plan that assists a child in positive developmental growth. Judging causes preconceived notions that can breed deleterious surroundings were personalities that retreat verse accepting risk are more common than not. My first inclination would be to assess the child who doesn’t want to get dirty as living in a family of obsessive compulsive siblings and parents. I am truly drawn to the child who spreads greenish shaving cream concoctions gleefully over her arms. As a good educator, I remind myself that the apprehensive little boy is merely shy and cautious. I developed a strategy to help him try new things. He is allowed to spread shaving cream paint with a plastic spoon. I than deposited a small dab of shaving cream on his finger.

I allay some fears by explaining that the dye will not permanently stain his hands. He is than guided towards the bathroom to wash it off with soap and water. The little boy realizes that the color is not permanent. I have gained his trust. The boy actually allows me to make a handprint painting of his hand with the concoction. I am feeling pretty good about my success with the little boy. I have been in a professional world where I shut off my personal life. As I step out the door at work it is like traveling through a time portal. I enter another dimension.

This dimension is called the real world. I flick off my professional persona like a light switch. I now resume my life as a parent. I run to my car and check my phone. No voice mail from my son. I spend the next couple of hours feeling numb. He finally arrives home. I was informed that my son forgot to call me. Words passed between us about consideration. I than realized, my college age son is not much different than the children in the program. He is still learning from experience as the children do. Only at a more advanced level. The children need experiences to grow and develop. Young adults can’t comprehend the fear of a parent who fears for their son when they do not call. Young adults have not yet had the experience to empathize with a scared parent. Without experience we do not learn or understand. I find it funny how educators’ jobs become intermingled with our personal lives. In a standard professional job an office door can be shut and one can forget about the world. When working with children, we are constantly surrounded by questions, demands, and no personal space. When going home to our family, we are surrounded with questions, demands, and no personal space as well. It is quite a parallel existence. An educator’s life never ends.

Mar N. M.Ed., CECE

1)  Ballon Bounce:  Have two children stand at the starting line. Provide one balloon. The goal of this game is to get to the end point without dropping the balloon. If the balloon lands on the ground, the kids must go to the starting line and try again. I attempt to avoid telling children they are “out” for dropping the baloon if I am working with an inclusive group. By letting children go back to the starting line and repeatedly try the activity again, self esteem is boosted. Children who struggle with competitive sports due to emotional, social, young age, or neurodevelopmental issues are given a chance to hone their skills through a safe challenge. Use your judgment. If your group is capable of handling a competitive edge this game can be adapted according to the childrens skill and capability level.

This game appears easy – appearences can be deceiving. :-0) The balloon is extremely light, thus difficult to keep airborne. This game provides honing team work skills through working together to keep the balloon moving. It provides eye hand coordination development through watching a teammates movements in order to swat the balloon back to them. Last but not least, it provides some good old fashioned excercise with classmates or friends.

2) Starburst race: Position children in two lines with a bowl of starburst candy beside each line.Place two buckets at the other end of the room or playground. Provide eac child in both starting lines with a glove. The child wears the glove, grabs a starburst candy and runs to the finish line, standing by the empty bucket. The goal is to unwrap their starburst candy with the gloves on. Upon succeeding, drop the unwrapped candy in the team bucket, run back to the starting line and give gloves to the next participant. The goal is to unwrap as many pieces of candy per team as possible.

This game provides excercise, teamwork, and a good activity for honing fine motor skills

This game can be adapted for younger children, or children with motor skill challenges by having the child walk to the finish line carrying a marshmallow on a spoon without dropping it and leaving out the competitive factor.

3) Wipe that smile off your face: This is a great rainy day activity. Encourage children to sit in a circle. Choose one child to sit in the middle. The child in the middle can walk up to chosen children and make funny faces at them. The other children attempt to maintain a poker face. The goal is for the chosen child to make other children laugh with their silly faces.Upon doing so, the chosen child will WIPE THAT SMILE OFF THEIR FACE :-0) and hand it to the next child who will take their place in the center of the circle and continue the game.This game inevitably ends with children doubled over in contageous laughter.

4) Music and movement: Children can make musical maracas by placing rice in two disposable cups and securely taping them together with duct tape. Have children personalize their maracas with markers and scraps. Guitars can be created by placing rubber bands over empty tissue boxes. Next, pump up the music and here comes the band!!!!!!!

Perhaps children who do not wish to play instruments could accompany the little musicians in a silly dance contest. The sillier the dance moves, the better:-0)

5) Elephant feet: Provide children with brown paper bags. The children can color elephant toes on the bags, wear them, play music, and stomp till they drop:-0) I did this activity after a field trip to the zoo, as the children had just seen elephants. Hence, they could equate the animal to the activity.

6) Feed the zoo animals: Children can toss roll wads of  food (PAPER) into a pail. Adjust throwing distance according to the child’s capabilities. This game can be played with no scorkeeping. If children are capable of handling the competitive edge, you may attempt to score the most wins.

Always remember – what sems like a simple activity can assist children in honing many skills. A book does not always look like the cover.

Have a great day

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE