Tag Archives: early education

Empathy and How to Cultivate It: My notes from listening to Michele Borba

Michele Borba was one of the keynote speakers at a conference I attended this week. She is passionate, dynamic, and empowering. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, do it!

Anyway, so much info so I’m just going to make a list of highlights that I wrote down, and hopefully you are able to glean some key information from it. Any statistics or definitions came from her presentation and can be found in her book or on her website. She talked so fast, it was tough to note sources. My thoughts will be added in italics.

  • 1 in 5 teens will have a mental health disorder wow!
  • “Unless parents realize it (empathy) can be cultivated, it will become dormant” parents, guardians, caregivers…and it can be cultivated at ANY age
  • Around the year 2000, empathy decreased 40%. Lack of empathy creates exclusion and polarization which is what we are already seeing in society, and if you think it’s no coincidence that this coincided with the smart phone and screens everywhere, you’re not alone
  • The average middle school kid is more comfortable texting than talking to another person
  • Some easy and specific suggestions and her list of habits to use: face to face contact, read picture books to your kids that have a moral dilemma, weave in the 9 essential empathy habits listed here:for more detailed information, I encourage you to buy her book Unselfie
  • “Empathy is transformational. Empathy is a teaching tool” it doesn’t cost a dime and can change the culture of the classroom
  • 66% of kids say we (adults) are too plugged in.
  • A person learns new skills best by doing it, seeing it modeled, not by telling it.
  • “You change the culture with the trickle down effect” she told a powerful story about a teen who changed the culture at his school just by holding the door open in the morning and greeting everyone
  • “Look for the Helpers” Fred Rogers. She says a statement like this, “Galvanizes the good. Share the good with kids everyday.”
  • “What would’ve made the difference?” She responds by sharing lyrics to the Cheers tv show theme song and what happened next was moving beyond words

In closing, you can make a difference.

More to come from the workshop she did following this presentation!

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Kids and their Questions!


So I’m attending the VAEYC conference once again, and our keynote was about the power of questions.  Dr. Lindsey Godwin from the Appreciative Inquiry Center, an internationally renowned speaker and author, shared her work and perspective on questions.

Did you ever notice that we, as adults, often get annoyed by kids asking us questions?  We are busy, and it takes time and energy to stop and explain things, and quite honestly, why is it important to answer a “silly” question that isn’t important to us?  

Well, it’s valuable to respond so to encourage more questions.  Why on earth would we want to do that?  To cultivate creative thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, and open minds!  Dr. Godwin states, “As children, we get messages from adults that they want answers, not questions.”  And she’s right, we are always asking kids to tell us things, when we should really invite them to find their own answers by asking more questions.  

Dr. Godwin has two lessons for us to take back to our classrooms:

1. Inquiry is intervention. Inquiry leads to change.  Our questions set the stage for what we find, they determine what we pay attention to, and ultimately the direction of what comes next, whether it is curriculum plans and activities, or your next fundraiser or parent meeting.  Inquiry has the power to inform and shape opportunities for all of us.


2. What we ask about “grows”.  If you ask a question based on a deficit, that will be the focus.  Instead, shift focus from your biggest challenge to your most unique assets to  “magnify and learn from moments of highest engagement and enthusiasm.”  

This is how we accelerate the positive changes that we need to grow and learn, and ultimately how we grow the curious minds of the youngest members of our communities.  

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Messy Play: not just for fun!

  
I used to detest messes…still do in my mommy brain.  My teacher brain loves it though!  The value in it is limitless and cannot be missed. Clothes and hands can be washed.  The house will get messy too, but with a little planning, you can minimize any lasting effects.

Fun is always important, after all, it makes learning meaningful to children and facilitates deeper connections.  But why is messy play so important?  It is essential to brain development! Every time a child touches wet paint or squishy goo, new connections are forming in the brain.  The stimulation provided by a mud pie or runny oobleck can’t be replicated by a computer game, flash cards, or stories.  The act of skin coming in contact with tactile discovery stimulates new connections and learning.

Children learn through their senses, and all areas of learning are impacted.  In my experience, the more messy play children get to do, the more relaxed they are.  They are also more flexible in routines and quite creative in their thinking. 

Here are some tips that may help you in your messy play adventures:

  • Take it outdoors
  • Get a vinyl tablecloth and tape it to the floor to contain the mess
  • Provide clear expectations for the children’s messy play
  • Use simple materials like snow, water, ice
  • Plan ahead to make sure you have enough materials for the number of children you have
  • Get in there and get messy! It’s more fun than trying to stay tidy and clean

  
Try this Simple Slime Recipe for lots of fun that’s edible and not sticky!

Enjoy!

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Coloring Pages…Helpful or Hurtful?

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Some childcare providers provide coloring pages to the children, and it’s quite a debate among caregivers. Personally, I’m against them. Professionally, I’m against them. Let me tell you why.

-no imagination required. How sad… Creative expression is a stress reliever for children, as well as a coping strategy for children processing a life transition. It also helps build young amazing minds that can solve problems and think outside the box.

-coloring in the lines is hard for many children and leads to frustration. Skills develop in time, and children can feel pressure to have a “better” picture than they are capable of producing.

-they require very little collaboration between peers. Working together to create a beautiful work of art can be very rewarding.

-they aren’t open-ended, meaning the activity of coloring is the only choice. When you have blank paper, you can create anything, and use anything.

My experience has shown some benefits for some children on occasion. When you’re at a restaurant with three young children waiting for food, the coloring pages keep the kids occupied. But as early educators, our job is to keep the children engaged as opposed to busy. There’s a big difference.

Occasionally, children who are difficult to reach will migrate to coloring pages as a task. The structure and predictability of having all those lines can offer a sense of security. But of course, so can the presence of a caring educator.

This is not meant as a judgement, just advice. Please consider the intended use of coloring pages before you offer them, especially all of you early educators out there.

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