About Me

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Certified PreK-6. Masters in Child Development. Advocate for play, teacher & children choice, & the family's voice. Believe in volunteering as social justice.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Change: #Kinderchat Blog Challenge Three

I've got to hand it to my friend Amy (@happycampergirl); who knew that one word prompts could elicit such a high level of reflection?  I know that each of the prompts has elicited strong emotions in myself and I get the sense that it has in other's as well based on the content in their posts.  This week's #kinderchat blog challenge centers on the idea of change and stirs up those same strong reactions.  (Which may be why it took all week to actually write it!)

I really lucked out with this shot at the beach. It's kind of breathtaking. 
Once I got Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" out of my head (drat, there it is again), I began to think about the changes in my life lately.  And there certainly have been enough of them in the past year.  Changes beyond the big ones (which I've also had too many off!) such as moving in with a roommate for the first time in years to save money and graduating grad school and saying goodbye to the people who most support me as they move across the country in search of jobs and adventure.  But also changes that were more subtle.  Changes like becoming the type of professional I want to be, learning to advocate for myself, taking chances and pushing myself to try new things in the field.  

And of course, there are still many changes still in progress.  Obviously there are the big changes still ahead (starting a new job, somewhere, sometime and starting a new decade of life), but there are also the small changes, those habits of mind, that need to be cultivated before the large changes can happen.  Specifically, I am trying to be more open minded and forgiving...of myself.  

I am constantly giving others another chance, another opportunity to grow and change, another stab at friendship when I've been let down, but I don't give myself those same passes.  When I don't interact in the manner I would like with a family at the museum, when I have an awkward interaction with a colleague, when I disappoint a supervisor; I dwell on these moments.  I agonize over these moments.  I do not let them go; I do not forgive myself.  And this is something that needs to stop.  Both for my own peace of mind, but also for my professional life.  How can I give the best of me to children and families if I don't give the best of me to me?

I am also trying to be more open minded, flexible may be a better word, in terms of my future.  At graduation, I had a strong opinion of what it is I would be doing in the next stage of my professional life.  I had come to this decision after a year of internship and fellowship and reflection.  I had a plan, darn it, and being a high achieving brat, those plans were going to happen.  Because I said so! Well, we all now what they say about man making plans.  I've spent the summer frustrated and sad and completely unsure of my future.  And then a classmate called me and told me of a job opportunity she wanted me to consider applying for.  She told me to just listen (she had been in seminar with me for a year, so she's quite familiar with my plans) because she really thinks this is a good opportunity for me to explore.  So I listened.  And I reflected.  And I decided to be more flexible in my plans and to apply for the job and see where it takes me.  Is it what I want? Not exactly, but it's also not what I don't want.  And maybe that's okay; I know my non-negotiables, those things that I definitely don't want, and this job has none of them.  In fact, parts of it are very appealing. Maybe the fact that I don't not want it is a good start to being flexible.  I have an interview Monday and as part of changing these habits of mind, I am being flexible with my thoughts going into it.  

Because, it may end up being something I do want and I can't let the fact that it doesn't fall into the plans I had in May detour me.

So, thanks for hanging in there for this rambling post on change.  But seriously, those habits of mind, I think they are the hardest things to change, but the most important.  And the same can be said for our students and colleagues.  No real change can happen until with shift our mindsets.

He had no idea that I took this photo. It's so optimistic; thought it was fitting.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Brag: #Kinderblog13 Challenge Two

This week's #Kinderchat blog challenge asks us to do a little bragging.  For many reasons, this is a difficult thing for me to do.  It's part personality and part not feeling as though I have anything to brag about.  This has become a problem, however, in my search for a job.  The very essence of finding a job requires bragging.  In order to get interviews I know I must write a cover letter detailing why I would be awesome for the positions.  And then I must tell potential employers that I am awesome at interviews.

And I am stuck.  Stuck at the cover letter writing stage (well, and seeing job postings for jobs I want, but that's a whole 'nother dilemma) because I feel so very very weird about bragging on my skills and experiences and trying to convince people to give me a chance.  And it's that chance I need, because I have a feeling I could do something meaningful if only I could get a job.

As I began to reflect on this week's challenge and my own weariness with "tooting my own horn", I also began to reflect on this unease as a whole within the early childhood field.  It's not news that early childhood professionals are not the best at bragging.  I know that a lot of people have a lot of different reasons for why this may be from gender to personality to the very virtues of the jobs themselves.  To be honest, I don't know why this tends to be the case, nor do I really care.  What matters to me is that we reverse this trend.  Right now.

It's an uneasy time in the world of education.  Between "reform" efforts and corporate interests in education and standardized tests and teacher bashing and the increased attention on early childhood education, people are paying attention to our field in ways that they never have before.  And we need to have a say in what people are paying attention to.  As the teachers and administrators and parents and social workers and consultants and faculty members and playmakers and everyone else out practicing and making things happen in early childhood education, we need to brag.

We need to brag about the importance of play and what that looks like in our programs.  We need to brag about the successes.  We need to brag about the little things we do that are making a difference.  We need to brag about our innovations and show that what we are doing is in the very best interest of children's development and learning.  We need to brag about the advocacy we do for children and families.  We need to brag because we need to set the tone of the conversations that everyone is paying attention to.  If we don't brag frequently and effectively, then those who are louder will overshadow us and we can't let the naysayers set the tone.  We are the professionals in the field, we are the ones who need to set the tone for children and families.

And this includes me.  If I want to do the things I say I want to do for children and families, then I need to brag too.  No matter how much I loathe it, I need to brag and get those cover letters out there.  And then I need to brag some more on behalf of the children and families and early childhood professionals so that I can help set the tone.

So here I go.  I am a reflective and thoughtful practitioner; I know that there is rarely a black or white situation and that I have to dig in the grey area to find understanding and a course of direction for the next best steps.  I believe in the importance of relationships in learning and have become skilled at making connections and looking at the larger context when working with children and families and other professionals.  I am organized; after three years of juggling graduate classes and 4 or 5 jobs at a time and an internship and volunteering I have become adapt at multitasking while still focusing on each individual task.  I can write.  I have a deep understanding of child development and have learned how to share this knowledge in ways that families and those not in the field can understand.  While juggling multiple jobs and internships I have gained an interesting intersection of experience in the policy world, the education world, and the social justice world that will be a powerful combination in my work.

Okay, that's as much bragging as I can do.  But it's a start.  Now it's your turn.  Brag.  Brag on yourselves and brag on our practice.  The conversational arc depends on it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Confessions: #Kinderblog13 Challenge One

Nothing brings me more calm that my beautiful Lake Michigan; here's hoping it brings calm to this confession!

I have to admit that I had a crazy hard time sitting down to write this first post for the #kinderchat summer blog challenge.  I could tell you a variety of mundane confessions like I'm slightly terrified to turn 30 next month or that I cannot fall asleep without the t.v. on or how my favorite snack is still a bag of dry cheerios (toddler style).  But I am going to be brave and confess something that I've been reflecting on since the start of grad school and am still trying to find peace with.  Ready?  Please don't kick me out of our lovely little community...

I don't want to be a classroom teacher, to have my own classroom within a school or a center again.  For a girl who thought of nothing more than being a classroom teacher all through undergrad and who got a masters in child development, this is a difficult thing to admit.  For many reasons.  Because it was always the plan to be a classroom teacher, I still feel as though I am letting a lot of people down.  And obviously, I love and adore and deeply respect teachers.

The thing is, teaching in the traditional sense just isn't the direction in early childhood I want to focus.  And, of course, I want to work in the early childhood field; how could I attend the graduate program I did and not want to stay in the field.  I have a strong passion for play and learning and social justice.  This I know.  But I also know that the field of early childhood is a wide field and allows for a huge range of opportunities that are not all as classroom teachers.

I want to continue to advocate for children and families and play and learning and teachers and communities.  I want to be a source of support for those professionals who care for our littlest learners, but still need someone to coach them and guide them and advocate for them (trust me, it's quite difficult to be an infant or toddler or 3's teacher with little training or support).  I want to keep facilitating play and conversation among children and families in nontraditional settings (seriously, my job at the children's museum is still my favorite).  I want to help build bridges between home care centers and preschool centers and primary schools.  I want to use the child development knowledge crammed in my head combined with my classroom teaching experience and passions to do my part for the early childhood field.

So, no, I don't want to be a classroom teacher.  But I do want to teach.  It's just a broader definition of the word "teacher".

And while I still worry that I won't have a place to fit in or that I'll be rejected by the very same teachers I love and respect or that I'll always be working 5 part time jobs, I think I need to come to peace with my confession.

So there it is, my big early childhood confession.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Finding Me

It's that time of year again, the #Kinderchat Summer Blog Challenge.  Just when I begin to think my blog is stagnating due to inactivity, along comes the challenge.  To learn more, you can visit the information page here.

The first challenge was a warm up. The intent, I think, was to give us a quick way to introduce ourselves. We were asked to tell the what and why and where behind what we do in 250 words or less.

Easy, right? No. The state of transition I'm in meant that this caused me much angst, tears, and moments of being shouty. Once I pulled it together and found solace in my journal materials, I discovered that I can answer these questions. Even as I sit here newly graduated from grad school and without any hint of a full time job.

And as for why I do what I do and where I do it? I believe that social justice is not a choice and that it's not passive; that it's the active responsibility of us all. And I believe that authentic teaching and learning are some of the best examples of social justice.  

And so I do what I do.