Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Spreading LOVE

 "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only LOVE can do that." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Valentine's Day is always an exciting time in the preschool classroom. Giving students the opportunity to express their emotions and feelings towards one another in tangible ways can be a very gratifying experience for them. This young generation continues to develop and grow in a time of uncertainty and unrest, a time in which we as adults find ourselves grasping for moments of positivity. In spite of all this, we see the abundance of love and kindness in each little heart here at SVK. Every "you can play with us too" and "I made this picture for you", every "you look sad today, can I help?" and "I'm so glad you're here!", every single hug and kind word is an expression of love. These children are unapologetically overflowing with love for those around them each and every day. What a beautiful reminder that we can all do a little more to spread love into this world. 

Valentine's Day Invitations in the Orchid Room:

Valentine's Day Explorations in the Daffodil Room:

Friday, January 22, 2021

An Attitude of Grattitude!

The year 2020 has definitely been one for the books. It seemed as though each new month brought it's own unique set of challenges and obstacles for us to navigate, igniting nearly every possible human emotion within us. But the beauty in these moments is that each one offers an opportunity for us to reflect on and analyze aspects of our everyday lives, an opportunity to adjust the lens through which we view the world, an opportunity to grow. Every struggle we go through encourages us to be stronger, more resilient, to work beyond the confines of what is comfortable to us.  These "uncertain times" (I know we are all so tired of this phrase) have had a significant impact on each of us, a permanent impact that will continue to alter the way in which we live our lives for years to come. 

And through it all there is one overwhelming feeling that takes precedence over all the rest. Gratitude. In all of this turmoil we have re-trained our brains to be more grateful, to appreciate every single moment that we have and pledging to never take them for granted. When SVK re-opened it's doors this past August and our students were able to return, each and every one of their little hearts were exploding with gratitude. Just to be in a familiar space again, to see and hug and laugh with friends again was the greatest joy. This feeling, this "attitude of gratitude" continued to guide learning in our classrooms. It was evident in a hundred small ways, even down to students leaving kindness notes for friends in their cubbies or singing songs to comfort them in times of sadness. From decorating our classroom with Grateful Trees and Gratitude Chains, to taking mindful moments in yoga to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, we have continued exploring this feeling with a sheer determination to never let it pass. 

And so, we challenge you all to follow the example set by our littlest humans and do the same. Whether it means taking a special family moment to share what you are thankful for each day, or finding an intentional time to sit in nature and appreciate this amazing world around us, whatever gratitude looks like to you, embrace it each and every day with a full and open heart. 💚

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Walls Tell A Story: Classroom Documentation

 Documentation is a critical element in the Reggio Emilia approach to learning. The valuable information collected through intentional documentation drives our child led, emergent curriculum model. Without it our learning would lack authenticity, intention, and direction. 

If someone were to ask me what documentation is and what it looks like in my classroom, the answer is both simple and complex. Simply put, I work to collect information on the interests, thoughts, and ideas of the children in my classroom. The complexity comes in determining and implementing effective documentation methods. The challenge becomes how can we document countless conversations, artistic expressions, ideas, and questions each day? This process can look completely different depending on the specific teacher and their own learning style, because the truth is that we as educators are also students who are learning each day from our students. We are learning where to focus our inquiries. We are learning the physical, emotional, and cognitive needs of each child. We are learning what sparks joy, curiosity, and thoughtfulness in our group. We are learning how to be the best teacher, advocate, friend, and co-learner possible. 

In my classroom, many methods of documentation co-exist including both video and audio recordings, multiple notebooks filled with hand written notes, samples of student art, the backs covered in Post-Its noting conversations that transpired throughout the artistic process, and a seemingly endless camera roll of photographs. These methods blend together into a single voice that sings the harmonies of our discoveries and adventures. At SVK, the walls tell a story. Not only are we able to display our students' artwork (which in and of itself boosts self esteem, confidence, and pride in our efforts), but there is also a significant emphasis on offering a record of the process in it's entirety. Our learning is made visible through photographs, direct quotes, and imagery that symbolizes the children's thoughts and ideas at the time the learning took place. These displays serve as a learning tool for children, a visual memory of ideas and concepts explored. By making our thinking visible in the classroom, we can achieve higher levels of discussion and deeper understanding of topics. 

In the words of Carla Rinaldi, "documentation is not about what we do, but what we are searching for". Each piece of documentation offers a snapshot of this magical journey. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Building New Relationships

 "It is through others that we develop into ourselves." - Lev Vygotsky

Children are innately drawn to engage in social interactions with peers. 

And while the beginning of a new school year is always an exciting time of meeting new friends and building relationships, this year seems quite different. After a time of quarantine and social distancing from the novel Covid-19,  each conversation, each touch, and every interaction in our classroom seems so much more significant. 

Our indoor and outdoor classroom environments at SVK provide diverse opportunities to develop and cultivate important relationships among friends. 

The process of navigating peer interactions such as conversations, negotiating materials, and problem solving can all strengthen children’s relationships with one another. These relationships can help facilitate personal growth by helping the children better understand themselves as individuals in a peer setting while also learning to work together to achieve common goals. 

It has been so beautiful to watch these little friends create and cultivate these new relationships in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Preschool Graduates

Our school year is ending and another group of incredible learners will move on to their next chapter, kindergarten.  It's so hard to know how to feel when everything just makes you feel so much. I am so proud of this special group of children. I am honored to have observed and been a part of the journey with them this past year. I am grateful for our time together. I have seen so much growth, so much courage, so much incredible strength from such small humans who I still have to kneel down to hug.  It never ceases to amaze me just how much our children are capable of.

Yet in the midst of all this joy and love, I feel so deeply saddened by the circumstances that ended our time together. I feel as if my students have been robbed of the final months of preschool magic that they so deserve. No last hugs or high fives. No cupcakes and homemade graduation caps. No building full of family and friends bursting with pride, unable to hold back those tears. At the end of each school year when I take all of the beautiful art down and tuck it away in folders to go home we participate in a meaningful reflection.

"Ms. Renee, you member when I painted you that?"
"That project was my favorite!"
"That picture is from the woods when we played together!"

When I emptied my classroom walls of our creations this year, all alone in a classroom still littered with half finished projects, I cried.  I wasn't even fully aware of the power of this moment with my students until it was taken away from me.

It feels selfish to mourn the loss of my time with them. I know they will all go on to do beautiful things, I know that they are well prepared, extremely capable, and supported by some of the most amazing families and human beings I have ever known. I know all of these things, but that doesn't make it any easier to let go.

As I prepare for our Zoom meeting graduation, I must acknowledge and accept that this will be the very last time I see some of these children. And while I can't hug them tight and tell them how proud I am of all they have accomplished, this will have to do.  I will soak up this moment and add it to my ongoing list of all that I am grateful for including another year spent learning and growing alongside my students.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A Day in the Life

The other day a colleague of mine asked me how my day had been.  One of those generic greetings that require a generic response.  "It was fine, how was yours?" Now we can carry on with the real purpose of the conversation.

Later on I found myself thinking about that conversation again.  When I thought about how my day had been, I immediately began to recall all of the tasks that made up my day at work.   But was that really a reflection of how my day had been?  I began wondering, how many times did I smile today?  How many emotions can I remember feeling?  What did I learn today?  What challenged me to think differently?

This thought process inevitably led me to wonder how a young child would interpret this question. When we come to school there is a routine.  There are things that happen consistently every single day.  They offer a security that children can depend on.  We have meals, we take naps, we play.  And while there is comfort in this structure, our day is so much more than that.  Each day is comprised of countless little moments and in the early years of development, each one of those moments has the power to make a lasting impact.  A shared laugh with a peer can be the beginning of a relationship that sparks incredible social/emotional development.  The sun casting shadows across the playground can inspire a lifelong love of science and the natural world.   A picture in a book that brings joy to a child can encourage him to open another book, then another.  Our days are full of growth and learning in a million tiny extraordinary ways.  These photographs, while only capturing a fraction of these moments, offer beautiful insight into our day.

Every single moment of the day is meaningful, because after all it is always the little things that make the big things happen.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

New Beginnings

The effortless brush strokes filling the skies at sunrise.  The comforting sensation of the first sip of coffee as it travels the well worn path across your taste buds. The rush of air filling your lungs as you breath in a new experience.  The flutter within your chest as you enter an unfamiliar place filled with unfamiliar faces, or maybe that's just the coffee.  The melting pot of emotions flooding your body as you take on a new challenge: excitement, fear, joy, anticipation, more excitement.  

These are all things that can be associated with new beginnings, something we experience on a daily basis in a thousand different ways.  As we wrap up the first few weeks of the school year, I am compelled to reflect on this concept as an educator, a parent, and from the perspective of a small child.  

As an early childhood educator the first day of school is a new beginning.  A newly redesigned space to share with our little friends.  New materials to present to open minds.  New relationships to forge with children, parents, grandparents.  New hands to hold as they familiarize themselves with our space.  New tears to wipe and new arms to hug.  New shoes to put on and help tie (and yes I noticed that those new sparkle ones do, in fact, make you run faster).

As a parent the first day of school is a new chapter in life.  A reminder that our little ones will not always be so little.  A heart breaking realization that time can never stand still.  We are beyond thrilled to see our babies thrive as young toddlers and preschoolers.  We are saddened to accept that someone else will be comforting them when they are sad, cleaning boo boos, tucking them in with their lovey at nap time. For parents, this new chapter gives us the opportunity to see the beautiful journey our children begin apart from us.  The journey that will eventually lead them into adulthood.

Above all of these different perspectives is that of the small child.  The courage, resiliency, and adaptability of young children never ceases to amaze me.  The first day of school is an incredible sensory experience for our little ones.  The sounds, smells, and textures of a seemingly endless amount of new materials, people, spaces to interact with.  The bustle of a classroom full of peers who are all sharing your journey in the same but very different way.  In the mind of a child the first day of school isn't one new beginning, it is a hundred different new beginnings all day long with each transition throughout the day.  A new place to sit for meal times, a new nap routine that cannot compare to the comforts of home, a new place to go potty, the realization that Mommy and Daddy have to leave and it takes so long for them to come back.  

The children I have the pleasure to work with each year are beyond amazing.  They are strong and brave and patient and kind.  They are absorbing new experiences and learning from every exchange.  They are open and honest and curious about all of these new things.  New beginnings offer incredible opportunities.  And through the eyes of a child they are breathtakingly beautiful.