Archive for September, 2010

This I Believe

Traditionally, we assign students to write a Philosophy of Early Childhood Education paper in the Introduction to ECE course and then again in the course I am currently teaching which most students take directly before they take the Practicum. In my course, the students are asked to revise their Philosophy papers based on the professional and academic experiences they have had since the first writing. Our goal is to support the process of ongoing reflection and lifelong learning. As students  revisit something they created in the past, we hope this gives them the experience of creating and maintaining a living document.

This semester, I am trying something new. Well, actually the assignment is the same, but the method of writing it is different. I have always been fascinated by the occasional “This I Believe” essay that I would hear on NPR. I find it interesting to listen to various pieces that obviously have a specific format and yet each essay is so individual and thought-provoking.  Check it out. Listen to a few essays and you will see what I mean. Each person has his or her own story. Because it is a short essay, each belief is boiled down to its essence and I think that is where the power of it comes in.

I’ve never been fully satisfied with the way I’ve taught the Philosophy paper to my students. I think the word philosophy can be intimidating to students and maybe it has been intimidating to me too. How does one develop one’s own philosophy? Where do we start? What do we draw from? Students typically regurgitate a few key phrases about being developmentally appropriate and loving children…that kind of thing, but generally the papers seemed to lack passion or personality. It occurred to me last semester when I was teaching the Practicum that students have been so drilled to never, ever under any circumstances use the word “I” in their writing that they really felt uncomfortable writing this type of piece in the first person narrative.

I also realize that I made the classic mistake of not giving them nearly enough examples of what I was looking for. I just didn’t have the repertoire of good papers to draw from.

This summer I must have listened to a lot of NPR because I kept hearing these essays and thinking about how I could make use of them for my classes. I thought they would be good listening exercises. I hadn’t really thought of assigning an essay like this in any of my classes, but when I explored the website I found that there are lesson plans and other guidelines for writing a This I Believe essay. With that support, I decided to go for it and assign it to my students. I hope to do audio recordings of their essays as a final stage. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this assignment. It really is out of my comfort zone a little bit but I’m excited to try it and to see what the students do with the opportunity.

Some of my favorite essays:

Temple Grandon, “Seeing in Beautiful Pictures”

Eboo Patel, “We are Each Other’s Business”

Jackie Lantry, “The Power of Love to Transform and to Heal”

Stephanie Disney, “Seeing with the Heart”

Seven-year-old: Tarak McLain, “Thirty Things I Believe”.


Brain Rules

Last week, there was a bit of excitement generated on the ACCESS listserv about a new book on the brain. ACCESS member and former SKiP Committee Chair, Sandra Hackley, sent out the following information to her ACCESS colleagues and called it a must-read:

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, & School” by John Medina, Pear Press: 2008.

You can find some fun resources related to the book here. I especially enjoyed the video message from the author explaining how he structured the book. Funny guy; maybe a little goofy, but I appreciated that his rules are based on what is known about the brain through peer-reviewed research. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and, based on the Amazon reviews, it is a highly accessible book based on up-to-date research. If you have read it, send in a review to share!

I love reading about the brain! I haven’t read Brain Rules yet, but I did have the pleasure this summer of reading “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey, Little, Brown and Company: 2008. You can listen to a cool podcast about it here or take a look at the author’s website here.This book really inspired me. I’ve been thinking about how crazy it is that teachers sometimes punish children by depriving them of outside play or sports (this seems to happen in elementary school more often than early childhood, I would think).  In some of the programs Ratey has worked with, the teachers give the kids a “time-in” rather than a “time out” and send kids to do a stationary bike or Dance, Dance Revolution for several minutes and after that, the kids are more able to attend to the classroom task at hand. The research he talks about in the book is really interesting particularly the relationship of exercise to ADHD, cognitive functioning, improved learning, and Altzeimer’s. The big idea is that exercise relates to increased brain plasticity – the brain’s ability to make connections so messages can be sent with efficiency. I have to say, the book really inspired me. I’ve even started running…those of you who know me, know that this is a big deal! I have never been a fitness freak or athletic in anyway, but somehow linking exercise to better brain power, so to speak, finally got me on board the exercise train. Check it out if you get a chance and let me know what you think.

Brain Conferences: Check out the Learning & Brain Society which hosts several conferences a year.

Waiting for Superman

This morning while browsing the New York Times online, I stumbled upon a trailer for a new documentary called, “Waiting for Superman” by Davis Guggenheim director of  “An Inconvenient Truth“.

The new film follows 5 families who live in cities as they “seek alternatives to abysmal local schools” .

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the film yet; just watched the trailer this morning. And, of course, the film is not about Early Childhood Education. However, I wanted to share this with you because I have been thinking a lot lately about where children go after preschool. We have so many challenges in Early Childhood, but it doesn’t seem to compare to the challenges faced in the world of K-12.I guess, in many ways, I have isolated myself from that world as there is so much to learn about my own field! However, for the past year or so, I’ve been reading more about Education from a kind of lifespan perspective; preK through higher ed. My thinking and reading culminated in August of this year when I attended one of those game-changing conferences: The Future of Learning Institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

This was a professional development opportunity for me and I jumped at the chance to go to Harvard and check it out. I was fortunate to learn from some of the greats such Howard Gardner and David Perkins. I also had the chance to learn from someone new to me, Ron Richhart from Project Zero. I will talk more about this conference in coming weeks. There is so much to consider and I’d like to spend some time reflecting on that with you. A big message from the conference was that education across the board needs to change – nothing new there. However, I did find their organizing themes to be helpful. The lenses through which we need to view education are 1) globalization, 2) the digital revolution, and 3) mind, brain. More to come about these themes and what I learned at the conference so, stay tuned!

I tend to ruminate, it’s my way. I think about things. They rattle around for awhile. I test things out, experiment, and then ruminate some more. Watching the trailer this morning for “Waiting for Superman” hit me on a gut level. I feel more compelled to dive into the fray and begin a stronger life of advocacy for children – all children, not just those from birth to age 8! We can’t really wait for Superman, can we?

Let me know what you think of the trailer and once folks have seen the movie, perhaps we can review it together and consider how the world of k-12 influences our thinking about early childhood.

ECADA Accreditation – share

Hi All,

I noticed we have some conversations about NAEYC Associate Degree Accreditation started on the ACCESS listserv. This is a terrific way to use the resource of our collective wisdom in the ACCESS community! I think it would be helpful if folks carry on the conversation here, on the blog. It will be easier to keep track of what people share.

NOTE: This blog post is not an official place to get information about how to get accredited! However, this can be a place for ACCESS members to share their stories.

For official information, please go to the NAEYC website – Early Childhood Associate Degree Accreditation ECADA.

Click “Contact us” for more information or call  1-800-424-2460 ext. 8007.

The best way to stay informed about the most up-to-date information, is to apply for accreditation. Once you have applied, you will have access to the online community where you can find the most up-to-date resources about the process and ask questions about your own situation.

To share your story, please add a reply to this post. If you want to follow this conversation, click the e-mail subscription button and subscribe to this blog. You can also subscribe to this one post with all additional responses.

Happy Sharing!

Carrie’s blog

Yes, I am now writing two blogs!

The ACCESS blog is specific to activities and resources that we think would be of interest to the ACCESS membership.

Carrie’s Blog includes personal reflections about my own work. I share it with faculty, lab center directors and teachers, as well as cooperating programs in the community, alumni, and current Practicum students. Today, I wrote something on Carrie’s Blog that I thought might be interesting to the ACCESS group. It has to do with a study on preschoolers’ understanding of statistical awareness but, for me, it ended up reinforcing what we have been saying at ACCESS about Teacher Research; that it matters, and in fact it is important to our field and we should feel obligated to do our own research and share our findings with others.

Check it out!

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