(Written with Marjorie Wild)
May your new year be full of kindness!
As a young child, I was often confused by all the pictures of snow, on TV and in books during the winter. I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where snow was an incredibly rare occurrence. I do remember a light snowfall when I was about 10 years old, which was my first memory of snow. What a treat that was! There wasn’t enough snow to make a snowman, but my brothers and I enjoyed our one and only snowball fight!
Whatever weather or other challenges this winter brings your way, we at ECS hope you will be warmed by the kindness of family, friends, and strangers alike. We also encourage you to cope with your worst days by going above and beyond to spread kindness and good cheer to others.
We’d love to hear about the acts of kindness you share and model for your children - it will warm our hearts to be reminded that we are in such a caring community!
May your days be fulfilling!
The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on where we’ve been and to decide where we are going!
Are you taking stock of 2022 and making resolutions for 2023?
For me, 2022 was a challenging year. My life turned upside down in early March, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was determined to work through my treatment, but chemotherapy took its toll. I was able to keep my contracted commitments - and even take on a few more - for the most part, pivoting from live workshops back to virtual ones when my energy was lowest. I appreciate all who accommodated my health needs with empathy and compassion!
After my chemo and surgery, I’m incredibly grateful to be cancer-free! I look forward to getting my business - and personal - life back on track.
How about you? Would you like some encouragement as you look ahead to this new year?
You may find the above poem helpful. I was taught to say it as a morning prayer when I was a child in Catholic school. Today, its familiarity brings me as much comfort as its message does. I hope you enjoy it, too.
And may you feel energized and enthusiastic about reaching your goals!
As you reflect, thinking about what you and your children have accomplished together last year can help you revise your teaching goals for 2023!
We teachers often make our biggest plans according to the beginning of the school year rather than by New Year’s Day.
But many of us can use a time to rejuvenate our teaching energy now!
Here's a goal-setting exercise a former principal of ECS team member Marjorie Wild used. The teachers would write goals for the school year, not to turn in, but to keep for themselves. They were asked for a personal goal, a professional goal, and a goal for the students.
This communicated the principal's respect for her staff as individuals, not just as teachers. It emphasized that personal and professional goals are both important, and that the goals for the children should be top of mind. This was an administrator who was great at goal-setting and validation!
If you set any similar goals at the beginning of the school year, now is a good time to reflect on how far you have come.
If you did not set goals when the school year began, now is a great time! You know your children, their accomplishments, and the adjustments that may be necessary for success!
-Revise as needed.
-Remember why you became a teacher and remind yourself - and others - often!
I hope these quotes will inspire you to use mindfulness to take care of yourself as well. Try focusing your attention on your breath, your body, or your surroundings. Or use awareness as you do an activity you find relaxing, such as walking or jogging; dancing or listening to music; journaling, drawing, or painting; sewing, baking or gardening. You may also want to focus your mind on positive thoughts, like the people and the things you are grateful for and the things you've been able to accomplish.
When the stress of the holidays - or life in general - gets you down, try a few mindfulness practices. Perhaps, as they did for me today, they will help you feel a little calmer.
All of us at ECS are wishing you peace and happiness this holiday season!
The most important thing adults can do for children is to provide them with a warm, caring relationship. Be their attachment figure, the special person they can turn to with trust that their needs will be met. Whatever role you play in the lives of young children, you are making an impact both now and for their lifetimes. By nurturing responsive relationships with children, you are not only providing the secure base that allows them to explore their world. You are also setting a strong foundation for the learning, behavior, and health in their futures, by helping them build strong brains with the capacity to be self-regulated and resilient.
As young children's caregivers and teachers, we have an incredibly important and challenging job. Here are a few of my favorite motivational quotes to encourage you.
Encouragement from ECS:
Here's a quote from a child development theorist that reminds us of the most important thing young children need to thrive - Love!
Urie Bronenbrenner was a renowned developmental psychologist whose work helped to establish the federal Head Start program. His Ecological Systems Theory stressed that the environments in which children grow deeply affect their development. Bronfenbrenner showed how policies and programs that support families, communities, and the larger society have a huge impact on children's health and well-being. (6)
Within our family, child care, and educational environments, we can support children by showing them we really care, no matter what!
Rita Pierson was a passionate educator from here in Houston, Texas. She was an advocate for underserved children and understood the importance of teacher-child relationships for students' learning and self-esteem. For some powerful inspiration, watch her TED talk; you'll be in good company - it has been viewed over 13 million times!
She encourages us to go the extra mile for our children, no matter how challenging it is - or they are! Although Pierson has passed away, her legacy lives on.
You have it in you to be the champion for the children you teach, even the "tough ones" - they are the ones who need you the most. Let's follow Rita's example and make a difference in all our children's lives!
When you give the gift of a smile to a child, you receive one as well - even if the child doesn't smile back.
Mother Teresa, a Catholic Saint and founder of the Missions of Charity, is known worldwide for her service to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India.
We can't all rise to the level of service that Mother Teresa devoted her life to, but we can serve our children by doing our best to meet their needs. We can start with the simplest of things - a smile! It will help them feel our love and care. Try smiling more with your children - it will brighten their days and yours!
A wonderful way to improve children's behavior is to focus on strengthening your relationships.
PJ Caposey is an award-winning educator and author who is currently serving as a school district superintendent in Illinois. Caposey advocates for improvement of school systems, believing that an emphasis on teacher-student relationships are a big part of the needed change. He tells us that "great teachers have the goal of serving and connecting with students first - not creating a compliant culture." (3).
So be a great teacher of young children. You can start by Just having fun with your kids. You will be strengthening your connections and improving behavior at the same time!
Children who are exhibiting challenging behaviors are crying out for connection. It's difficult to feel loving toward a child who is hurting others or us, but we must give them what they need in that moment: connection and emotional safety.
Dr. Becky Bailey, founder of Conscious Discipline®, is "an award-winning author, renowned teacher and internationally recognized expert in childhood education and developmental psychology." (4) She encourages us to see children with positive intent: Assume that they are doing the best they can and that they need our help to do better.
How can we help children improve their behavior? Start with a strong, caring relationship!
Dr. Bruce Perry is a renowned clinician and researcher specializing in children’s mental health. His clinical research and practice has focused on the effects of neglect and trauma in children as well as in adolescents and adults. His work has been "instrumental in describing how childhood experiences, including neglect and traumatic stress, change the biology of the brain – and, thereby, the health of the child." Dr. Perry's "Neurosequential Model©, a developmentally sensitive, neurobiology-informed approach" to clinical work, education and caregiving is used by many organizations that serve at-risk children and their families. (1)
Dr. Perry's work illustrates that we can change children's lives for the better when we focus on our relationships with them. We may become the most influential person in a child's life, helping them develop to their full potential. What can you do to help children to heal when they have experienced trauma?
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University "supports scientific research that can inform the testing, implementation, and refinement of strategies designed to achieve significantly better life outcomes for children facing adversity." (7) Check out the Center's Resource Library for helpful videos, infographics and papers.
Children need healthy relationships to thrive, and it's our job as caregivers to help build those relationships! What are some things you do to help children feel connected to you?
John Bosco was an Italian priest who dedicated his life to the education of the poor, especially the boys working as child laborers in Turin, Italy. He modeled his belief that educators should act like caring parents; he demonstrated gentleness and kindness as he taught the boys and provided their lodging and other material needs. Bosco realized that for children to feel loved, educators must build friendly relationships with them, by sharing in their interests and joining in their play. (2) He founded two religious orders to encourage others to emphasize love, reason and religion in their teaching. After his death he was canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.
St. John Bosco's quote that reminds us that the most important thing we can do for children is to help them feel loved - no matter what! This is especially important now when COVID has had everyone stressed. What are you doing that shows helps children know you care?
I hope these eight quotes help to encourage you as you do the difficult but rewarding work of educating the children in your care. If you focus on establishing and strengthening your relationships with each of them, you will be giving them the strongest foundation for their future success. You may also be giving yourself a gift as well: You'll be sharing in the children's joy and wonder as they discover the world around them!
References & Resources
I'm Diane Goyette, a Child Development Specialist, Trainer, Consultant and Keynote Speaker. I'm excited to share my blog!