December 2021 Student Spotlight – Marisita Santiago

I came to the city of Houston, TX with 25 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field from the state of New York. I started in 1993 as a school receptionist. Currently I am an Assistant Director.  During those years I have acquired vast experience working with the Early Head Start, Head Start, Preschool, School-Age, Montessori, and Youth programs.  As a single mother of three, I embraced the opportunity of being able to work while seeing my children grow both physically and developmentally.  This is where my love for Early Childhood Education began.  To me, having my children in a childcare program was the best way of fostering the growth of a child while also being surrounded by a rich development program.  Experiencing first-hand the positive impact it brings to a young child’s life is the most rewarding feeling.

I enjoy circle time with the children. It’s in those moments that they are open to tell you about their time at home. I also enjoy listening to their stories. I love to greet them in the morning as well. Their smiles and curious eyes give me life and it sets the tone for the day. Children are our future. I want to make sure that if they are lacking anything outside my school walls, that I can provide them with the necessary support, tools, and nourishment to become their best. Sending them off to primary school at the end of their journey well prepared and full of love is my ultimate goal.

I was approached by the Head of School in my current school to take the Texas Director’s Certificate training program offered by CCEI.  What a great opportunity it has been to acquire the necessary knowledge needed for the field while expanding my professional portfolio! Enrolling in the Texas Director’s Certificate training program with CCEI was very simple and quick. Before you know it, you are in your first lesson. Navigating the courses and getting the necessary feedback from CCEI’s education coaches was such a smooth experience. It’s a very simple straight forward navigation system and very user-friendly. Being a full-time professional, I needed the flexibility with deadlines and course load. CCEI’s timeline accommodates busy schedules, giving you ample time and opportunity to complete your courses.

The course content is easy to understand and detailed. They even provide you with real life testimonials and videos. Each segment is well explained with unlimited time to read through it and understand it with the platform available 24/7/365. I love that they even provide you worksheets to take notes. The written practices between lessons are very helpful. It gives you an idea of how much you know so you can prepare for the final test. What I like the most is that it’s not just a one chance deal. They give you plenty of opportunities for you to understand the material and pass your test. The material in the Texas Director’s Certificate courses are very detailed and specific to your assignment. They elaborate in every possible detail that you might encounter in your current job or future role.

The CCEI education coaches are very responsive and always attentive. They make sure to keep in touch and follow up on your assignments. Their availability and support gives you that ease and comfort to seek help and ask questions. Their knowledge in the material presented is key for your success and accomplishment in your training journey and in the final test. They walk you through the process and always have staff available for questions and concerns. 

I see my career in the future as a Head of School.  This field is a very rewarding one and I would like to put my personal stamp in the life of young children. I would like to expand my professional career with the knowledge needed to keep up with the times.  Times are evolving and advancing.  We must keep up with the new methods and technologies involved in today’s Early Childhood Education environment.

CCEI has been a great tool!  I have really enjoyed the opportunity for advancement. It has been a great experience from the education coaches all the way to customer service.  It’s a very rewarding feeling to know that you are an asset to your company because a training provider like ChildCare Education Institute is preparing you to be the best you can be. 

December 2021 Newsletter – One Tip for Enhanced Communication: Present-Moment Awareness in Communication

One Tip for Enhanced Communication: Present-Moment Awareness

All of this effort to train yourself to recognize when you are not present and return to the here and now is most valuable when we use it during our interactions with others. The unpredictable nature of communicating with others provides many chances for the mind to wander away from the present moment.

  • If we have just learned that someone has gotten engaged, we might begin reminiscing about a joyful time in our lives.
  • If we are in disagreement with someone, we might become overwhelmed with defensiveness.
  • If someone is telling you an upsetting story, you might let your mind wander as a way to protect yourself from feeling sad emotions.
  • Sometimes, we just have so much going on that we are not capable of being fully present for another person.

If you are skilled in recognizing that you are not present, there are several options available to you:

  • First, you can take a breath and return your attention to the speaker. Use body language such as eye contact, leaning forward, nodding, etc. to reinforce your listening.
  • You could acknowledge the emotions that are present for you (aloud or internally) and refocus your attention. “I am just so excited for you and I started thinking about my own wedding day! What’s the last thing you said?”
  • You could share that you have lots of thoughts about the topic and ask for a moment to gather your thoughts. “You have given me a lot to think about and I would like a moment to organize my thoughts so we can come to an agreement on this issue.”
  • You can ask to revisit the conversation at a later time. “Thank you for sharing this concern with me. I want to take some time to reflect before responding. Can we talk tomorrow morning?”

As you become more skilled at recognizing how your emotions play a role in your communication, you can respond in a more authentic manner.

Present-moment awareness is also critical in becoming an effective listener.  In conversation with others, instead of listening we sometimes spend time: 

  • Planning how we want to respond
  • Judging what is being said
  • Predicting with the speaker will say next
  • Responding to the emotions that arise

Practicing present-moment awareness won’t prevent all instances of distractedness. However, it can help us identify our intentions and communicate clearly. Rather than responding with defensiveness or justifying our actions, we can be present with the concern that has been brought to our attention. We can hear the other person, choose our words, ask questions to gain more information, and work to create solutions. Often, these options are not available to us when we are sidetracked by strong emotions.   

Present-moment awareness will also allow you to actually use the many communication strategies that you have learned over the years. It will provide the mental space for you to access your skills because your mind will be clear of those pesky thoughts and emotions that often cloud effective communication. 

For the main article One Tip for Enhanced Communication, CLICK HERE

For the article Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Building Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Practicing Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

December 2021 Newsletter – One Tip for Enhanced Communication: Practicing Present-Moment Awareness

One Tip for Enhanced Communication: Practicing Present-Moment Awareness

If you talk to someone with a meditation practice, they might refer to the challenge of bringing mindfulness to “off-the-cushion-moments”.  This is simply a reference to the fact that meditation often occurs in a quiet, serene space while seated on a comfy cushion. 

Well, that does not sound much like the life most of us lead. It is one thing to build the capacity for present-moment awareness in a comfortable, distraction-free environment.  It is something else entirely to stay present in the face of our fast-paced world.  

But that is the challenge.

This is where you will begin to feel the impact of the work you have been doing with your breath. Being able to recognize that you are “thinking” while a child is telling you a story is a big win when you set a goal of building present-moment awareness. It is unrealistic to think that you will be able to remain in the present moment at all times.  It is realistic to train yourself to notice when you are NOT present, and then return your attention to the present moment. 

As your practice grows, you can look for moments in your daily routine to purposefully bring your full attention to the work you are doing.  These could be tasks that you currently complete in a mindless manner.  Examples of tasks that you can bring present-moment awareness to include:

  • Brushing your teeth – rather than thinking about everything else you need to accomplish, pay attention to the steps of preparing your brush, the brushing movements, the way your mouth feels as you clean it, the burn of the mouthwash, etc.
  • Washing dishes – rather than ruminating about an interaction that did not go as you had planned, bring your attention to the temperature of the water, the feel of the sponge on the dishes, the rhythm of the sounds and movements, the feeling of you pruning skin, etc.
  • Eating a snack – rather than watching a video while you eat, appreciate the nourishing food on your plate. Notice the texture and temperature of the food, how the food feels in your mouth, the pleasant taste, how it feels to swallow the food, etc.

With practice, you can bring mindfulness into many different everyday activities. When you notice that your mind has wandered, again, do not judge your practice. Simply return your attention to the present moment and move forward.

You can also use present-moment practice to examine how emotions manifest in your body. How does the experience of joy feel in your chest? How do feelings of excitement and anticipation impact your present-moment awareness? Where in the body do you hold your frustration? Is it in the same place that you feel sadness?  What does regret really feel like? What is the reward you get from making judgments of others? Becoming familiar with your emotional reactions means that, just like sitting with your breath, you need to sit with your emotions. Instead of ignoring emotions by distracting yourself with another episode or a snack, fully experiencing your emotions can teach you valuable lessons and help you remain present in your interactions with others.

For the main article One Tip for Enhanced Communication, CLICK HERE

For the article Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Building Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Present-Moment Awareness in Communication, CLICK HERE

December 2021 Newsletter – One Tip for Enhanced Communication: Building Present-Moment Awareness

One Tip for Enhanced Communication: Building Present-Moment Awareness

Present-moment awareness is a practice most closely associated with meditation and mindfulness. While it is helpful, starting a formal meditation practice is not required to build present-moment awareness. You can borrow many of the strategies used by meditation masters to increase the amount of time you spend in the present moment.

Many meditation activities begin with the practitioner turning their focus to their breath. The breath is a great sensation on which to place your attention because it is always there. It is also free! Take a moment to pay attention to your breath. You might notice:

  • The rhythmic nature of the breath.
  • The rise and fall of your chest or belly as you breathe.
  • The sensation of the air entering your nose.
  • The sensation of the breath exiting the body.

When you focus attention on noticing the way breathing feels, there is no room in your head for rumination, worry, or self-talk.  However, after a few moments of focused attention on the breath, old habits of thinking will begin to pop up. “I have to stop at the store on the way home from work and pick up butter, shampoo, and a birthday gift for little cousin, Kyra.”

As soon as you notice that you are “thinking” rather than paying attention to your breath, you can

1.) Label your thinking by simply saying the word thoughts and

2.) Return your attention to your next breath.

That’s it.

That is the practice of building present-moment awareness. Beginners might be able to focus on their breath for 10 seconds before they begin thinking again. They might get frustrated with their progress, which usually presents as self-talk – Why can’t I do this?  You can – just return to the breath without judgment or self-criticism. 

As you progress, you may notice longer and longer periods of focus. But be aware – noticing your success is another form of thinking, so don’t follow that thought. Just return to the breath.

For the main article One Tip for Enhanced Communication, CLICK HERE

For the article Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Practicing Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Present-Moment Awareness in Communication, CLICK HERE

December 2021 Newsletter – One Tip for Enhanced Communication: Present-Moment Awareness

One Tip for Enhanced Communication: Present-Moment Awareness

Present-moment awareness refers to those often fleeting periods when we experience life as it is happening. You may be thinking, I always experience life as it is happening. And if this is truly the case, give us a call, we would love to learn from you!

In these moments, we are keenly aware of the sensations and feelings that are currently at work in the environment. If you are sitting, you notice the sensation of your body making contact with the furniture. If you are drinking a cup of tea, you take note of the temperature of the drink, the way the mug feels in your hands, and how the tea warms your body as you consume it. If you are on a walk, you notice the breeze on your skin, the sounds of the environment, and how your knees feel with each step.

The truth is, most people move through the day distracted from the present moment. Two main mind distractors are replaying past events or planning future events.  The self-talk that accompanies these distractors can be very intense, depending on how emotionally charged the situation is.  It might sound something like this:

  • I wish I had said X…
  • I wish I hadn’t said X…
  • The next time I am in that situation, I am going to say and do X…
  • I should have handled that situation differently.
  • I need to finish X, Y, and Z. How am I going to get it all done?
  • I wish my life looked more like X.

Again, these are just examples and your self-talk may sound different. Getting lost in your thoughts is normal. Reminiscing and making plans are normal brain functions. We are not suggesting that you stop these activities.  However, these actions can quickly turn into more harmful states of being that can have an impact on mental health, as one study found.  

Unfortunately, humans tend to ruminate on the past and worry about future events so much that there is little time for present-moment awareness. For some people, the time that is not spent in past/future thinking is spent mindlessly completing daily tasks, playing electronic games, surfing social media, or binging seasons of shows on a favorite streaming service. Fortunately, making the switch to present-moment awareness is a skill that is easily learned and with practice, can begin to benefit how you experience life immediately.

For the main article One Tip for Enhanced Communication, CLICK HERE

For the article Building Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Practicing Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Present-Moment Awareness in Communication, CLICK HERE

December 2021 Newsletter – One Tip for Enhanced Communication

One Tip for Enhanced Communication

Welcome to the December 2021 CCEI newsletter! You may be curious about the title of this month’s edition.  No, it is not a typo. We did not mean to say 10 tips for enhancing communication. This month we focus on just one strategy to improve communication.  It is one of the most challenging strategies you will come across in all of the thousands of articles promoting better communication.  It is also one of the most powerful skills to practice if you want to make a difference in your interactions with others.

This month we are going to focus solely on present-moment awareness. While everyone is different, it is safe to say that as a member of the human race, with an active mind and sensory stimulation bombarding you from all directions, you likely spend a good deal of time outside of the realm of present-moment awareness.

You might not be sure what present moment awareness is, but it is quite easy to identify when you are not practicing it!  Have you ever driven home from work and realized that you were lost in thought the whole way home?  Have you ever read a page of a book and had to reread the entire page because you have no idea what it said? Have you ever needed an item and gone to retrieve the item only to forget why you’re in the room you’re standing in?  Have you ever been in conversation with someone and gotten so lost in your own thoughts about the topic that you have no idea what the other person just asked you?

These are just a few examples of instances of the mind wandering away from the present moment. Sometimes, this is no big deal; you just reread the page.  And other times, wandering out of the present moment can have big consequences. Let’s take some time to explore what present-moment awareness is, how you can build the skill, and how you can use it to enhance the way you communicate with others.

For the article Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Building Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Practicing Present-Moment Awareness, CLICK HERE

For the article Present-Moment Awareness in Communication, CLICK HERE