February 2021 Student Spotlight – Michelle Kelley

I have always loved taking care of young children.  I enjoyed working with early childhood since I was young, watching my mom who is a Montessori teacher throughout the years till the present time.  I would help her in her classroom with the little ones and help with line time and lessons. When I was able, I became a junior camp counselor and then counselor at my mother’s Montessori school.  I took courses in high school in early childhood education and completed my CDA there.  After high school, I went to Miami Dade College and received my AA in Early Childhood Education. While working towards my degree, I went and worked in different early childhood centers full time.  I have been teaching for the past 2o years.  Currently, I have been working at South Miami Hospital Early Learning Center for the past 15 years using High Scope Approach.

On my time off, I enjoy reading the Bible and spending time with my husband of 12  years and my 8-year-old daughter.  We like to go camping as often as we are able to and enjoy going on nature trail hikes and appreciating nature.

What motivates me to work with children is their eagerness and curiosity to learn.  I want to guide them in their path to becoming wonderful human beings.  And knowing that early childhood education is the foundation for their growth and so important to who they will eventually become, it is such an honor for me to be a part of that journey.  I want to be able to provide the opportunity to give them the tools to be whatever they want to be in life.

My favorite time of day with the children is choice time or what some call centers.  I enjoy seeing the children discover their interest and watching them use the materials in new ways.  I love watching their imagination grow and scaffolding their learning.The children’s favorite time of day is music and movement where they first get to greet all their classmates and ask them how they are feeling today. We then sing some of their favorite songs and do some finger plays particularly “Herman the Worm”.  They like to move their body around to different types of music.  This gives me the opportunity to participate with them, act silly, and laugh out loud together as well which they love.

I received my Florida Director’s Certificate renewal with CCEI.  I choose this program over others because my Director’s Certificate had expired and I wanted to continue to be highly qualified from a trusted training provider for a supervisor position when the opportunity presented itself.  In this certificate renewal program, I learned so much about what it takes to become a manager at an early childhood center.  The program covered many themes and industry-related topics.  I plan on taking more courses at CCEI.  I highly recommend and encourage my coworkers and friends who are in the early childhood field to enroll with CCEI.  I feel at ease knowing there is an accredited online training provider like CCEI where I can get relevant, research-based courses and certificates that specialize in ECE.  I had a wonderful experience and will most definitely be taking more courses in the near future!

February 2021 Newsletter: Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments – Teachable Moments with Coworkers

Members of leadership are in an excellent position to use teachable moments to combat the we-have-always-done-it-this-way mentality. Using performance evaluation tools, leaders can identify areas or times of day when providers struggle most. They can then position themselves in classrooms during those times to look for and translate teachable moments into changes in teacher behavior.

The process is the same for adults as it is for children, watch, identify, ask questions, discuss, and make a plan to do things differently in the future.

Most teacher development occurs on the job, long after teachers leave their classrooms. Teachable moments can come in the form of positive recognition for a job well done, or quick suggestions for adjustments that leaders notice as they move through the building. Sometimes, teachable moments occur as a result of something more serious, such as a child injury. These teachable moments are vital to the future health and safety of children and must be addressed effectively.

You don’t have to be a member of leadership or a coach to take advantage of teachable moments with your coworkers. If everyone is on the same page about the value of these precious moments, anyone on the team can identify and promote teachable moments that arise in the learning environment.

Be sure to share this information about the value of teachable moments for everyone involved in the program. Commit to being open to seeing teachable moments with children, families, and other team members. Work with your team to come up with a plan to capitalize on as many teachable moments as possible.

For the main article Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments, CLICK HERE

For the article Capitalizing on Teachable Moments with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Examples of Teachable Moments, CLICK HERE

For the article Teachable Moments with Families, CLICK HERE

February 2021 Newsletter: Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments – Examples of Teachable Moments

There are hundreds of seemingly routine moments that can turn into teachable moments if you have a watchful eye and are willing to make time for them.  While you can’t necessarily plan a spontaneous teachable moment, you can promote teachable moments through the types of explorations and interactions you bring to the learning environment.  Here are a few examples of events that are likely to trigger teachable moments:

  • Asking questions during read-alouds – Pre-read new books before reading them to children. Determine 2-3 questions that you want to ask at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Rather than asking children to recall parts of the story, ask them questions about how they feel about the events or characters in the story… follow the conversation where ever it leads.
  • Field trips and visitors (when it is safe to do so) – Any time children can explore a new space or interact with a new person, there are opportunities for teachable moments. Again, come prepared with a few questions of your own to prompt children’s thinking and boost their engagement in the activity.
  • Loose parts, art, and sensory play – Open-ended materials present many chances for children to make discoveries, which can lead to teachable moments if you are observant.
  • Meaningful mealtime conversations – Sit with children during mealtimes and model for them how to engage in turn-taking conversations. Tell stories about your childhood or something funny that happened to you on your way to work. Ask and answer questions. Wonderful teachable moments can arise from these meaningful conversations.
  • Address gender stereotypes – It is common for teachers to have to address gender stereotypes, such as, “Girls can’t play with trucks,” or “Boys don’t play with baby dolls.” When you hear children say things like this, you have been presented with a powerful teachable moment. Be sure to talk with children about their misconceptions. Present real-world examples of dads who take care of babies and the milk delivery person, who is female. Remind children that in the classroom, anyone can play with any of the materials, regardless of their gender.
  • When children express strong emotions – Early childhood is filled with moments that are emotionally charged. These moments present opportunities to help children build self-regulation and self-calming skills. Hopefully, you have introduced these strategies before needing to use them, so that the teachable moments can be about putting familiar strategies to work. You won’t have much luck introducing a new skill to a child who is overwhelmed with emotion.
  • When children make mistakes – Whether they messed up their artwork or a block tower fell over, mistakes are great teachable moments. Talk with children about how they could fix their mistake and how revising and trying, again and again, is part of learning.
  • When accidents happen – Sometimes milk spills. Sometimes children don’t make it to the bathroom in time. Having quick, positive discussions with children about what they can do differently next time are common teachable moments in child care.
  • When conflicts arise – Children who are working and playing together are likely to have differences of opinion about how the play should proceed. This is common in most environments where people collaborate, so conflict resolution is an important skill to learn early in life. Helping children resolve conflicts as they arise is yet another example of a powerful teachable moment.

For the main article Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments, CLICK HERE

For the article Capitalizing on Teachable Moments with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Teachable Moments with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Teachable Moments with Coworkers, CLICK HERE

February 2021 Newsletter: Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments – Capitalizing on Teachable Moments with Children

In order to make the most of teachable moments, educators must first recognize them as they arise in the learning environment. Recognizing begins with understanding that children learn about the world and their place in it through their interactions with materials and other people. Be sure to provide a variety of opportunities for children to play together, explore materials, and engage in meaningful conversations with adults. It is in these moments that teachable moments will emerge.

Teachers should also become curious about the children in their care. Watch children as they play. Notice the way they are manipulating materials and the conversations they are having with peers. Make note of what children can and cannot yet do. Having information about the skills children are working toward can lead you to be present for children during critical teachable moments.  Notice children as they make new discoveries and enthusiastically share their observations. Make note of topics that hold children’s interests and attention.

Consider this example that occurred one day in a preschool classroom. After coming in from the playground, a child noticed a large bug on another child’s coat. Several children approached and looked at the bug.  Fortunately for the children, their teacher recognized this teachable moment and said, “I see that you are really interested in this bug.  I don’t want it to get hurt. How could we watch it safely?”  A child suggested they use one of the bug boxes from the science center and together they caught the bug and carried the bug box to the table for further observation.

Enough of the children were interested in observing the bug that the teacher put the lessons she had planned on hold so that the children could continue to observe the bug. Children not interested in the bug were encouraged to pick a learning center to explore. One teacher stayed with the bug watchers and listened to their comments, answered their questions, and posed a few questions of her own. This went on for about 15 minutes before the children slowly started to turn their attention to other activities.  The teacher suggested that the few remaining children work together to create a plan to return the bug to the playground, including the safest place to set it free.

This example demonstrates one of the most important characteristics required to capitalize on teachable moments: flexibility!  Teachers must be willing to adjust and shift when necessary to make time for meaningful interactions to become teachable moments.

For the main article Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments, CLICK HERE

For the article Examples of Teachable Moments, CLICK HERE

For the article Teachable Moments with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Teachable Moments with Coworkers, CLICK HERE

February 2021 Newsletter: Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments

Early childhood educators spend hours of their lives reviewing assessment data, gathering information about children, and planning curriculum activities to effectively engage the children in their care.  This is definitely time well spent and of great value to children and families.

Teacher preparation programs and professional development agencies devote hours of training on curriculum planning to ensure providers give children a solid foundation of high-quality care.  There are, however, extremely valuable learning experiences that all of the curriculum planning in the world can’t capture.  These learning experiences are known as teachable moments.

Teachable moments are those spontaneous, often fleeting, moments during the day where valuable lessons can be taught.  In some cases, children learn lessons from these moments on their own. In other cases, learning is dependent upon adults in the environment recognizing and capitalizing on the learning opportunity.

Consider these examples:

  1. A child touches a hot stove – Most likely, the lesson is learned without the need for adult intervention.
  2. A child asks why a man in a store is using a wheelchair – In this case, further conversation with an adult can promote a better understanding of the needs of individuals who have disabilities.

In this month’s newsletter, we will explore how teachers can begin to take advantage of these common and invaluable learning experiences.

For the article Capitalizing on Teachable Moments with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Examples of Teachable Moments, CLICK HERE

For the article Teachable Moments with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Teachable Moments with Coworkers, CLICK HERE

January 2021 Newsletter – Stress Reduction in the New Year: Supporting Children during the New Year

January is usually a challenging month in child care programs as children get back into the flow of the routine after the holidays.  It remains to be seen if the effects of the stress of 2020 will add to the challenges of the New Year transition.

It may be your intention to get right back to work and jump right into curriculum planning. Be sure to consider the needs of the children in your care before leaping back into your daily routine. Help children ease into the expectations and demands of the classroom.  Adjust your expectations, as children may have regressed in their skills and behaviors over the winter break or while at home for the holidays.

Here are a few ways you can continue to reach your academic standards while supporting children’s needs:

  • Allow more time for play. Give children extra time to play with materials of their choice that may or may not be related to the curriculum. Use this time to observe their skills and actions. Collect data on how children are functioning as individuals and as a group. This information can be used to make decisions about any skills you need to revisit or work to strengthen.
  • Give more time for daily routines. Allow children a little extra time for cleaning up, eating, putting on their coats, and other stressful times of day. While they may have spent August-December becoming more efficient at these tasks, they may need a bit more time to readjust to the routine.
  • Patiently review expectations. You may think that children have been with you for a few months now, they should know what is expected of them. This may be true; cognitively they can tell you the class rules, but emotionally, they need to readjust to the stress of being with a large group, competing for materials and attention, and managing their emotional reactions.
  • Teach self-calming strategies the same way you teach academic skills. Dedicate portions of large group time to practicing deep breathing, guided visualizations, yoga/stretching, and problem-solving. Recognize that these skills are just as important as academic skills in early childhood. In fact, the lack of these skills can impede academic development in some children. Remember you are there to teach the whole child- in all areas of development.

Let us know if any of these ideas make a difference for you on our Facebook page here.

For the main article Stress Reduction in the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Self-Care in the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Offer Family Support, CLICK HERE

For the article Committing to Positivity with Your Team, CLICK HERE

January 2021 Newsletter – Stress Reduction in the New Year: Committing to Positivity with Your Team

A positive work environment can make a world of difference when it comes to effectively managing stress and successfully transitioning into the New Year. A positive work environment is the responsibility of each person on the team. You are all in it together, as they say.

Make a commitment to your team members to only express positivity when interacting with one another.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t address problems or concerns, we will talk about that in a minute.  What we mean is, refrain from complaining. Refrain from engaging in gossip. Refrain from passing the buck.  Commit to building each other up. Commit to recognizing a job well done. Commit to taking responsibility when you make a mistake.  These are all behaviors that contribute to a positive work environment. Your commitments to one another may be a little different as each program has a different team dynamic, but these examples should start a healthy conversation.

When problems do arise, treat them as opportunities to improve skills and practices. Rather than complaining that something isn’t working, ask, “How can we fix it?”  Instead of burying your frustrations, bring them to light and ask for support from your team. Become solution-oriented rather than problem-focused.

Create a support system at work that utilizes each coworker’s unique strengths.  This means that each teacher will need to reflect and work with teaching teams to create a list of strengths that can be shared with the team. Perhaps there are two or three teachers that are skilled at incorporating mathematical language into the daily routine. Anyone who is challenged by that task can reach out to those individuals for advice and coaching.

Once again, you are not an island, you are part of a team. These team members live in your community they are going through many of the same challenges that you are experiencing.  Commit to creating a positive work environment – even if it is not a team-wide initiative, you can at least commit to not add to others’ stress levels.

For the main article Stress Reduction in the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Self-Care in the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Supporting Children during the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Offer Family Support, CLICK HERE

January 2021 Newsletter – Stress Reduction in the New Year: Offer Family Support

Many of you likely have children in addition to working in a child care program. Even if you are not a parent, take some time this month the reconsider your relationship with the families enrolled in your program. Identify the stress you are feeling. Identify the causes of stress for you or within your community. Recognize that if these factors are stressful to you, they are probably stressful for others, as well. Everyone is doing the best they can with the tools they have to manage stress. Taking time to empathize with families and identify shared struggle can help you open up to the possibility of working with families in new ways.

Consider sharing stress reduction strategies with families in your newsletters, daily reports, text messages, or on social media. Some people do not have the time to research effective ways to reduce family stress at home. Your efforts could make a big difference for parents and children.

Share the self-calming strategies you are practicing with the children. Offer a video demonstration of the practices in action for parents to watch.  Identify keywords and phrases that you use in the classroom to help children tune into their bodies and initiate self-calming tools.  Doing so not only introduces new skills to families, but it also creates consistency for the children.

Limit demands as much as possible. 2020 has been demanding, the holidays in a “normal” year are demanding. Interactions with your program don’t have to add extra demands to families. For example, it is common for family/teacher conferences to be held in January, but can they wait a few weeks until things calm down for families? Most interactions with families are limited now anyway due to COVID restrictions. Communication is so important, but maybe this year, we can structure things a little differently. Gather with your team and brainstorm out-of-the-box ways to share interact with families that don’t add more stress to their lives.

For the main article Stress Reduction in the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Self-Care in the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Supporting Children during the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Committing to Positivity with Your Team, CLICK HERE

January 2021 Newsletter – Stress Reduction in the New Year

The past year has been challenging – both professionally and personally, for those of us in the field of early childhood education. 2020 brought us the COVID-19 pandemic, instances of racial injustice, and political theater unlike any other year in recent memory.  As always, we have adapted, learned, and found different ways to persevere in the face of unprecedented circumstances.  Throughout the year, we at CCEI have endeavored to provide the child care workforce with strategies and resources to ensure that you were able to maintain high-quality standards of care for the children and families enrolled in your programs. Looking back, we have covered many topics that were not necessarily part of our original plan for the 2020 newsletter publications. These topics included:

In this New Year, we can look back on the many opportunities that 2020 provided with a sense of optimism and a positive outlook. We made it through 2020! And while 2021 will continue to test us, we are better prepared to meet these challenges with the tools we have learned.

In this month’s newsletter, we will examine ways that we can create calm, nurturing, and safe spaces for the children and adults we work with on a daily basis.  Be sure to check out the past issues of the CCEI newsletter for any information you may have missed during the past year.

For the article Self-Care in the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Supporting Children during the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Offer Family Support, CLICK HERE

For the article Committing to Positivity with Your Team, CLICK HERE

January 2021 Newsletter – Stress Reduction in the New Year: Self-Care in the New Year

Some of you may be familiar with the question, “What have you done for me lately?” most notably asked by Janet Jackson. Let’s take some time to reflect on the question, “What have you done for you lately?”

2020 was the kind of year that caused many people to go into self-preservation mode, whether for financial, physical, social, or emotional reasons. There were just too many stressful situations to ignore and even if you were not directly impacted by the events of 2020, you likely felt the indirect effects of what was happening in your community. This means that our normal support systems may not have been readily available to us. When cafes and restaurants are shut down, it is difficult to catch up with dear friends. Zoom meetings with mentors and colleagues might not have the same rejuvenating effect. Everyone is just trying to get by!

In these difficult times, we just cannot afford to wait for others to take care of us – we have to take care of ourselves. Until we are fulfilled, we will not be able to effectively care for others.  Sure, we may be able to give others what they need for a short period of time, but as soon as that reservoir of care runs dry, we will face a serious case of burn-out.

To prevent burn-out and continue to be an effective caregiver and collaborator, we must adopt self-care practices that fill our unique reservoir.

Take some time this month to identify one or two things you can do each day that are rejuvenating and meaningful to you. The things that work for you may not necessarily work for others. You could try:

  • Mindful transitions – before transitioning from one part of your day to the next, you can take three deep breaths to clear your mind and get you ready for what is to come. You could wake up and take breaths before getting out of bed, before getting in the shower, before leaving your house for work, before exiting the vehicle to go to work, before entering your classroom, etc.
  • Goal-driven decisions – What are the practices or habits that add joy to your life? Which are the ones that add very little value to your life, but you still find yourself doing them more than you would like? If you would really like to read more or get more exercise, or watch less television, examine your daily routine and make realistic decisions about changes that will align your actions to your wishes.  Perhaps limit yourself to half the amount of television that you normally consume and fill that extra time with things that bring you joy.
  • Manage social time – Make it a point to reach out to loved ones, even if it is just on social media for now. Positively engage with others; avoid negativity. Recognize when you are engaged in a negative interaction and remove yourself from the situation – especially if it is on social media!
  • Stress reduction – Read about how stress impacts the body and mind. Take time to identify how you respond to stress. Look for clues that you are stressed, which can vary from person to person. Perhaps you feel tightening in a particular part of your body, or turn to food when stressed.  Some people distract themselves with their phones or engage in habitual practices that calm them down. Knowing your signs of stress can help you identify your triggers so that you can begin to reduce or eliminate them.

You don’t have to make big changes. Avoid adding more stress to your life by thinking that you have to completely reinvent yourself in the New Year. This is why resolutions fail; change is hard. Pick small practices that are meaningful and joyful to help keep you motivated.

For the main article Stress Reduction in the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Supporting Children during the New Year, CLICK HERE

For the article Offer Family Support, CLICK HERE

For the article Committing to Positivity with Your Team, CLICK HERE