Category Archives: Helping

Grandma Pat’s Here!

Posted March 13, 2015

By Sarah Kern                                                      IMG_4802

We recently added someone new to our rotation of senior readers in the Autumn Room. We call her Grandma Pat, and her role is a little different than those of our other senior readers. Rather than reading to the whole class, Grandma Pat reads to one or two children at a time on our couch. When I suggested that we add a small group reader, I was thinking all about literacy. The children would have closer proximity to the print and they could ask questions and discuss story details more easily than in a large group setting. But what’s happened has been so much more than that.

I noticed that the children’s interactions with Grandma Pat were as much conversation as they were book reading. Children showed Grandma Pat their braids, told her about their favorite video games, and asked her about her glasses. And Grandma Pat? She listened. She listened with attention and intensity. She smiled, she asked them questions, and she responded to every word they said.

Spring Room Teacher and mom to Isla, Amanda watched this happen through the classroom window. Isla was sitting with Grandma Pat, deep in conversation. I noted to Amanda something along the lines of how this was intended to be a reading experience, and Amanda astutely pointed out that Grandma Pat, though not reading for much of the time she’s here, was meeting a need for the children. It’s the need that so often I as a teacher struggle to meet because it’s time to have snack, or it’s time to go outside, or it’s time to clean up. It’s the need for an adult to hear them and know them and love them wholeheartedly.

When I first met Amy and she told me of her inspiration for this intergenerational program, she told me that the seniors have something to offer to the children that we as teachers and as parents can struggle to give, and that’s time. It is time and undivided attention. We can’t help that we have full time jobs and families and houses to care for, but we can help how we treat the space in between all of those things. Grandma Pat is teaching me how to make little moments bigger just by moving a little slower, being a little quieter, and listening a little more.

Out on a Limb…With a Wheel Chair

Posted November 24, 2014

by Amanda Janquart, Spring Room Teacher

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Forming intergenerational connections is a strong tenet of our curriculum at All Seasons. It can be exciting and scary at the same time. I do believe that overcoming fear leads to a deeper sense of accomplishment, and takes us to a point where multifaceted learning happens. The fleeting nature of our lives becomes more apparent as we age. Forming a relationship with Grandma Bette, our classroom grandma, evoked fears in me, and perhaps spoke to a larger cultural issue. It meant opening up to the possibilities of heartache. But it is now harder to imagine what would have been lost if I’d let worry stop me. Along with being the Spring Room’s weekly story reader, Grandma Bette has become a part of our class’ story. She is who the children want to build ships for, make cards for, parade in costumes for. Children push us to take emotional leaps just as we encourage them to do the same. They can plow through countless obstacles without a backward glance. I have been thoroughly humbled by their example.

I’ll share a recap of a recent morning in the Spring Room, one with a focus on our relationships:

There were numerous examples of how comfortable this class has become – with the environment and each other. Outside, they requested the “roll the ball down the hill” game, then moved seamlessly to basketball, which was near the trikes, so riding them was next. They helped each other back onto the sidewalk when tires slipped off (those darn “flat tires” became quite comical), and reinforced what the street signs meant – One Way and Stop. They did all of this with such camaraderie and compassion, calling out support as well as lending a hand. They rocked at clean up too, “Hey, I’ll put that ball back for you” and “Yep, the shed is all shut.” But by far, their strength of relationships was showcased that morning when we went to get Grandma Bette to spend time with us in our classroom. They urged each other to hurry with snack (cheese and apples) so we wouldn’t be late to get her. They cleared chairs out of the way so I could push her wheel chair through the dining area. They very excitedly pointed out new photos of themselves in the hall – “That’s me, Grandma Bette!!!” They warned her repeatedly about how to keep her fingers safe in the elevator. In the room they got to work immediately on what they had earlier planned out to show her – the magnatile rocket, the pumpkins in the kitchen, and the triumphant (if temporary) return of the marble run tower. It was unclear who was most excited; the boys or Bette.  She met one of our stick bug pets and was “served” a few wooden cookies before Amy helped her back upstairs. Before she left, she was already asking about her next visit.

Yes, starting a relationship can feel awkward as an adult. The hugs and handshakes can feel rote, but keep going and get past that stage. I can say that compassion is contagious and if you feel any hesitancy, follow a child’s lead (new beginnings are a constant in young lives and they don’t waste time getting to the point where it feels good). Or, follow the senior’s lead; (they are done wasting time on what doesn’t matter). Oh, how I’ve failed to find out Bette’s perspective in all this relationship forming! Perhaps because it will be a little scary to ask and then listen, not knowing where it will lead? I’m sure to be humbled yet again.

The Process of Becoming a Cohesive Group

Posted October 7, 2014

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Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing…

We have one month of school under our belts.  What does this mean in the life of a classroom?  As any parent or teacher can tell you, every day is different, but there are certain predictable stages that a class (or any group) goes through before they can functional optimally.

Forming
Typically in this stage of becoming a group, team members are polite, anxious and excited.  They don’t know other members of their group, they don’t know what to expect of others, nor do they know what is expected of them.  Children returning to the school for a second or third year may have less anxiety simply because they know the rules and routines, however, they truly need to establish an entirely new identity as one of the older children.  No longer is it productive for an older child to be a follower, as most of the leaders have all moved onto kindergarten.  Younger and new students’ brains are on overdrive as they learn “the rules” of the school and the routines of the day.

Storming
This is the phase when the wheels can fall off the cart without tenacity and determination on the part of the teachers.  The formal polite behavior diminishes as children become more comfortable with each other and boundaries are pushed, both against the rules and against each other.  In any group, there is bound to be conflict, as it is not possible for groups of any size to agree on everything.  “I wanted that toy!”  “Why do you get to be the mom?”  “Why do we HAVE to have group time/snack time right now?”  “I don’t want to put away the toys.”  Frustration can build and tempers flare when things don’t go the way someone wants them to for too long.  This is the phase where the consistency and support of a great teacher are essential to maintain the peace and to continue to grow.

Norming
Gradually, the group moves into the norming stage. This is when people start to resolve their differences, appreciate others’ strengths, and respect the authority of the teacher.  Everyone is now committed.  Consciously or subconsciously, it is a given that we are stuck with each other and we will be next week, too.  There is always an overlap between storming and norming, as new issues always arise.  The group needs to revert back to storming before returning to norming.

Performing
This is the stage when all the hard work has paid off, there is minimal friction, and things are functioning smoothly.  It doesn’t mean there won’t be conflict or “storming” any more, but typically it is short and things can revert back to normal.

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Raising Kids Who Are Kind

Posted September 26, 2014

Raising Kids Who Are Kind IMG_2214

Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project “aims to strengthen the abilities of parents and caretakers, schools, and community members to develop caring, ethical children. (They’re) working to make these values live and breathe in the day-to-day interactions of every school and home.”  At All Seasons, we focus on cultivating a community of kindness and caring. We live in a culture that values achievement over caring, and sometimes it feels like we are swimming upstream when we choose to be kind over being powerful. Amongst all the research, one thing is clear: Kindness and empathy must be taught. Making Caring Common presents five strategies to raise moral, caring children: 1. Make caring for others a priority. It’s important for parents and teachers to model this behavior. We also must hold children to high ethical standards, including staying true to their word and honoring commitments, even when it’s hard. Children should also be expected to be respectful towards adults, even when tired, angry, or distracted. Phrases like, “The most important thing is that you are kind” can really hammer this home. 2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude are more likely to be compassionate, forgiving and helpful. To implement this, provide regular opportunities to express gratitude, such as at dinnertime or at bedtime. Don’t reward children for every act of helpfulness, such as helping around the house or helping a friend – these things should be expected. Reward uncommon acts of kindness.  3. Expand your child’s circle of concern. Children care about their own small circle of friends and family; the goal is to help them care about someone outside of their own circle as well. To help children achieve this, expect them to be polite and friendly with all people, even waiters or the mail carrier. At All Seasons, we expand children’s circles of concern through our relationships with the seniors. Ask your children about their favorite senior, and encourage acts of kindness. 4. Model kindness and moral behavior. Children learn their values by watching adults who are important to them. Think through dilemmas out loud with your children so they can hear how you problem solve with kindness. You can also model caring by volunteering with your child. 5. Guide children in managing hard feelings. We need children to know that it is okay to feel angry, sad, or frustrated. We also need to teach them how to cope with these feelings. Practice helping your child calm down and express his or her feelings when upset, and model your own coping skills for tough feelings when appropriate. It is important to remember that “Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood.” Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/18/are-you-raising-nice-kids-a-harvard-psychologist-gives-5-ways-to-raise-them-to-be-kind/

A Story for Caregivers…

Posted September 22, 2014

The children are back, and it feels so great to have them here!  The children are getting accustomed to the rhythms of our days.  Most know what to do when they arrive at school, though may need reminders.  Those who initially resisted our beginning-of-the-day duties are reluctantly participating.  “I don’t want to wash my hands… go potty… put on my jacket…”  “That’s just what we do at school” is usually a satisfactory answer.

Our morning routine of visiting the grandmas and grandpas will soon become second nature.  Already, most of the children walk into Willow Cove (the name for memory care) and begin making their way around the circle to shake hands.  It is so touching to see these little ones greeting and receiving such warm welcomes from the grandmas and grandpas.  For some children, shaking hands and making eye contact comes very naturally.  For others, it is truly a brand new skill that is no different than zipping jackets and will require a lot of repetition.

Speaking of repetition and at the risk of sounding trite, there is a story called The Butterfly’s Struggle that many of you know, but is worth re-reading.  As a parent and an educator, my natural inclination is to help.  Helping is at the core of who I am and at the core of what I have done professionally for over twenty years.

Last week, as Sarah played a game called “Who’s Missing” with the children, one little boy got stuck guessing which of his friends was hiding out of sight.  After a few moments of silence, I couldn’t stand it any longer and gave him a big clue.  Sarah said, “Thank you, Amy, for figuring that out for us.”  I catch myself (or my colleagues catch me) doing this several times each week.  All I know is that I can’t stand to watch anyone struggle with anything for long.  As this story illustrates so beautifully, sometimes standing back and allowing the struggle to occur is the only way for one to make it successfully to the next stage.

 

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.  One day a small opening appeared.  He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole.  Then it stopped, as though it was unable to go any further.

The man decided to help the butterfly.  He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon.  The butterfly emerged easily, but its body was swollen and wings were shriveled.

The man continued to watch it, expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body.  Neither happened.  In face, the butterfly spend the rest of its life crawling around.  It was never able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the struggle required by the butterfly to get through the opening was a way of forcing the fluid from its body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight.

 

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives.  Going through life with no obstacles cripples us.  We will never be as strong as we could have been without struggle.  Without struggle, we can never fly.