Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapters 3 and 5 (Week 2)

Published on: September 7, 2015

Filled Under: Beyond The Pages, Books, Guest Speakers

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What If Book Study Marketing PicWelcome to week 2 of our book study! This week we are discussing Chapter 3 (The Power of Joy) and Chapter 5 (When Did A Hug Become A Bad Thing?) Gwen Simmons is our guest content expert this week to provide insight and lead our discussion. Communicate with Gwen on Twitter @gwen_naeyc. If you are just joining us, you will find all the book study details HERE.

Gwen Simmons

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. – Albert Einstein

Playfulness, humor, joy, and the celebration of learning are the real “basics” that should abound in any environment where children spend their time. – Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld

“What do Albert Einstein and Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld have in common? A belief that teachers who embrace creativity and joy in their teaching inspire children to discover, question, explore the world in deep and meaningful ways.

The recipe for this approach to teaching is both simple and complex. First take one teacher who creates a learning environment based on deep learning (think Reggio or the Project Approach), frequently uses the phrases “what else” and “what if”, add a full cup of joy, excitement and wonder, fold it into a bowl of developmentally appropriate practice and appropriate assessment.  It may sound simple, but it can be challenging to achieve within the current context of high stakes testing and parent pressure based on misinformation.

Teachers today must take a “both/and” approach by blending current brain research (watch the YouTube video by Dr. Allan Schore, renowned neurobiologist, on Joy and Fun), standards and appropriate assessment (read NAEYC’s Common Core Standards Initiative), and developmentally appropriate practice. As Mimi wrote in “Teaching in the Key of Life”, “Our children need an environment sweetened with tender loving care, encouragement, inspiration, role models, and time-time to play, pretend, explore, experiment, and wonder; time to develop at their own pace and in their own special rhythms. When children learn in such safe, supportive settings under the gentle, constant guidance of loving adults, they prove over and over again that they are among the most creative members of this gifted and talented human family of ours”.

Rae suggests teachers incorporate humor into their teaching practice, and to employ Steven Wolk’s suggestions from his article, “Joy in School”.  I believe teachers are some of the most powerful advocates for this “both/and” approach with parents, policymakers, and school administrators. Their ability to describe their practice – what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what the expected outcomes will be – is critically important.  Teachers who are consciously competent can change the world one child at a time.

THOUGHT QUESTION: How have you advocated for high standards, appropriate assessment and a creative, joyous learning environment?

Reading Rae’s chapter, “When Did a Hug Become a Bad Thing” and the challenges male teachers of young children face, it took me back to my administrative days. I promoted a young man from my staff to the lead teacher position in a mixed-age infant room. A young family had just enrolled their three month baby girl and we placed her in his room.  As was my practice, I arranged for these new parents to join me for an early conversation to better understand their expectations and ours. From the first meeting I could sense that Eric and April were uneasy. Eric was struggling with having his daughter in the care of a male teacher (Dave) and was uncomfortable with him holding or changing her.

We embraced developmentally appropriate practice and were committed to building reciprocal relationships and interactions with children and their families. To provide the quality of care, support, and a relationship based environment, it would be impossible for Dave to set unnatural parameters of a “no touch” policy with one of the children in his care.

Setting clear “touch” policies, providing consistent, research-based information for families and staff, and having a commitment to building relationships gave us a strong foundation and allowed us to navigate these sensitive waters with this particular family. As Dave and I worked closely with this family, I did my best to support Dave. I had never given much thought to the challenges that men face when choosing to devote their professional life to working with young children, but I quickly realized that Dave was going to need as much support as this family. He shared similar challenges at other programs and was worried that he might have to the leave the field, despite his deep passion for young children and their families. I had previously worked with a male kindergarten teacher in the same community and quickly connected Dave to him for peer support.

At the time, I was unaware of the NAEYC Men in Education (M.E.N.) Interest Forum. Their mission is to recruit and retain men in early childhood education by communicating the importance of men working with young children and their contributions to the healthy development of children, emphasizing the need for concerted efforts to recruit more men into the field, and encouraging and supporting men already in the field to remain in the profession. Facilitators from this NAEYC Interest Forum authored a Young Children article outlining four guiding principles for programs; banish stereotypes, support a gender diverse workforces, use positive representation of men, and establish gender-neutral policies on teacher child interactions.

Eric and April remained at our program and eventually enrolled another child. Dave continued his work in early childhood, and I was left with a deeper understanding of the complexities of blending “touch” with education. When did a hug become a bad thing?  It never has been, in my mind.” Learn more about NAEYC’s Interest Forums

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Please share/retweet this post! We’d love to hear from you about your thoughts regarding Chapters 3 and 5 and/or about Gwen’s commentary. Your voice matters – participate in the dialogue and share your ideas here! (Comment below) If you’ve chosen to blog about what you’ve read on your own site, link back and share your post with us here. Perhaps you have a burning question about something that you read in one of these chapters… we have a feature for that – Ask The Author! That’s right, Rae Pica will be available throughout this live study to answer your questions. #AskAuthor

*If you’re a MN participant and are seeking training hours for your active participation in this book study, please visit THIS LINK for the details and requirements.

What to read next: Chapter 4- Bubble Wrapping Not Required (9/14/15).

68 Responses to Book Study Expert Commentary for Chapters 3 and 5 (Week 2)

  1. Arissa Kordell says:

    This subject always makes me so frustrated! I have a criminal justice background along with my early childhood education background. I have seen the worst in people, men and women, and what they have done to children. Trusting people with your children should be hard because they are your babies! However I don’t trust men any less then I trust women. As a daycare provider my 13 year old nephew got a background study done so that he could work in my daycare during the summer. He was the best help I have ever had in my daycare. I trusted him and my parents trusted him. All the kids loved having him here. My husband works in my daycare all the time and is my sub and the kids are so excited when he’s home from work. However men working in the child care field is a huge topic for conversation, and that’s the fault of society. They have made it impossible for men to feel comfortable and safe being teachers when it comes to touch or being alone with a child. The ridiculous thing for me is that I have seen a lot of women who should be questioned way more then some of then men in these kids lives.
    And as a daycare provider I hug my kiddos every day. The kids usually run up to me for a hug when they leave. The kids tell me that they love me all the time. I could never give that up.

  2. Joni Helmeke says:

    and educating large groups of children day in and day out can be exhausting and the added I’m really enjoying this study and the conversations it’s bringing up. Chapter 3 about joy in the classroom- yes!! There should be joy and Yes it’s lacking. For many kiddos I know AND for many teachers I know! The teachers who seem to get celebrated have found ways to bring creativity and joy back into to their teaching- AND to be supported by their administration. Given the importance of education, especially early education, I hope this is happening more and more but fear it is not. Case in point, an early childhood center I taught at where we had to have a mandatory staff meeting outside of working hours to confront the negativity and at times, open hostility that was happening among staff members. Working pressures for “outcomes” regardless of any number of factors and often low wages leads to burnout for many. Perhaps chapter 5’s topic of “no touch” policies is just one factor leading to low job satisfaction. Teachers now have to add getting sued to their list of worries. Ugg!

  3. Kora says:

    The joys of childhood are definitely being decreased. They are expected to grow up so fast. When I was in school we had 4 recesses in a day and my daughter has only one in third grade. The kids have 40+ hours of school and homework at this age and only get a 20 minute recess break. We as adults working 40+ hours a day need more down time than that. How are they expected to absorb all of that information when their brains shut down from stress? Chapter five was interesting and I feel it is a touchy subject, especially depending on the person. We all know that it is nice to be comforted and reassured with touch. I personally don’t like it and that is how I was raised. But I think that parents should let their child’s caregivers or teachers know if that is something they try to implement and when. I can also see why people have to be so careful now days. One wrong move and your being in trouble. It is sad and we shouldn’t have to live in a society like this.

  4. Laura says:

    The society we live in now is CrAzY to say the least. There are so many things that we did while we were kids that is unthinkable now days. Giving hugs, being out in public areas (Parks) without our parents and now watching our children like hawks while they are playing compared to when we were children and we would go out for the whole afternoon and come home for dinner at dark with not many questions asked. I still have a hard time with the realization of letting my 15 year old daughter do some of the same things I did when I was her age, and the fact of knowing that will all change again by they time my son is 15.
    The Joy in learning and playing is so much fun. The fact that the Early toddlers and preschoolers get so excited to be in the right and have fun while learning makes learning more enjoyable for everyone around, I personally try to make learning fun and joyus. Making the activities we are working on fun and interactive with the children in my care.

  5. Barb K. says:

    Very interesting fact on stress and the impact it has on the learning process, presented in chapter #3. As an adult, I find it very hard to focus on the task at hand when I’m stressed. Imagine little children trying to focus in an environment without smiles.To the extent that it’s possible we make learning fun and exciting. Chapter #5 talks about the importance of touch. I feel that joy and touch go hand in hand, and are essential to a child’s social and emotional growth. I feel very fortunate as a childcare provider that I have the ability day in and day out to provide both joy and touch endlessly !

  6. Bobbie S says:

    Well the Joy in the classroom, I have personally seen my school is pretty good about making things fun. My 9 yr old hates not going to school, we have more issues with bullying. But anyways it is hard because even as a provider I have parents that are all about the worksheets and they aren’t about the fun. What child wants to sit all day at a desk, table, or what have you and write. I mean honestly this is crazy I have to knock on wood that the teachers I have had these last few years are amazing.
    On to the hugs, they work both ways the child feels loved and cared for but as a provider I feel that hug once a day sets them into a good day and then I have a better day. I don’t want to skip a day and find out. Also by hugging a child you can tell if they are having issues at home or school. I have a 6yr old who if he is has a good day he doesn’t hug me when he comes back, now on bad days he hugs me, I can then sit down ask whats up and help him and tell mom. My daughter went from shy to she hugs all her past teachers male and female. We were in walmart and her on of her teachers that helps her with math (male) she ran up infront of his family and hugged him. Even me I was at a school concert and I was surrounded by my school agers that no longer come to daycare and hug me, I felt a wow moment like I had an empact on these munchkins.
    So I will make sure to thank my kids teachers next parent comfrence.

  7. Brianna says:

    Bringing joy back into learning will promote a love of learning, the same with all the standardized testing and assessing children based on a flat rigid line that doesn’t consider the great variances kids have when it comes to learning and the developmental stage they may be at. Find ways to teach that gets kids intrigued, moving, hands on and I think we would see a greater participation and willingness to want to learn and go to school. And as for hugs it is sad we have pretty much removed any physical contact between teachers and students. I had a teacher that high fives in school and celebrated students grasping a lesson concept or asking questions on things they didn’t understand, I appreciated his support and was encouraged by the gesture although simple it helped me feel like I could tackle things I struggled with and ask for help. I work in a center and we frequently hug and high five our students. They feel comfortable, secure, important and valued. Especially in our young children many may have families that don’t do a lot of physical touch whether its a way their parents were raised or because the children are not brought up with affectionate parents. Its hard to believe there are children who go without a comforting hug for a lot of their early years due to family upbringing but in school they are further taught to keep a distance from something so innocent and comforting. It makes you wonder how will they form relationships later in life with say a girlfriend or boyfriend or even a spouse? I know some people think a hug is no big deal and on the other hand there are people who are up in arms over appropriate touch is no touch at all, but if we really look at how a healthy physical act such as a hug or high five can support a child so immensely in mental and emotional capacities and that appropriate touch is positive, maybe more people will realize how out of control we’ve gotten with limiting everything from recess to an innocent hug when a student or child is having a tough day or struggle at school etc. Hugs can be a sensitive issue but I hope people can realize when care and compassion are demonstrated properly it sets children up for great sucess.

  8. Sue says:

    JOY, the best way to get children involved with the love of learning.
    Touch in the daycare home is becoming tougher with the reports of abuse, I am very lucky to have great parents that encourage the touching of their children!

  9. Terri vanhoudt says:

    Chapter 3 & 5
    I strongly believe they have taken all the fun and joy out of school from the start. The kids are learning before the they even start school to write names and numbers, plus know the alphabet. That is where I use to learn it, was IN kindergarten !
    We live in a society where parents think the only way to learn is by doing work sheets or computer programs. They need that tangible, hold in my hand, measurable proof. As a provider I urge parents to wait till 6 years old. I don’t have a problem with our half day preschool, to me that is more social skills getting ready for school.

    No touch in my opinion is a blanket to cover their you know what. As a home provider I believe that is why parents choose us. That is the very definition of home provider. To treat all the daycare children as your own. That is giving the kids hugs, and kisses if they want them. I think it is absurd that we cannot sit and hold a baby that is sleeping. I have been told that we need to lay them in a legal playpen or crib soon as possible. Where is the bonding there? Touch it’s self can bring so many health and bonding and feeling of acceptance to someone’s life. It makes no sense not to have good touch included everyday.

  10. Jessica Kabogoza says:

    This morning I took 8 children to the park. About 5 minutes into playing on the equipment, it started raining. It gently rained (no thunder or lightning) for the next hour. The kids thought it was the best day. They found puddles, the slides became water slides, and the roof of the picnic shelter had streams of water coming off of it where they pretended they were under a waterfall. They found joy in something simple. They also had a sensory experience, a new gross motor activity, and used their imagination to pretend they were somewhere else. Chapter 3 speaks about a term called “flow”. It explains that it is an occurrence when time passes without our noticing. This morning was one of those moments. I fully agree that the pressure and stress that is put on children is often times too much. I also wholeheartedly agree that the stress hormone is incredibly detrimental to our well being. I find it hard to believe though that policy will change very quickly on the subject. I do think though, if we enlighten individual caretakers and work to raise awareness about creating joyful environments where people can have positive, safe and appropriate affection and touch given that we can slowly start to change peoples views and practices from the inside out.

  11. Anna Patnode says:

    Week 2 – 7/18/18
    Reading – chapters 3 and 5
    Joy, humor, and fun are the reasons I love working in early childhood, especially in my own home where I can set my own standards (that parents are aware of) and encourage growth in small individual ways.

    I found chapter 5 to be something that is always a “hot topic” conversation and I agree with many of the concepts/theories. I believe in the value of touch and encourage hugs and lap siting as much as possible for the littlest ones to help make a stronger connection/bond. This year I have decided to try and be more intentional with one-on-one reading experiences with each child. (Committing to read one-on-one with each child at least once per month in order to being a pattern to establish the natural experiences to occur.)

    At the end of chapter 5 in the “What’s a teacher to do” section I was stumped by the statement about not making rules that discourage touch. I’m continually telling my own children to “keep your hands to yourself” and also have set a precedence that a hug should be asked for. I realize that having these boundaries can discourage touch and therefore lead to a negative view of touch but I also need a little sanity. My own children, 5 ages 3-9, like to play and rough house and at certain times that is totally appropriate but when we are in the car or in a store hands to ourselves makes everything more peaceful. Also in my classes last year I had a few children very comfortable with touch that wanted to hug others on a very regular basis, while not inappropriate, it does become a nuisance to other children and sometimes to the class as a whole. More thought with have to go into how to best parent and teach to encourage the benefits of touch while still allowing boundaries.

  12. Nallely says:

    The first basis for a child to feel good in a classroom is for them to find it fun. Joy, love, and above all trust is a magic key that connects children with teachers, it is a way for them to feel confident in being in a pleasant environment and at the same time to children he likes to attend school more, and more than to complete this with hugs so that they also feel in the confidence of feeling protected by not being with their parents. In my experience last year I had to work with a teacher who liked the way I worked with children because I interacted with them and especially loved the way they made their class fun and not boring. Both physical and emotional with them, she taught me how to share more with children and the importance that this helps them feel better and in a more pleasant environment.

    Let’s make children feel in a world full of colors.

  13. Liz says:

    Hugs and humor are my favorite things about about young children. We have so much to learn from them. They give freely of love and enjoy the littlest things in life. Stepping back and observing your interactions and environment will help everyone to realize what is working and what is not for our youngest children.

  14. DeAnna Stowe says:

    Where has our joy gone? Great question America! One area our joy has greatly diminished is in our schools. Children are overwhelmed with the amount of work they receive or the expectation level they are expected to meet. These expectations cause several behaviors which results more in frustration rather than joy. The physical touch that would usually be used to calm a child experiencing this has also decreased. The cause of this could be due to a caregiver potentially accused for wrongful touch. The caregiver could have also not experienced appropriate physical interaction themselves therefore they don’t know how to implement these actions.

  15. Laura Borchardt says:

    Thankfully since I work in an all day preschool it seems to be easier to find the joy in learning and teaching. We don’t have tests and all of our observations for conferences and assessment have to be collected naturally through play and interaction. We have large chunks of the day that are self directed where the child makes their own plan of what they want to do. This helps the teachers notice what they are interested and helps the children make concrete plans and put into words out loud what they think they will be doing. It is very easy for them to find joy in their play when they feel they have control of that part of the day. They have enough planned out for them through every day routines such as nap, eating, and story/large group times. During large group times it is imperative for the teacher leading to be as excited or more excited than the students about what is being shared.
    Hugs and good touches are important. With so many bodies in the same space I think it is hard for the teachers in the room to give so many hugs to so many children. That is why we have a few movement activities and songs to help the children hug each other too. We also have the children practice a gentle touch with each other when they are going through conflict to teach them how to use their hands appropriately.

  16. Laura Hernandez says:

    Joy!!!!! Being with the children, has taught me so much. I have three children of my own. I learn something eveyday. Just bybseeing the children happy and being able to teach the sometbringshing me Joy!!!!

  17. Patrice M milless says:

    Joy. I googled it. I wish I read that the definition was followed by a feeling after one is kind to thy self and others. When a child is young and not related to you, you generally praise them verbally with affirmations. This sparks JOY. A sense of pride and accomplishment for a child. I a 34 and do not remember receiving a hug from any of my teachers. And I think that is OKAY!!!! I believe a child should not have to be touched to be given affirmations. I think a high five is completely appropriate! The child has the choice to push their hand out and meet half way. A hug, although not BAD, definitely not necessary. How about, eye contact and a verbal affirmation with mention of name : ie. Lucy, fantastic idea. Proud of you!!! A child should be in control of their body. Their space. Their say. Their comfort. By saying this, I am assuming that a child is getting the proper amount of nurturing touch at home where there isn’t a need to seek this hug from those at school. Instill the JOY at home. And let the child bring JOY to school. I disagree with the don’t discourage rough and tumble. Not something you encourage at a school. Why is that okay and kindergarten or prek and how would you explain to a child that in lets say 4th grade its no longer appropriate.

  18. Brittany says:

    What first comes to mind when I read the chapters and blog was Baby Boss. We are asking our children to skip their childhood years and “start” doing their part. Wither it is having them learn academics faster and earlier or it is having them get a job. Our society is teaching both parents and the children that playing outside or with toys is not a “productive” use of time. We need to be filling it up with structured learning or work.
    Now on to touch, I totally get both sides of the issue. I know and have heard stories of people misusing their “touch” on children which we are need rules to product them, but now that we are having all these rules for touch our children are now not getting their fill of physical touch each day. I do not know what the full solution is but my hope is that we can find a better balance for our children to still get their physical touch in every day. Some children get no physical touch at home so it daycare or school does not give it to them. Where are they going to get it or will they?

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