Welcome 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 @ If you are just joining us, you will find all the book study details HERE.
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
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).