Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. - Rumi

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ideas for Teachers - books for inspiration and learning

Today while driving I was thinking about my favorite books as a teacher/educator: books that support my development and inspire me to stay open and try new things.   And then I had a little fantasy what if I could decide recommended reading for teachers/educators.
 In my perfect world, when teachers graduate from their programs, doesn’t matter the level of program, but before they set foot in a classroom, they should be handed these books as a set.
These are my choices:
Painting and Children by Cathy Topal
Beautiful stuff by Cathy Topal
The Hundred Languages by Reggio
Clay and Children by Cathy Topal
Parenting from the Inside out by Dan Siegal and Mary Hartzell

Why? Why would I choose these books?

Let’s face it , in a classroom, a teacher must have knowledge to plan experiences and curriculum for children.  Children learn best by doing, exploring, being curious, touching. It’s helpful to have some knowledge of materials, like clay, paint, glue and more materials. 
I think these books support beginnings and intermediate learning processes for teachers with materials.  Cathy Topal’s books give me confidence to try creative expressions with children and not be afraid.
The Hundred Languages reminds me of the process of education, the respect for children, parents and teachers.  It reminds me to think about what I am doing: to ask myself questions about the choices I make.
It reminds me to have a strong image of children as co-creators and co constructors of knowledge.  It reminds me to be curious and to wonder with children.  It reminds me to listen.  For a new teacher or even a teacher that has been in the classroom for many years the Hundred Languages is a work that can be read over and over again.  One can find new inspiration.
The parenting book is an excellent resource for being mindful and aware of oneself in the continuum of life as a human being.  When we reflect on our self and how we were raised, it helps understand the choices we make as an adult in relationship with others.   And this is a book that works personally and professionally: the more aware one is, the more one is able to be in deeper relationship with those our life intersects with.  It talks about attunement,  Important in relationship particularly with young children.  Plus it has brain development information thrown in.

When I see articles in newspapers, magazines and online about education and all it’s inherent problems, I think about these books and that they could be a beginning.  There are more books that could be added, but then I would have to write more….. another entry.  Life long learning, being a teacher, a human being, a parent, a child, a friend,  living life: it is all a journey.

Happy reading!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Inspired thought

Rainbow Lotus - Om
watercolor on watercolor paper
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
                    - from Open Secret: Versions of Rumi

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Clay – getting complex

I have written about clay and children in a previous blog entry.  I realize it is time to write more.

The great thing about using clay for representational work with children is its malleability.  If a part isn’t working then a child can smooth it and start over until it is the way he or she wants it. 

 Another of my favorite experiences with children 4 and a half and up is making what I call vessels.
I call them “vessels” from my time in art school in the clay studio where ceramicists were building these vases and huge cylinder shapes.
This basic technique teaches coil making and ball making, which are fine motor skills.

Clay also supports fine motor development through the processes required to make self portraits with Clay. Making a portrait in clay requires using the
scoring tool kind of like a pencil or pen. The child draws on the clay similar to ones on a piece of paper, making eyes, nose, mouth and being able to smooth the lines with a finger if not to the child's liking. Using clay to work in a relief style (clay as a piece of paper) helps the drawing development. 

Another component of complexity with clay can be to have the child draw what it is they are going to build.  For example here is a butterfly a child drew and then broke down the shapes of the butterfly before connecting them. Working like this provides children with a slowed down process where they can take the time to do the steps to go from a one dimensional media (drawing) to a three dimensional media (clay).
Clay is a media that works for all ages and stages.  It is a favorite of mine.  I learn as I manipulate it.
I hope this gives you some ideas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Giveaway

I have carried this piece of paper around for a very long time. Now I pass it on to you.


A big word. G- R- A –T- I- T- U- D- E.

grat·i·tude  (grt-td, -tyd)
The state of being grateful; thankfulness.

[Middle English, from Old French, probably from Late Latin grtitd, from Latin grtus, pleasing; see gwer-2 in Indo-European roots.]

Thankfulness.  Another word, like gratitude.
Everyday I try to practice gratitude for everything I have in my life.  People, things, experiences that help me grow. Comments like: you did a great job, that’s nice…. 
I strive everyday to let the people in my life know I appreciate them without any expectation. 
It is a strange thing.  We all have a certain amount of “wanting it to be about me” in us.  I want this, I want someone to say I am so great or did something great. 
Many of us didn’t receive enough accolades as youngsters to feel filled up.
How can you give something you didn’t receive?
I for one have discovered that if I just think outside myself, think from another person’s perspective, “how would I like to be treated” and act accordingly things are better.

Back to gratitude. At a certain stage in life I think in order to move forward with self development some thankfulness is in order.  We have roof’s over our heads, food in our mouths, clothes we like wearing, a measure of comfort. This alone is worth being thankful for.  And then there are our families, whether they are the ones we are born into or the ones we create. 
We are all here to have a human experience. 
And we get to make a choice. We always get to make a choice: to be kind, thankful and grateful or to be snarly, mean and ungrateful.
It’s that time of year. Fall. The holiday season where we gather with our families and friends. The weather is cold, the trees change the color of their leaves, the earth signals change to us. I am thankful for the seasons. I love fall. The colors of the leaves falling on the trees are exquisite and breathtakingly beautiful to me.
I am thankful.  I am grateful. When I feel fussy about things that aren’t happening how I would like, I try to focus on something I am grateful for and that’s how I flow through my hard times. And all times.
I try to think of as many things to be thankful for as I can. It calms me. Can you think of five things you are grateful for?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sixty Posts

Artwork for Education
J, age 10 School in California

Wow! It is hard for me to believe I have posted sixty entries.  Actually sixty one.
This month marks a year of me staying in this process of writing.  I know some months have not had so many entries, but I kept going.
Sometimes I was not sure what I wanted to say.  Sometimes I knew what I wanted to say and it was either too personal or I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on record that I said that.
Either way, I am happy with my progress.  I am happy that I stuck it out.  This blog is one of the joys in my life. I love writing. I love thinking about writing and I love that I have a record of the whole year of my life.
I have found that if I just say what I feel, can relate to and have passion about, it comes through in the words.
I have discovered from seeing what I have written what is important to me.
Women’s rights, children’s rights, fashion, being present in one’s life, art , parenting and love.
Now that I have a year of writing under my belt will I continue the same way?
Do I want to try something new? Was the style I wrote in challenging enough for me?
Well, now I can think about those things.
For now I am going to dwell in the joy and happiness of having stuck with this project for a whole year.  Has it changed anything about me? I think so. It has helped me be clear about how I feel about many situations in my life: How I process change, Learn about my idiosyncrasies.
I think getting to tell some of my stories helps me heal, and hopefully gives my readers something to ponder. We learn from each other.
Ideas going forward: photos, words, thoughts. I don’t know.
I  like the open-endedness I have, it gives me creative freedom: I like that the best. I love thinking about the image and the quote that best support what the blog entry is about.  I love it. It works for me.

George Orwell (1903 - 1950), "Politics and the English Language", 1946

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On the joy of little people (Young Children)

My life has been surrounded by lots of little people.  Little people being those between the ages of 2 and a half to three.
For the first time in a long time I am in a classroom.  Wow! What energy.  What beauty. What delicious presence of mind. Right here, right now.
I have always loved teaching. I feel like it just comes naturally.
But the babies, well it’s a new arena. And I love it. 

How do you teach two and a half  year olds?
Very gently.  Their brains are still developing, at a fast rate.

How do you inspire them to learn?
They love stories and storytelling dolls, using dolls to tell stories. Sing, move, laugh, love being in the moment with them. Ask them questions.  Wonder with them.

What kinds of things are interesting to two and a half year olds? Everything is interesting to a two year old.  They want to try everything, see everything, touch everything, do everything.

These are questions I ask myself. Before I just get in there and do it.

Do they like to sing? Yep, they sure do. it’s one of the best parts of the day.
Do they like to move? Yep they sure do.
Do they require patience?
Yeah, they do. don’t we all.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy, just yes.

One thing that I realize is important to two year olds is getting to do jobs – helping with things in the classroom.  They like to help, I think it gives them a sense of importance, of contributing.
The thing about young children, in my opinion is their brains are growing at such a fast rate, they are absorbing information and experiences.  They are learning to be automomous, to think for themselves, to be aware of themselves and others.  They are learning all the time: what they like and don’t like: colors, food, music, books… the list can go on.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trusting Intuition

“One of the major causes of illness in our society is
ignoring our intuitions” -  I think this was Christianne Northrup from Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

Mariposa corazon
acrylic on wood

I have had the scrap of paper with those words on it in my bathroom for probably 13 years. 

I have heard it said that it is important to trust one’s gut instinct.  That animals pay attention to the signals they get when something doesn’t seem right: they run away from trouble.
But humans: oh no: this doesn’t feel right or something is wrong, but will do it anyway.  Like women that attract the wrong kind of man, and know it and do it anyway or do work that isn’t satisfying or don’t speak up for themselves when they know they should like me.
Well I think the principle of trusting one’s instinct can apply to many other situations in life.  However, that doesn’t make it easy. It can in fact make it harder. It means one speaks up when it’s tough, it means excepting responsibility for one’s actions, being willing to change and it can mean peace of mind (a good thing).
I find when I follow my heart or trust my judgement (another form of trusting my instincts) things are better for me. With regard to my children, I have found when I do pay attention to my instinct I make better choices for them and me.  When I work with children, I find trusting myself to pay attention to the details and my intuition has often been more successful than paying attention to my brain.
In daily life it is important to be centered as one navigates the terrain of different people and situations, from driving to work, stopping anywhere along the way, at work and on the way home. 
I have not always been good at trusting myself in regard to things related to me.  That has gotten me in some sticky situations. 
From a spiritual point of view,I think trusting one’s self is as important as breathing.  Paying attention to one’s self, how one feels on the inside and how one is processing whatever event is going on is healthy for the body and soul.  It’s when one doesn’t listen yucky stuff happens.  For some people dis-ease begins by not following one’s intuition, listening to one’s gut, trusting one’s self knowledge. And let’s face it, there isn’t a single person on the planet that hasn’t been in a challenging position with another person or persons.
I think a key to trusting one’s instincts has also to do with knowing one’s self.  When you know yourself, hopefully it makes one less inclined to do something not right. 
In the book the Secret, there is a page of quotes has to do with focusing so much on self growth that there is no time to judge or critize others.  I translate that to focusing on oneself to the extent one can trust one’s instincts and flow through situations and life.
Marianne Williamson wrote a book called AWoman’s Worth.  It is one of the few spiritual books I read from cover to cover.  Life is going to challenge us.  It is what we are here for.  How we do it is all up to us.
 Trust yourself.   Trust your intuition. Know your worth.
Statue at Ojai Foundation

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Be Kind

“Drench yourself in self kindness.
Women  are very good at shining kindness outward, yet if you ask how kind they are to themselves, they often cry.
Turn the spotlight inward.
Before we can move to healthier ways, we must be where we are.
Radical self- acceptance is a connecting, soft, slow,
compassionate way of being.  We can help each other. When you see a friend beating up on herself, take her weapons away and just hold her.”

                                             From succulent wild woman by Sark

We are way too hard on ourselves sometimes. Me included. I guess it comes from wanting to always be perfect or not make mistakes. More so not wanting to make mistakes.  But sooner or later we all make one. Not intentionally. Sometimes we think we have a situation under control and discover we don’t.
The one thing a person can be in control of is how they respond. Saying I’m sorry, listening compassionately. These are things we want for ourselves. So we should give them. 
I have learned to step away from my computer when my son wants to talk to me. so that he sees I am focused and engaged in our conversation.  This is not always easy, I am sending email, checking balances and handling business. But he is also important.  I am learning to be a better listener.
The words above are inspiration for me.  I forget about being kind to myself.
And I know many women who also do the same thing. It a one day at a time thing, but definitely worth working towards. Be kind to yourself.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Little Backsliding – it doesn’t do a body good - Day one again

Ojai Foundation

I recently backslid on the eating better program.
It started with me being tired on a Friday night. Instead of dragging my behind into the gym, I said “doesn’t some fried fish and French fries sound good while I watch Fashion Police?” dreadful mistake.
Cause then the next night, it was wouldn’t a little rice dream frozen treat taste good? 
Well, it wasn’t much, but it was too much for me and it made me sick and weakened my tired immune system and triggered my allergies. So then I was sneezing and feeling bad and like I was going to descend into the old terrible eating patterns. 
My schedule has been very busy with all my new changes and going to the gym sort of slid onto the backburner…..but not too far.
I am picking myself up, dusting myself off and getting back on track. I have to acknowledge that sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad.  I was eating so well and so in charge that I had to see how bad I would let myself get.  And really I didn’t do anything really, really terrible that I can’t recover from. 
But it made me aware that I have to pay attention all the time.  I have to have my food prepared ahead of time and do the shopping and meal planning that has helped me be successful.
There is a saying that “you can’t rest on your laurels”.
I have made substantial progress in my eating and caring for myself plan: I can’t think that life is all good and I don’t have to work anymore.  I do. I do.  I do.
This reminds me I am human. Having a human experience. Food is my weakness. And I have to plan some treat days now, making sure I work extra hard in  the gym on those days.
I love the eating program I have become accustomed to. It helps me organize one of the most important aspects of my life: taking care of my body.  

Note: I will say the fried fish did taste good. Was it worth all the bother? No, not really, I was curious about how it would feel to eat something off limits, as anything deep fried should be.
The other stuff I ate, that I am not telling about, was it worth it? No.  And I won't do it again soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fashion rules or fashion mistakes

Like most people, I have rules that I follow, strange though they may be.  Mostly they involve being kind to others, you know: treat others the way I want to be treated.  The rules I am specifically talking about are my fashion rules. 
Recently I was in a store that had a sale on long sleeve t-shirts.  I was buying one and had to decide on the color, was it red? Was it orange? White? Or black? Or green?
This is where the rule thing comes in to play:
I don’t wear red and green together: too Christmassy.
I don’t wear red and black together: just don’t like for me. 
Thus my conundrum.  I left without a new long sleeve t-shirt, because I wasn’t buying 2 and I couldn’t decide.  It made me realize about my fashion rules.   Sometimes I think I am so easy going about stuff and I am not. For example:  I am OCD about my workout shoes, I only wear them in the gym.  And gym clothes only in the gym. 
This made me come home and empty out my long sleeve t-shirt drawer to see what was in it and why I feel like I don’t have anything to wear.  I counted at least 4 grey  long sleeve t-shirts, a few black ones, three green ones (different shades), one orange one, one blue and white striped one, one red one (new) and one white one.  No wonder I feel like I have nothing, I have several shades of the same THINGS.
Back to the rules, my wardrobe used to consist of black and white and grey.  It worked.  Now I want to break out of that mold and be in living color.
Like Rome wasn’t built in a day, my wardrobe change won’t be either. 
I am experimenting.  Trying to be open to new possibilities and get myself out of the box. The rule box of choosing what colors I will wear together. 
I guess the first step in changing is taking inventory of what I have.  And then adding and playing with that.  Now that I know I have so many grey long sleeve t-shirts I won’t be buying any more.  I don’t think I will wear black and red together, why? When black and pink and black and green look so great together. Oh, new note: I don’t wear black and orange together either.  Just a thing.  It isn’t going to change.  I also don’t wear yellow.  Just doesn’t go with my skin color.
I am going to be more mindful of my color choices: actually gray goes with black, red, orange and green….. I might be on to something.
Colorful collage

Sunday, October 2, 2011

You know it’ good when your son asks to learn the recipe

“You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients.”
Julia Child

clay food

This summer I had the experience of having my son want to learn how to cook one of the dishes that is a regular in the rotation in our house. 
It pleased me beyond measure to have him be interested in learning how to prepare a meal.  It meant that one day he could cook this dish for his friends, that maybe one day this might be a dish he prepared for his children.
I was so excited, I thought I would burst with joy and happiness.
He actually went shopping with me to purchase the ingredients.  And then when it came time to begin the cooking, he balked. He wanted to watch.
I said I would walk him through; the best way to learn was by doing.  I pulled out my cast iron dutch oven, poured some olive oil in it, put the onions in the pan and then he took over.
It was weird telling him how to prepare the Bolognese sauce that he loves so much.  I always make it the night before so the next day it is delicious, all the spices and sauce melded together.  I now pass on this tradition to my son.
It is the first one. And thus makes it special in my heart.
We cook for our children. Painstakingly preparing dishes we hope they will like: the pasta mama, the chicken curry, the teriyaki salmon, etc. These were popular dishes in our house.  It always cracked me up when there was a complaint that it wasn’t just right. And of course they wouldn’t eat it (another topic).
Food is an important memory of home and family.  Sitting around the table talking at dinner.  This was a bonding time with my sons, checking in, reflecting on the experiences we had each had in the day, telling jokes, the latest sports mishaps. 
And now, here I am, beginning to pass the recipes on. It was summer and thus too hot to bake so we didn’t get into making cakes or cookies, also his favorites.
But there is Thanksgiving Break when we do a traditional
dinner and dessert.
Back to making the Bolognese sauce, during the preparing time my son did get a little grumpy with me about the directions.
I have been making this sauce for so long, I do it by a pinch of this and little of that. How to pass that on?  Demonstrate.
Put the spices in his hands and let him feel it.
It doesn’t get any better than that. Teaching my child, my son, my young man person how to prepare a dish he has loved.  Now it is his. Like a giveaway, I have given him something that he can have with him forever.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


 “Let us be grateful
to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardners
who make our souls blossom”
  -Marcel Proust

It’s that time of year.  Fall.  The time when children go back to school, the orderliness of schedules comes back into our lives after the looseness of summer. 
Fall catalogues arrive bursting with the latest fashions.  One such catalogue arrived in my mailbox and I almost went out of my mind.  The J.Crew fall catalogue had me salivating.  It was the colors.  As an artist, that is what I am attracted to and the colors were jumping off the page and I was ready to buy everything, vivid, brilliant and pink and bright blue and it was a sensory overload.  I even talked to my son’s about it and they don’t care about fashion or clothes.
I couldn’t help myself.  I felt like someone finally had my sense of color and style.  I can’t, really don’t have that kind of budget, but it will influence my color scheme.  I don’t fit into J.Crew pants anyway. But the colors had me going for a while.
Fall.  Football.  College ball, pro ball, high school ball.  I love football. Even if I forget how the game is played until someone reminds me again.  But I pick my teams based on the color of their uniforms(I am girly like that) and if it is Stanford, UCLA, USC I have to represent, also Longhorns and Michigan, or Ohio, or Florida unless they are playing one of my aforementioned teams.

Fall.  The air is cooler, the air begins to get a little cooler everyday. Crisp, fresh with infinite possibilities.
Children go back to their classrooms ready to resume their learning processes.  They are a little bigger, relaxed from the summer of hanging out.  Or they are children beginning their first school experience.
For the latter learning to be a part of a community, to sit together, eat together, play, laugh and learn together. Huge. Wonderful.
Teachers also go back to their classrooms, rested from their summers, ready to pick up with children they are continuing with or getting to know new children.  Hope, Faith,
Patience. Just like children, teachers learn at different paces.  And hopefully are just as excited to begin the process.
watercolor abstract
watercolor on watercolor paper

That is how I feel.  Ready to begin the process of getting to know new children, new parents, new teachers.  To begin new curriculum, engage in joyful and meaningful interactions with children beginning the process of school learning.
Watch some football, college ball, pull out my long sleeved t-shirts, watch the trees change colors, watch the day gets a little shorter, watch the little children growing, watch the grownups growing. 
Fall.  We are beginning a new journey.  Fall promises new beginnings, revisiting experiences past.  I can’t exactly watch myself grow but I hope I am as well.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Inspiration from Marianne Williamson

Urban Venus on the Half Shell
watercolor pencils on watercolor paper

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful
Beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
Gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel
Insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people
Permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson

I recently found these words written by Marianne Williamson in a drawer where I put them a few years ago.  Finding them was like finding a secret stash of inspiration.  These words remind me to not get stuck in the muck of communication gone awry. 
We are all here on this planet to have an experience.  As humans, we have a capacity for deeper, more meaningful connections and interactions.  They begin with our family and branch out into the world, friends, coworkers, people we see in our daily interactions.
We all have beauty, we are all magnificent and glorious.  But we don’t always remember this especially if someone is yelling at us and messing with the flow of karma.
Recently my son’s father left me mean messages on my answering machine, instead of calmly explaining what his problem is.  In another time, I would of shrunk and let this bother me all day.  But today, I decided that it isn’t worth letting go of my joy for.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why are we as women so hard on our selves? Beauty is more than skin deep

It's important for all types of women to know that you don't have to fit a prototype of what one person thinks is beautiful in order to be beautiful or feel beautiful.... People think, Sexy, big breasts, curvy body, no cellulite. It's not that. Take the girl at the beach with the cellulite legs, wearing her bathing suit the way she likes it, walking with a certain air, comfortable with herself. That woman is sexy. Then you see the perfect girl who's really thin, tugging at her bathing suit, wondering how her hair looks. That's not sexy.
JENNIFER LOPEZ, Readers Digest, Aug. 2003
Urban interpretation of Manet's Olympia
watercolor, oil pastel on paper

Why are we as women so hard on our selves?
Why do we lack confidence in our abilities?
Why does it take so long (getting older) to realize we are competent, capable, incredible and fabulous just the way we are, with or without makeup, plastic surgery or other stuff?
Why? Why? Why?

In reading several biographies in magazines by and about women, one of the things I have noticed in older women is them commenting they wish what they know now they knew when they were younger.  Younger meaning twenties, thirties. 

I wonder about and question how is it that so many women are insecure about their looks, their abilities and talents.  Our hair is too straight, too kinky, our breasts are too big, too little, our legs are too long, muscular, our bellies to big, too flat, our noses, lips, etc., one could go on and on about how self conscious and critical we are of ourselves. 
Until we reach an age where it doesn’t matter anymore.
Or until we reach a point where we don’t care anymore.

Somehow on the path of life, I think in our younger years or preadolescent years we become self conscious of our bodies, our selves.  I think we begin to compare and wish for straight noses, blonde hair, or big boobs or long legs or curly hair or something other than our self.
I think the majority of these conversations go on in our heads because we are too embarrassed to say what we don’t like about our self out loud or do say it outloud.  
And also I think even if someone says you are okay the way you are, we don’t always believe it.
I really thing this needs to change and in a serious way.  What messages can young girls receive to support her in not falling into any of the traps of self-depreciating behavior? 
One thing I think is that it goes back to families.  What kind of message do we send our daughters when we comment on what they have done or think about doing.  Try to have conversations about loving who they are and how they look.  Discuss peer pressure, realistic expectations and letting her know she can always count on you (her parent to be there).

In my story, I had a father that thought nothing of calling me a dummy on a regular basis and I also heard Aunt Jemima on a regular basis, there were worse things but that is still pretty bad - no horrible for a preadolescent girl, I didn’t have a chance.  My self- esteem didn’t exist.
One book that is an excellent resource for parents is Self-Esteem: A Family Affair by Jean Illsley Clarke.  It is a developmental book that lists the stages of development and messages it is important to hear to support positive self- esteem.  It lists affirmations a child can receive beginning at birth with: I am glad you are a boy/girl.  Affirmations can be verbal and nonverbal.
Beginning affirmations are about being and being accepted.  Then she lists affirmations for doing (for learning).  Affirmations for thinking, affirmations for identity (learning who we are), affirmations for structure and affirmations for sexuality.
In her book she lists the ages at which receiving the message as a young child is important, but also that at any age a message can apply.  
woman holding up the world
mixed media on wood
This is one approach.  Maybe it can make some shifts in women’s perspectives of themselves.
I am positive that experiences in early childhood are important.  Experiences in problem- solving, exploring and learning about self and others are important components of most preschool curriculums. 

One large factor I haven’t addressed, for a reason, is the plethora of advertisements to buy cosmetics and this and that to make one look or feel beautiful.  I think the issue is deeper than that.  I don’t think it wrong to wear makeup or lipstick or dress nicely.  That’s the outside.  My main concern is the inside.  What happens when the inside voice lacks confidence and self- esteem.  Then we make bad choices. 
Each and every female on the planet is beautiful and has the capacity to be who they want to be.  Really it’s each and every child but I am focusing on women. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Questions I ask myself: Self Reflection

“As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.   I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.  In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, a child humanized or de-humanized.”  - Hiam Ginott

Self  reflection is a part of who I am, or better yet, who I have become.  I am always asking myself about the choices I make, or made and why I chose that.  Did I make the most informed decision that I could make? What prompted my motivation? 
Particularly in my work with young children do I utililize the powers of self  reflection.  I guess it is a professional tool, were my choices of lesson plans successful for everyone? Did I teach it in a manner for all to understand? Was I/am I patient with the children that require more guidance. 
It isn’t the work the children are doing that requires me to pause and think, it is the social/emotional interaction – my connection with them.  Did I hear/understand correctly what was being said? I know this sounds silly. But learning takes place on so many levels.
 It isn’t about learning to mix paint, or clay techniques, it’s how the child can interpret these learnings to express their ideas about the world and themselves.
When the lesson is challenging for a child, for example drawing a representation of a fish or musical instrument, guiding them through the process, without doing it for them.  I call it helping he or she get “to the otherside” (through the part that is challenging), to where the child feels confident about his or her ability to continue a representation and like it.  I have seen children use erasers a lot (a whole other blog entry).  

I feel like I straddle that fence of how much information do I give, how much visual do I show children in order to get them to do their own interpretation of a work. 
So I self reflect on my teaching style.  And if I feel I haven’t been successful for all the children in my group I change the lesson plan.  Even one child not being successful will make me change the plan. 

When I reflect on my self and my work, my goal is to help me be better at what I do, at least more mindful.  It doesn’t make it easier to work like this, it can be harder: to slow down and figure out how to support a child’s development and learning.
I filter the experiences I have with children through my own experiences.  And my upbringing while some aspects of it were delightful, others were horrendous.  Consciously or unconsciously we filter our lives through the lenses of our own experiences. 
So I choose to try to be as aware and mindful of the way I interact with children and adults.  I had teachers that didn’t really like me: I don’t know if it was my skin color or the way I acted.  I had a few teachers that I knew really wanted to help me learn and grow.  One of those was a math teacher in high school.  She was the only teacher that I did well in math with.  She also wore really pretty dresses. 
As a teacher, I am aware that I am responsible for the children when they are in my care, but that their parents are wholly responsible for them.  As a parent I realize that I am wholly responsible for my children and teachers support their growth and development when they are in their care.

When ever there were issues with my son’s in school, I looked at the whole picture of where they were developmentally, emotionally, what was and wasn’t happening in our family and what my gut feeling was about the situation.

watercolor on watercolor paper
summer 2011

I reflect on my parenting style.  Especially because I didn’t have good role models and I re-invented myself once I became a parent.  Becoming a teacher helped me immensely.  The requirements to understand early childhood development and psychology really supported the opening of my brain to grow and for me to begin to heal the wounds of my childhood and adolescence. 
I witnessed brutality in my childhood home, I strongly and very clearly knew that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated at all in my home. 

Mindfulness in my actions sometimes means I am in slow motion.  I look through what I see, feel and how I interpret what is happening around me: not that I can’t go faster, I do, but self reflection is a way of being that I can’t change about myself .