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Heather Wenig | @ece_nerd

Heather Wenig | @ece_nerd

Heather is the Education Coordinator for a non profit child care agency in Lafayette, Indiana. She has worked with children and families for over 25 years. In 2015, she was recognized as one of Exchange Press's Promising Emerging Leaders.



You can find more from Heather:


Facebook: That Early Childhood Nerd


Twitter: ece_nerd


Podcast: Cause an Effect (available on itunes and the Upstairs Studio facebook page)

Posted by on in Early Childhood

talking to child

I’ve been thinking a lot about communication lately, primarily about the kind of “teacher shorthand,” as Carol Garhart Mooney calls it, that I hear being used so often in child care settings. 

Things like saying, “criss-cross applesauce” instead of “please sit with your legs crossed like mine” (Why do we need to even sit that way? That’s another blog….)  or “inside voices now” instead of saying, “we’re inside now, and your voice is too loud.”

I think we use these terms to sound “teachery” and because they are culturally learned and absorbed. But I also think they can be very unclear for children. We assume they know what we are talking about, because it seems perfectly clear to us. We forget that children process language and ideas very differently than we do. 

Have you seen the video that made the rounds on Facebook a few weeks ago, showing a baby in a high chair, cracking up laughing each time his mom sliced a banana? That was a good example for me as I thought about this teacher shorthand. It makes no sense to me, as an adult, that a simple action like slicing a piece of banana would be that funny. It made perfect sense to the baby, because we think very differently. 

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Excited child

After hearing of Bev Bos’s passing earlier this year, I spent a couple of days reviewing and reflecting on her writing. A 1995 article called "JOY in Early Childhood Programs" particularly spoke to me, as it has so often in the last 20 years. Bev wrote that, sadly, joy is not often a consideration for people who are talking about and planning programs and experiences for young children. She reminded us that “because learning always involves feelings, we must protect the right of all children to have a hallelujah kind of childhood.” 

I’ll say it again, because the words thrill me to my very soul: WE MUST PROTECT THE RIGHT OF ALL CHILDREN TO HAVE A HALLELUJAH KIND OF CHILDHOOD.

That means we must be active, intentional, self aware and reflective. Protecting children’s rights does not happen accidentally.

That means we do this for the child whose mom drives you crazy, the child who hits and kicks when you are trying to get him to settled down for rest time, the child whose nose is constantly oozing and who slobbers on her chin. All children means ALL children.

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Tagged in: early childhood Joy play

Posted by on in Early Childhood

classroom management

Discipline. Behavior management. Guidance. Whatever you call it, there is no topic that early childhood teachers want to talk about more, in my experience as a trainer and mentor, than what to do when children “won’t listen.”

I spent several years trying to come up with new and more insightful ways to talk to teachers about guiding children’s behavior. I’ve talked about changing the language we use from “punishment” to “discipline” in an attempt to change the adults’ focus. I’ve tried talking about how teachers can use “helping behaviors” when children’s behavior is challenging to them. I talk about “discipline” meaning “to teach” and not “to punish.” I see nods of agreement, I see note taking…and then I see a struggle to change when they are back in a classroom.

About a year ago, I had an epiphany. I developed a matching game to use with a group of teachers who were about to go through a four-session series with me on guiding behavior. At the beginning of the first session, I gave each teacher a copy of this matching game handout and asked them to read both columns, then draw a line from the behavior in the left hand column to the appropriate response in the right hand column. It looks like this:

img_0530-1

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

circle time

“Heather, I think this is the first time that I’ve encountered a center that doesn’t request children to ‘sit’ when in group. I understand the philosophy, but children also need to learn that by sitting while in a large group, others are given a better ability to see what is going on. I’ll have to ponder on this one a bit.”

This is feedback I received after singing the praises of a PreK teacher (4 and 5 year olds) who allowed children who were not engaged in group time to leave the group and work on their own. This is not the first time I have heard the argument that if children are allowed to choose not to participate in group time in their child care setting or preschool, they will never be able to sit when an elementary school teacher expects it of them.

I wonder how this person would have responded if I had said that I appreciated that infants who are not yet ready to walk are allowed to sit, crawl, creep and cruise instead. 

Of course, that seems perfectly rational. But couldn’t an argument be made that we want children to be able to walk when they go to kindergarten? Aren’t we cheating them by not forcing that walking?

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