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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Risk-Taking

Posted by on in What If?

When we think of typical activities for preschoolers that help support their development across multiple domains, what first comes to mind are manipulating playdough, cutting, gluing, climbing, running, and puzzles.

But let’s walk that back some and consider, instead, having children engage in authentic activities. How about working with hammers, nails, saws, and hand drills? Um… Excuse me? Yes, encouraging children to play with traditional carpentry tools can enhance their learning experience and create excitement about learning.

Using real tools provides real-life experiences that plastic, miniature substitutes could never do. Although the idea of heavy tools and sharp edges may initially seem like a bad idea that could pose unnecessary dangers, with careful foresight, planning, and supervision, tools can be an amazing addition to the preschool classroom.


Children’s natural tendency is to MAKE – they are creative and artistic beings after all. Having tools provides children with the opportunity to bring their ideas to life, but, more than that, it’s an opportunity to create in a way they would usually not have the ability to in their classrooms. The added element of risk and novelty makes it an exciting and alluring task for children, too.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood


“It’s necessary that we believe that the child is very intelligent, that the child is strong and beautiful and has very ambitious desires and requests. This is the image of the child that we need to hold. Those who have the image of the child as fragile, incomplete, weak, made of glass gain something from this belief  only for themselves. We don’t need that as an image of children. Instead of always giving children protection, we need to give them the recognition of their rights and of their strengths.” Loris Malaguzzi.

Having worked in a Reggio-inspired program for four years, I endeavor to hold this idea in my mind as I teach young children, and as I teach adults. Young children are amazingly capable. They can learn anything at their level of development and as members of a larger culture. By providing support for what they are capable of, we honor their essential natures.

Recently, I have been thinking about DAP. What does developmentally appropriate practice mean to each of us? I think that, in spite of NAEYC’s very positive and specific guidance for us as Early Childhood Educators, schools and parents who want to honor DAP have differing images of children in their minds. I see so much that is good in the practices of my adult students, and among my ECE colleagues, but also I sense that many of us still tend to see young children as individuals who need protection, nurture, and dare I say, sheltering. The image Loris Malaguzzi presents in the quote above certainly contradicts this image.

In the NAEYC literature, 12 Principles of Development and Learning, the eleventh principle, “Development and learning are advanced when children are challenged” strikes me as particularly important. From self-help skills (pouring water, and counting out crackers at snack, to pulling up their own pants, with appropriate scaffolding) to project work (planning and creating a part of a project a child sees as needed, each contribution demonstrating not only skills, but ideas as well), young children are vastly more capable than we habitually see them. Perhaps, as Malaguzzi implies, we want to see them as needing more help, so that we can fulfil our own need to nurture (full-disclosure: sometimes guilty myself!). But we do not give them our best if we do things they can do themselves. Neither should we over-protect them.

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Posted by on in What If?


Do your students want to be spoon-fed? Are they constantly demanding your help, calling out your name over and over again? If so, is it possible that you’ve unwittingly contributed to their sense of helplessness? Can learned helplessness be unlearned?

Those are among the questions I asked of Starr Sackstein and David Ginsburg on an episode of Studentcentricity. They had a lot of wonderful advice and followed it up with the takeaways below.

Starr added:

Ultimately we need to empower students so they know how to advocate for themselves. We do this by offering them opportunities to be in charge of their learning while giving them room to ask for help where needed. Explicitly teaching reflection and modeling the behavior, is a positive way to ensure that all students do learn to ask for help when they need it, but to try on their own first. After working alone, they should reach out to peers and then beyond that the teacher is available for help and always will be. Usually if students experience success on their own, they feel more confident. We need to make sure they have these successful moments.

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Posted by on in What If?
I recently watched a fantastic six minute YouTube video featuring Steve Harvey.  I know, I know, Steve Harvey had the gaff at the Miss Universe Pageant, but that doesn't detract from the great things he has done for people.  I imagine he has made most of us laugh, cry and think.  The video is titled, You Have to Jump (6 min).  
I bring this up because the message has made me reflect on my journey. How many times have I jumped?  Is there still more opportunities in my future?  I honestly don't know, but I hope to have the courage when the time comes.
There was a time I jumped.
Years ago I was at a low point and feeling very much isolated in my career. I was filled with doubt and I had several depressing days.  On the outside I tried very hard to smile, be positive, and support others, but on the inside I was lacking belief in myself.  Then one evening when I felt very low, I turned to my wife and said, "I'm not sure I can do this." She was amazingly supportive and cheered me on like no one else could.
That night I turned in very late.  I actually sat in bed and checked out twitter for the first time.  I had an account prior to that night, but I nothing with it.  That night I jumped.  I began to follow conversations, click on links, and connect with other educators.  I threw caution to the wind and went for it.  Within a very short amount of time I could feel myself energized.
You never know when opportunity will knock.  I never want to look back and regret not jumping.  I don't want to be the person standing on the edge and watching life pass me by.
My individual journey has been filled with its fair share of "forks in the road."  I think I've jumped multiple times, and who's to say I won't again. 
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Posted by on in ShiftParadigm


I remember the day very well. It was 2002, and my husband and I lived and worked in a small community in southern Indiana. I had just finished my English teaching licensure after I had received my Bachelor’s degree two years prior, substitute teaching as much as I could, and I was looking for a permanent teaching position. There were no open positions in the area, and since we were young, without children at that time, we decided to go to a job fair to see what was out there in the state of Indiana. While at that job fair, we met Ben.

Ben was a former Hoosier, now living and working in Pasadena, California, as the human resources director for Pasadena Unified School District, and he told us that he always made a trip to Indiana to recruit teachers, as there was a shortage of teachers where he was and he loved Indiana teachers. He was a former teacher and building administrator himself.

At the job fair, we stopped by his booth, just curious. What we didn’t realize was that Ben was about to change our lives.

He wanted to interview both of us that same afternoon. What?!?! I had my resume and a short version of my portfolio with me. My husband had the same. I did not feel prepared for this at all! We interviewed with him together - not separate interviews - and he drilled us. We answered question after question, truly walking away feeling like we were not ready for this job hunting process to begin! We started the drive home, both concluding that that was good practice, and we would continue to see what opportunities may arise.

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