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Graduation 2015

No, not for me… We had a ceremony for the preschoolers who are going to primary next year. I’ve been their teacher since the beginning of 2014. It’s difficult to deliver a speech when you’re overwhelmed with emotions. There may have been more than a few tears yesterday…

Can I get a show of hands for those who have seen the movie “inside out” this year? Keep your hand up if you’ve seen it more than once. Twice. Keep your hand up if you’ve re-watched it 10 times to find quotable moments for a graduation speech. No? For those of you who haven’t seen it, spoiler alert, i may give some of the plot away. 
Now there’s a certain memorable character in the movie that would have made everybody tear up. “Who’s your friend who likes to play?” ***Children respond: Bing Bong Bing Bong***

That’s right, his name is Bing Bong, he is Riley’s childhood imaginary friend. For me, he was particularly relatable to early childhood educators. While we may not be made of cotton candy, we most certainly put on different characters and on various days, part cat, part elephant, and part dolphin. 

We are here to have fun with the children and make their days enjoyable. But more than that, we are here to nurture their kindness, to build their resilience, to encourage their empathy, to stimulate their curiosity, to follow their creativity, and to support their growth in every aspect… whether it be physical, social, cognitive, emotional, or spiritual.

Most of all, we are here to provide them with a loving, nurturing, safe environment while they are away from all of you. I always appreciate the weight of that trust, when you place your most precious child into someone else’s care. And with that weight, I always look to give children the best possible learning environment while they are here.

Putting the yearbook together was particularly emotional for me, as you know, I’ve been with these children for two years. 

Some of you have grown so tall you’re making Emily feel small again. Some of you now have so much to say that Emily barely needs to speak. Some of you are so organised that Emily watches to learn a thing or two while packing away. Some of you are so creative, you inspire Emily to try to draw again. But more importantly, everyday, I see such openness and kindness from children towards each other, that continues to warm my heart and make my world beautiful. I know that I will miss them all dearly and miss every single one of these voices call out “Emily”.

While science says most of brain development occur in the early years, we know from experience, that most memories from these times, fade. I know that the details of these years will fade away, I just hope that as their teacher, I was able to give them all the best things they deserve. And in turn, provide them all the necessary skills and tools for the next stage of their lives. As they go on singing loudly on their rainbow rocket ship, this is where Bing Bong and I hop off.

I’ve had the time of my life with these children. I know they will all go on to have wonderful lives. So as Bing Bong would say, “take her to the moon for me, ok?”

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Never Ready

A great sense of loss and grief took me over as quick as the storm clouds that darkened the skies this afternoon.  I always knew it would come one day.  I understood it conceptually, empathised logically; but my heart was never ready for this eventuality.

Goodbyes were said in lots of loving cuddles yesterday.  Yet it wasn’t until today, when I saw her friends wondering the playground without her, that it really hit.  Amelie has graduated from us.  For personal reasons it was her last day yesterday, after 5 years being in the centre.  I was only there for the last one and a half…  But she was there 5 days a week.  Always with bright smiles and her wonderfully warm, kind, beautiful personality.

Oh Amelie…  How it was a pleasure to have watched you mature and grow.  I still remember you were so shy to greet me in front of your mums at first…  Yet we bonded straight away – naturally, because we practically had the same name!

Amelie, I was there to sooth your cries.  I was there to clean you up when you’ve made a mess.  I was there to facilitate your social interactions – a little nudge here and there gave you confidence to flourish.  I was there to observe and celebrate your achievements – and how proud I am of all that you’ve become!

Yet you know what?  It was your openness and acceptance that helped ME when I was down.  The love you were used to getting, the love you drew from me, saved me from being helpless and lost.  Your genuine kindness and the care you have for your peers, remind me to be more gentle.  And the way you strive to search for exploration and learning – it inspires me to try harder to be a better teacher for you.

I guess I never held back.  I gave as much love as I could, and in return, received much more.  Hence the sense of loss…  I’m happy that she’s all grown up and ready for school – I know she’ll do very well.  Yet I know I will always remember her smile and miss her cuddles.

To pick myself up from this and to continue giving these children love.  To know that they would not remember me, yet strive to shape and facilitate their growth…  Perhaps this is the hardest struggle for preschool teachers.  Yet how fortunate I am, to be in this amazing position to influence so many young minds and souls…..

Thank you for the privilege.  You are all my angels.

(And to think I haven’t even been teaching Amelie this year!  I was her teacher last year and stayed in the 3-4 year old room in 2014.  Next year though, I’m moving up to the preschool room with this lot…  Oh 2015 is definitely going to be an emotional one!)

(Not really sure why I made myself watch “What Maisie Knew” as well as “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” today… Had me balling my eyes out.)

[Craft] Tree on the wall

Traced out leaves, laminated and Blu-tac'ed on the wall.  Gigantic family tree on display : )

Traced out leaves, laminated and Blu-tac’ed on the wall. Gigantic family tree on display : )

[Craft] Tree trunk

I love my job.  It gives me such great pleasure that I wish I had more hours in the day to do work!

One of the inspirational power words I stuck on my wall included “create“.  Well, this week, I created literally the largest object in my life – I made a tree!

The joy that came from creating was so uplifting.  It reaffirmed my choice of career from a very different perspective – not that I needed convincing.  To get out of the drag of mundane routines and produce something I am proud of, it was time well spent.

Sure, strictly speaking, this wasn’t for the children.  It’s for my own aesthetic pleasure as well as to encourage more input from the parents.  The original family tree we had on the wall was… Well, let’s just say not very inviting.  Only half the class brought in family photos to display.  If I were more creative, I’d try to involve the children in this project…  But every other wall is covered (not by my choice) with children’s artwork already, maybe I can just have this one?

 

I used some cardboard boxes from Costco, some double sided tape, a lot of twine, and about four hours at home.

I used some cardboard boxes from Costco, some double sided tape, a lot of twine, and about four hours at home.

Brave boy

Had to hold and comfort a four-year old boy with a very broken arm (bent at the forearm, thinking about the limp dangling hand still makes me cringe) this afternoon.  When he was in my arms all I could see was how brave he was, crying yet still voicing his feelings, still answering questions.  He was in pain, but he was alert, and listening to all that is happening around him.  All I could do was be present for him, and remain calm for him.

I know it hurts.  It’s going to be ok.  Daddy will be here soon.  You’ll go to the hospital.  The doctors will help you.

“Can you put your hand back?”  My instinct was to support the elbow and keep it still.  It seems to somewhat ease the pain, even after we put a sling on.  And I was only too glad to be able to contribute in any little way possible to make him feel better.  I am so grateful that I was able to focus and remain calm to comfort him.  The worst thing that could happen was for children to see adults panic.

I won’t lie, I saw the look of horror and panic in other educators eyes when they saw his limp hand dangling at a strange angle off the middle of his forearm.  Yet I am so proud of the professional team I work with, as everyone handled the situation to the best of their abilities.  Those who couldn’t bare to look, supervised the rest of the children.  Someone got the sling very quickly after I asked for it, and someone thought to give him an ice-block to comfort him.  Of course our boss was immediately notified, who in turn, called the parents straightaway.

When the parents showed up, they too, were so brave.  No wonder their son handled it so well.  They quickly decided which hospital, and calmly talked to their son about how the doctor will take the pain away.  Dad picked him up gently, and the boy asked his mother to support his arm.

Oh my heart goes out to them.  Such a strong, brave family.  I hope they were quickly attended to, I hope everything went smoothly, and I hope he recovers fully, soon.

Character building.  I appreciate how this incident adds to life experience.  But I think I’ve proven myself capable of handling high-stress situations now.  Please.  Spare me from any more accidents >_<

P.S. First thing I did when I got home?  Can you guess it?

I reviewed first aid.

Learning Outcomes

Does your work make you question you who you are as a person?  Mine does.  Constantly.

The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia defines one of the Learning Outcomes as “Children learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect.” (LO 1.4) which is evident when children “reflect on their actions and consider consequences for others”.  How often do we do that as adults?  The first example that comes to my mind is driving.  Yes, you can all relate, I know you can.  Do we always practice this?  I know I don’t.

The framework is to me, so full of wisdom that go far beyond a guide for my teaching practices or something just for children.  I refer to it on a daily basis, and it serves as a constant reminder for all the things I still personally strive to achieve, to maintain, to appreciate and to honour.  An ongoing learning, challenge, and journey, to achieve these life long “learning outcomes”.  The EYLF is unbelievably comprehensive, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to confidently say yes I can see evidence of all of it in myself.  Yet to me, life, is exactly about this integrated and complex learning and development that never ends.

The 25 pages of outcome descriptions depict so many core values that will affect one’s actions for the rest of their lives and follow them to their graves.  If all of us had such values instilled in us in our early years, would the world now be a lot less greed-driven and a lot more ‘caring, empathetic and respectful’?  Will we then be happier, as individuals, as well a collective whole?

Perhaps it is naive and idealistic, but I really do believe children are the key to our future and the early years make the most significant differences in how the world will be shaped.  One day at a time, starting from being a better role model, I will strive to make the world a better place, one child at a time.  ; P

[Day 58] dreams.

Unexpected fearlessness

I’ve been noticing a change in me.

Growing up, I’ve always been quite self-conscious…  But I was blessed with friends that allowed me to be crazy; to let loose; to not care about what others may think.

Then I moved away from those friends, changed countries.  And the invisible eyes came back to stare.  I had a taste of what it was like to live carefree, and I’ve slowly worked my way towards it.  Lately though, I noticed a breakthrough.

SING.  I’m no longer afraid of breaking out in song when I please.  Sometimes it makes other people uncomfortable, but come on, laugh with me!
DANCE.  I rejoice in feeling the music with the movement of my body – beyond the confines of my room.  It just, makes me happy : )
WRITE.  I’m clearly comfortable in being over-sharing of the truth I see in myself.  But hey, what’s life without the deep & meaningful and the connections they bring?
DRESS.  I still like to dress-up (so much fun!).  But I’m comfortable rocking dagginess with zero make-up too.

These were the things I had consciously thought about working on.  Oh if only I had the courage, if only I didn’t care.  Well, no more if only’s.  I’m here.  But wait, there’s a surprise for me.  An unintended freedom to:

DRAW.  I’ve always known how much I can’t – but it doesn’t matter anymore!

I recall as early as kindergarten how the teachers would come around and look at everyone’s drawings.  I was always conscious of what they may say.  I hated having to show them, unless I was really, REALLY pleased with what I’ve done (and even then, I clearly remember one time I was so proud… got totally shut down with an ‘oh that’s nice’).  I was always comparing myself to others.  There was never the courage to just create, I was only ever comfortable with copying something I knew looked nice – most of the time someone else’s drawing.  Because I self-rated ‘not good enough’.  Since I was 5.  If not earlier.

That’s no longer the case.

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Looking at how much joy the scribbles bring children everyday, it has rubbed off on me.  All this time the mantra “it’s not about the end-product, it’s about the process” that I mumble to myself constantly, has had an unexpected profound effect on me.  Who cares if I can’t do much more than a scribble.  Who cares if you can’t hold a tune.  If it brings you joy, it’s worth doing!

Oh the endless blessings of working with children!

[Day 56]  joyous gratitude.