Time Well Spent

This is it my friends.  We are at the end of our Master’s journey and it is time to part ways.  Yet, even though we may be parting ways, many of you have made an indelible mark on my life.  The past two years have been life-changing for me.  There are three things that impacted me the deepest during our 10 classes in this program . . .

1.  I have learned that respectful relationships are the absolute foundation of all that I do in my work with children.

2.  I have realized my own passions in the field of early childhood, acknowledged my own identity, strengths, and dreams, and seen with new eyes the impact that I have in my day-to-day work with the children I love and care for.

3.  I have learned that there is an amazing and intricate community of professionals in early childhood who all have a passion for the healthy  well being of children around the world and who are willing and available to help each other for the health of the individual and the good of the whole.

4.  I have widened my peripheral vision and understanding about issues and trends in early childhood, diversities in cultures, and approaches to education.

5.  I have come to realize more fully the extreme importance and value of play in the lives of children and in the lives of adults.

My one long-term goal for the next several years is to pursue more specific training and education in the area of infants and toddlers, including RIE training, infant massage, and baby yoga.

I simply cannot express in words what you all have meant to me as we have traveled this road together.  Many of us have been together for class after class, and some of us have only been together recently.  I have learned from each and every one of you and am forever grateful for the insights and words that you have shared through blogs, and through our conversations on the discussion boards.  Thank you to each of my professors — you have all made a difference in my education, in my thinking, and in my life.

I have especially learned over the last two years that it is most crucial to see each individual for who they are and to value them as they are.  Magda Gerber’s quote continues to be a favorite one that resonates my underlying philosophy in recent years and is good advice to us all in everyday life.

Do less, Observe more, Enjoy most.  

As you continue on your life’s path to pursue your own passions and dreams do what is most important, and as you spend time with children in your work allow them to lead the way  . . .  do less.

Be the silent watcher.  Watch and notice what is happening around you  . . .  observe more.

And see the beauty around you and in each moment, action, reaction, and interaction.  Soak it all in . . .  enjoy most.

I would love to keep in touch with any of you by email or on FaceBook.  You can reach me @ clynnlars@gmail.com or find me on FaceBook by searching for Cindy Caricofe Larsen.  Wishing you all the best as you continue on your journey.

Jobs and Roles in the International ECE Community

This week we are exploring the options for jobs and/or roles in the INTERNATIONAL early childhood community.

I first chose to investigate the UNICEF website at http://www.unicef.org. Why? Unicef is an organization that I remember from my own childhood, some forty plus years ago. I remember the small orange boxes that we used every year to “trick-or-treat for Unicef” on the streets of my small Maryland town. I also remember my mother buying Christmas cards from Unicef for many, many years. Just the other day I was shopping with my mom at Pier 1 and there were Unicef Christmas cards for sale on the checkout counter.

Unicef has deep roots and a global impact on the health and well being of children around the world. They support the health and nutrition of children in developing countries through the provision of vaccinations, good water, sanitation, and quality education for all boys and girls.

The job position that I noticed on their website that interested me (once again) has to do with mothers and young children.

Health Specialist (Maternal & Newborn), P-3, Abuja, Nigeria

Purpose of the Position: Accountable for the implementation of country strategies aimed at scaling up cost effective health interventions and supportive of the integration of gender equality focus in any maternal and newborn health programs.

They state “if you are a committed, creative professional and are passionate about making a lasting difference for children, the worlds leading children’s rights organization would like to hear from you”.

Qualifications of Successful Candidate Advanced degree in one of the disciplines relevant to the following areas: Public Health, Medicine, Health Research, International Health, Health Policy and Management, Environmental Health Sciences, Family Health, Biostatistics, Socio-medical Sciences, Epidemiology, Health Education, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Educational Interventions in Health Care, Nursing or a field relevant to international development assistance in Health.* Five years of relevant work experience. Awareness of the technical support required in health related emergency and humanitarian preparedness. Experience working in the UN or other international development organization, and fieldwork experience an asset. Background/familiarity with Emergency and gender mainstreaming. Fluency in English. A good knowledge of local working language of the duty station an asset. *A first level university degree with a relevant combination of academic qualifications and experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree.

My thoughts on this position: I have had extensive experience in the medical field and have always been interested in combining my passion for children with medicine. This would be a perfect opportunity. While I do fit into their criteria of being a committed and creative professional who wants to make a difference, I do not nearly meet the qualifications of a successful candidate because the emphasis is on the public health field.

I also investigated SAVE THE CHILDREN, a leading international, independent organization that seeks to create lasting change in the lives of children in need across the world. They link early childhood professionals, organizations, and governments together in order to help children and families to help themselves. They are especially instrumental when disasters strike around the world and come to the aid of families by providing food, medical care, and education, as well as long-term recovery programs.

Job opportunity:  Program Specialist, Early Steps to School Success.

This part time position in the state of Washington, provides technical and management assistance to partners to ensure the effective coordination, implementation and monitoring of early childhood education programming. Qualifications and requirements include a Bachelors degree in ECE or related, training and hands on experience with 0 to 3 years of training with or working supporting home visitors.

My thoughts on this position: I am qualified to work in a position like this, would be interested in finding something that is similar to this near my home because I could help programs or schools establish themselves and would also only have to work part-time.

Finally, I looked into the worldwide organization, Early Childhood Exchange. According to their website, “Exchange is committed to supporting early childhood professionals worldwide in their efforts to craft early childhood environments where adults and children thrive – environments that foster friendship, curiosity, self-esteem, joy, and respect; where the talents of all are fully challenged and justly rewarded” (information retrieved from http://www.childcareexchange.com/about-us/mission/).

While they do have a page on their site for any ECE professional organization to advertise for job openings (and there were a few listed), I was actually drawn to the fact that they are on the look out for writers in the ECE field. Early Childhood Exchange sends out a daily email to professionals that I have been receiving for several years.

Write for Exchange

Exchange is committed to supporting early childhood professionals worldwide in their efforts to craft early childhood environments where adults and children live – environments that foster friendship, curiosity, self-esteem, joy, and respect; where the talents of all are fully challenged and justly rewarded.

Specification sheet for authors When submitting articles for review, please include the following items: • Updated color photograph of author (in order of preference): digital scan (high resolution), color or black and white print • Current biographical statement – approximately 350 characters • Article length – approximately 1800 words • Article format – E-mail attachment saved as Word document or as part of message to Donna Rafanello atsubmission@childcareexchange.com. • Illustrations or photographs for your article (mail only) • Phone, fax, and cellular numbers • E-mail address • Social Security Number (upon acceptance) • References for inclusion with your article. Accuracy of references is the responsibility of the author.

My thoughts on this position: Hmmm! This does interest me because I have been told by several professors and colleagues during the course of our Master’s program that I ought to write professionally. I can easily do something like this as a compliment to the work that I am already doing with infants and toddlers. It can be a great vehicle for my writing and for communicating my passion with movement and exploration based on the needs and interests of the individual child.

Jobs and Roles in the ECE Community: National and Federal Level

I have chosen to explore several national organizations in the Early Childhood field that I have already been researching either during my Master’s program as a whole, or specifically for my Capstone Project.

1. Zero to Three, as stated on their website, is a “national, nonprofit organization that informs, trains, and supports professionals, policymakers, and parents in their efforts to improve the lives of infants and toddlers” (2012). Their mission aligns with my own personal mission, which is to foster and encourage the healthy well being, growth and development of infants.

CURRENT JOB OPPORTUNITY through Zero to Three: Senior Information Specialist

Department: Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Technical Assistance Coordinating Center (TACC)

Summary: “The TACC Senior Information Specialist prepares and delivers universal technical assistance (TA) in the form of webinars to MIECHV grantees and related audiences. Additional responsibilities include leading the development of a monthly newsletter, and serving as a content and information resource for the TACC.”

Skills & Experiences necessary (some): Experience in the early childhood field, experience developing and delivering webinars, using technology for professional development, excellent verbal and written communication skills, presentation skills, and interpersonal skills, detail oriented and experienced in managing multiple tasks

Essential Qualities (some): Is self-reflective, encourages and practices critical thinking, collaboratively and creatively supports the work efforts of colleagues at all levels.

Education: Master’s degree in early childhood or related field.

My thoughts about this position: I do have the educational background, many of the essential qualities, and some of the skills and experiences necessary for this position. I would have to have additional training on webinars and stretch way beyond my personal comfort zone to use technology so aggressively. The most fascinating thing to me about finding this was the mere fact that Zero to Three has a department called Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV). This is exciting to me! Somewhere I truly think I could fit on a national level. Not necessarily in this particular position, but this intrigues me enough to continue going back to the Zero to Three website on a regular basis to search for other positions that may be within this department.

2. National Center for Children in Poverty. This organization is one that I have just begun researching during our Capstone class. I have had great interest in the NCCP because I am building a project that will be planted as a seed in a low-income neighborhood in the city that I live. The NCCP is a leading public policy center that engages research in order to promote strong economic security, nurture and strengthen families, and foster the health and well being of children.

The only CURRENT JOB OPPORTUNITY through the NCCP: ASSOCIATE RESEARCH SCIENTIST with expertise in demography, to conduct research on child poverty and its implications for policies at the national and state levels. Minimum Qualifications include a PhD.

My thoughts about this position:   Obviously I am not qualified for this position, nor do I particularly have a desire to do any sort of research! Research intimidates me and I simply know that it is not a strength of mine. However, I am still quite interested in exploring this organization more deeply and establish connections with them by keeping them as a research base in any work that I continue to do with the non-profit organization that I am tutoring with.

3. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). I am especially proud to be a member of this organization and a 2012 recipient of a scholarship to attend their national conference. This organization was a natural choice for me to investigate since I have just returned from that (my first) conference and experience as a scholarship recipient. As stated on their website, “Founded in 1926, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children with nearly 80,000 members, a national network of more than 300 state and local Affiliates, and a growing global alliance of like-minded organizations” (2012).

CURRENT JOB OPPORTUNITY through NAEYC: Accreditation Coordinator

This position provides information and technical assistance on the accreditation process, policies and procedures via phone and email to the NAEYC customers.

Job responsibilities include working with administrators, assessors, and decision makers throughout the accreditation process.

Qualifications include (but not limited to) a BA in Early Childhood Education or Child Development, 3 – 5 years of experience in the field, experience with a high quality program and NAEYC accreditation, excellent oral and written communication skills.

My thoughts about this position:  I would be honored to work for such a prestigious organization, yet serving as an accreditation coordinator would not be my ideal job because I would be caught up more in the rules, regulations, and policies that must be in place for child care, rather than in the relationships that serve as a foundation for the healthy growth and development of children.

References:

Zero to Three (2012). Information retrieved from www.zerotothree.org

National Center for Children in Poverty (2012). Information retrieved from www.nccp.org

National Association for the Education of Young Children (2012). Information retrieved from www.naeyc.org

Exploring Roles in the ECE Community: Local and State Levels

Local and state organizations or communities of practice that appeal to me:

1. The Virginia Infant and Toddler Specialist Network. I consider myself a growing and perpetually learning infant and toddler specialist. Through the last four years I have become accustomed to building relationships and connections with the children in my care, their immediate and extended families, and the other infant teachers in our center. I also embrace consistent practices of observation and provocations in order to foster the physical, mental, and cognitive growth and well-being of infants and toddlers based on their interests and individual needs. This network will support me in my work as an infant toddler teacher and connect me to a larger community of practice.

Job opportunity available through this organization that interests me:

Infant Toddler Specialist

Requirements for position: Bachelors Degree in ECE; Preferred Master’s in ECE or related fields.

Experience and skills needed include: Demonstrated work experience providing training and technical assistance to infant and toddler center-based and family child care programs. Demonstrated knowledge of infant and toddler development or experience with childcare or other early care settings. Considerable knowledge of child growth and development, including planning and implementing developmentally appropriate early care and education programs for infants and toddlers. Competent use of computer technology and software, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, as well as other equipment such as cell phone, digital camera, video recorder and projector. Excellent planning, organizational, and time management skills. Ability to manage own time, set priorities, work without direct supervision and contribute to team atmosphere. Ability to design, create and format early childhood curriculum for a child care audience and provide services that are culturally competent for the needs of the target audience. Strong written and oral communication skills and ability to build positive working relationships with key community and grant partners. Working knowledge of state licensing regulations for center-based child care and family child care environments. Must hold a valid driver’s license and be able to travel statewide, including overnight travel.

2. Child Savers, Inc., a community supported, non-profit organization which was created for the purpose supporting the mental health and well-being of children. This organization also provides extensive training for child-care professionals in our area.

Job opportunity available through this organization that interests me:

Licensed Mental Health Professional

This position provides outpatient therapy to children and their families using art, play, sand-tray and recreational therapy. In order to have a job in this field I would need to continue with my education to receive a Master’s in Social Work and additional training in play and recreational therapy.

3. Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia. This government agency works specifically to provide services and supports to infants and toddlers through age two who need early intervention due to signs of developmental delay. I am extremely interested in following and supporting the growth and development of infants and toddlers and doing what I can to provide the structure and support in their everyday lives to bring that about.

Job opportunity available through this organization that interests me:

Parent-Infant and Outreach Services Coordinator

Position at The Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton, Virginia to provide unbiased information, assessment, support, non-therapeutic counseling, and early intervention services to families, and to work collaboratively as a resource for early intervention agencies, health care providers, and school systems serving children who are deaf or hard-of hearing, blind or low vision, or deaf-blind. Minimum Qualifications: • Masters Degree from an accredited college or university in Speech-Language Pathology, Early Intervention, Early Childhood Development, Deaf Education, Early Childhood Special Education or other related field • Hold or be eligible for a valid Virginia license issued by the Board of Education with an endorsement in field of expertise and/or the Virginia Department of Health Professionals in field of expertise (licensure as a Speech-Language Pathologist is preferred) • Complete and hold certification as an Early Intervention Professional through the Infant Toddler Connection of Virginia (candidates without this certification may be considered, but must acquire the certification within 30 days of employment) • Knowledge of child growth and development, and special needs of children with sensory impairments and other disabilities

References:

ChildSavers, Inc., (2012). Information retrieved from http://www.childsavers.org/default.html

Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia (2012). Information retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/early_childhood/index.shtml

Virginia Infant and Toddler Specialist Network (2012). Information retrieved from http://www.va-itsnetwork.org/

My Passions

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Across the Sea and back again . . . reflections on my travels to Belize

At the end of 2011 I  concluded an incredible wireless conversation with my new (silver) friend, Sarah. Sarah and I met through a mutual friend and she unhesitatingly helped me out with a blog assignment for the Master’s class that I was in.  If you have been a follower of my blog, you may recall the power of her pictures and words about the work that she does with children in Ghana.

You can find her story in the November and December 2011 archives.  In my final blog post for that class,  “Across the Sea & Back Again . . .”  I had to share a goal that I might have after corresponding with an early childhood educator in a different part of the world. Sarah’s passion and zeal for children in the country of Ghana inspired me.  I was touched so deeply that I made it a goal to somehow travel physically to another country sometime within the next year.

It was only weeks later that our church announced a mission trip that they were planning to the country of Belize. There was no doubt in my mind that a door had opened and I was supposed to walk through it.  The next six months of my very full personal life, coupled with the reading, reflecting, and writing that we did in our Master’s classes, was like hiking up a mountain.  Yet I climbed that mountain, day by day. . . step by step.

I hiked, not seeing how I would have the strength to make it to the top (seemingly the Belize mission trip) . . . and the very last week before we left for Belize was one of divine revelation for me.  It was a culmination of my journey over the recent years during which I  realized my own self-worth and the value in my individual life story.

The past six months have been like finishing the end of a five-year journey.  That mountain that I have been climbing?  I have often stumbling along the path . . .tripping up on roots and rocks.  There have been many days that I gave up and sat on the side of the path . . .not able to see anything through the dense underbrush or over the thick tree canopies. There were many times when I felt lost and lonely because I was giving up structures that had held me up from the outside for over 40 years and beginning to build some for myself.  Although many of them were similar structures and beliefs there were also many that I simply had to throw away.  Yet they are more solid now because I have constructed them myself.

When I was finishing up two weeks worth of reading, reflecting, and writing during that final seven days before traveling to Central America,  I felt as if I reached the top of  the mountain that I have been on for so long.  I finally came to a summit where I was able to look back and see where I had come from and know why.  I sat on the top of that mountain and saw the wisdom that I have, came to realize why I believe what I believe, and truly came to see what an amazing masterpiece I am.  I realized the importance of the story that I have lived and came to understand that I have so many more stories to write.

When the morning of July 7 came,  and that airplane lifted off the runway, I finally walked through the door that had opened six months before.  Along with 20 other people I traveled to the Stann Creek District in the Central American country of Belize in order to help Kidz Connect4Jesus   with their very first Sports Camp.

An amazing moment of inspiration and confirmation came when we went to our training session with David & Karen Rhodes to prepare for our week.  Karen quite simply said that we all have a story to tell . . . and referenced this scripture that was hanging prominently on the wall behind her.

Just exactly what pierced through me just days earlier . . . and words I was convinced that I needed to pass along to others.

Karen also spoke words directly to confirm what had been breathed into my spirit that very week . . . that not only do we each have a story to tell but we also have a story to write.  Our lives and our stories are meant to be shared, lived, written and passed on.  I knew, without a doubt, that I was in Belize to touch one life, two lives, or three lives.  Not only to share my story, but to help children in Belize to believe that THEY have a story to tell . . .they have a story to write . . . and that their story is important.

The story that I lived in Belize is one of connections.  It is one of people touching people . . . of relationships . . . of lives . . . of stories being shared and stories being written.  There were layers upon layers of stories shared and stories being written during our week as we talked, played, sang, and laughed.

We shared many stories back and forth with the Ferguson family all week long . . .

Rodwell & Annamae Ferguson, and their family, were the amazing hosts for our team at their own Macaroni Hill View Hotel for the week.

They shared their stories through their home and through their food.

Most especially, they shared their stories with us and listened to our stories every night after dinner as they gathered with different ones around the table to talk.

I shared my own story with 12 precious Belizian girls each day during our Sports Camp.

  We sang, learned scriptures,

and played ball.  Softball, that is.

We doodled & drew.

We colored.

and we did some word work.

Most especially, we talked about names.  And most especially I was certain to remind them over and over that  . . .

they have a story to tell, they have a story to write,  and their story is important.

We talked about our names . . . and we created our names as another reminder of this:

As our larger team of 70+ people shared their own stories with 500+ children all week long, I saw these stories one by one. . .

I watched Andrew helping children feel welcome on the first day of camp.

I watched Karen as she connected with a new friend through her enthusiasm and interest.

I saw Ryan share his softball skills to teach a crowd  of eager young girls how to play the game, and take a time out to share a simple gospel story that they could understand.

I watched Les as he gave a young girl a shoulder up to see.

 . . . and I caught Kristy engaging this young man in a conversation.

I saw the children connecting back with me . . . giving me creative and personalized drawings and bringing me flowers.

Throughout our week we connected with children one to one . . .

three to one . . .

and many to one . . .

Throughout the week all of us on the team recorded these stories in personal journals.

and on the very last day in this country, David and Karen gave us an opportunity to spend hours in the fresh air, sunshine, and the waters of Belize . . .

to reflect on these stories.

As we soaked in the amazingly perfect paradise of an island

some of us reflected in thought . . .

and some of us reflected in word.

On our last morning in Belize we had the privilege of seeing more stories in the village surrounding the Macaroni.

We walked the streets of the village

to deliver Stop Hunger Now meals to the families who live there.

So now, as I reflect back on this amazing week out of my life I see that my journey has not ended.  That mountain that I climbed?  It was but one in a range of mountains.  I can see clearly now (are you singing?) that there are more mountains to climb, more adventures ahead.

There are more stories to tell.  There are more stories to read.  There are many . . . so many more stories to write.

So I ask you this:  What is your story?  And who can you tell it to?  Who is around you that has a story that needs to be told?  Dear friends, there are so many more stories for you to tell.  There are even more stories for you to read.  And there so many amazing stories for you to live.  So ‘on belay’. . . let’s climb those mountains together and write some stories!

It Only Takes a Spark . . .

It is amazing how the conversations that we have are like sparks.

One word, sentence, or thought shared by someone else

often creates a spark in us,

which then turns into a fire.

We simply have no idea how many sparks have flown into other’s lives through our blogs and conversations that have ignited a fire inside.

As I was responding to someone’s blog last week I had the spark & fire image come to mind.  A spark had come to Joey through something that Hailey said. From the fire that Hailey’s spark ignited in Joey, another spark flew out to ignite a fire in me.

Just like that.

Reading Hailey’s story inspired Joey.

Reading Joey’s blog inspired me.

I was immediately transported back around those campfires at Camp Woodbrook

and I was singing an old campfire song in my head . . .

. . .It only takes a spark, to get a fire going . . .

Each one of you have created sparks in my life.  I have had amazing insights from your thoughts, reflections, and conversations.  Thank you for the fires that your sparks have ignited in me.   As many of us part ways at this fork in the road, I would be glad to keep in touch with you through Facebook.  You can find me @ Cindy Caricofe Larsen or reach me through my personal  email account @ clynnlars@gmail.com.

Til We Meet Again

Once again, I turn to my favorite online word source, dictionary.com to help me clearly define a word . . .

to adjourn means “to suspend the meeting of (a club, legislature, committee,etc.) to a future time, another place, or indefinitely” (dictionary.com, 2012).

Finished.  Completed.  Til we meet again.

I reflected this week in one of our discussion posts on an experience that I had over a year ago with a group of teachers.  We formed a team to plan and present a workshop at the 2012 Virginia Early Childhood Educators Conference.  We came together because of a passion for children and a passion for using photography in our classroom.  We worked through the five stages of team development together:

1.  We FORMED.  We established our visions and goals for our workshop.

2.  We STORMED.  We wrestled and tussled.  We sifted, sorted and settled on our individual roles and responsibilites.

3.  We NORMED.  We each gathered information and planned our individual parts of the workshop and then put these pieces together to form a complete picture for the people that we were presenting to.

4.  We PERFORMED.  We presented our workshop two times to large audiences and had outstanding and overwhelmingly positive feedback from our colleagues, our administration, and the workshop participants.

5.  We ADJOURNED.  Our project came to an end.  We celebrated, we reflected, we patted each other on the back.  At the end of this collaboration and group project we all agreed that we had a fabulous time and we were amazed at the results.  Yes, we had to get over some hurdles and bumps in the road, we had to work through some conflicts, but we came away feeling totally pumped and completely satisfied.

Together we had formed and performed to share ideas and motivate other educators on how to use photography to document the growth and development of infants, and use pictures within the classroom environment to encourage the same.  We shared our great Picasa Class websites, including our own,

The Light Blue Room

and showed some fabulous ways to use pictures within the classroom environment in order to document growth, and support and encourage families and relationships.

From journals . . .

to  documentation displayed in the classroom,

to class books,

and photos for the children to play with.

At the end of the day as we looked back at the path we took and the product we created together, we adjourned for the time being . . . suspended our group to a future time & another place.  We agreed wholeheartedly that this group would come back together for more creative moments, more storming, norming, and performing, more presentations to motivate and inspire other equally as talented educators.

Til we meet again.  And we WILL meet again.

Adjourning for this Master’s program will look a little different because this is a group that has met wirelessly.  In addition, the groups shift and change as people customize their own schedule.  I began this program in January of 2011 and took one class.  Then I took several months off because of a number of personal commitments, including our son’s wedding.  I began back into the program almost one year ago and have been taking classes since.  My goal is to continue on and finish the program by the end of the year.  Since I have taken classes back to back for almost a year, I have met the same people over and over in our classes and have made significant connections.  Our professor in the last class used to post activities in our student lounge and one week he asked everyone to post which specialization we would be in.  I specifically wrote down the people that have the same specialization as me and have communicated with them by email to see if we will be in the same class.  Four of us will continue on to the same class for the next 8 weeks, but for most of us we will say our goodbyes and adjourn from here because this is our last core class.  I have made two connections outside of class on Facebook, one who is still in this class and one from my very first class.  Due to the nature of our classes and the fact that we are spread across the country our adjourning will be wirelessly and our lives will go on, greatly impacted from our months of forming, storming, norming, and performing.  Thank you all to the inspirations you have given to me through our conversations!

Communication thru Compassion

There is a boiling pot where I work . . . lots of teachers on my infant floor who feel unseen, unheard, unnoticed, and unappreciated . . . including little ole’ me.

Lots of caged animals who are ready to attack.

There has been no outlet for the ten classroom teachers to gather and talk.  No conversations around the “dinner table.”  We have had no infant staff meetings for over two years.  There has only been one since I have been on the infant staff (3 1/2 years), and that was divided in order to conduct it during our lunch hour.  Half of the infant staff met during one lunch hour and the other half met the following hour.

Oh wait a minute.  I forgot. There WAS another meeting.  I have convienently forgotten about it.  Buried it with my painful memories.  Shoved it to the back of the filing cabinet in my mind.  Why?     It was rather like a lecture.  A live “memo”.  Something that really could have been printed out and given to us on two sheets of paper.  There was no round table discussion. There was no give and take.  There was little respect and little reciprocal communication.

The infant director who led this meeting  has since retired and we have a long overdue infant staff meeting scheduled with our center director, our interim infant director, and our entire infant staff.  It is on the calendar for next Friday night after everyone is off of work and out of the classroom.

As I prepare myself for this meeting, I am challenged by the amazing and intriguing material that we have been reading about this week.  The Center for Nonviolent Communication offers hope and skills for compassionate communication between individuals and in government and corporate structures.

Yikes.

That means I have to put my claws back in.

I have to give up my desire to prove a point.

I have to drop my agenda, soften my heart, let go of my anger and resistance.

 THIS is how I will approach the meeting if I take the time over the next 10 days to reflect and relax . . . if I willingly choose to let go of the past and listen to everyone, including the administrators.

The material on the NVC website is incredibly powerful.  It is so powerful that the only way that I can use it here is to literally borrow what is stated on the Foundations page . . .

NVC skills that I would like to learn how to embody include . . .

  • “Differentiating observation from evaluation, being able to carefully observe what is happening free of evaluation, and to specify behaviors and conditions that are affecting us;
  • Differentiating feeling from thinking, being able to identify and express internal feeling states in a way that does not imply judgment, criticism, or blame/punishment;
  • Connecting with the universal human needs/values (e.g. sustenance, trust, understanding) in us that are being met or not met in relation to what is happening and how we are feeling; and,
  • Requesting what we would like in a way that clearly and specifically states what we do want (rather than what we don’t want), and that is truly a request and not a demand (i.e. attempting to motivate, however subtly, out of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, etc. rather than out of willingness and compassionate giving).”   (NVC, n.d.)

Our classrooms have become cages that we have retreated into.  Many times when we each cross paths in the hallway or in our classrooms, as we talk about our frustrations, our claws come out.  Our roar is loud.  Many of us are on the attack.  Yet it seems almost as if we are attacking each other rather than attacking the issues together.

As I approach this meeting, I can only take responsibility for my own actions and words.  I can choose, as the NVC suggests, to focus on clarifying what I have observed and what I feel, need, and want . . . and to notice what other people feel, need, and want.  I can choose to let go my tendency to diagnose, evaluate, and judge.  By doing so, I can discover a new depth of compassion,  and extend respect, attentiveness, and empathy.  By doing so, I can begin to build a consciousness of interdependence and a concept of ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’ others.  By beginning a revolution from within  . . . perhaps we can develop a pride in the powerful family that we are, and utmost respect for the home that we are building together.

References:  The Center for Nonviolent Communication @ http://www.cnvc.org/

throwing down the anchor

I have come to realize this week that I need to come into shore and throw down my anchor.

After many insights I see how crucial it is for me to be willing to anchor myself . . . to stop . . . to ground myself right where I am at to do some investigating below deck.

If you read my blog post about Superman a few weeks ago, you may know that I think very highly of my husband.  Often times I think too highly of him.  Don’t get me wrong, he is a great, great guy.  But he is not all that perfect.  On those days when I am struggling with the tigers of self-doubt and self-hatred in my mind,  he can’t help but look perfect.  On those days when the tigers in my mind are relentlessly attacking my very being, I start comparing myself with other people.  No surprise that he, and nearly everybody else looks “better” than me on those days.  In fact, they do seem downright perfect.

Over the past four weeks as I have been reading and reflecting about communication, I have had many insights into my own ways and means of communicating.   I am 2/3 through this Master’s program for Early Childhood Studies, yet I feel as if I have been going through a soul-search.  My true “AH-HA” moments typically come through my writing.  Writing my blog has come to be a key part of this internal processing and is helping me to bring what I am hearing and seeing into being through my life.  The discussion posts and papers that we are writing are expected to be more formal with APA style and citations, and there is a little more leeway with that for our blog.  This suits me just fine because I am more of a down-to-earth kind of person, and the less structured format of the blog has been a good way to end my week and put my reflections into words.  And pictures.  You all know that my words sometimes tend to paint a picture, but  I also love to add photographs to support my words.

This past week in class I took three online inventories about my communication styles . . . a communication anxiety inventory, a verbal aggressiveness scale, and a listening styles profile.  I also had to ask two people in my life to take these same inventories to reflect on how I communicate.  I chose my husband and my co-teacher to take these assessments so that I might be able to see if there is a difference about how I am perceived as a communicator at work and at home. The results for all three of us on the verbal aggressiveness scale scored me in the moderate range, showing that I basically consider others in my communication and am able to show respect for others’ ideas and preferences.  The results for the listening styles profile was also the same.  I scored in group 1, which tags me as”people-oriented.”  This means that I show empathy and concern with the emotions of others and focus on relationships.  I felt rather proud of these results from both surveys when I read them, yet as I read a little deeper and thought a little harder, I realized that this is part of my problem.  Sometimes I give so much preference to others and think so highly of them, that I beat myself down in the process.  I compare too much.  My insecurities in myself come out of the fact that I compare myself to others and I often come up short for one reason or another. If I come up short it only serves to make me feel worse.  Yet, quite honestly, if I come up taller than the person I am comparing myself to I feel better about myself.  I feel more confident.  Comparisons are such a trap.  And I have been caught in that trap for most of my life.

The only discrepancy in our three results came on the communication anxiety inventory.  My co-teacher’s results put me in the mild category, my results put me in the moderate category, and my husband’s results landed me in the elevated category.  All the way through this particular test I found myself, at each question, thinking “it depends on who I am with or how I am feeling.”  Another no surprise moment:  the description under my moderate score is that my communication anxiety is typically situational!

Bingo.

It fluctuates and floats.

 Like a ship with no anchor . . . and no one at the wheel steering.

 My confidence or lack of confidence depends on who I am talking to or what I am talking about.  The tense or relaxed state of my body depends on where I am and who I am with.  How I feel when I am talking in a one-to-one situation, a small group, or a public setting all depends on who I am with, what we are talking about, and (often times) how “perfect” the other people I am talking with are.

These insights have only served to support many other things that I have come to realize on my journey of the past few years.  I was already aware of many of my personal tendencies on a more surface level, but these materials and assignments have helped to expose a few more layers at a time.  They have also helped me to begin to see the seriousness of developing a plan for taking action in these areas.  So I basically knew that to write my communication goals it was necessary for me to start with home base.

To begin with myself.

To put down an anchor and be willing to go down into my hull to do some serious repair work.

 These are my first three of my communication goals (Larsen, 2012):

Begin identifying the self-defeating and negative conversations that I have with myself and replace them with uplifting and positive conversations.  

Bottom line . . . I must start with how I perceive myself in order to change the very structure and bones of how I perceive and communicate with others. 

Seek to be open-minded and mindful by looking for and appreciating the unique qualities of each person (including myself) that I am in relationship with.

 I will have to examine all of those categories, perceptions, and stereotypes that I have accumulated, used, and stored.  They are weighing this ship down.  This will involve examining my own perceptions and beliefs, throwing the lies overboard and replacing them with positive and true ones. Let it begin with me.

This week, I was fighting with those tigers in my mind again.  I was weary and just wanted to lie down and let them take over.  Yet something in me rose up.  I have been reading a powerful book recently that suggests, when your “faith-in-yourself” muscle is weak, to ask a few friends for some help (Nichols, 2009).  Ask them to tell you a few things that they see in you  . . . positive and good things . . . unique and important qualities.  Borrow their faith in order to strength your ‘faith-in-yourself’ muscle and begin to be mindful of and appreciate those unique qualities.  I took a proactive step towards this goal by relying on a handful of friends and now have some amazing reminders about myself that I can go back to on those “tiger” days.  One of my friends even suggested that I buy myself some Tiger Balm as a physical reminder that I can use to calm the tigers in my mind!!  (It’s on my shopping list for later today thanks to Laura.)

Question and investigate feelings of anxiousness and fear that arise in certain relationships and specific circumstances that negatively affect the way that I am communicating through my words, body languages, and non-verbal behaviors.  

This involves specifically focusing on and increasing my ability to self-monitor, and to set aside the patterns of actions and reactions that I have that are on autopilot because of my deep-seated values and beliefs.

Our last class in diversity and equity brought me to a deeper awareness of the immediate need for an anchor in my life.  This communications class has only confirmed that.

I cannot continue to float adrift any longer.

At the end of this long “day” of discovery,  it is time to grab the wheel, come to shore and anchor myself.

These first three goals will serve to anchor my life, giving me security and faith in myself, which will, in turn, impact others.  They will affect how I communicate with myself, how I communicate with my family and friends, and how I communicate to and with the children, families, and colleagues that I work with.

References:

Rubin, R.B., Palmgreen, P., & Sypher, H.E., (Eds.) (2009).  Communication Research Measures:  A Sourcebook.  New York:  Routledge.

Rubin, R.B., Rubin, A.M., Graham, E.E., Perse, E.M., & Seibold, D.R. (Eds.) (2009). Communication Research Measures II: A Sourcebook.  New York:  Routledge.

Nichols, Lisa (2011). No Matter What.  New York, N.Y: Grand Central Publishing.

Larsen, C. (2012).  Who Am I as a Communicator?

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