Guiding our children to shine their inner LIGHT by being our absolute best!

Posts tagged ‘child centered education’

That Made My Heart Smile

Every Wednesday morning, my first graders circle up on the perimeter of our colorful rug to do their ‘mirror work.’

Mirror work is a critical component of learning to love yourself and I make sure that we are all focused on this activity at least once a week. We have a mirror in a frame and we gently pass the mirror around the circle to each person in the classroom, including myself and a TA in the classroom. The goal is to look in the mirror and give the person staring back at you a genuine compliment. I tell the kids that I don’t want them to compliment the clothes that they wear or  the ‘things’ upon their bodies that were bought for them. Instead, I want them to look into their own eyes and give themselves a compliment or reassurance that they are awesome. I do this because I want them to know that they are amazing just as they are and instead of searching for approval outside of themselves, they ultimately learn to approve of themselves from within (priceless).

You go through your every day life and you just never know what sticks and whether or not you are truly making a difference. As a teacher, I often wonder how much my students actually absorb from academic curriculum and more important-my 7 Essentials curriculum.

However, yesterday I was pleasantly surprised during our mirror work time.

You see, aside from ‘mirror work’ on Wednesday mornings, my students also choose a daily affirmation each morning and I also incorporate the 7 Essentials into my daily routine with them.

Yesterday, a child came up to choose an affirmation randomly from our deck of affirmation cards (www.magnificentcreations.com) and the affirmation that was chosen for the day was, “I am unique.”

As usual, I asked the kids to tell me what they thought the word meant and here are some of their responses;

1) “It means you are perfect just the way you are.”

2) “It means you are special.”

3) “Unique means you are one of a kind.”

cat

Upon hearing some of those definitions my heart began to smile and then I asked them to circle up for their mirror work and more than half of the class looked in the mirror and used one of those definitions while speaking to the person in the mirror-themselves.

My heart smiled BIG!

There’s nothing more rewarding as a teacher than to see your pupils standing in their own light and radiating. It’s nice to know that my students DO listen-at least to the good stuff! 🙂

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki

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Raising the AHA Generation: Is that a good thing?

ProblemSolving

When you hear Aha, you may think it is a good thing because ‘Aha’ usually means that you are becoming aware of something, but when you hear what AHA stands in this article, I’m not so sure you’ll feel the same way…

As a school teacher of 15 years I have seen many changes through my career. I have seen staggering changes in education, expectations, learning styles and overall behavior of our children. In the past few weeks I have become critically aware of three important elements that I see clear across the board with our current generation that need to be addressed; (I could write another book on this but I will keep it short and sweet for now)

  • Today’s children are generally anxious. Kids always want to know what is coming next and why they are doing what they are doing in that moment. They worry about the simple things in life yet do not pay attention to the details that can help them to feel secure. They have more fears today then we had in our childhood and they look for others to solve their problems because they are afraid that they don’t have the tools to do so on their own.
  • Kids of today are learning to be helpless. Their minds are in three different places at once and they therefore struggle to focus on one thing at a time. Perhaps this is because they are so anxious that they are not in the moment. Maybe they are too focused on the past and too fearful of the future to stay in the present moment, or perhaps they have just learned that they don’t have to do things for themselves because the adults will do it to get it done on their timeline
  • Today’s children are angry. There are many times in a day when I am putting fires out because someone has been ‘rubbed the wrong way’ or is upset because they didn’t get their way. They easily bark at one another instead of talking things out and listening to the ideas of others. Our children of today go from joy to anger in a matter of minutes and then back to joy when they get their way once again. It’s truly remarkable how they’ve learned to use anger as a bargaining chip.

So there you have it, the AHA generation in a nutshell. Maybe that wasn’t the Aha you were expecting but it’s something we certainly need to look at.

Now, where did this come from?

In my opinion, our kids are learning from us! Think about your average day and the amount of stress you are under. We run from one activity to another. We speak so quickly that we often wonder if we are making sense and we never make time to just BE. We have become Human Doings instead of Human Beings because we are trying to do way too much in our lives. Doesn’t that make you feel anxious?

And think about it… if you are anxious…if your child’s teachers are anxious…if the world spins this quickly daily and everybody is running in different directions…aren’t we all creating an anxious environment for our children to grow in?

How could they not develop deep anxiety in life with these circumstances?

We put pressure on our children from the moment they enter school with academic testing (if not sooner based upon our own expectations). We constantly rush them from one activity to another because, well, hey that’s just what we do today. We never take time to sit and quiet our minds or teach our children to quiet their minds yet we expect them to relax and just be kids when they do have ‘down time’. Hmmmm, how are they to do that when even they are under so much pressure?

Let’s talk about learned helplessness– I don’t believe that we have done this on purpose, but it seems that we are always making excuses for our children’s behaviors or seeking a label to explain those behaviors instead of addressing the issues and teaching them how to problem solve. Our kids are over stimulated with electronics and under stimulated with human connection! We often ask our children to do something and then when we realize it hasn’t been done, we do it ourselves because we are in a hurry and it’s just quicker that way. But, what are we creating with this behavior?

How about those angry kids? We are so hell bent on making sure that our children don’t experience what we experienced and we are so concerned with ‘fairness’ that we have forgotten that sometimes life isn’t fair and we all need to learn how to roll with the punches and go with the flow because sometimes things just don’t work out the way you intend.

Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I don’t like to complain about something without having a solution. So, what can we do?

We need to teach our kids how to be Problem Solvers.

We need to stop taking their power away by answering for them or doing it for them and start empowering them to believe in themselves and speak their truth. The world isn’t always fair but our present circumstances do not have to determine our future and learning to overcome obstacles in life can only build strong character. Give your kids their power back and stop solving their problems for them. Instead, give them the tools that they need to be successful in life.

  • When they come to you to ask you if their picture/work is good don’t give them an answer. Instead, get down on their level and say, “What do YOU think about your picture?” Allow them to talk about their work and share their pride. This will teach them that their opinion matters and they don’t have to seek approval outside of themselves.
  • When they feel disappointed or upset about something, don’t offer them the solution or try to make it better (and believe me I know this is hard). Instead, sit with them and allow them to feel their feelings without judgment, then ask them what they think they can do about the problem. Guide them to problem solve without giving them a direct solution. This will help them to feel empowered because they had a part in the solution. And as difficult as it is-because we all just want to make it better- it’s worth it in the long run because you are giving them tools for a lifetime. What is that old saying… “Give them a fish and they eat today but teach them to fish and they eat for an eternity!” (or something like that)

I don’t want our kids to be anxious, helpless and angry. Instead, I would like to create a strong foundation for them so that they can grow up to have a healthy, productive, joyful life. Now that is a much better Aha, agree?

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki

PS Please leave me your comments. I read them all and love hearing your thoughts!

www.vickisavini.com

Honoring the Light Within with Mindfulness

Wow, I just had an amazing conversation with my 8 year and I’m truly honored to be his mom.

This evening he came home from baseball practice and seemed a bit emotional. He said he got hit by a ball, but I knew in my heart it was more than that.

When we laid down to talk before bed I went with my gut (as I always tell parents to do because we know what’s going on with our kids more than we’d like to admit).

This is my sons first year in little league and it can be somewhat intimidating to try something new when others have been at it for a while. I turned to him and began to say those very words. As I talked he began to cry.

I stopped talking and opened my ears to listen to him intently. Sure, he may have been feeling a bit unnerved by this ‘new’ sport but it was more than that. What was bothering him most was that other kids were being mean to the ‘little kid’ on the team…

He started off by telling me that some kids were telling him what he was doing wrong and it hurt his feelings. It was then that I reminded him that if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. He asked, “How am I part of the problem mom. They were putting me down?” I answered, “Yes, hunnie, that’s true, but you allowed it to affect you. You are part of the solution when you stand up for yourself and help others to stop and think about their own actions. You might have done that by saying, ‘thanks for the tip but I’m going to listen to the coach,’ ‘last I checked you weren’t a coach,’ or ‘wow, when did the Yankees draft you?” He liked that last one.

I thought we were through the woods but then he got really upset and began to sob uncontrollably. I reached out to him and asked what was wrong. He sadly replied, “Mommy, I was mean too. Some of the kids were making fun of the ‘little kid’ on the team and I agreed with them that he was small. I didn’t like the way it felt inside but I wanted them to like me. Mom, I was part of the problem!

I smiled a bit and wiped his cheeks and said, “Yes hunnie you were part of the problem, but right now you are turning it around to become part of the solution.”

Many children (and adults-who are we kidding) never take the time to be mindful–present in the moment–and think about their thoughts, actions and feelings and my 8 year old was doing that on his own!

We then read my children’s book for the upteen-millionth time, The Light Inside of Me and hugged tightly at the end.

be the light - person

We all have a light deep within us that shines brightly when we come from a place of love and are living our truth and dims when we allow fear to take the helm. In short, when we feel good, we shine and when we feel bad, we are dim or we dim the lights of others.

The next time you see a dim light, be present in the moment. Be totally mindful of what you are thinking and feeling and then instead of reacting, respond with love.

I am so proud of my son this evening (and every other minute of his existence). Tonight and every night I feel honored to be his mom.

Lots of Love & Tons of Light,

Vicki

Childhood is Too Precious to Ignore

 

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.  ~Graham Greene, The Power and The Glory

Childhood is a short period in our lives that begins at birth and ends at puberty.  According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, it is defined as; 1) the state or period of being a child. 2) the early period in the development of something.

Birth to puberty is not a very long time and yet it seems as though the span of childhood is diminishing right before our eyes.  Has anyone else noticed that children are not allowed or encouraged to be children in today’s society?

For some reason, we spend most of our time; ‘racing to the top’, expecting children to be mini-adults, and constantly doing this thing called life, instead of living life.

As a teacher and advocate for children I am appalled when I hear people say, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

I question what is happening in our educational system when we are spending more time documenting our teaching than actually empowering and teaching our children.  I wonder just how terrific technology is when I walk into a restaurant, and see every person in the family on some type of electronic device.  I shudder when I notice that seven is the new nine during childhood and yet people are still saying, “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

We complain that children don’t pay attention in schools.  We say that there is a terrible break down in the family, and we throw the word bully around like it’s a new catch phrase, but what are we doing to change these things?  We need to do something about it.  It’s not a nicety, it’s a necessity.

Looking at the current life span, you might conclude that childhood is somewhat insignificant in the whole scheme of things, because, let’s face it, it’s brief.  However, the truth is, childhood is the most critical time period of our entire lives.

When are we going to wake up and realize that we are pushing the most precious time of our lives right out the door?

I started teaching fourteen years ago.  I knew, even then, that I was different.  I had a holistic perspective on teaching where I believed that we should embrace childhood in the midst of educating, enlightening and empowering children.  I always felt that in order to be successful academically, you had to make a true connection with the children in front of you.  I strongly believe that you cannot teach the mind of a child, until you touch their heart.  I have spent fourteen years in the public education system teaching children to believe in themselves, speak their truth and LOVE learning.

Now, we are racing to the top and banging on the door of total catastrophe.  If we thought we had a bullying issue in America before this new plan in education came down the pike, we better buckle up because when you make a child feel inadequate, you bring out their fears and anger raises its ugly head!

A few weeks ago I was putting my 7 year old to bed.  We had just finished reading a story and he turned to me and said, “Mom, it’s just not fair. I don’t get it. I’m only in 1st grade and all we do is work, work, and more work.  We never even get to play!”  I looked into his eyes and took a deep breath.  I too teach 1st grade and I try my best to keep the fun alive, but it’s getting damn hard, even for me.  When my son spoke those words, I understood more deeply than he even realized that something BIG was going on here.  I realized that this is another dent in childhood.  I totally understood that we were trying to force our children to become human doings, instead of human beings at a very young age.

Of course! That’s exactly what’s going on because if we are human doings ourselves that’s exactly what we teach our children.

You know you’re a human doing when…

  • You have lists of things to do every day
  • You can’t even seem to put a thought together by the middle of the day because you’re already overloaded
  • You are constantly focused on what you have to get done
  • You forget simple things like brushing your teeth
  • You look at the clock and realize that it’s already bedtime
  • You look at your children and they are grown and you wonder where the hell the time went

Is this what we really want for ourselves? Is this what we really want for our children?

Childhood should be a time when we gain a strong foundation so that we can navigate the waters of life successfully.  If we continue to diminish childhood by expecting our children to act like mini-adults and do more, more, more, we are certainly headed for disaster.

Let children be children.  Children have a beautiful curiosity that is totally natural.  Why not tap into that to educate them?  And what is education anyways?  Instead of teaching children what we want them to know or what we think they should know, maybe we should we teach them how to think for themselves and speak their own truth?

If you asked me, I would say that childhood should be extended instead of diminished.  I’m really not sure why everyone wants to grow up so quickly.  What exactly are we running to?

I’m going back to being a kid and I suggest if you have children, teach children or care about children, you should tap into that energy too.

Childhood is too precious to ignore.  If it’s true that ‘there is always one moment in childhood that opens the door and let’s the future in,’ then let’s give the future some hope…

Teach children to believe in themselves, speak their truth, and above all BE.

 

What Exactly Are We Teaching?

It’s the first full week of school in this part of New York.  Normally, this is a time of year where kids are excited to meet their new teacher, and their teachers are excited to start a new year and get to know their new students.  This year is a bit different…

As America looks to better their education system and rid the system of ‘bad teachers,’ we are seeing a system that is now based in fear.  Fear that our teachers are not teaching effectively.  Fear that our students are not getting enough out of their education.  Fear that there’s just not enough time in a day to teach what needs to be taught. Fear, that we, as teachers, are not enough.  Fear, fear, fear.

With all of this fear, we are now being driven to test our students ad nauseum.  I teach 1st grade.  Some kids are still 5 years old when they walk through the door.  Others will soon turn seven.  They are still babies in many ways, yet we are expecting them to sit and be tested for hours at a time before they have even had the chance to get to know their new teacher and the new routine.

This week, I watched as my children were forced to take several tests so that we could ‘show growth‘ by the end of the year (and the tests continue through this month).  It’s not the baseline test that upsets me.  I believe that we do, in fact, need some sort of baseline to see where our kids are at the start of the year and then again at the end of the year.  We wouldn’t be responsible educators if we weren’t measuring their growth and monitoring our instruction as we went through our year.  Any caring teacher knows that, and likely has devised their own tests or growth measures to be sure the children are in fact growing and learning.  What truly bothers me is not only how we are testing our children, but more importantly, how much we are testing our children.

The tests that we are administering to our students need to be ‘rigorous’, according to our system.  This week, I saw that rigorous apparently means, ‘so difficult that its hard for any student, even the brightest, to feel successful at the end of the test.’

This week, I taught my students to breathe deeply.  I empowered them with positive affirmations, and told them that these tests were only to tell me what to teach them through the year. Yet I still saw tears.  I still watched their breathing increase to a shallow, scared pant.  I still saw their spirits sink.  All of this because they look to us for guidance and they want to do well.  It breaks my heart that we have come to a point in education where we must begin our school year like this.

I believe that in order to truly teach effectively, we must educate the whole child.  I also believe, that in order to do that, we must touch their hearts before we teach their minds.

By welcoming our children to a new school year with test after test, we are simply allowing fear to drive our educational system.  Worse, we are giving our children the message right from the start that they are not enough.  What a terrible message to send to any person, much less a child.

I work hard to teach children to believe in themselves and speak their truth every day of my life.  This movement in education, although it started with good intent, is harshly off course.

If we truly want change in education, then we need to start educating from a place of love instead of fear.  The only way to do this is to utilize tests that show what a child ‘knows‘ at the start of the year (based upon prior learning), and what the child has learned by the end of the year.  That would certainly show growth, and it wouldn’t bruise their fragile view of themselves in the process by testing them on skills that they are expected to know by the end of the year.

I agree that we need change in education, but is this really the best change for our children? With all of the issues we face in society based around fear, such as; violence, depression, anxiety and the break down of the family, shouldn’t we be building our children up, instead of breaking them down?

I vote for letting kids be kids.  Give us, the teachers, the chance to welcome our students.  Give us the opportunity to embrace them and touch their hearts before we teach their minds.  If we continue on this path, no child will ever like school, nor will they truly be learning.  When we come from a place of fear, there is no love, and where there is no love, there is no trust.  Children need to feel loved, accepted and safe in order to thrive.  I don’t want my students or my son to simply learn in order to plot data.  I want my children to thrive.  How about you?