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  • Writer's picturecathybelgrave

Finding Rhythm in an Ever Changing Landscape

So here we are again, dealing with another variant. Depending on where you live, you may be scrambling to figure out how to safely receive the children's return to school, or you may be faced with online learning ...... again. As teachers, how do we build our resilience? How do we fill our tank so we have something for the children in our classes, and then our own families at the end of the day?

Over the holidays I did what I often do when feeling overwhelmed or stuck, I go back to 'school' - reading, taking workshops, connecting with like-minded educators or philosophies that support my beliefs. It is somehow reassuring and comforting, leaving me feeling that all is not lost. In this case I chose a 12 part training series, The Social/Emotional Wellbeing of Young Children (Fairy Dust Teaching). As the speakers described the various strategies, they made it clear that these strategies apply to us, the educators, as well as the children. How can we create an environment that helps us co-regulate, both teachers and children, soothing nervous systems so we can all be calm, present, and motivated? As usual, it comes back to relationship - connecting, caring, compassion.

Each day we must prepare as though a miracle is walking through our gate ~ Kimberly Crisp

Create an environment "charged with love", where "relationships [are] connected by the glue of presence" (Kimberley Crisp). Consider the content of the day from a place of care and kindness. What do the children need emotionally? What sensory experiences will be the most supportive? Are my actions as an educator coming from a place of love or fear? Are my actions showing children how to self-regulate? In order to hold a classroom space that is caring and secure, we need to be grounded, calm, and present ourselves. We need to have a mindset of care and kindness for ourselves so that we are in a position to offer it to others. Rest, regular meals, regular play, laughter, time with nature, exercise, meditation - these are just some of the things we can do to support ourselves. And yes, not rocket science, we all know these things. But, as Toni Christie says, we need to actually do them, and do them consistently.

School is an opportunity to practice the beautiful citizenship you learn at home ~ Anjum Mir

Create a rhythm to the day Letting go of rigid scheduling and creating rhythm, fosters a level of safety and empowerment for children, and adults. A day that has flow, consistency and predicability allows children to engage in activities in a way that will supports their wellbeing. Following a rhythm allows us to address the needs of our group and flex our time throughout the day. Children show us how they feel through their behaviour. With a consistent and predictable rhythm, we can slow down, allow space for children to deeply engage, or work through their emotions, self-regulating. We can be present with the moment, supporting the child to move through emotions instead of us trying to 'fix' a behaviour. We let go of the time pressure of the schedule, and embrace rhythm knowing that if the nervous system is calm, the children are able to access their prefrontal cortex and learning can occur. Slowing down, sharing experiences, making discoveries together deepen relationships and foster trust, and security. With emotional safety, there is motivation, and an optimal environment for learning is created. And, as educators, we feel calm, able to see and value the unique individuals in our care, bringing us joy.

Prepare the head, heart, hands ..... creating an emotional environment is most important ~ Kimberley Crisp

Connect with a like-minded colleague Connecting with someone who shares your philosophy and beliefs about children and education can soothe feelings of isolation and defeat. Together you can talk about the hardships you're experiencing, and support each other in reflecting and exploring actions that can be taken. What do the children in your class need right now? What is one step that can be taken to address that need? It could be something as simple as making the block area bigger, or giving school age children time to read, draw, transition into the classroom first thing in the morning. What do you need? What step will you take? What replenishes you? the children? Where can you find joy? Answering these questions, help us be prepared to engage in relationships. We prepare mentally, emotionally and we prepare our actions.

I came away from the talks not with new classroom ideas, but with a reminder of one of my central beliefs about teaching and education - and I felt I wasn't alone in my belief. I had been reminded of some of my learnings from Carol Gilligan and Nell Noddings during my teacher training. Carol Garboden Murray draws on their teachings when she talks about the need to acknowledge our connection to each other. Education is about care, valuing relationships, being human together, creating trust, an environment for discovery and co-learning. As Richard Cohen says, "warm relationships are the starting point." As adults, we need to care for ourselves so we can be the trusted adults that the children look to as they learn how to be in the world. Care. Compassion. Connection. Community. Ready to move forward with optimism.

Care is education ~ Carol Garboden Murray


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