There is so much negativity in our sector, it breaks our heart. There are good people starting to feel dis-empowered and discouraged, at the ‘mercy’ of the powers that be. But does it have to be like that?
We know that ‘when it is from the heart it touches the heart’. We know that it does not take much to 'bruise' a child's soul and sense of self. We know that one day that child will be an adult, making decisions that impact on our world.
It is a new year and with a brand new calendar seems to come a desire for goal setting and change. We feel refreshed after a break, and ready for some forward movement. We want to start the year with a bang, positive and inspired.
Gaining or draining?
All too often big goals are often set, but how long do they truly last? How do we stay inspired? How do we keep moving forward in a role that can take all our energy to just maintain our status quo?
What if, instead of the lofty, wordy goals, we chose one word. Just one single word to set the tone of our year. This word wouldn't be solely for our teaching, or our leadership, but for our whole selves - the teacher us, the friend us, the parent, the partner, the colleague.
Often we segment our professional goals from the rest of our lives, and they feel disjointed from the other spheres of our being. If we have too many development plans whirling around we tend to lose focus on all of them. All of them get put in the ‘too hard basket’.
One word is not too hard.
Having just word that covers the spectrum of our roles is a wonderful way to simplify our development, and really let us achieve what we want. It lets us drop the wall between our personal and professional selves, which is a large part of being a heart centred teacher.
What word, you ask?
That's entirely up to you. We all have our own ‘what next’, and a goal set on our behalf doesn’t make the same impact as one you truly believe in.
Listen to your heart and you'll know what is lacking. You'll know what you want more of. It may be action, bravery, creativity, daring, enthusiasm, fun, gratitude, health...we can keep going through the alphabet but you know your word.
Sit with it!
If you don’t automatically have one that's ok. Sit with it, be curious as to what you need and it will come. You'll get your aha moment when you least expect it. The word will feel right and you'll see possibilities before you, even as you first utter it. Your word will choose you, rather than the other way around.
It seems too simple, one single word. It perhaps doesn’t feel weighty enough or specific enough. But it can carry a lot with it.
It can be an anchor point to measure choices against, a beacon to inspire you when your light is fizzling out, and a route marker to track your yearly path.
This one key focus will travel the year with you, and at the end you will have lived that word so consciously that eventually it has become a part of you. That word you know you needed more of will have impacted your year, and you will have grown – not just as a teacher, but as a fully integrated person.
Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to infuse your setting with life and celebration. The festive season can be a magical time for our children if we choose to ‘let it in’, instead of closing the door to it.
At the Heart School we are passionate about creating beautiful and meaningful Christmas memories for young children. When they have long hours in care, and less at home or out in the community, it is really important our settings provide them some of the childhood magic that is the festive season. But what about our adults? Couldn’t they do with some Christmas magic of their own?
One of the best ways of responding to our children with heart is to remember what it is like to be them. Bring the child-you into focus, and you'll understand what is needed from us.
The spotlight is on the very important topic of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Whether or not we contribute our own voice to the ‘me too’ campaign, we have a really important role to play.
Making deposits in the heart bank. This is what our interactions and environment are aiming to do for our children when we practice from the Heart! As much as young minds need nurturing, so do young hearts.
"A home away from home".
It's a description of ECE settings that is bandied about so often that its true meaning tends to be overlooked. It is not enough to use the phrase as a selling point for parents. We need to think about what home means to a very young child, and find genuine ways of offering a homely, nurturing safe haven.
In our previous article "Nurturing independence - " we briefly discussed the issue of self management expected of our young children. In this article we explore deeper how we can find a balance between nurturing independence and nurturing connection.
Anyone who spends time with young children will tell you they crave independence, and thrive on being able to do things for themselves. Responding to children's natural drives is exactly what our ECE settings should be doing, but sometimes misinterpretation leads us to ‘miss the mark’.
Attention. This is the special ingredient in heart centred relationships. When we give young children our full attention, even in small bursts, we meet their very real needs for connection. They feel seen, heard, and part of a relationship - powerful stuff indeed!
"There is no difference between living and learning... it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate." - John Holt
We have noticed a growing trend to implement ‘teaching programmes’ in an attempt to teach our young ‘pre/before school’ children academic as well as social/emotional skills. Much can be said about how and when to teach children reading/math/writing skills, a topic for another time. What concerns us is the trend to ‘teach’ children social skills and values by way of ‘giving lessons’.
Our young children are constantly asking questions. They do this for information, to clarify, to connect, to fill silence - for a huge host of reasons. Somewhere down the track we lose that tendency and as adults we don't seem to question things nearly enough.
One of our strengths at Little Earth is that we are deeply reflective.
Not only are we committed to our own personal growth as teachers, but to our collective growth as a remarkable preschool. The danger in doing things well is becoming complacent, and so it is essential that we continue to question what we do. As Grace Hopper puts it, "the most dangerous phrase in [our] language is 'we've always done it this way'"!
Patience. This is the virtue a heart centred teacher possess that is commented on more than any other. Yes, we are kind and caring, but patience is something others marvel at, perhaps because it feels like something that is harder to come by.
When we choose to teach from the heart, it is because we know that beautiful, connected relationships are what really matter most.
Do you see me? Do you know me? These are the silent questions our children want answered. They want to feel SEEN and they want to feel HEARD. We know about this desire because we have it too.
Have you ever met an ECE teacher who entered the profession because they love staff meetings so much?
It's unlikely since we are usually driven by things more inspiring - children, learning, joy and wonder. Yet, we all have careers littered with staff meetings, because whether we enjoy them or not, they serve a purpose, and are part of what we do.
Heart centred teaching requires us to add something extra, to put an intentional ‘spin’ on the more mundane, auto-pilot aspects of our teaching role.