Monday, February 18, 2013

Motivational Monday: Organization

I pride myself on being semi-well-organized.  I love to file things and because of my background in Head Start, I am a binder fiend.

I started my position as Site Director in May and have been moving non-stop ever since.  And I mean that.  There hasn't been a dull moment or a "Hey, what do I do next?!" moment or even hesitation... we just keep moving right along!  My office has become a bit of a dumping ground.  When partial orders arrive, I stash the first part in my office so I can deliver the entire order to the staff and better track what I've given them.  Our RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) books arrived for the month, I stashed the box in my office to get it out of the way and as a reminder that I need to plan a semi-fabulous literacy activity for our families this month.  Things have quickly accumulated and I have been too busy to notice care do something organize.

Today I spent most of my day in the classrooms.  This isn't unusual but since we're currently mid home visit season, I'm needed more than usual.  Perhaps it was the time away from the office that pushed me.  Or the spring-like weather.  Or filling in my March calendar.  Who cares?!

I organized.

If loving organization is wrong, I don't want to be right.

I finally started to do the things I meant to do in May when I took this position.  I reorganized the file cabinet to make it fit my filing system.  I went through the piles (and I mean piles) of paperwork on my desk and found things I had been meaning to follow up on (AND DID!!!) and everything quickly found a home.  Somewhere to belong.

Ladies & gentlemen, I found my desk today.

I cleared that baby off and man, it looks good!

Today was a great reminder that we need to take some time to make our lives feel more organized. The world of early childhood is unpredictable and ever-changing.  But having a system that keeps you sane?  Priceless.  So I spent about an hour of my own time, past when I wanted to leave -- okay, I really wanted to leave at about noon but no one would hear of such a thing -- and let myself clean up.

The best part?  I think tomorrow when I arrive, I'll be inspired to keep going!  And maybe even tackle the "stuff to get done" list that I refined this evening!


No, I don't have time to organize that closet. I'm too busy pinning organization ideas on Pinterest.
Ugh!  I always find the BEST ideas online and never take the time to follow through!
Now's the time to start!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I've been giving a lot of thought to the idea of "settling" in relationships...

Never wait around for anyone, never. (never,settle,for,less,than,you,deserve,love,relationship,quotes)
We tend to think of settling as a romantic thought... but why settle for less than our children deserve?
Find your voice.

So last night, I posted on my Facebook page:  What if we stop settling for "good enough?" To me, that's simply not enough. Strive to be the best, be the change, be the difference.

Today I'm reminded of the Sugarland song with lyrics:

I ain't settling for just getting by
I've had enough so so for the rest of my life
Tired of shooting too low, so raise the bar high
Just enough ain't enough this time
I ain't settling for anything less than everything

I've been thinking about my relationship within the context of my early childhood center and the community that grows around me.  We serve a variety of income-levels at our site and I'm (surprisingly) a very passionate person about the quality of the services we provide.  
I don't think it's acceptable to offer a sub-par service to a family simply because they make less money.  Every family has a story and every child is an individual who deserves the best start in education possible.  No two stories are alike.

By no means am I a perfect director.  I know there are things I need to continue to develop to be the best support system I can be to my team.  I also recognize that there are some areas in which I am strong and can help others.  I am offended when others don't want what's best for our young children.  These children are the future (did you start singing that song? I did) and we are responsible for ensuring they are the kind of adults who can lead and help others.  They are a part of our community!

I have high standards and most times, people can reach or exceed them.  I refuse to lower my standards for child care because others have lost their light.  I can help you fan your fire or you can step out of the field.  The early childhood field needs more people with energy and excitement for this group -- not those who have been beaten down and dejected by the system.

I strive to be the best.  I don't always hit the mark, but I know my families and staff appreciate the changes being made around them to improve the quality of our program.  Some may say I'm too passionate.  

I simply have a fire that's been fanned over the years.  
Children are my passion and I strive to ensure they are well prepared for the world they are a part of.

I have chosen to find my voice and use it to support the lives of young children and their families.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ripple Effect | ECE Students

Today we welcomed an early childhood teacher into the center to complete an observation for her coursework.  As I escorted her to the classroom, I couldn't help but feel we were creating a ripple.  Her course required an observation of an infant being fed by a primary caregiver.  First I was excited just to hear her use the phrase primary caregiver because so often it's not common practice.  Then I realized how excited I was to bring new blood into the center!  I started thinking about the ripple effect we stand to create within this building, within Chicago, and within early childhood education itself.  Welcoming early childhood students, possibly inspiring them to focus on Birth to Three programming... maybe, just maybe, one day hiring them within our own team... changing the culture of early childhood.  All in a day's work.

Being the catalyst for change is such an amazing experience opportunity. 

The other day, I posted on a former coworker's Facebook page, wishing her a happy day at work and response was so sweet -- "Miss Danielle, sound like you are doing great! I often think of you back in the days at Waterloo! My, how far you have gone! Mom must be proud!"

Goodness.  I was touched to hear someone thinks I'm doing great.  Some days, I'm not so sure.  I was also immediately back in my very first classroom in Waterloo, thinking about how much I didn't know.  I had no clue what I was doing... but I sure thought I did.  How much I didn't know I didn't know!  I thought of those little faces I was responsible for teaching and how much my pedagogy has changed since 2007.  My image of the child is dramatically different.  Oh how I wish I could go back and see those children and hug them tightly (both in apology and gratitude).

When I think back to my student teaching experiences, I am so thankful.  I learned so much and although I didn't pursue a career in elementary education, I still remember how much I loved reflecting with the teachers at that little school in Lancaster, WI.  Seriously, best.  Team.  Ever.

Now I am in a place to welcome students into my center and it is an exciting thought!  I've come full-circle.  I am welcoming potential teachers and am responsible for their impression of early childhood  this is the time when they will get their feet wet and figure out if this is the field for them.  And if they really enjoy their time here at our center, maybe they will come back as teacher candidates when they graduate!  By opening the center to observations and student teaching  I am asking the teachers to be role models.  And I'm sorry, there's really nothing better than knowing you're doing such a great job that people are coming to watch.  Holla!  It's important to me that we inspire the next generation of teachers through a warm, supportive field experience.


I won't sugar coat this environment though; Birth to Three takes a special breed of teachers.  One of our infant teachers got peed on the other day.  We routinely go home covered in questionable fluids. We have numerous conversations about poop. We listen to crying as a form of communication.  It's not something just anyone can do.  But if people can identify their niche early, it will help guide their coursework and career path.  Our team is downright amazing and I'm always looking for equally amazing people to join our team.

At the end of the day, who doesn't like to talk about poop?!


Monday, February 4, 2013

A lunch break?

That's crazy talk!

We carefully plan our schedule for each day to make sure that teachers have time for lunch breaks.  We do full hour lunches so teachers can use that time to get things done that they might not otherwise be able to, given their work and school schedules.  This means that someone needs to join the classroom to allow that fabulous teacher to step out.

On the perfect day, it's another teacher from a neighboring classroom.  Every other day, it's me or one of our  other team members.  Lunch times are sacred as well they should be; they are a chance to refresh and cleanse before returning to the classroom.  Anyone who has a child, knows a child, read a book about a child, has seen a child in public, or is a human being can tell you that children under the age of three are hard work.  They require lots of love and attention and the crying?  Yeesh.  These teachers have earned their time away!

Here's my point of breaking:

12:00 Teacher is scheduled to start break
12:01 If that person hasn't stepped in yet, the classroom teacher calls the front desk asking "When am I going to get my break?!"


I totally understand your right and desire to step out.  I do.  There's no part of me that wants you in the classroom for 9 hours straight -- that's just crazy-making.  But there are 9 teachers in this building and everyone has to break around the same time and meanwhile, we're trying to get things done at the front office to ensure we stay in business.  That paycheck you like so much (well, not so much, we all know you're underpaid and deserve WAY more)?  Is a result of what we're doing that makes us 2 minutes late getting to your door.  But don't worry, we're coming.

I think it's easy to get wrapped up in one side of the story.  No one comes to make sure I take my break.  No one makes sure that I'm eating lunch at a human-like time (because lunch at 4pm is technically dinner).  Take a deep breath, my fine teaching friends, and remember, we're all human and we're all in this together.

Give me the benefit of at least 5 minutes.  Then you can call.

Motivational Monday {Believe}

Don't sell yourself short; when we stop believing that we can accomplish something, we fail.  Always remember -- baby steps (no matter how small) count!

LauraJul / Inspiration today. Jump in (inspiration)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Respect {A partnership}

I've heard a few teachers say "The children just don't respect me."  They shrug their shoulders and reply that the call on colleagues to do the redirecting because "the children just don't listen."

I'm going to have to stop you right there, my fine teaching friends, and ask you this ...

Do you respect the children?

Children are people.  They have feelings, worries, excitements, etc. that we need to be receptive to and help them understand the world around them and how they fit into it.  The classroom is theirs.  Not yours.  It's a mutual space where children are meant to explore the world and figure out who they are and how they belong in their community.  Your approach to teaching can dramatically change the climate of that community.  We set the tone, we help to create the culture within the community.

I'm ranting today because I discovered a classroom covered in crayon marks.  I watched a teacher change a child's diaper while the child held on to a baby doll and a black crayon and proceeded to scribble all over that baby doll's feet while the teacher asked (and I kid you not), "What color crayon do you have?"

I'm all about a teachable moment.  Wrong moment.  Wrong topic.  Rather than quizzing this child on the color of the crayon she's using to deface the property of the classroom, why not try something more along the lines of "Do we use crayons on toys?  Crayons are for paper!  Let's finish changing this diaper and find you some paper!"

What color do you have?
"Black.  I drew on this doll's feet with black Ms Teacher.  And you let me!"

 I don't care what color crayon you're using to destroy a toy.  I care that you learn how to treat our classroom and the materials within it.  I want you to be successful.

As adults, we don't assume people are going to respect us.  We earn trust, we earn respect.  Why would children respect or trust you when you are not setting limits? And when something does happen, you have to call someone else to help the child?  "I'm going to tell your Dad when he picks you up that you were not listening."  Really?  By the time that child's father walks in the door, you'll be so tired from chasing children that you won't remember to tell him anything and better yet, two minutes after the incident, the child has already forgotten -- but surely remembers that you couldn't handle it.  Those moments simply undermine your authority  (role? I hate the word authority as it is often misconstrued) as a teacher.

As educators, we need to know and be secure in our roles as teachers.  We need to be able to redirect or help children when they are not making the "right choices."  Had the teacher asked "Do we write on on our babies?" I imagine there would have been a different end result.