Virtual Teaching with Young Children

“Virtual Teaching with Young Children ~ Out of the Box thinking for Early Childhood Educators” 

By April Zajko, M.Ed.

3/27/2020  – rough draft form for now! 🙂

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None of us have a page in our early childhood education (ECE) programs about what to do when a worldwide pandemic hits. None of us as schools, whether preschool or higher education, have a detailed plan for what to do when we need to close our program to protect the health and well being of our students or staff. None of us were ready for the cascading events that unfolded over the last two weeks.

So please….do not for one second feel like you didn’t do enough this week to meet the needs of the children or families in your early childhood programs. We each are doing the best we can to figure out how to precede.

It’s the end of week and I promised the participants on my plethora of Zoom Calls entitled “Virtual Teaching with Young Children” that I would create a blog post as a “round- up” of the information and resources I had gathered. My voice is hoarse from all the Zooms, webinars, and Facetimes I hosted and participated in this week. When the WiFi didn’t hold out….we even moved to chatting by landline!

 

I also promised my family I would log off the computer by 5 pm on Friday and would be screen-free on Saturday 3/28/2020. So I am going to keep my word to both my ECE friends and to my family…this is what I have to share so far.

 

*Please subscribe to my blog  www.aprilsteachingtree.com as I will update and refine this post next week.

 

 

Rooted in best practice ~ Guiding Thoughts:

  • There is no such thing as online preschool! These virtual methods are to help serve the needs of our children and the families we support. We will always need high quality early childhood programs!
  • Self care is more essential now than ever ~ please care for yourself first, then parent, then serve as an early childhood educator ~ this sequence is essential!
  • Developmentally appropriate practice – this is the opportunity to share practical, easy to understand ideas for parents so they know how to help their child learn through PLAY
  • Content that we deliver must be play based
  • Nature helps us during times of crisis ~ content needs to encourage outdoor play
  • PLAY is the curriculum in early childhood
  • Even our online offerings should promote the holistic development of children ~ physical, cognitive, and social-emotional. We are growing healthy and happy children and so during a pandemic we need to protect children and PLAY is a powerful way to do this!
  • Worksheets are not developmentally appropriate for preschool age children. Sending home a packet of ‘sheets’ is not the way to provide for families in crisis.
  • If you already sent home a packet of worksheets or are required to continue to send home worksheets….it’s okay. No guilt.
  • Apps do not replace real life interactions
  • Screen time limits are important for preschoolers (link to guidelines)
  • Infants and toddlers should not be on screens (link to research)

 

Virtual platforms are tools that we are learning and implementing but it takes time to learn how to use these effectively.

Live & Interactive Platforms (link to comparisons)

Morning Meeting Model using Zoom (link to Miss April’s video)

Interactive Family Art Lesson (link to Miss April’s video)

 

 

Parental involvement:

Poll for time availability

Inventory access to technology

Clear feedback will help us figure out how to make this work – survey questions

 

Questions and Worries:

 

Children’s Privacy –

 

Equity –

 

Copyright infringement – artists include children’s authors and illustrators; if you are reading a book in a public forum or posting to YouTube be sure you have read information about this (link)

 

 

“What does the research say about Virtual Teaching with Young Children?”

 

Still working on:

 

Schedule of Zoom Q&A calls the week of March 29th:   (will be posted by Sunday evening)

 

Schedule of “April’s Teaching Tree” online trainings that will count for Professional Development hours:  (will be posted by April 1, 2020)

 

This blog post is clearly in draft form….check back next week for a little more polished document! I need to log off and go back to my own family! ((BIG VIRTUAL HUGS))

 

 

 

Resources

  

Watch the video “Working Virtually with Children” that can be found at my friend, Sally Haughey’s website “Fairy Dust Teaching”.  If you are going to offer live group chats (such as Zoom) check out her free printable at the same line, “20 Zoom Activities: Simple and Engaging Activities with Young Children” https://fairydustteaching.com/elibrary/

 “How to Tell Stories to Children” – Brush up on your own story telling skills by watching this   video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ6PRdA14So

Play by Age – ideas for ways to playfully support learning and development The activities are developmentally appropriate for each age category and support multiple domains. https://www.learning4kids.net/

 

“Virtual Teaching with Young Children” ~ Zoom calls

Join the “Virtual Teaching with Young Children Zoom calls”  hosted by April Zajko, M.Ed.

Do you want to learn more about “Virtual Teaching with Young Children”?

Are you finding yourself learning technology that you never thought you would need to use with your young students?

One of the best things about the challenges we have faced over the last couple of weeks is that we have learned how to innovate and learn new skills!

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Thursday 3/26 10 a.m.

Thursday 3/26 2 p.m.

Friday 3/27 9 a.m.

Same link works for all three calls https://vsc.zoom.us/j/408053673

 

Description: There are so many wonderful examples of how early childhood educators (ECE) have stepped up these last two weeks to connect with both children and families in these times of quarantine. We know that there is ‘no such thing as online preschool’ but in this time of quarantine Early Childhood Educators are looking for ways to stay connected to their students and the families that they serve. Join April Zajko for one, two, or three Zoom calls to get some ideas, have a few laughs, and socialize with other ECE folks while working from home!

NOTE: If you are *NEW* to Zoom and want to practice some of the tools…log in 10 minutes early for a short tutorial. The calls will begin at the time listed and will last 1 hour.

Email April ahead of time if you have specific questions or concerns you’d like answered. aprilzajko@gmail.com

These Zooms will be recorded so wear clothes…or turn off your video. A round-up of ideas and resources will be posted as a blog post by the end of the day on Friday 3/27/2020 at www.aprilsteachingtree.com

These Zooms are FREE. There will be no Professional Development hours offered since the structure is open and there is ample time for Q&A

Same link works for all three calls https://vsc.zoom.us/j/408053673

 

April Zajko, M.Ed. is a licensed Early Childhood Educator and runs an educational consulting business, April’s Teaching Tree, based in Vermont. She teaches early childhood community college courses and has led in-person professional development since 2011.

 P.O.W.E.R. ~ Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationships

Training Title:  P.O.W.E.R. ~ Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationships

Date/Time: Saturday, November 2nd

Location: Johnson, Vermont

To register, contact: Suzanne Lague – stlague@comcast.net

“A candle loses none of it’s light by lighting another.” ~Rumi 

Workshop Description: As child care providers it is easy to feel like we are giving away our power and begin to feel burned out. We will will practice recognizing and addressing issues related to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. We will explore the eight domains of wellness and determine which areas in their life they need to add focus and attention. We will discuss ways to improve the environments that we live, work, and socialize that align with our core values. We will brainstorm how to develop nurturing and supportive relationships as a way to build support one another. Throughout the session participants will hear inspiring stories of growth and transformation that others have found on their own path back to reclaiming their inner power.

 

Learning Objectives:

Participants will practice recognizing and addressing issues related to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue.

Participants will explore the eight domains of wellness and determine which areas in their life they need to add focus and attention as a powerful way to develop meaning self-care routines.

Participants will discuss ways to improve the environments that we live, work, and socialize to align with our core values. Journal prompts and guidance on how to begin a Reflective Practice will help providers become intentional in how they create safe, nurturing learning and work environments.

Participants will brainstorm how to develop nurturing and supportive relationships with other child care providers as a powerful way to find support in the field with their professional support team.

 

Bio for Presenter:

April Zajko, M.Ed. began her career as a massage therapist and yoga instructor. While earning her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, April began to lead women’s retreats and stress management seminars at a holistic health center in Delaware. Once April earned her Master’s Degree in Education, she began to weave her holistic minded approach into her work with young children and with her adult learners. Currently, April teaches early childhood courses for the Community College of Vermont and leads professional development for child care providers around the state of Vermont. April graduated from the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Certification program at the Sivanada Yoga Center in Val Morin, Quebec in 1996 and earned a second 200 hour Yoga Teacher Certification from the Heart Space Yoga Studio in St. Johnsbury in March 2019. April is also an October 2019 graduate of the Snelling Center for Government’s Early Childhood Leadership Institute. April embraces the value reclaiming our personal power, both as we advocate on behalf of children while simultaneously learning how to take good care of ourselves. Through self-care and professional support teams our joy and longevity in the field of Early Childhood Education will be persevered.

 

Leading with Empathy

“Leading with Empathy” is a new two hour training that April’s Teaching Tree is excited to offer. Dates are still being confirmed for Fall 2019, but it will be offered on Oct. 24th, 2019 as part of the VtAEYC Fall Conference.  See the full conference brochure here – http://vaeyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/FINAL-VAEYC-ONLINE-BROCHURE-1.pdf

This training is for you if you’ve been asking yourself these questions:

“How do can I find the courage to stand up for what I believe? Can a teacher also be a leader? How can I be both caring and an effective leader? How can I lead with compassion and kindness without burning out?”

“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives. ” ~Oprah Winfrey 

 

Course description:

Growing into leadership roles requires us to go outside of our comfort zones, and to examine both our strengths and our weaknesses.

Learn how to use active listening, observation, and empathetic response as a way to understand and build trusting relationships with both children, families, and coworkers.

Leading with empathy helps us to explore the concepts of courage, compassion, and connection as we explore how to create the most supportive learning environment for all children.

Participants will looks at specific ways to create an environment that is built on trust, inclusion, and conveys a sense of belonging to all.

Participants will explore ways to share resources with their teams on how to teach emotional vocabulary, self-regulation, and techniques to model social and emotional skills for their staff and families.

Participants will create a “Self Care Action Plan” as a way to prioritize self-care since
leaders must learn how to care for themselves so theycan effectively lead their teams.

Learning Objectives:

1) Participants will learn about Active Listening & Observation & Empathetic Response as a way to understand and build trusting relationships with both children and families.

2) Participants will explore ways to share resources with their teams on how to teach emotional vocabulary, self-regulation, and techniques to model social and emotional skills for their staff and families.

3) Participants will create a Self Care Action Plan as a way to prevent overwhelm and burn out.

P.O.W.E.R. ~ Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationships

 

photography of tree
Photo by gypsyugal on Pexels.com

 

I wanted to share a description of a program that I am creating this summer. I feel called to begin to host women’s groups that help us reclaim our power. Beginning in August 2019 I will be hosting this as an outdoor women’s group in the Saint Johnsbury, Vermont area. I am also developing this into an online e-course as well!

Workshop Title:  P.O.W.E.R. ~ Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationships

Workshop Description: As women it is easy to feel like we are giving away our power and begin to feel burned out. During this workshop we will explore the eight domains of wellness and determine which areas in our lives need added focus and attention. We will discuss ways to improve the environments that we live, work, and socialize that align with our core values. We will brainstorm how to develop nurturing and supportive relationships as a way to build support one another. Throughout the workshop participants will hear inspiring stories of growth and transformation that others have found on their own path back to reclaiming their inner power.

If you’d like to join one of my groups or to create your own private group with your friends I will begin scheduling in August 2019! Email April for more details ~~~   aprilzajko@gmail.com 

 

P.O.W.E.R. ~ Path of Wellness, Empowerment & Relationships

One of the best parts of leading professional development training is the deep conversation and connections that I get to make with other early care providers and educators.

On Monday of this week I led a training called “Leading with Empathy” and we dove deep into topics of emotional vocabulary, fostering inclusion and belonging in our programs, building strong relationships with the families in our programs, defining empathy & considering how to build those skills with children, and developing self care action plans.

This was the first time leading this training, but I knew that this was helping me to synthesize and apply much of the research and work that I have been exploring this year. Helping others to make deeper connections, act with compassion, gain more confidence in their work, and build up our reserves so we can be care givers without depleting ourselves, and to turn our vulnerabilities into strengths.

Whoa…this is important work for all of us no matter our field!

Driving home I was reflecting on the presentation and the conversations. The word “POWER” kept coming to mind, and my wish to be able to pass on confidence and power to all the women that I work with. Many child care providers and moms that I know need a POWER boost, and often I find myself giving PEP talks to other women who feel stripped of their power.

Community of Practice model ~ working together with others in order to improve ourselves and to foster growth within our team or community is the way to change our views. When we connect with a small group of others in this way, all working toward the same goal, we create a synergy! Being part of a community who are all committed to the same goal makes us feel like we belong, and we feel supported to grow and change.

Women’s Gatherings ~ for most of my life I have been part of a small tribe of other women who are working on the same life goals. As a teen being invited into drumming circles, as a young adult leading Wise Women’s retreats, leading yoga classes and adult wellness programs when I ran a Holistic Health Center. Later once I began working in early childhood education, leading parenting groups, play groups, Mommy Coffee Hour, and professional development. All of these tribes and circles have supported me and helped me become who I am.

So developing my own framework for growing into our P.O.W.E.R. is one of the big projects in store for June 2019!

P.O.W.E.R. = Path of Wellness, Environment, & Relationships ~ weaving together much of the research, reading, and inner work that I have been doing in order to offer an in-person women’s coaching group. I am also going to offer it as an online e-course as well so I can send my positive message to a wider audience. Eventually, I will have a framework or blueprint ready to share with other women who want to lead their own groups!

If you would like to be part of my FREE online BETA-test group or live local and want to be part of my summer group, email me at aprilzajko@gmail.com 

 

 

Thank you to the “Starting Points Child Care Network” in Randolph, Vermont for inspiring me this week! I hope you each took away some tools that you will use in your work! Our training this week really me inspired me! I am so eager to dive into developing this larger training program!

With gratitude,

April

Know Thyself~ Take a Seat at the Table

“Know Thyself” was the theme of a two day training that I attended last week as part of a larger six month “Early Childhood Leadership Institute” with the Snelling Center for Government. I arrived already knowing quite a bit about myself and completely open to learning more. Though I have been working in the field of education for almost two decades, I know that being a lifelong learner is how I will continue to grow and develop into a confident leader in my field.

On a personal level, I know that much of who I am today is from difficult lessons learned in my childhood, and wanting to protect children from adverse childhood experiences is why I entered the field of education.

An important part of knowing myself is owning that I often feel like I don’t belong. I often feel like I can easily fit in, am often asked to participate, but still lack that deeper sense of belonging. It’s a feeling that I have had for as long as I can remember, and is one of the reasons that I really value community building and friendship skills in my own classrooms.

During one of the break-out sessions at the training last week I shared this confession:

“I look like all the other white women and even live in a quiet little New England neighborhood. I mostly dress in cardigans and love ‘old lady’ floral dresses. For the most part, I can easily blend in and be a chameleon in most social situations, but often I feel like this ‘seat at the table’ should be given to someone else. The opportunity to stay in quaint inns and resorts has only been available to me because I sign up to be part of statewide child care trainings. I feel twinges of guilt when servers bring the crystal pitcher to fill my glass, because I feel trained to be the server and not guest at the table.”

Post confession, the two women I was talking to both nodded their head in agreement. I felt some relief knowing that I was not alone in my feeling like someone else should be sitting at the table.

I am more comfortable being outdoors or at a campfire. Drinking out of a metal cup suits me more than a crystal goblet…but there is where the professional ‘stretch’ lies. Getting outside of the comfort zone and into the stretch zone.

Quite honestly, it feels foreign to be the care receiver instead of the care giver. As early childhood educators, we serve others and anticipate their needs. We are delighted at others growth and we happily eat the bread crumbs left after cutting our kids sandwiches into cute shapes. It’s not that we are servants or serfs because we knowingly went to college to do this work. Despite the lower pay and the longer hours, we felt called to be in this field of working with the youngest children. We understand child development and know that toilet training is as important as any other skill or ability that children will acquire. We show up and do the important work because we know that we are building the foundation….but when co-workers or administrators treat us as servants or serfs then bristly conversations occur.

As early childhood educators we have taken on some difficult roles and some that we weren’t quite prepared for:

Difficult phone calls to report concerns to the Child Development Division leave me breathless and shaken. When I began teaching we didn’t have the role of mandated reporter, yet that is part of the job now. Of course we want to ensure the safety of the children, but it’s overwhelming when we see the affects on children from families that are living with adversity.

When I reflect on the honor of holding a mother’s hand as she navigates the system to get her children’s needs met, it is with a responsibility to use my voice to show how the silos are broken to those in charge.

Weathering the storms at school with children with explosive behaviors helped me to realize the deep impact to children when their families are battling addiction or other adversities. Behavior is communication and that we need to help understand what the child is telling us, which is hard to do when we don’t feel like there is a system of support for either the child or staff member.

Though I have read hundreds of books and have tried to synthesize theory to practice, it was not until I was in the classroom and in the thick of it that I realized the enormity of the role that we have assigned to early childhood educators.

At this point in my career, I realize that it takes courage for me to step outside of my comfort zone and push for the changes that I see need to be made in order for children in our community to flourish. I realize that I do have a strong voice for children with years of experience in both public and private programs. Despite my hesitancy and reluctance to become an advocate for children, I can no longer to turn a blind eye to systems, policies, or people that are failing our children.

So I will continue on working to know myself, and more importantly, I will keep showing up and keep having heartfelt conversations. I know the strength of celebrating our differences, being respectful, and kind is the way that we create the classrooms and neighborhoods that we want to live in. Yet, there is an urgency in our work to advocate for what we know our children need.

I acknowledge that this seat at the table is meant for me. And good news, there is space for you too! Pass the chocolate…we’ve got some hard work to do!