Rabbi Steven Foster Early Learning Center
Where discovery meets community.

Susan's Helpful Hints

Susan's Helpful Hint of the Week

1/11: Jewish Values at the Foster ELC
The spirit of our Jewish tradition and heritage rests at the heart of Rabbi Steven Foster Early Learning Center philosophy. Learning Jewish values and concepts are a very important part of our everyday practice within our early learning center. JECEI established a set of core Jewish values and ideas to guide our work in constructing Jewish early childhood centers. Understood as "lenses," they help create a framework for teachers and parents for study, discussion and development of a shared vision in the classroom. There is much room for interpretation but below is sample of how the lenses are used in our school: 1) Masa: Journey (Reflection, Return and Renewal) 2) B'rit: Covenant (Belonging and Commitment) 3) Tzelem Elokim: Divine Image (Dignity and Potential) 4) K'dushah: Holiness (Intentionality and Presence) 5) Hit'orerut: Awakening (Amazement and Gratitude) 6) D'rash: Interpretation (Inquiry, Dialogue, and Transmission) 7) Tikkun Olam:Repair of the World (Responsibility).

1/5: Positive Intent: Ways to See Children Differently
If you are anything like me, my children returning to school from Winter Break makes me happier than just about anything!  Then, as I analyze this thought, a twinge of guilt fills my brain. Why do I get to that point at the end of this break? Read more

12/21: How Young Children Process Information
Child development: Before age six, children process information 12 times slower than adults. We must slow down our speech and give only one or two commands at a time. If we speak at a normal pace and say, “Finish your snack, get your crayons and go color in the TV room.” The child may only process bits of information, hearing “crayons color the TV.” consciousdisclipline

12/7: A Child's Brain
A child’s brain comes preprogrammed to grow, but it takes a bit more than the first two decades of life to finish this task, making it the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature. -Daniel Goleman PhD.

11/30: Fundamentals of the Reggio Approach
From Bringing Reggio Emilia Home: An Innovative Approach to Early Childhood Education, by Louise Boyd Cadwell
• The child as protagonist. Children are strong, rich, and capable. All children have preparedness, potential, curiosity, and interest in constructing their learning, negotiating with everything their environment brings to them. Children, teachers, and parents are considered the three central protagonists in the educational process (Gandini, 1993).
• The child as collaborator. Education has to focus on each child in relation to other children, the family, the teachers, and the community rather than on each child in isolation (Gandini, 1993). There is an emphasis on work in small groups. The practice is based on the social constructivist model that supports the idea that we form ourselves through our interaction with peers, adults, things in the world, and symbols (Lewin, 1995).
• The child as communicator. This approach fosters children’s intellectual development through a systematic focus on symbolic representation, including words, movement, drawing, painting, building, sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play, and music, which leads children to surprising levels of communication, symbolic skills, and creativity (Edwards et al., 1993). Children have the right to use many materials in order to discover and communicate what they know, understand, wonder about, question, feel, and imagine. In this way, they make their thinking visible through their many natural “languages.” A studio teacher, trained in the visual arts, works closely with children and teachers in each school to enable children to explore many materials and to use a great number of languages to make their thinking visible.
• The environment as third teacher. The design and use of space encourage encounters, communication, and relationships (Gandini, 1993). There is an underlying order and beauty in the design and organization of all the space in a school and the equipment and materials within it (Lewin, 1995. Every corner of every space has an identity and a purpose, is rich in potential to engage and to communicate, and is valued and cared for by children and adults.
• The teacher as partner, nurturer, and guide (Edwards, 1993). Teachers facilitate children’s exploration of themes, work on short- and long-term projects, and guide experiences of joint, open-ended discovery and problem solving (Edwards et al., 1993). To know how to plan and proceed with their work, teachers listen and observe children closely. Teachers ask question; discover children’s ideas, hypotheses, and theories; and provide occasions for discovery and learning (Gandini, 1993).
• The teacher as researcher. Teachers work in pairs and maintain strong, collegial relationships with all other teachers and staff; they engage in continuous discussion and interpretation of their work and the work of children. These exchanges provide ongoing training and theoretical enrichment. Teachers see themselves as researchers preparing documentation of their work with children, whom they also consider researchers. The team is further supported by a pedagogista (pedagogical coordinator) who serves a group of school (Gandini, 1993).
• The documentation as communication. Careful consideration and attention are given to the presentation of the thinking of the children and the adults who work with them. Teachers’ commentary on the purposes of the study and the children’s learning process, transcriptions of children’s verbal language (i.e., words and dialogue) photographs of their activity, and representations of their thinking in many media are composed in carefully designed panels or books to present the process of learning in the schools. The documentation serves many purposes. It makes parents aware of their children’s experience. It allows teachers to better understand children, to evaluate their own work, and to exchange ideas with other educators. Documentation also shows children that their work is valued. Finally, it creates an archive that traces the history of the school and the pleasure in the process of learning experienced by many children and their teachers (Gandini, 1993).
• The parent as partner. Parent participation is considered essential and takes many forms. Parents play an active part in their children’s learning experience and help ensure the welfare of all the children in the school. The ideas and skills that the families bring to the school and, even more important, the exchange of ideas between parents and teachers, favor the development of a new way of educating, which helps teachers to view the participation of families not as a threat but as an intrinsic element of collegiality and as the integration of different wisdoms (Spaggiari)

11/9: How do I handle my child's temper tantrums? The core skill that will help you through a temper tantrum is keeping your cool. Your upset will only fuel your child’s fire. Instead, use active calming techniques such as deep breathing to help manage these difficult, but developmentally normal fits. As in any conflict situation, focus on what you want your child to do, model this behavior or state yourself, and notice any hint of success. In terms of tantrums, the behavior or state of being that you want from your child is “calm.” Your job is to focus on “calm” and model calmness yourself. This may sound particularly difficult in the face of a screaming 3-year-old, but can we really expect a 3-year-old to keep his cool if we can’t stay cool ourselves?

Here’s an example: Your toddler wants a bag of candy he’s spied in the grocery aisle. You say, “No.” He crashes to the floor, screaming. You're feeling angry, embarrassed, exhausted and at your wits end. You feel like everyone’s looking at you. First, take three deep breaths to help calm the stress response in your body. Then, discipline yourself with the affirmation, “I’m safe. Keep breathing. I can handle this.”  Way to go! You’ve just set the internal foundation needed to teach your child how to handle frustration and become calm! Now you can address your upset child. Be encouraging. Get down at eye level with him and say, "You can handle this. Breathe with me. You're safe." Scoop him up, hold him in your arms and breathe deeply with him. When his body relaxes a little, say, “There you go, you’re calming down.”  Then tell him he has a choice, "You can sit in the cart and hold the list, or you can sit in the cart and hold your truck." Once he makes his choice, celebrate your success together, "You did it! You calmed yourself down and that's hard to do."
-Dr. Becky Bailey http://consciousdiscipline.com/resources/discipline-tips.asp

11/2: Children's expression of big feelings:  As adults, we’ve been taught to tame and hide our big emotions, often by stuffing them, displacing them, or distracting from them. Kids can’t do that yet. Early childhood educator Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful feelings such as screaming, yelling, or crying. She suggests that parents “Let feelings be” by not reacting or punishing kids when they express powerful emotions. pyschologytoday

10/26: Don't forget to laugh: "Research shows that children laugh approximately 200 times a day, whereas adults laugh only 15-18 times. People who laugh more are healthier, experience less stress, are less likely to be depressed, and may even have an increased resistance to illness or physical problems. The children seem to be on to something that we adults have lost... "My observations of children support the research that shows that laughter is less about humor and more about creating social connections, where people build feelings of camaraderie and pay close attention to each other." -Deb Curtis (Author of Really Seeing Children)

10/11:  Strategies for Biting:  Although biting might not feel good, it's a natural part of development. For babies and young children, exploring their world means putting everything in their mouth. Add teeth and you’re headed for some painful interactions! Stay calm but firmly let these teething infants and toddling explorers know that “Ouch, that hurts!” and give them something more appropriate to take a bite of. When they are over-excited and bite a friend, go to the victim first. This teaches young children that you value healing over hurting and they are not going to get connection from you first when this occurs. After you’ve bandaged and given empathy to the injured party, turn toward the biter and say, “Look at_______’s face. He face is saying, “I’m hurt or scared”. Next, set the limit: “You may not bite. Biting hurts. What could we do that is kind to help_______ right now?” (If they don’t know what to do, offer suggestions like getting them a bandage, asking what the child needs, offering a stuffed animal or ice pack, etc.) When they are frustrated and bite, stay calm and remember that they are currently utilizing the only skills they possess. Again, attend to the victim first. You can help the victim with assertive language skills by telling his attacker, “Stop! Don’t bite me. That hurts! When you are mad, tell me, I am mad at you. instead of biting me.” Offer empathy to the biter with a statement like, “You didn’t have the words to use. You were feeling frustrated.” Next, set a firm and clear limit, “You may not bite. Biting hurts. Tell your friend that you feel frustrated.” Have the child practice this problem solving strategy. By avoiding an over-reaction, you can help children develop different strategies to handle the frustration, exploration, excitement and teething…which, although occasionally painful, are a natural part of their development.

10/3: Managing Emotional Literacy: "I prefer to teach my child…to be emotionally literate. That is the skill the child will need in order to overcome stress, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, anger, hurt and despair. I would teach my child the difficult situations in life help to improve our self-esteem, courage and self-reliance, and enable us to handle life on our own terms." - Dalip Singh from Emotional Intelligence at Work; A Professional Guide.
We here at the Rabbi Steven Foster Early Learning Center agree with this idea! This is a place for children to grow in their understanding of emotions and develop skills and tools to then manage these feelings and emotions.

9/28: Children's Reactions to Parents' Moods: Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it (Goleman, 1991, Hatfield et al., 2014). Children especially pick up on their parents’ moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always-on-the-verge-of-frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, children model off that instead.

Holiday Resources

Learn About Sukkot with Shalom Sesame; Enjoying the Beauty of Nature

Sukkot and Simchat Torah Social Justice Guide

How to Ready Your Young Child for Yom Kippur

Rosh Hashana and the High Holiday Experience at Temple Emanuel