Biscuits, Triscuits…


Sticks and stones
March 3, 2018, 9:23 am
Filed under: Education

sticks

A friend of mine recently posted this on their Facebook page in reaction to gun violence in schools and America’s decisions on how to respond to it. This was hard for me, because with guns, my personal thought is that it would most likely be a safer America with less guns in it, but at this point we’ve gone too far and can’t take them all away. The most ideal would be to find reasonable laws that restrict guns from being in the hands of minors as well as certain people. Of course, that is not up to me, so I focus on a different topic.

This topic is that I feel very differently about sticks. I don’t think sticks can be thought of in the same way as guns. Guns have one ultimate purpose, to kill or to wound either in self defense, hunting or otherwise, that is the purpose of a gun. As an educator, when a child uses an object and turns it into a gun, I am less inclined to say, “We don’t use guns,” and more inclined to say, “Oh, well what does it do?” and sometimes the child will say, “It shoots,” to which I will respond, “What does it shoot?” and many times I will get an answer like, “Glitter!” or “cookies!” If they continue to use this object in a way that seems harmful to others I would ask them why they are using it that way and see if it’s possible to redirect their cookie/glitter shooter to do something positive.

Sticks have a variety of purposes and while a child might discover they are good for hitting, they can also discover it makes a great magic wand, or that if they pile them together they can pretend to make a fire or they can make marks in the dirt. If a child uses a stick and hits another child with them, I would not immediately take all the sticks away. I would say something like, “Does that seem safe? Do they like when you hit them with a stick?” and of course talk about the other child and how they seemed to feel by being hit by the stick. Then I would ask, “If you are going to play with a stick, what can you turn it into that won’t hurt your friends?” And yes, I would even do this with younger children, in simpler language perhaps but because they are capable and while it might take a while, they will figure out other more creative and exciting uses for this stick. And if they do not, then I will ask them to find something else to play with because they are not making safe choices with this stick. If other children are able to use the sticks and not hit each other with them, then I won’t take away all the sticks, because it gives the child who couldn’t keep their stick that day something to work towards. They get to see all the other safe ways children are using sticks and the next time we go outside, or maybe even 10 minutes later they can try again. Currently, in my classroom of two year olds, children are using sticks in the dramatic play area as utensils for eating soup and ice cream. Very few are actually using them aggressively.

When children are posed with a choice verses a command, it is much easier for them to make a good decision and still feel autonomous in that decision. Instead of a kid hitting a child with a stick and me saying, “OK, you hurt someone, give me the stick.” If I say, “I see that hurt another child. Was that ok? Please make a choice if you can be safe with the stick, or if you need to put it away and play with something else,” there is a much better chance that (again, potentially after several opportunities if they are under 4) this child will decide to play gently with the stick instead of just hitting with it, which will ultimately result in having it be taken away (but always with the explanation of why).

When completely told they can’t use something that could open so many creative doors, we close the door on a child’s ability to use this material or toy and on their imagination in some ways. Instead of doing this, we should be helping them learn what is safe, what is unsafe, what is ok, and what is not ok. Adults have a comfort zone that comes with children taking risks or potentially harming other children, and it’s a good zone to have, and everyone’s is different. What’s important is to question, when we feel a child is doing something outside of our comfort zone, whether it’s something the child can learn from, or if it is only going to cause harm no matter how we pose questions to them. Otherwise, we just take away all the sticks and they never learn how to build a bridge with them, or create amazing group play with them, or do something we haven’t even imagined yet that only they can.

 

**Please remember that this is my personal opinion based on experience and my own studies as an educator. Feel free to ask questions, and feel free to disagree, but only in a private forum where we can openly discuss any questions or issues with these opinions. Thank you!

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Keep Asking Questions
February 24, 2018, 11:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have not written in this blog for almost 5 years, and I should have been writing in here more frequently, but life happened and I think that’s ok. However, I wish the reason for me feeling so compelled to write in here again was not due to the recent events in schools. I am not one to get in political arguments or to rant about politics, society, etc… I prefer to listen and learn but rarely express my own opinions in an outward way because I’ve found, particularly via the internet, expressing opinions often just leads to countless arguments that go nowhere and who has time for that?

That being said, I do feel that it’s important to speak up, and perhaps I should have spoken up sooner. I do have other projects I am working on as my way to deal with the current political state of the United States, but they don’t have to do with the school shootings and the president’s thoughts to arm teachers, and now that this is an option being considered, in addition to many others, I feel I must say something. So here it is:

I am an educator. I teach young children and have been doing so for several years. Knowing other educators, we all commiserate with each other that we do this because we love it and not because of the money. It is a widely known fact, written about relatively consistently that the way educators in schools, particularly preschools, are paid does not help with motivating teachers. We do it because we care and because we love it, and we think it’s important. However, because of this, burnout is high and good teachers don’t always teach forever. There are multiple articles, a few of which can be found here, and here that very coherently discuss the flaws in this system, much better than I can.

Poorly paid teachers is only one of many problems likely contributing to what is currently happening in American society. Another is the accessibility of guns. This is an argument that is impossible to win. You can say, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” or, “If it wasn’t guns it would be something else,” and maybe that’s true, but it cannot be denied that this is a problem, and I have to say that I do not agree with the solutions being presented. They only show how little non-educators understand of what teachers jobs really are. It is our job to keep children safe, and it is our job to educate and to help children learn and grow.

Everyday, there are a million things running through the mind of an educator from how a lesson is presented, to how the classroom needs to be changed to help the children learn, to the individual children, how to help them, guide them, keep them safe, and keeping in mind every little fact we know about each student we have on how they learn, function, communicate and interact with others. Nowhere in there should there be a place for a gun. In early childhood, it is an even worse safety hazard as children are so much more capable than many people believe and having a firearm even hidden but in arms reach is completely unacceptable and unsafe. In older education settings, from elementary through high school, there are a whole different set of thoughts running through a teacher’s heads and the students are even more capable, leaving access to a gun in a classroom to be a terrible risk that (I assume) few educators are willing to take. Even if it’s not the educators themselves but “highly adept people,” within the schools that have guns, it’s still a completely unsafe environment for it. I understand protecting students but the question in addition to figuring out reasonable safety precautions should be, “Why is this happening?” Sometimes this happens because a non-student decides to come in to a school and make a terrible mistake, but more recently this has been students coming in to their own schools with guns.

This must lead one to wonder what is going on. It can’t just be guns, it can’t just be angry students. Why are students doing this? Would they do it or succeed with it if guns weren’t available? Did anyone know these students were hurting? If so, then what was being done about it? And if not, then why didn’t they and how to we improve that in the future?

This brings me back to educators being poorly paid. This is not to make a generalization, but in America, it is believed that educators are the reasons that children are doing well or failing in school settings, yet we are paid next to nothing. How on earth is every single teacher in every single school going to be motivated to not only teach children but to be aware that children are in trouble and to try to do something about it if they can barely afford their own rents let alone to pay for their own children, expenses, etc…? And what about counselors? What are they paid and what is their role supposed to be? How about the parents? Are they responsible in any way for knowing or not knowing that their kid is feeling so distraught that they want to hurt their classmates? And what about other students? Cyber bullying is real and so is regular bullying. Children can be mean, and it doesn’t come from video games. Certainly media and TV shows can play a part in this but we can’t just point a finger and start banning video games and censoring television shows because that’s not going to solve the problem at this point. It will only create more.

There’s much to be said and many factors to blame but right now it shouldn’t be about blame, it should be about moving forward and helping to create a sense of security back in our schools and with our students and families. And teachers or school faculty being armed with guns is not the way to do that. If you are going to spend more money on teachers, spend it on their education, spend it on their salary to help them know their job is important verses saying they will get more money to bring a firearm into their classroom and increase the chances of violence and insecurity. Spend money on sensitivity and compassion training in schools for counselors and helping parents to know signs of when their child could be unhappy or bullied. Don’t throw money at guns in the school, that is the most disrespectful thing to do to students and teachers and will ultimately only bring on more violence.

I don’t have the answers, but I have a lot of questions and I feel like that’s what we have to do right now. We should be asking questions and trying to discover how to move forward from here without adding more potential harm to the lives of students and educators everywhere. I understand people truly believe guns keep people safe but if they’ve ever worked in a school they have to see that adding guns to this environment is just begging for disaster. There must be another solution.

If the evidence shows that we do see having access to certain guns as helpful then it can be looked into, but potential restrictions or limitations should also be considered as we move forward. Ultimately, it’s important to ask the questions and keep at it until we get answers that aren’t inane ideas that ultimately give more money to the NRA. Lets work hard to keep our children safe and not just present band-aid solutions. And lets listen to the students, the victims and their families who are speaking out against what is happening. Then lets think about why, in 2018, these events and these questions even have to be asked at all.



Bushwick Daily
December 15, 2013, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Bushwick Daily

Lately, I have become a contributor for the Bushwick Daily. I most recently contributed some picks to Bushwick Daily’s Best of 2013 Playlist. Check it out here!

 



Wildcat Apollo- S/T
October 10, 2013, 10:48 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Hey, it’s a new review! New music! FINALLY!

 

Wildcat Apollo

Wildcat Apollo

Release date Oct.30

Sometimes we forget why we love listening to music. With a lot of the new music coming out that seems to rarely ever stretch itself out of the vein of boring mediocrity, it’s hard to get that feeling; the one we forgot about. It’s the feeling of complete unadulterated joy and happiness from sound; listening to something that makes you remember every memory that made you smile as well as all the ones that made your heart break so many times. Wildcat Apollo brings that back with their music.

This Brooklyn/Austin four-piece formed of brothers and best friends in 2012 and is about to release their first full-length. The self-titled debut was recorded this summer in Austin at the Bubble with Frenchie Smith, who produced and mixed records by Built to Spill, Meat Puppets, the Dandy Warhols and many more. 

Each Wildcat Apollo song is wildly unique yet is also intricately threaded through the album to create a cohesive record. There are some songs, such as “Shrug,” that bellow out a 90’s youthfulness with noodling guitar parts, unhindered vocals, and tightly knit drum parts. The male/female vocals blend solidly together as the entire energy expresses the fun clearly being had by all members of the band.

Others like “High and Low,” are more akin to Broken Social Scene in that there is a similar solidarity between the instruments and vocals. There is a partnership in teaming up to lull together, rock together, and dance together throughout the song.

Then there are songs that maintain some of those elements but exhale a dance-rock/post-punk sound with prominent bass lines, and echoed vocals. “Gotham,” for example feels underwater, blurry, and sun-stroked with it’s blistering whirs and echoed but full female vocals.

Some tunes, like “The Colorado,” just sound like the soundtrack to an indie-rock western. It is a variety of styles that Wildcat Apollo infuses into their music but they are doing something right because every song feels like something that has been missing.

I could go on for days detailing each song and why it encompasses the feelings of youth and diving into ones past but it seems better to just tell you to listen to the damn album.

Wildcat Apollo’s ballsy and emotion-filled record leaves a listener drained yet wanting more. Each song seems a lot shorter than it really is because it feels like they should last forever. The album may as well be the soundtrack to the emotions of everyone’s entire life. It’s a roller coaster ride of an album that speeds up, slows down, and makes you feel. It makes you remember why music like this matters, and most of all, it feels real.

Check out their tunes here: http://www.wildcatapollo.com/

by Lauren Piper

 



“Sunny’s Magical Tea Party”- Patrick Maguire
October 8, 2013, 7:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

 

 

All the guests finally arrive.  There is Teddy and Mr. Flamingo, Puff Puff the lion, Piggy Squealson, and Joanna.  Teddy had asked if Ribbit the evil frog could join but Sunny would hear none of it.  A blue blanket, suspended by a great many push pins, hangs securely overhead.  The tea party is lit by a single electric lantern.  The animals intentionally distance themselves from where the lantern’s circular cover creates a diagonal pocket of shadow. 

Upon the tent’s construction, some weeks prior, Sunny explained the purpose of the false azure sky.  “It keeps all the bad things out so we can stay safe.” 

To which Puff Puff the lion retorted: “But we would protect you, Miss Sunny!”

“I know, but this makes it so you don’t have to.”

And Sunny’s words ring true.  The loud, angry voices emanating from the kitchen are wholly swallowed by the magical tent and the dining party is none the wiser.  Though if she could hear them yelling, the subject matter is anything but unfamiliar.

Small plastic wafers are being heated in the fluorescent pink oven, which was purchased from a catalogue.  It was featured on page thirty-seven beside a baby blue workbench for boys.

Each of the attendees has been allotted the plate and saucer that presently sits before them.  An additional bowl filled with honey occupies the center of the irregular friendship circle.

The children’s stove dings twice to signal that it’s contents are ready for consumption.  Each plate is given two cookies and Sunny accents the treat by pouring a dab of honey over it.  After Mr. Flamingo complements the scrumptiousness of the golden sweetener Sunny describes it’s acquisition to the table.  She was given the honey from a group of apologetic bees that routinely buzz the hedge out back as an act of atonement for a stinging incident.  The noble queen had commissioned her best worker bees to tap the most elegant flowers.  The purpose being to prepare a gift for Sunny.  In an extravagant ceremony thirty of the strongest bee soldiers flew a ceramic pot out to her.  In return she promised never again to use the spot as the setting for her jungle adventures. 

The guests love the story, well, all but Teddy who mumbles ‘hogwash’ under his breath.  Sunny has half a mind to exile the curmudgeonly bear to the haunted closet where Ribbit the evil frog is no doubt reconsidering past transgressions.  Ribbit knows what he did.

With the tale completed everyone concentrates on their meal.  Sunny scans her band of friends.  Joanna sits to her left.  At one time the rag-tag pound puppy was incarcerated behind cardboard bars on a felony count of cuteness.  Sunny would have none of that and sprung her free for 12.95.  Though quiet, Joanna often provides Sunny with moral support.  Just one look at her marble eyes beneath those big floppy ears prompts an uncontrollable grin.

Going further around the circle sits Piggy Squealson.  Piggy has fluffy white hair covering the majority of his body.  His left ear hangs half off and sometimes when hugged with an unusual tightness his stuffing puffs out.  Some time ago Sunny wanted to see if the serrated knife she stole from the kitchen was sharp enough.  Piggy Squealson’s ear was the litmus test, mostly because Sunny knew he would forgive her.  In the end she was too scared to use the knife as intended but loved Piggy all the more for his sacrifice.

Puff Puff the lion takes the place directly across from Sunny.  His name comes from an unfortunate incident with the dryer.  His once ferocious mane is now a permed poof.  Puff Puff is a regular sidekick on Sunny’s adventures since his hand puppet form makes for easy traveling. 

Mr. Flamingo is the next around the continuum.  He nibbles at his meal with a certain refinement.  Sunny adores the uneven lumps that contort his neck and bulge his torso.  She made him in a crafts class from a pattern the teacher had handed out.  His many deformities and miscolorations are what makes him so charming to Sunny.

Finally, Teddy holds the place to Sunny’s right.  His old button eyes are no longer sewn in tight and his once smiling face has fallen to more of a frown.  Once the prized toy of her father, Teddy and Sunny have a strained relationship.  But, as bitter old friends sometimes do, neither will give up on the other.

“The tea is made from all that is good and it will ward off all that is bad.”  Sunny announces the reason they are all here.

“But oink what if oink it doesn’t work?!” Piggy Squealson wrinkles his nose.

“We have to try Piggy!  How will we know if we don’t try?”

So, they all gulp down the putrid potion.  It tastes so awful it has to work.  She used the reddest leaves from the tree in the front yard, milk from the refrigerator, cereal dust from the bottom of the box, and squeezed the juice from a single blueberry.  All of which was stirred and mashed with a cinnamon stick left on the kitchen table from yesterday’s diner.

Each looks into the other’s eyes to see if there was any signs of the potion taking effect.  The front door slams but the magical blanket holds it’s will.  Though if she could hear it she would recognize that this is her mother leaving without her.

Sunny yells distractingly: “Let the parade begin!”  With full stomachs the party takes to it’s feet.  Sunny swishes her oversized t-shirt left and right.  The drums kick on over an angelic chorus of horns.  Joanna joins behind, shaking her head so that her ears flop to the beat.  Piggy Squealson gets up on his hind legs and moves his hips to bounce his curly tail.  Puff Puff the lion lets out intermittent growls to match the melody while imitating a windmill with his arms.  Mr. Flamingo flies up and down while conducting the band with his beak.  Teddy doesn’t join the line but he does eek out a smile which catches Sunny’s eye.  In an instant she leaps on him and the other animals follow.  Teddy mistakenly lets his happiness show while playfully trying to get out from under the mound of bodies.  When the pig pile is over each lies exhausted beside the other. 

And then her father enters the tent.  The festivities quickly end.  The magical blanket has failed.  Today’s concoction is no good.  He lays down beside her and folds his hands around her.  They will have to attempt a different recipe tomorrow.



New Old Reviews – Elliott Smith
September 24, 2013, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Dig This Real | Tags: , ,

New reviews will be written soon, but the beginning of school is a hard time. I have been writing blogs about my children twice a week with pictures and details about what they are doing. I love writing, and writing those blogs is something I am so passionate about, but when I get home it’s very hard to write one of my own. So for another week please accept these old reviews and I promise something new will appear.

Picture 4

Picture 2

 



“Early Morning Pluck”- Patrick Maguire
September 23, 2013, 7:14 am
Filed under: Micro Fiction | Tags: , , ,

I’ve never had much love for early morning spiders; those careless arachnids that spin their one strand webs over shaded paths.

Their uselessness astounds me, baffles me even. Never have I seen an insect stupid enough to be caught by such a flimsy trap so this can’t be the way they acquire food. They could be using it for transportation but how much traveling could a spider do to justify remaking such an extravagant bridge daily? It could be the beginning of some grand web by a particularly ambitious eight legged beast but I’ve gone on vacation and come back weeks later to no more than the few strands that are built daily.

Even if I cannot figure your reasoning, you tiny creature, I know that every morning I will meet your web on the way to my car. Every morning, every morning for more than a decade now. Lately I’ve been thinking perhaps we aren’t struggling against each other. Perhaps we struggle in parallel. You know you try so hard not to be as useless as those early morning spiders but sometimes…