Early Childhood @ MCC: Notes and Updates to Families
A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, January 15, 2021
Dear Early Childhood Community,
The past few weeks have felt like we are living through history. On the same day last week, an insurrection was staged on our nation’s capital just as Georgia held two historic senate elections.
Reverend Raphael Warnock was elected as Georgia’s first black senator, alongside Jon Ossoff, Georgia’s first Jewish senator. The dual election of these senators to office feels powerful and resonates with the work we are doing right here in our school. We know that it is important to bring people of different backgrounds together, because we all deserve the opportunity to be together and learn from one another. There is hope in Georgia and there is hope in our school.
Of the violence in Washington, Michelle Obama writes, “Seeing the gulf between the responses to [the capitol] riot and this summer’s peaceful protests and the larger movement for racial justice is so painful… True progress will be possible only once we acknowledge that this disconnect exists and take steps to repair it.”
This acknowledgement and repair is our work. We know that racial injustice exists. It is our role as parents and educators to speak openly with our children about what exists in our country, as a way to take active steps in repairing what is broken and unequal.
At school, we are prepared to respond to children’s questions and comments about what they have seen or heard. Most often you will hear our teachers reflecting the questions children ask back to them individually or opening the conversation to the whole group.
Our school will be closed on Monday to remember the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. This national holiday seems to come at just the right time and is a great way to begin (or continue) your conversation about an equity and justice with your children. Here are a few conversation starters (I wouldn’t suggest using all of these — these are a just a few options, so you can find something that feels comfortably uncomfortable for you to begin)…
- Ask your child what they know or what they have heard [about Martin Luther King, racial injustice, George Floyd, the events at the capital, wherever you would like to start]. Then pause to listen. Really listen to what they share with you or ask. Gently correct any mistakes.
- When children ask questions, limit the answer to their question. Aim to be clear, factual, direct, and succinct. Then pause to see how they respond to this new information.
- Share your feelings with your child. When you acknowledge your feelings, it helps children to acknowledge their feelings.
- Share your values. It’s important to talk about values that are important to you and to encourage your children to think critically about their own values.
- Listen to the I Have A Dream Speech with your child. For the past several years, I have listened to MLK’s historic I have a dream speech with my daughter, who is now 5 years old. As we listen to Dr Kings words, she asks questions — What does that mean? Why are people clapping? Why would someone treat another person in this way? I have found that listening to this speech together provides an open and safe space for Eleanor to ask questions, learn more about our nation’s history and truth (this is not just something that happened a long time ago – this is something that still exists today), and think critically about her own actions and their effects. Here is another version of the I Have a Dream Speech, if you prefer audio only.
- School will be closed today to celebrate and remember Dr Martin Luther King Jr. He was a person who…
- We live in a country where people are treated differently, based on how they look and the color of their skin. What do you think about that? How will you change it?
We also know the importance of acknowledging these truths as a staff, and will continue our “Dialogue Group” series focusing on race and racism, particularly as it relates to anti-bias practices in the classroom. At our whole staff professional development on Tuesday, these Dialogue Groups and conversations will again be embedded within our time together.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time…
–Martin Luther King Jr, March on Washington, 1963
We’d love to hear how you are thinking about these topics as a family and how your children respond. I’ve posted this note in Storypark, so we can create a community forum to share what we’re thinking. Please join us there to continue the conversation.
A Note from Louis
Friday, October 30, 2020
Last month, a group of teachers came to us with a problem. The MCC kitchen, led by our beloved Chef Aleks, cooks for over 150 children and staff daily. Inevitably, this leaves us with leftover milk, fruit and prepared meals each afternoon. What if, they proposed, we started a community fridge at MCC to share this food with our families and community members?
A few weeks later, I found myself catching up on paperwork late into the evening. Leaving through the lobby, hungry and exhausted, I paused at the newly installed refrigerator by the staircase. The sign on the door said ‘This food belongs to you. Take what you need.’
Inside, in between apples and a tub of cream cheese, was one last serving of rice and fish. I had found dinner, and it was delicious. More meaningfully, it was a gesture of generosity and care that extended from Aleks to me, via our thoughtful and imaginative teachers. In a moment of vulnerability, my needs were met by my community. This is what it means to take care of one another.
I’m grateful and proud to be part of a school community that provides so many examples of care and support. We are stronger together.
Have a wonderful weekend,
A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
Dear Early Childhood @ MCC Community,
This week we launched elections for our Classroom Representatives. Running parallel to the presidential race, our school elections feel small-scale but also incredibly relevant. We’ve had 30 people volunteer to become Classroom Representatives! We are incredibly grateful to this group of leaders and advocates for stepping forward as a way to support our school and to strengthen our community of families.
At this moment, we have been given many reasons to reflect and think deeply about the importance of voting and making our voices heard. In our school elections, there is a seat at the table for everyone, and all nominees have the ability to join the Policy Council and run for an executive position if they so choose. Voting in this way models a process for sharing ideas and coming to a consensus — or being disappointed — with the outcome. This lays the groundwork to share this democratic process with our children. Please click this link to read more about your classroom nominees and cast your vote.
Our national politics are certainly more complicated than our school’s “the more the merrier” approach, and we know that many families are wondering, how do I talk about such a complex election with my child? We have compiled a few ideas for engaging with your children:
Share your values. Tell your children about what matters to you – your views on education, healthcare, and how we treat others. Share with them your thoughts about kindness, respect, empathy and equity. Share with them what matters to you most.
Encourage children to think about their own views and values. “If you were president, what is one thing you would do to make this country better?”
Listen, rather than talk. Children have opinions. Ask them questions to better understand what they are thinking and wondering about. This will help guide your conversation together. Be aware that adult emotions can be heightened around elections, and this may be unsettling for young children.
Talk about issues, rather than people. It’s important to communicate that people have opposing views, and that in elections these different views are what we vote on. When you share your views with your children, present your ideas as your own and use phrases like, “I believe…” or “Something that is important to me…”
Vote. If you can vote on or before November 3, make a plan to do so safely and include your child with you in the process of casting your ballot. Talk about the importance of voting and making your voice heard.
Whatever our political views, we can all agree that equity, respect, empathy, grace and kindness are essential qualities of a healthy democratic body. Let’s take this election season as an opportunity to model these universal values to the next generation of voters and political activists — our children.
A Note from Jasmine
Friday, October 9th, 2020
These are uncertain times where our health and sense of safety and justice are at stake. In many ways turmoil, tumult, and dis-ease mark this period in our lives. In times like these I find myself reaching out to my touchstones and anchors more often. I reach for people who feel solid, resolute, and remind me that while the ground may feel like it’s constantly shifting under my feet there is, in fact, still a ground to stand on. That gives me hope.
Recently I have been making and receiving more “just because check in” phone calls to and from loved ones, neighbors, colleagues, and friends. There is no agenda, nothing explicit to accomplish. In these conversations I find that I am truly present – there is no sensation to rush to get off the phone, no thinking about the next thing that I have to do, or moving the conversation along in my mind before it is done. I am practicing mindful communication – listening and receiving, processing and then responding and bearing witness to other people’s lived experiences all the while. In this way I am also practicing what it means to mindfully be a part of a community, to nurture it, to water it, to till it, to tend to it.
When communities are mindfully cared for and we check in with each other “just because” they grow and flourish and make the ground under our feet more fertile and stronger. When communities are mindfully cared for, they generate an abundance of love, which helps us all to endure and persist even in the toughest of times. I am grateful that MCC is that kind of community.
During this unprecedented moment in our lives I hope that we as a community can continue to wrap big arms around each other, tend to and care for each other, and be the holders of hope for a brighter tomorrow for us all.
A Note from Louis
Friday, October 2nd, 2020
Over the last few months, my house has been taken over by masks. There are clean masks hanging alongside keys by the doorway. Freshly washed masks dry on a line outside. We are forever turning up masks under chairs and at the bottom of bags. These simple, essential safety tools—once unfamiliar to many of us—are now everywhere.
As we prepared to reopen school, we spent a lot of time talking and thinking about masks. We considered how children would tolerate wearing them for long periods of the day. We reflected on how much we communicate with our faces, and worried about our ability to build relationships and attachment with children at the beginning of the year. We wondered whether children would recognize teachers and friends without the familiar coordinates of mouths and noses.
It turns out that many of our fears were misplaced. In our infant room, babies’ faces light up as they meet the twinkling eyes of beloved teachers. Our UPK classrooms use conversations about PPE as opportunities to establish group norms and to share decision making power with children. In our virtual classrooms, children make paper masks with their families that become tools for dramatic play and fantasy – crucial ways of reclaiming control in a confusing world.
Looking back, we probably underestimated how normative mask-wearing and social distancing has become in all our lives. But I think we also overlooked a central fact about young children—that the drive to communicate, to form relationships, to take care of one another, to express ourselves and to be accepted as part of a community, is no match for a few inches of fabric. Children remind us every day—through their inventive, resilient, sometimes surprising adaptations—that the urge to connect is innate, and that we are stronger together.
Please see below for some important notes and updates, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, September 11, 2020
Earlier this week we gathered as a virtual community for our Back to School night, as we prepare to reopen our school. I wanted to share my full remarks from the evening here, which feel incredibly relevant today – on the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Please see below for important Notes + Updates, including a recording of the evening.
We can’t wait to see you all on Monday morning for our first day!
Jacqueline and the Early Childhood Team
As we prepare to reopen our school later this week, we are going to spend some time this evening reflecting together, sharing a bit about our thinking as a school, and the support that we can provide for one another during this complex time.
We’ve all been at home, and apart from one another, for the past 6 months. For each of us, this has meant something slightly different, but for all of us this has meant something difficult.
Often throughout the past many months, I have thought about our city and our lives in the time surrounding September 11. In the early days of March and April, when our city was at the epicenter of the pandemic, ambulances roared by every few minutes. For me, each siren was a visceral reminder of the days immediately following September 11.
I often thought about how sad and scared our city was during that time. How unsettled I felt as a college student away from family and friends, building a new life here, amidst the brokenness of our city and the loss of so many. I remember the sirens. I remember the smell that permeated the city. I remember the sound of the bagpipes playing at all of the public funerals.
It was an easy connection to make – these past memories closely tied to anxiety and unsettled feeling that was again present in our world. We have all been affected by this virus — we all know someone who had COVID and went through unimaginable pain and suffering. Each new ambulance siren drew me to think about someone’s brother, sister, friend, or family member being escorted to the hospital for treatment – and hoping that they would return home safe and healthy to their family.
From my daughter’s bedroom window, there is a clear view of the Freedom Tower. Each evening as we close the window shades, we gaze out at the regal tower – a physical reminder of what was and what is. Over the past few months, Eleanor began asking questions, “What is that tall tall building? Why does it
change colors sometimes?” And then last week she asked an inevitable question, that somehow I was not prepared for, “Why did the towers fall down?”
As a way to answer her question, and to give reverence to the tragedy, we went to Ground Zero together. On this visit, I learned something new – and I’d like to share a story of hope with all of you. Perhaps some of you may know this story.
In looking around the plaza surrounding the waterfall pools, I noticed hundreds of beautiful oak trees. And then I noticed one tree that looked different from the others. It was shorter – its bark was darker – its leaves were fuller. As I moved in closer, I learned the story of this Callery Pear Tree, a story that dates back to the original World Trade Center.
Amidst the wreckage following the attacks, rescue workers spotted a tree buried in the rubble. It had been severely burnt, its limbs were mostly gone, but somehow, this tree stump was sprouting two little green leaves. This tree still had life left in it, and had the possibility of survival. The workers transported the tree to a nursery in Van Cortland Park, with the hopes of rehabilitation.
Now known as The Survivor Tree, it grew and flourished in the Bronx nursery for 10 years before it was then transplanted back to its home in lower Manhattan.
The Survivor Tree had regrown from just a stump with a few green leaves to over 50 feet tall. It’s formerly burned and gnarled stumps now extended into long branches. In looking closely at the tree, you can see the new limbs are smooth like a young sapling, while the rough textured bark of the trunk retains the scars of its storied past.
It was powerful to see The Survivor Tree. To see how it physically endured. To know how the Nursery, and those who tended to and cared for the tree, changed its outcome.
The past many months have been incredibly difficult, painful and tragic for many of us. We are now in the nursery stage. Together, as we reopen the doors of our Nursery School, we will tend to and care for one another.
Each of us, like the Survivor Tree, are different than when we last saw each other. We all have a strong core – which has helped us remain steady throughout our months apart. But we also have parts of us that are vulnerable, and scars that are still healing.
We have given much thought to this “nursery phase” as we plan for our school reopening. Here is a full recording of the evening (password: xB6o7&xy) where you will hear from members of our leadership team, who introduce some of these plans, as we move into this next phase of hope, resilience and healing together.
Notes + Updates
Back to School Night Recording
We were glad to be joined by so many families at our Back to School Night this week. For those who were unable to make it live, you can access the Back to School Night Recording here. Access Passcode: xB6o7&xy
2Gen Slideshow + Resources
Please see attached for our 2Gen slideshow for resources and contact information, which was presented at Back to School Night. Resources include Employment Services, Parenting Support, Continuing Education and ESOL.
Town Hall Recording + Reopening Slideshow
Please see attached for the latest version of our Reopening Slideshow, which was shared at our Town Hall last week, outlining our policies and protocols based on guidelines from NYS and our partners at Mt Sinai Beth Israel. You can access a full Town Hall Recording here. Access Passcode: &2xS2jXC
2020-2021 School Calendar attached. Please take a few moments to read this carefully, as some dates and times have changed slightly in response to new guidance from our city
Welcome + Transition Schedule attached. The first week of school will have abridged hours and scheduling to allow children, teachers and families to get to know each other in a gradual way. Although many of our families are returning, we have all been away from school for 6 months, and these shortened days will help everyone ease into the school year. Please take a careful look at the “Welcome + Transition Schedule” attached.
Medical + Dental Forms
If you have not already, please email completed medical and dental forms to email@example.com. Children will not be able to attend school without a medical form on file.
Emergency Contacts and Authorized Pick-Up info
Please use this Sandbox link to fill out emergency contacts, allergies, and authorized pick-ups. Children will not be able to attend school without these contacts on file.
Schedule Preference Survey
If you would like to participate in 100% remote learning this fall, please fill out this Schedule Preference Survey. Families who choose this 100% virtual option will be able to switch back to in-person learning again in January. If you have already completed this survey, you do not need to complete this again unless your preferences have changed.
If you are in need of a new MCC ID, please visit Syreeta at the 2nd floor front desk to request an ID and have your photo taken. Need a replacement ID? Click here to request one.
Please remember to complete the ASQ-3 and ASQ-SE from the information sent to you by your child’s teacher. If you have any questions about the ASQ or developmental screening, please contact Marcia Callender at firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to social distancing and cleaning requirements, we will have extremely limited stroller storage in the MCC lobby this year. We ask families to find alternate ways of bringing children to school, including carriers for younger babies and walking for older children. We appreciate that some families may need to bring children by stroller, and we will have limited “short term parking spots” marked in the lobby for drop-off and pick-up times.
信息 + 更新
2Gen计划幻灯片 + 资源
Town Hall Recording + Reopening Slideshow民众会录像 + 重返校园幻灯片
随附2020-2021学年校历 . 请花一些时间仔细阅读此内容，因为某些日期和时间因我市的新指导而略有更改。
随附欢迎 + 过渡时间表 . 开学的第一周将缩短课时和安排时间，以使孩子，老师和家庭逐渐了解彼此。尽管我们的许多家庭都返回了，但我们都已经离开学校六个月了，这些缩短课时将帮助每个人轻松地融入新学年。请仔细查看随附的“欢迎+过渡时间表”。
如果您还没有，请通过电子邮件将完整的医疗和牙科表格发送到 email@example.com 。如果没有提交医疗表格，孩子将无法返校。
请记住，要根据您孩子的老师发送给您的信息来填写ASQ-3和ASQ-SE。如果您对ASQ或发育筛查有任何疑问，请通过 firstname.lastname@example.org 与Marcia Callender联系。
A Note from Louis
Friday, May 15th, 2020
“The more you try to push a child’s unhappy feelings away, the more he becomes stuck in them. The more comfortably you can accept the bad feelings, the easier it is for kids to let go of them.”
― Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, from ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk’
Today marks the end of our ninth week in quarantine. In this time, we’ve experienced a tremendous shift in our ways of living, and in our understanding of this crisis itself. Things that seemed radical mere months ago—mass closures, social distancing, protective equipment—have become the new normal. Likewise, the features of life before COVID-19—meeting friends, exploring the city, going to school and work—now seem tainted by risk. Many of us are experiencing feelings of uncertainty, fear, isolation and grief.
Hope looms large in the American tradition. Hope lifts us out of despair; it is the thing with feathers. There’s a strong tendency in our popular culture to balance bad news with stories of hope. But it’s hard to force hope, and the problem with trying is that it can encourage us to rush through our experience of the present. In short, it can make it hard for us to feel what Faber and Mazlish called our “bad” feelings.
Allowing children space to feel their feelings is an important part of our school philosophy. Our teachers avoid phrases like “you’re okay” when speaking to upset children. Instead, we strive to acknowledge children’s emotions simply and without judgement: “I see you’re feeling sad. It’s hard to miss your friends.” This approach teaches that, while some behaviors are not acceptable, all feelings are real and valid. My experience discussing these strategies with other adults is that many of us wish we heard these simple acknowledgements more often in our own childhoods.
Liberating ourselves from the pressure of “fixing” other’s feelings helps us to see that young children have many powerful strategies to process and express their big emotions. At this week’s professional development we discussed how children use dramatic play to act out different scenarios without fear of consequences, and to practice soothing and self regulation. Seen through this lens, a child playing “hospital” to work through her fears around the coronavirus is developing healthy coping strategies that will serve her for life.
For grown-ups, different things help us process our stress and clear room for hope. For some people, exercise is an effective outlet for frustration. Others use music, art-making or time outdoors to put things in perspective. Our feelings are just as real as children’s, and our capacity to help others regulate their emotions often depends on our ability to identify and acknowledge our own. Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying “I feel scared too.”
There are certainly reasons to be hopeful. But if you can’t manage it, I hope you’ll take a moment this weekend to feel your feelings instead. We’ll see you next week.
Louis and the Early Childhood Team
PS. Janet Lansbury has many podcasts and articles extending the ideas discussed above on her website. You’ll find more great resources on our updated site below!
A Note from Jacqueline
Friday, September 25, 2020
Dear Early Childhood @ MCC Community,
After many months of uncertainty, we are finishing up our first full week of school! It feels so good to be together as a community again after a summer of sheltering in place.
As I reflect on the first days of school, I keep noting how familiar and unremarkable it all feels. While many of our policies and procedures have changed, our core identity as nurturing and responsive school has remained steady and stable. Children have joined our classrooms with all the trepidation and excitement we see every year. We have greeted each other with smiles (behind masks), and chatted happily in the hallways. Teachers have pondered how to create the most loving and nurturing environments in their classrooms, and thoughtfully built new routines and experiences together. We have observed families breathe a collective sigh of relief, knowing that their safety net again exists outside of the four walls of their apartment.
This week I nearly cried with joy seeing Yvette (this is her 15th year teaching at our school!) leading a group of UPK children out to the park. We are again in physical partnership and proximity to one another — it is grounding, regulating, comforting and joyful. This week we also collectively mourned the passing of Supreme Court feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg and felt anger at the unjust decision not to prosecute the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. As the challenges in our country continue, and the sounds of helicopters above return to our city, I continue to reflect on the work happening in our school as a source of comfort and hope.
I’ve attached a short mini-story from one of our 3s/4s classrooms here, which highlights a beautiful moment of two children gently and responsively taking care of babies in their Dramatic Play area. It is a simple and small moment that helps us understand a bit more about these past many months when we were apart. Time did not stop — our children continued to observe, learn and grow from their first and lifelong teachers — YOU. How lucky we are to again have this window into one another’s lives and be in partnership together.