Early Childhood @ MCC: Notes and Updates to Families
Friday, October 9th, 2020: A Note from Jasmine
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.
Friday, October 2nd, 2020: A Note from Louis
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.
Friday, May 15th, 2020: A Note from Louis
“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 opens in a new windowwebsite. You’ll find more great resources on our updated site below!