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PBS KIDS Announces Arkansas Educator Selected for 2019 Early Learning Champions Program

PBS KIDS has named 10 educators as the 2019 PBS KIDS Early Learning Champions. Established in 2018, this awards program recognizes committed educators who work with young children, from infants to second graders, and offers a variety of community building, leadership and professional learning opportunities provided by PBS KIDS and member stations.

“Research shows that the first five years of a child’s life are the most critical, setting the stage for lifelong development,” said Sara Schapiro, Vice President, PBS Education. “Early educators play a key role during this important time, but are rarely acknowledged for their incredible contributions. We are honored to recognize their invaluable work through the PBS KIDS Early Leaning Champions program.”

The PBS KIDS Early Learning Champions program, which recognized 17 passionate educators of young children in 2018, includes various early learning caregivers – certified Pre-K, Head Start and early elementary teachers, childcare providers as well as family, friends and neighbors in early learning settings – representing, celebrating and supporting the diverse teaching community impacting young learners. With support from PBS KIDS and local PBS stations, they will explore unique in-person and digital experiences, forge pathways for their own professional growth, build meaningful relationships with peers from across the country, create content and develop and implement their ideas in their communities and classrooms.

“As I entered this program a year ago, I never could have imagined the doors that it would open — not just in education, but in public speaking in general,” said Roshanna Beard, a 2018 ELC educator from local PBS station WFSU in Tallahassee, Florida . “I wish someone would have told me that this cohort would push me to be a me that I did not know existed. I have had my school district, school and even my own family tell me the importance and impact of my work.” 

This year’s honorees were selected for their passion and commitment to early education and have each demonstrated outstanding impact in supporting the growth and learning of the whole child, strengthening the ecosystem in which children learn and creating unique and innovative teaching experiences. Through the Early Learning Champions program, PBS KIDS aims to create a community that includes professional learning and networking opportunities for educators, while fostering relationships between them and their local PBS stations.

The 2019 PBS KIDS Early Learning Champions include our very own Kristen Valley, who works at Boone Park Elementary School in North Little Rock, Arkansas (AETN) as a Family Engagement Professional.

The 2019 PBS KIDS Early Learning Champions and their local PBS stations are listed as follows and we send our congratulations to them also:

  • Janalyn Maes, Hodgin Elementary School, Albuquerque, New Mexico (NMPBS)
  • Grace Ruddy, Hawthorne Elementary, Boise, Idaho (IdahoPTV)
  • Alexandra Mindler, Wilson Area School District, Easton, Pennsylvania (WLVT)
  • Melissa Cardon, Little Bubbles, Bellevue, Nebraska (NET)
  • Cherika Watford, Harris Early Learning Center, Birmingham, Alabama (APTV)
  • Sarah Saenz, Head Start Kent County, Grand Rapids, Michigan (WGVU)
  • Felicia Gray, Burris Laboratory School, Muncie, Indiana (WIPB)
  • Claudia Robles Arias, BilingualKid Language Immersion School, Mechanicsville, Virginia (WCVE)
  • Dee Liggens, Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (OETA)

About PBS KIDS
PBS KIDS, the number one educational media brand for kids, offers children ages 2-8 the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television, digital media and community-based programs. PBS KIDS and local stations across the country support the entire ecosystem in which children learn, including their teachers, parents and community. Provided by stations, the free PBS KIDS 24/7 channel and live stream is available to more than 95% of U.S. TV households. Kidscreen- and Webby Award-winning pbskids.org provides engaging interactive content, including digital games and streaming video. PBS KIDS offers mobile apps to help support young children’s learning, including the PBS KIDS Video app, which is available on a variety of mobile devices and on platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung TV and Chromecast. PBS KIDS also offers parent and teacher resources to support children’s learning anytime and anywhere. For more information on PBS KIDS content and initiatives supporting school readiness and more, visit pbs.org/pressroom, or follow PBS KIDS on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Information taken from http://www.pbs.org/about/blogs/news/pbs-kids-announces-educators-selected-for-2019-early-learning-champions-program/

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

Today is World Kindness Day and this year it is being celebrated alongside the amazing Mr Rogers by encouraging people to wear a cardigan and spread the message that it’s cool to be kind.

What practices and routines do you have in your setting that promote kindness? How do you highlight kindness as a route to success with the children you serve? When do you get families involved in kind acts of service to build community? Is your classroom set up in a way that intentionally gives opportunity for others to be kind?

If you would like to share your answers please send an email or hop on over to our Facebook page to share your stories. If you are wearing a cardigan, add a photograph too! We want to see who is #AECAKIND ❤️

Play-Life Balance: Joy

Guest Blogger: Emma Tempest – The Play Coach

Emma is an early childhood education consultant, speaker and teacher coach specializing in the power of play and managing your teacher stressed mind.

You can find out more about her on her website Yes to Play.

Do you remember the non-stress moments of pure, unadulterated joy you once felt as a child? No cares in the world, no tiring job to go to, no pressures from anyone and time to just be free? Sigh, me too. Luckily, joy is something we can cultivate in our communities – at home, at work, at school.

Now, you might think that if you are cultivating joy then it could be seen as synthetic – not ‘real’. However, the great thing about any of these Play-Life Balance tips is that the more you intend to cultivate it, the more it starts to happen naturally as it becomes part of your daily habits rather than a fleeting moment of joy that will eventually pass. The best days in my work in the classroom were FULL of joy – for both the children and myself and my staff. The easiest way to achieve joy (and let’s face it, most obvious if you’ve read anything I’ve written before….*drumroll*) is through play. When you are playing you are free of stress, you are choosing what you want to do and you can be as imaginative as you like – JOY!

When was the last time you experienced joy like THIS?!

For you

The most efficient way to make sure you are getting enough joy in your life is to (somewhat ironically) be incredibly boring and schedule it into your routine. Yep, get it plugged into your calendar and you are more likely to succeed in being more joyful in your life. We all know that plans can change in an instant, but if you don’t even try to schedule in some time for joy then that is when time will run away with you and your days will be filled with stress, misery, doom and gloom. Think about what makes you happy. It could be something simple like reading a book or going for a stroll, or more elaborate like taking a dance class or attending a craft show. Whether the happy-thing is something that you can do on a whim, or something you need to book ahead for, finding the time to put it into your planner will pay off – especially if you do the happy-thing with someone else. Not only does it give you a sense of connection, but you will be more likely to follow through if you know someone else is waiting for you!

Sometimes the simple things create the most joy. Have a Friday dance party with your children or write a motivational Monday message to get your head in the game and elevate your chances to choose joy. Schedule in some joy when you add self-care to your calendar – perhaps challenge your friends and family members to create some joy induced activities that you can do together? If you want a head start, check out my self-care bingo card. It is full of fun things to do that will bring joy, as well as a load of other self-care top tips. You might notice that it is written in the past tense, that is an intentional action from me because I’m so convinced that you are going to take charge and CHOOSE JOY that you WILL do these things to help you create that Play-Life Balance for yourself. Download the image to your phone and use a photo editing app to tick off each one, download and print to add to your planner or journal, or even print from the PDF to get a document version you can share with your colleagues, friends, family and classrooms! Hopefully some of the things might even inspire you to create some activities of your own! Let me know how you get on, I’d love to see photos and hear your stories!

For children

I read some wonderful research about something called ’empathic joy’.

A total of 1,216 predominantly White teachers participated in a yearlong investigation of whether their attitudes toward, and empathy for, their predominantly ethnic minority students affected their teaching style and the students’ learning. Consistent with expectations, we found that teachers’ experience of empathic joy predicted better student outcomes and that it did so by leading to more allophilia toward students and, in turn, toward more proactive and positive interactions with students. Implications are considered for the role of empathic joy in positive intergroup relations more generally.

Pittinsky & Montoya, 2016

Not surprisingly, they found that when teachers are happy, their students feel happiness! Empathic joy is something that everyone can enjoy together. It is about sharing the joy of someone’s success, happiness, a smile….whatever gives you that good feeling back from someone else. I think for a lot of teachers this is one of the main reasons they get into the profession – for that warm feeling in your tummy when you see a student rejoice in understanding something you have directly had an impact in sharing with them. For me, watching children play and figure things out for themselves gives me even more joy than passing on a strategy or piece of information.

A simple way to cultivate joy in your classroom is to show those feelings you get ‘out loud’. Take photographs of children in play and look at them carefully. Be curious. What do you notice? How does looking at others’ joy make you feel? What similarities can you see in the faces/the eyes/the body language? Share these photos with the children and ask them what they see. To take this practice even further, you can give the children the camera and really get an opportunity to see what THEY see as important and of value. Finally, share these photos for everyone to see – your families, colleagues, directors, visitors…invite them to question what they see and to take that feeling of joy with them on their travels.

For families

One of my favourite family engagement activities that promotes joy is simply inviting parents and family members to come into the classroom setting and spend time with their children. It’s fun to have specific events for them to attend, but like Lisa “Ooey Gooey” Murphy says, you have to think about what you are doing, why you are doing it and who is it really for. I’ve been reading comments online from educators recently saying they have an ‘open-door policy’, but then wanting parents to leave when they are dropping off a child who is having a hard time saying goodbye (or sometimes the parent is the one having a hard time). Or they say things like, “My parents never turn up on parent welcome night” and then make no effort to put an event on at a different time/or a different day/or ask the parents what is a good time for them…see the problem?

For me, this is when there is a difference between family engagement and family involvement. There is plenty of research to show that when teachers and families are sharing information, working together and putting the needs of the child and family at the forefront that everyone does better – emotionally, mentally and academically. And I mean everyone including the teachers! If you’re reading this and thinking, “But I have to start my lesson, I can’t have parents just hanging around” or “The parents are distracting to the children”, I would like to invite you to sit with that uncomfortable feeling for a few minutes and explore why you might feel that way. How can you change this to a joyous feeling? What shifts could you make to take that small step on the ladder toward joy? I’m not saying parents should be there all the time and you have to deal with it ha! What I’m saying is, how can you change your thoughts about the circumstances of having parents in the classroom to boost joy for them, the children and yourself? How can you find a way to say YES instead of having a default answer of no?

Nobody wants to be in a work environment that sucks the joy out of life. When that work environment is filled with children (no matter what age!), joy is even more important. Be kind to yourself, find the joy in the little things and be aware of those underlying thoughts that might be undermining your decisions to choose joy.

Play-Life Balance: Resilience

Guest Blogger: Emma Tempest – The Play Coach

Emma is an early childhood education consultant, speaker and teacher coach specializing in the power of play and managing your teacher stressed mind.

You can find out more about her on her website Yes to Play.

The World Health Organization has officially declared burn-out as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ in the International Classification of Diseases (2019).

Burn-out is defined in ICD-11 as follows:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
3. reduced professional efficacy.

Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases

Teacher burn-out is an all too common occurrence. Stress levels are high with the various demands of the job plus making an exceeding number of decisions a day during hundreds of interactions with children, parents, families and staff. It’s a lot. Teaching is one of those careers that people often describe as a ‘calling’ or something they ‘always wanted to do’ and yet teachers are protesting, quitting their jobs and even leaving the profession at an alarming rate – stating stress, developmentally inappropriate expectations, seemingly never-ending testing and a lack of respect as the main reasons.

Building resilience…

Seeing teaching as a calling can be quite detrimental to educators. You’re not just born into it and that’s the end of it. It takes hard work. Teachers do not know the answers to everything (this may be brand new information to some!) We all have our bad days when we run out of milk, don’t have time for a coffee (or tea for me!), we’re worried about our sick pet and now we’re late for work because of traffic…Oh yes and when you got to work you had to attend a before school meeting instead of being afforded the luxury of spending time in your classroom preparing for the day and having a few moments to JUST BREATHE…sound familiar? And that’s just one morning…

Sink or swim…

Building teacher’s capacity for resilience so they can not only bounce back from adversity but bounce forward must be a top priority for leaders. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”, is all very good if educators are already motivated, want to learn better in order to do better so they can BE better – better PEOPLE that is, not just better teachers. But we have to help map out those pathways so there IS a clear way. You can have all the will in the world but if you are mentally and physically exhausted, have no control over how you can work in the classroom and are constantly swimming in staff rooms full of gossip, bitching and competition then you will sink. It’s hard to tread water when you feel like everyone is dragging you down with them. Everyone has a breaking point, I know this all too well from my own experiences with anxiety, depression and panic attacks all stemming from my job as an educator. We have to do better.

Follow the yellow brick road…

We must encourage teachers to gain autonomy in their work by allowing them to set their own goals that are meaningful to them in relation to the children that are currently in their care. Following that, a path needs to be laid out so they can get there with support available along the way to hold them accountable. Dorothy didn’t get to Oz on her own. She needed a team around her and a yellow brick road to follow. No amount of training will help if you don’t make a plan for action. We also need to be curious with teachers, hold judgement at the door and find out why some things are going well and others not so much. My favourite part of coaching teachers, directors and administrators is watching the trials and tribulations as they work out what feels right and what doesn’t, then being witness to their own reflections of how to overcome these barriers. Carefully scripted questions lead me to intentionally discover what the real problems are and what are just excuses (sorry not sorry!). Teachers on the whole are people filled with positivity, empathy and a desire to do their best for not just themselves, but for the children. We cannot afford to lose these core values that help us create a classroom full of joy and wellbeing for EVERYONE.

My final thoughts on this matter (for now at least, ha!) are to take another look at those three factors of burn-out for adults – but this time imagine you are a child

1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
3. reduced professional efficacy.

Think of a child’s ‘job’ as BEING a child, enjoying childhood without the burdens of the world on their shoulders. Think of their ‘professional efficacy’ as being allowed and able to DO childhood well. Now, can you think of one word that could be an answer to these three problems? For both children and adults? I’ll give you a clue. It begins with the letter ‘p’ and ends in ‘lay’…now that IS a superpower! 😉

Tell me in the comments how you are going to use the power of play to build resilience in your work with children!

Play-Life Balance: Gratitude

Guest Blogger: Emma Tempest – The Play Coach

Emma is an early childhood education consultant, speaker and teacher coach specializing in the power of play and managing your teacher stressed mind.

You can find out more about her on her website Yes to Play.

Last month I wrote about how we should strive to have a play-life balance – interweaving play into our work day so that we can reap the benefits while still doing our jobs. One of these playful activities you can do either on your own or with the children/staff/families that you work with is a gratitude practice. And let’s face it, with all the stress, busy social lives, work commitments and responsibilities we sometimes forget to be more grateful for the things that are right in front of our faces.

Gratitude has been found to help people feel more positive emotions, remember good experiences more vividly, improve health and general wellbeing as well as strengthen relationships. Gratitude is the act of being thankful and appreciative of what you have – whether material or otherwise – instead of always looking for something else that will FINALLY make you happy. It can be applied to things that have happened in the past, present or future which means it is a great tool that can be built upon no matter how you are feeling in the present moment. It is a practice in the true sense of the word – the more you intentionally practice gratitude, the more grateful you are! Makes sense, right? It can sometimes feel a bit silly when you first start actively seeking and expressing gratitude, but research has show that when we feel gratitude we benefit from the thoughts and when we express gratitude to others it strengthens our relationship with that other person.

The science behind gratitude has shown that, like in play, our brains light up and send positive neurotransmitters when we are thinking about things we are thankful for. Being grateful is an intentional choice – but a simple one. There are lots of different ways to start a gratitude practice – you could start a daily journal, meditate, write thank you notes or even just spend a minute thinking about somebody else. I am going to share with you how I think we could weave gratitude practices into our work day in order to give ourselves more of a play-life balance as early educators. If you have any other ideas, leave a comment and let’s be grateful for the opportunity to share the good work that is happening for children in Arkansas!


For you

The first activity is something that Dr Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, calls the What-Went-Well Exercise. He explains that although we sometimes have to analyse the bad events that occur in our lives, in order to find out what went wrong and how we can prevent it from happening again, we often spend too much time focusing on these sorts of events rather than the good times. We have to work on getting better at thinking about the good stuff – and the key thing being, “Why did that good thing happen?”

Before you go to bed, write down three things that went well today and WHY they went well. Don’t just think about it, write it down. You can put pen to paper, write on your computer or even make a note in your phone. The three things don’t have to be life-altering events, but they can be if something huge happened. After you have written the what, answer the why. Really think about why the good thing happened – who was involved? Why did they do that? What happened to cause the good thing to occur? Perhaps to start off, you could write about one thing that happened at work, one thing that happened at home and one thing that you are grateful for in general (perhaps an event from the past or upcoming future). Dwell on the good moments of your day and use these to cultivate more of these moments in your tomorrow – you might even find that when you look at the ‘why’ more closely, it gives you answers to problems you’ve been stuck with.


For children

Dr Becky Bailey, founder of Conscious Discipline, has a mantra that says, “What you focus on, you get more of.” This applies so well to our work with children, so let’s use it to transfer our thoughts about our day (work or otherwise!) to a gratitude practice at work.

In your work with children, you could start this practice by talking about something that went well in the day. Perhaps you have a closing circle time or a storytelling time at the end of the day. Discuss three things you are grateful for – the more you model this to your children the more they will be able to pick up on what you are saying but you must remember to add the why! It could sound like, “Johnny helped Meghan put her coat on when he noticed she was struggling with her zip. That was so kind because Meghan was getting frustrated and Johnny wanted to be helpful. Then they were both ready to go outside and have lots of fun!” Before you know it, your children will want to start sharing their gratitude experiences with the rest of the group as well as at home!


For families

And that leads us nicely into how you can incorporate gratitude with your families. How often do we say thank you to families? I mean, REALLY say it. Express it. Feel it. Genuinely. A heartfelt note of gratitude to a parent will not only strengthen your relationship with them, but it will have a knock-on effect on their children, When we all work together, we do better. If you are thankful and enthusiastic about their kid, your optimism will spread like wildfire. You can show your gratitude in many ways – a heart-to-heart conversation, a coffee bar set up for parents to use as they wish, an open-door policy that not only invites parents and other family members to attend but that actively encourages people in to the room on a daily basis. Share some ideas for gratitude practices they could start – maybe discussing what they’re grateful for on the walk/drive home from school, filling up a jar or notice board with gratitude notes that you can look through any time or even being thankful for what you have by giving to others. This doesn’t have to be an expensive or laborious task. It can be as simple as picking a flower on a walk and giving it to the next person you see at the park (BONUS: give it with a smile too, it’s free!), paying for the person behind you in the coffee shop line or even going around the local neighbourhood spreading gratitude notes.

Whatever you decide to share with your families, it’s important to let them know that an attitude of gratitude starts from a playful place. Think about how much joy children feel when they are deeply engaged in play. They don’t express how grateful they are through words or gifts, they simply are in the moment. If we can encourage more people to embrace those playful moments (like asking parents to let children play and the family follow their lead) then gratitude will follow.

Joy is the simplest thing that brings us gratitude. Let’s get out there and look for the joy in every day! As I said earlier, you might feel a bit silly at first, but stick with it for a week and see how your mindset changes. And remember, you can keep these thoughts privately to yourself and they will STILL have an impact! Let me know in a week how you get on…

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