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Lead from the Start: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Tax Season Means in Head Start

Head Start has always been a comprehensive preschool program that provided Head Start children health, nutrition, mental health, dental, education, and family services. As Head Start has been transformed by each new authorization of the Head Start Act, its focus has changed, but most of those service areas have always been there, chipping away at the challenges that families must over come to pull themselves out of poverty. One of the times of year when you can really see the family involvement service area make a difference is around tax time. One goal of the family service area of Head Start is to help parents set goals and make good decisions related to changing the life of their family. Sometimes a family goal can be as simple as purchasing a car with a tax return windfall.

For my own family, as a teacher with a decent salary and two children, tax returns have meant paying a large unexpected bill, saving some dream money, or getting to take a vacation. For my Head Start families, tax season was something else entirely. It was hope. It was the opportunity to step away from the hard scrabble life of subsidized housing and daily struggle for existence. Head Start and other poverty oriented early childhood interventions have taken a comprehensive approach to developing children and families.

It is funny, and might make you scratch your head if you have always lived comfortably, but the quickest way out of the ghetto is a set of wheels. For some people owning a car is the ticket out of poverty because it can lead to so many other opportunities. A car means a chance to attend community college, find an apartment in a better part of town, or to get a better job that you could never get to on the bus line. A car means a parent can expose their children to more of the world than their block and the road from the corner to the school. That tax return means less stress about making ends meet which leads to better relationships with your kid and enough food that children don't worry about their next meal. Money has the power to change lives and when you work with needy kids in preschool you can see that change transform lives.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Obama on Education

I thought Obama was going to be an early education president. Turns out he isn't even an education president. I think he is using education to shift some conservative votes to his side of the isle. This cartoon is in a contest for the New Yorker. Please vote. I would love for the political "game" to be more public.

Slamming bad teachers is easy... he should try something harder like improving the process of becoming a teacher.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Learning the Hard Way

I have been learning a lot this year as a Child Development Specialist. I am learning that choice is not always a good thing, that expressions of respect can be interpreted as waffling, and that whining is not necessarily a passive expression of felt powerlessness but an aggressive act of resistance.

I think I might be being too nice to the people I supervise. I am being taught by my colleagues, individuals I respect and value as teachers that the more choices I give them, the harder they are going to make it for me to do my job.

I am learning the hard way, sort of like I did with this painting. I finished this painting the first time a year ago. Then, I finished it again with a lot more determination to make it good and not just OK.

The experience reminds me of the urban myth kids would tell each other about a tunnel to China. It goes like this, if you jumped in a tunnel to China gravity would pull you back and forth through the center of the earth until you came to rest in the middle. I guess I am passing through the middle of the earth now. I am pulling away from the collegial approach to supervision that I wanted to approach the position with and being pulled towards a more traditional leadership determined approach.

It makes me sad but, it makes me sadder that my reaching out is interpreted as weakness. I wonder if this is how Obama feels.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Light Side of the Shed

I finished this small painting for the January "Size Doesn't Matter" show of GlaveKocen. I really enjoyed painting it and hope to do another one soon that explores the white side of a shed or barn in shadow and light.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Read Across America Celebrates Seuss

If there is one holiday pre-k teachers really enjoy it is Read Across America day. The holiday, has always been a fun way for teachers to highlight he importance of story book reading. Each year the National Education Association sponsors the national event that celebrates the life and work of Ted Geisel, Dr. Seuss. The author has become synonymous with reading and with that scruffy trouble making Cat in the Hat. All over the country on March 2nd in schools, pre-k centers, and child care centers kids will eat green scrambled eggs and Canadian ham, make red and white stove-pipe hats, and hear their teachers' favorite Dr. Seuss books. Teachers will walk around making horrible rhymes and funny hats.

I always took the entire week to celebrate Dr. Seuss and to read my favorites. Some of my favorites were the ones I knew my kids might not hear later in their school careers. I figured they would hear the Cat in the Hat, a Wocket in My Pocket, and Horton Hears a Hoo! But, they might not read, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (one of his first books), Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (a great phonological awareness book), and Daisy-Head Mayzie (a story about accepting differences and not selling out your gifts). These are long books. I never read a whole Dr. Seuss book in one sitting, at least not after my first year. So take your time and enjoy the stories. Some strategies are to read 2 pages a day, or half in the morning and half after lunch. The Dr. Seuss website also has activities and online games to support your day of reading fun.

Often in our school, volunteers would come to read a Dr. Seuss book to our students. This presents a particularly challenging but fun situation because sometimes volunteers aren't sure how to read to your students in an appropriate way. My suggestion is help your volunteer understand what your children's normal attention span is, and proactively help your students enjoy the reading. If your children get antsy suggest to your volunteer a stretch break, or moving like a Wocket for a minute before continuing a story.

However you decide to celebrate reading on Tuesday make sure it is fun. Maybe even Cat in the Hat fun, just don't forget to clean up before mom comes back to school.

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