Category Archives: My Experiences

It’s been 2 years

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It’s been 2 years since I last blogged on here. 2 years of a whole lot of change.

Shortly after my last post, I did do a training at Odessa College for Pre-Service. It went very well. The next week, school started and I taught PreK at a public school. It went extremely well. I couldn’t have asked for a better principal and the year went really well overall. I got to attend a NAEYC conference, which was fun and a good time of learning. It was a broadening experience to teach in public school and I really enjoyed everything I learned there.

However, in November of that year, we had a 9 day old baby placed with us. We fostered him for 17 months until we were able to adopt that sweet boy.  And we could not find childcare for him so we had a rough spring semester of making it work while I finished my contract.

Through having the baby placed with us, I found out about ECI-Early Childhood Intervention and began working as a part time EIS/SC-Early Intervention Specialist/Service Coordinator.

We then adopted our son and moved back home to the Brazos Valley and I am working for our new local ECI.  Working for ECI has brought a very different perspective for me.  I’m able to use a ton of knowledge I gained in childcare and teaching in some unique new ways.  I work with teachers in childcare and with parents in working with their children.

I plan to blog a bit more about all of this and probably will create some trainings, or at least bat around some ideas, based on my more recent experiences but for now, I’m happy to have this site updated and going again. I will get Facebook updated soon and will try to write a bit more!

As always, I am available to train for you! Please Contact Me if I can help you.

Branalyn

“Amuse Them”

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So, as I referred in my last post, while driving home from the Grand Canyon, a billboard in New Mexico caught my eye. It said “Amuse Them or They’ll Amuse Themselves” with a picture of a young boy and the name of some amusement park type attraction (that I honestly cannot remember as I type this). At first, though I got the irony of “amuse them” at an amusement park, I was quite offended by the message. As I’ve thought it through, I have come to realize I slightly agree with them. I have said many times “Have a plan! Have a plan because if you don’t, the children will, and you probably won’t like their plan!”  I still believe that to be true. In my experience, when a child comes into your classroom, you should be ready for the day with all the supplies needed for planned activities that day. You should have enough activities and supplies for all the children to be able to chose a variety of activities each day. You should vary activities. You should think of the children’s interests when planning activities.
However, the word “amuse” is where I take exception to the billboard’s message. I looked “amuse” up on Google.  Here are the two definitions given:

  1. cause (someone) to find something funny; entertain.
    “he made faces to amuse her”
  2. provide interesting and enjoyable occupation for (someone).
    “the hotel has planned many activities to amuse its guests”

With some exceptions (long, unavoidable waits is the only one I can think of off hand), it is not a parent’s or teacher’s job to amuse a child. In fact, we should be teaching children to amuse themselves! Yes, we need to provide opportunities for the children to entertain and occupy themselves. Yes, we have to help expand their attention spans. Yes, especially in group care, there needs to be close supervision. Yes, there are times of adult-child interaction that are not only necessary but good. However, as adults, we should be conversing, reading, playing, interacting with children not for them. When I think “amuse,” the key word I think of is “for.” Doing something for someone else. Purely for their entertainment. But the vast majority of time spent with a child needs to be a two way conversation. And children need to learn how to amuse themselves , and they need time to amuse themselves! But it takes effort to teach a child to amuse himself within acceptable bounds.

When I teach about discipline, I teach about the 3 types of authority: Passive, Authoritarian, and Authoritative. Authoritative is what we want to be: the adult is in charge and sets the boundaries but the child is able to make choices within those bounds. And it is hard to be authoritative. Being Passive, letting the child be in charge, is easier in the short term. Being Authoritarian, “my way or the highway,” with the child never able to make choices, is easier (with a compliant child) in the short term. But, in the long term, setting boundaries and teaching the child to make choices within those boundaries, and take responsibility for those choices, or being Authoritative, gives a child the best chance to become a responsible, productive member of society. When an authority (parent, teacher, or otherwise) has taken the time to set and solidify the boundaries, a child can be trusted to make choices and “amuse” themselves!  And if they cannot amuse themselves, well that’s OK sometimes, too.  Being bored can lead to creative thinking.  And if we’ve set and solidified those appropriate boundaries, the creative thinking won’t get them into too much trouble…

I talk about discipline in PreService, Back to the Basics, and Child Development in the Bible.  I have some ideas floating around in my head for an entire training on discipline.  If you’d like me to teach on any of these topics, please Contact Me.

Branalyn

***Edited to add: I couldn’t find a picture of the billboard, but I did some searching and figured out the name of the park and then found a picture of the shirts the employees wear:

Life Catch Up

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First, I have to say that I did a training for First Baptist Church Pleasanton Child Development Center a week ago and it was great! We had two very long days doing PreService and both Back to the Basics but everyone participated in the activities, asked and answered questions, and seemed receptive to some new ideas. Thanks, y’all! Currently, I’m on the way back from a vacation to the Grand Canyon. Yes, my summer did get that crazy! It’s because our GC vacation, planned for the end of August, got moved in between me training for FBCPCDC and Robert, my husband, going to youth camp when I chose to accept a teaching position at ECISD for the 2014-2015 school year! Along with us nearing the end of the foster to adopt process, this next year is gonna be a little crazy! Don’t let that stop you from contacting me, though. I will still be available weekends and school holidays and would love to find time in my schedule to train for you! I felt the need to catch up a little, but my next post will be about a billboard I saw coming home from the Grand Canyon! I’ll leave you with a few Grand Canyon pictures: 20140718-183607-66967697.jpg 20140718-183605-66965519.jpg 20140718-183608-66968551.jpg 20140718-183609-66969412.jpg 20140718-183604-66964647.jpg 20140718-183606-66966355.jpg

Branalyn

First Training, Completed!

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Well, I intended to write this post on Tuesday, but we had a death in the family and I was gone to the funeral. Even though life was a little crazy there for a few days, I think I remember the training clearly enough to do this! I intend to write these “after-action reports” after each training so that personally, it will help me grow as a trainer and help me remember next time what happened this time.  I’m hoping you will view this as me growing and being open to learning and it will help you know a little more about me and my style as you are deciding to hire me.

Child Development in the Bible, W.E.E. School, 8/23/2013

What went well:
The timing for the first session.
Everyone seemed to understand what I meant, even on the points that were more of an intuitive leap. (At least, no one asked questions or said they didn’t understand when I asked if they needed clarification.)
People participated in both sessions.
Several people said they understood some concepts that were new to them or understood old concepts better. In particular, I got quite a bit  of positive feedback on the point about giving choices.
The video came at a great time to give us a brain break.
My notes and on screen cues were enough to help me explain without reading off the screen/page (except for the few quotes I wanted to read exactly).
People used the handout.
Several people wrote down the address of the Early Childhood NEWS website that I referred them to.
Except for the end of the second session, I was able to consciously slow down and speak at a good rate.

What could go better next time:
In a session with more participants, I need to invite less discussion or move along a little faster. (I had to talk fast to finish the second session!)
I could probably slow down some more sometimes, this is something that is a conscious effort for me! My natural speaking rate is much faster than most people’s, so I have to force myself to slow down when I train. I’ve gotten quite good at this, and it helps that I can go faster when I want to rush through my introduction or need to get done quickly.
I noticed in the video of the training (I recorded it so that I can put some clips on here soon!) that I often had my paper notes in front of my body when I was speaking. I needed them to read some quotes and see some reminders, not to mention I had to improvise where I stood to present, but I need to learn to hold my notes better when I have them.
If this training could be a little longer, I’d love to do some interactive activities instead of so much talking. I did ask for and get participation but people were a little restless, especially in the second session.
I was able to ask for or come up with examples for each point, but I may need to jot down some examples to jog my memory if I do this again.
The second half of the training is where people really seemed to want the information, so I may need to move through the first half a little quicker and focus more on the second half.

All in all, I think the training went really well.  I was able to get some feedback and about half the participants filled out evaluations, helping me know what to do different next time!  Thanks to W.E.E. School for asking me to come train.  If you’d like for me to train for you, please visit the All About Me page to find out more, the Rates page, peruse my Portfolio, and then Contact me!

Branalyn

TBCWEA State Conference 2013

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This past weekend, I had the unexpected pleasure of helping out at the Texas Baptist Church Weekday Education Association’s State Conference. My mom was on the on-site planning committee and knew they were needing some help with set up, registration, and some other things. I did not get to teach at the conference but I was very happy to be involved.
Also, I have a training booked for August 23, 2013! I’ll be going back to my former center, Parkway Baptist W.E.E. School to be a part of their annual training! They have requested for me to do the yet-to-be-finished Child Development in the Bible training, so I have to get a move on finishing that!

I feel refreshed (and exhausted!) by my experience at the State Conference and excited about the booked training!

Branalyn

Proverbs 17:17a

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When I was a three year old lead teacher, I had a brilliant (if I do say so myself!) idea. My classroom was utterly blank with gray walls. I did several things to brighten it up, but the best thing I put on the walls was a verse.

A friend loves at all times.
Prov. 17:17a

It was perfect because when we had trouble in our classroom, I could point up to that verse and say “a friend loves at all times.”  Soon, when I was talking to a child about his or her behavior, the child could tell me what the wall said. Eventually, when children were having arguments among themselves or when a child was hurt by another, the children would tell each other “what does the wall say? It says ‘a friend loves at all times!'”

Sometimes, the children would fling out the words in a very unloving manner. And it did disturb me a little that they seemed to think the wall said the verse and not the Bible. I did try to emphasize that it was a Bible verse after that particular incident.

But still amazes me today how that one verse put up on the wall with some pre-cut bulletin board letters and Command strips, purposely a little crooked and wonky so it wouldn’t bother me that I didn’t get it straight, could have such an impact on my discipline.  This is the same class where my friend “Bryan” caused me so much distress.  Looking up at that verse on the wall reminded me to love that little boy, and all the kids, even when I didn’t want to.

Today, I read and Pinned an article about simple rules and natural and logical consequences.  Her simple rule is “love.” She goes on to say “love up and love out.”  I interpret that as a take on the greatest commandments.  (Side note I find interesting: I went to a Christian college and Old and New Testament were required classes.  For some reason, I’d never thought of this before the professor pointed it out, but the first half of the commandments are basically summed up in “Love God” and the second half in “Love Others.”  I feel like it shouldn’t have been as much of a light bulb moment as it was!)  I think if I had to boil my rules down, I’d say “Love God.  Love Others.”  Its simple, it is the heart of what Jesus says in Matthew 22, its the heart of the Ten Commandments.  It also reminds me of something we talked about in education classes-have simple, positive, easy rules and not many of them.  The rest may be “procedures” but not rules.

I think, if I currently had a classroom, I’d put “Love God. Love Others.” on my wall.  I might put “A friend loves at all times” up to “proof text” Love Others.”  And maybe something from 1 John or the Matthew text above to “proof text” Love God.  In fact, I may choose to put those up in my house!

Keep in mind that simply putting the verses or ‘rules’ up on the wall doesn’t automatically change the classroom!   You have to incorporate the verses and sayings into your discipline.  You have to talk about them when you aren’t disciplining.  And you have to live them for the children!

Whew!  That was longer than I intended it to be!  Go check out the article I reference above and think of what verses and simple rules you’d like to incorporate into your classroom!

Branalyn

The Beginning

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I intend to use this page to write and link to articles that support the practices I teach and help you know me before you hire me!

Today, I’m reposting and edited version of something I wrote on my personal blog after the Newtown tragedy.  It is very long and had some divisive conclusions at the end.  But it contains several things I believe.

So I saw this posted on Facebook titled “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”.  And, after reading it, I thought “I taught Adam Lanza.”

When I worked at a childcare center as a 3-year-old teacher (before working at WEE), I had a little boy in my class that I will call “Bryan” for the purposes of this post.

I had a class of 13 at the beginning of the year (by myself, up to 15 is legal).  One of those came to me about 10 am from public school.  She had Cystic Fibrosis and had some very special needs (seizures, not potty trained, developmentally about 18 months in a 3-year-old body and in a class full of 3 year olds).  It was already difficult to give all the children the attention they needed.  Add in my CF friend and it was getting impossible.  So, I asked for an aide.  I did not get one.

About a month in, they moved a little girl from another classroom into mine because the girl’s teacher refused to “deal with her” anymore.  She had a single mother who was pregnant.  Her behavior was understandable and, with some attention, manageable.  But it was getting even harder to split my attention.

Then, a few weeks later, I got Bryan (his name is changed).  Bryan came to us from another school, where he had been asked to leave.  He was put in my class because I had the opening (he made the 15th) but my director said she thought I’d be able to handle him best.  (To this day I’m not sure if she meant it or was just buttering me up…)  I had asked for an assistant before, but after Bryan came along, I asked more and more often.  Eventually, after seeing his behavior, I got one.  She was in other classes more often than mine, because they preferred to move people around to getting a sub.  I agree that it’s cheaper that way, and I did get paid more an hour there than any other childcare center I’ve worked, but it is not a good choice except from a business standpoint.

From the beginning, Bryan behaved differently than the other children.  He was the sweetest child in the class when I could catch him in the right mood.  He’d want to snuggle, tell you stories, do a puzzle with you, or just be near you as he did his own thing.  It seemed like maybe all he needed was some attention and, like my friend that was transferred into my class before, be able to function in our classroom. 

If we break all behavior down into three parts Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence, and we agree that there is always all three, but sometimes they aren’t apparent, I will explain his behavior like this: while I know there was an Antecedent, it was not always apparent.  Actually, it usually wasn’t apparent. Sometimes, I knew what was fixing to set him off and could move him or the other children before the behavior started.  Usually, I had no idea what would turn him from a sweet boy into his alter ego.  In typical behavior modification fashion, I tried varying consequences to find one that worked.  But it was never consistent.  One day, something would work, the next, he’d laugh at it.  Avoiding the antecedents that set him off was impossible.  Some were avoidable, but most were not.  And his behaviors were increasingly dangerous to himself and others.

The incident that led to my actually getting an assistant (well, getting her sometimes) was particularity scary.  Just before lunch, it was our routine to clean up from centers, get out our mats for nap, and, if we had time depending on how long the rest took us, read on our mats until lunch.  This day, Bryan had refused to clean up when the other children did.  Knowing it would most likely upset him, I moved the mats of the children who slept in Homeliving to other areas.  Then I approached him, still playing, in Homeliving.  Very calmly, I told him that it was time to clean up and go to lunch.  We’d had a pretty good day that day.  I was hoping that if I was extra calm, he’d take the cue from me and clean up and it wouldn’t be a problem.  Even knowing he’d probably be set off, I didn’t (and still don’t ) think that should have excused him from doing what was expected.  There are times we have choices and times we don’t and I think that is something we need to teach young children.

So, I asked him to clean up.

He continued playing as if he hadn’t heard me.

I turned his body so I could make eye contact and repeated that it was time to clean up so we could go to lunch.

As loudly as he could, he called me an “f”ing “b” and said that he didn’t have to do what I told him and his daddy would come “get me.”  Calmly (on the outside at least), I told him that I was ready to go to lunch and I very much wanted him to clean up so we could go.  He said, in his most authoritative and demanding voice “take me to the office!”

You see, I had made the mistake of giving away my authority once, in sending him to the office when I was feeling particularly defeated one day.  And he quite enjoyed the attention he got.  So it became a mantra to him, anytime he was in trouble, to say “take me to the office.”  With the exception of the time he was sick, he never went to the office again.

Instead of taking him to the office, I called the office to ask that someone come take my other children to lunch so that I could continue to help Bryan to make a good choice and my other children wouldn’t miss lunch.  He responded by throwing his shoes at me from across the room.  Thankfully, he didn’t hit any other children.  Sadly, it was because they knew to look out for things like that from him.

As I made sure no one was hit and read to other children while waiting for the person to come, he began pushing the Homeliving furniture down on the other children.  I’m not sure how I moved so fast, but I kept the child-sized refrigerator from landing on the child laying on his mat behind it.

I told the children to line up, someone would be there soon to take them to lunch.  The director came in.  She saw what had happened and took the class for me.  It was days later that the assistant came.  Honestly, she didn’t have the training or the apparent desire to help with the children that needed extra attention.  But she did help with the others so that I could give the extra attention to those that needed it.

I remember on several occasions telling my husband that I would see that boy’s face on the news one day.  I hoped not, but I was sure I would.

I’ve edited several paragraphs out here, but some things changed in “Bryan’s” home life.  At first, this change seemed to be helpful, but then his behavior took a sharp turn for worse.

“There were several incidents.  My reflexes became quicker the longer he was with me.  He tried to bite, kick, hit, etc.  I would eventually have put him in a hold until he calmed down.  He threw my glasses across the room once.  I have no idea how they came through unscathed.  He was belligerent and threatening.  At one point, I tried ignoring the behavior entirely.  I’d move him to a section of the room, and bring all the other kids to another section.  They’d try to tell me what he was doing, but I told them to pretend like he wasn’t there.  Sometimes that deescalated the situation.  Sometimes it made it worse.  I never quite knew what would work.

I was very frustrated that I never knew what would work, because I knew that 1) if I was able to work with him more one-on-one I might have been able to find solutions that worked and 2) it was very difficult to do all the things I knew were best practice with so many children needing my attention.

 One day, he took a block (one of those really long, wooden ones) and threw it because the boys in the block center said they didn’t want to play with him (not that I blamed them, but before I could intervene in any way, the block was thrown).

It hit another little boy in the back of his head.

It’s not very pleasant to have to tell a parent that their child might have a concussion because another child in your class threw a block at them.

Then Bryan wanted to know why the other child was crying.  He literally could not connect his actions to the other child’s pain. 

The other children became increasingly mistrustful of him, never wanting him to play with him.  When he did play with them, 90% of the time he was sweet and played very well with them, willing to do what they others were doing, happy to be whatever member of the family they said he should be or to build whatever they decided to build, taking turns with art supplies or books or puzzles.

But they all knew there was that other 10% when he could hurt them. 

I feel like I was judged, by other teachers, the parents, the office staff.  I feel like they thought it was me that was the problem and that I just couldn’t handle him.  Most of the time, when we were with the other classes or when someone new was in the room, he was his normal, happy self.  Very rarely did others see the other side of him.  I began to think it was me, too.  I left that job after 5 months.  There were many, many reasons.  But he was part of it.  The fact that I couldn’t get help for him.  The fact that I began to believe I was part of the problem.  (I no longer think that, but at the time I was too close to see it.) The fact that I couldn’t get help in my classroom.

 I can imagine the mother of a similar child must feel all of those things and more, with more intensity. 

 Bryan should be in 2nd grade by now.  I hope that he got some help.  I hope that someone advocated for him.  I hope I never see his face on the news.  But I wouldn’t be surprised. 

 I think too often today, we get stuck in the PC world of Least Restrictive Environment and are too busy trying to figure out what is best and most normal for the person with special needs to realize it may not be best or normal for anyone else.  Or that the Least Restrictive Environment is actually more restricting for the child with special needs.

You know, I’m sad for the families that lost their babies.  But I am devastated for the babies who have to figure out how to cope with what they saw.  We don’t expect grown-ups to deal well, and these babies don’t have the emotional maturity to even start to process. 

 I think too often today we see people as two-part beings (mind and body) when we were created three-part beings (mind, body, and soul).  I think that a gun was no more responsible for any of the school shootings than the block was when Bryan hit the other little boy.  Inanimate objects cannot be responsible.

Issues aside, a person makes choices everyday.  If a person has proven incapable of making good, safe choices for themselves and others, the issues should not keep us from protecting everyone else from those choices.

I do not propose to know the answers.  I was incapable of keeping a three-year-old from hurting others.  I just think that instead of wasting time talking about guns, we need to talk about people.  School tragedies have a history of being the catalyst that solves issues.  In New London, Texas, a natural gas leak and a spark blew up a school.  295 students and teachers lost their lives.  The response?  Oderize gas so people know it’s leaking.  This tragedy in CT has the ability to be a catalyst.  Let us pray it is a catalyst for the right changes.

This transcript of a speech, given by Darrell Scott, father of two Columbine victims (one, a witness, the other, a victim) says things well.

I may have alienated people, both by the length of this post and the conclusions at the end, but I am glad to have put my jumbled thoughts into jumbled words.

Also, for someone who writes infinity better than I, read this.”

As I finish working on the other pages on this site, I hope to add to this page more often.

Branalyn