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Happy Thanksgiving! 

When certain holidays come around, I struggle with teaching my students about them in a way that honors those who experienced great pain while not trashing those who were victorious in their efforts to conquer. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, but I can’t help but think of all the people who’ve been pushed aside and displaced as a result of the appearance of colonists. 

In my classroom, I spent a lot of time this month teaching my kids about various Native American tribes. We looked at maps of tribal territories, read stories from the Lakota and Blackfoot tribes, talked about (and built) various types of tipis, played “memory,” with home made Native American symbol cards, talked about foods that Native Americans ate (and sorted them into food groups), and learned a few words from different tribes. I wanted to honor Native Americans for who they are as people, outside of and apart from their relations with colonists. I wanted my students to learn about Native American cultures without making the native Americans into some sort of cliche art project. 

My friend Shannon at The After Crafter enjoys crafting with her toddler, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving and honoring all things Native American, I asked if she could share her totem pole crafts here on Whole Heart. I really love that she researched both the meaning of totem poles and the symbolism of the various animals used in her totem pole as part of creating her project. Here is some of what she learned:

“I️ have always had a fascination with totem poles. They look so mystic, like they are patiently waiting to reveal a library of stories to anyone willing to listen. When my friend spoke to me about doing a craft commemorating Native Americans, I knew immediately this is what I would make. Here are some neat things I found out:

🍗Totem poles are sculptures carved into large trees by only SIX tribes of indigenous peoples of the Northwest coast of North America.

🍖The poles are carved and painted with figures or animals that represent families or clans, and are believed to have spiritual significance as a guardian or helper.

🥐 Every color used on the poles have meanings, as do the figures carved on the poles. The Symbols for every animal or spirit carved on the pole also have meaning and when combined on the pole, in sequence, constitute a story, legend or myth.

While planning my pole I decided to let my daughter choose the four animals we would make. Just for fun I looked up the meaning of each animal totem to see what our story would be.

🐇: Pour your energy into creative pursuits

Those with a rabbit totem are spontaneous and unpredictable. They have fast reflexes, and good coordination. They are gentle and nurturing yet also clever and quick witted.

🦉: Listen to your inner voice and watch for signs that will guide you forward. Use wisdom.

🐻: It’s only when you can say a clear no that you can say a clear yes. Both are just as important in defining what your boundaries are. Those with a bear totem have great confidence and are seen as an authority figure.

🐘: You already have all the tools you need to accomplish what you desire, just go for it. Elephant totems are highly intelligent. Family and loyalty are important.

Making our totem pole was really fun and a great learning experience. Make sure to comment below and tell us your totem experiences!”

Check her out! https://m.facebook.com/thehealthycrafter/

As a teacher, I love learning and teaching about various cultures and finding ways to honor them without voiding the authenticity and meaning behind the art form. I am grateful for the various Native cultures and I hope to continue learning about them, not just during the Thanksgiving season! 

Have a happy and safe holiday! 

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Education, teacher life

Separation Anxiety

Today, my center held its annual Easter egg hunt in which children get to dress up (optional), make Easter baskets, and go outside and hunt for eggs filled with lots of fun treats! Parents are always invited to these events, and four of my 9 children had their parents in attendance with us today! This is such a fun event for parents who come and take pictures of their cute little child as he or she cutely hobbles about hunting for eggs. And it was all fun and games until it was time for the parents to leave! My two year olds had a total meltdown! Throwing themselves into walls or on the floor, kicking, jumping, and wildly flapping their arms, all while screaming “Mommy!! Mommy!” as their mothers tried (unsuccessfully) to sneak out of our classroom unnoticed.

I expected this reaction from my kids, as they are only two years old and separation anxiety is a natural part of early childhood. Young children don’t yet have a concept of time, and it is hard for them to grasp when their parent will return. Most of my children still cry when being dropped off in the morning (even though they are used to the routine by now!) and generally only see their parents again at pick-up time. For mommy to show up and not be taking them home!? Oh, the drama that causes!

I’d like to share a few methods I employ to help me deal with a child’s separation anxiety. If you are a childcare provider for young children, this short list might help you too!

1. If ratio is okay, take a walk around your center! I do this for two reasons. The first is that a child always wants to get out of your classroom in the hopes that they’ll see their parent once they are out. Leaving your room and walking around shows them that mommy and daddy are not still in the building somewhere – and you are not keeping them hostage! The second reason I do this is because it is a good distraction, the children can see other kids playing, they can look at the neat wall displays of each classroom, they can say hi to other teachers, etc. By the time the walk is finished – they are usually okay.

2. Ask the child to help you with something! Most children love to feel independent and useful. I have asked my twos to help me with things such as getting breakfast ready for the rest of the kids, setting the table, or throwing something in the trashcan. Don’t forget to give lots of praise for the successfully accomplished task!

3. Distraction with songs, toys, games, or books! This is probably the oldest trick in the book! Mommy goes away and suddenly a cool truck, doll, or favorite book appears! More musically inclined kids might even ask you to sing to them (I’ve had that happen!) and once they start singing/playing along – they’re on the path to feeling better!

4. Ask them to show you their clothes, toys, or books! In the same vein, asking children to show you things helps them to feel proud of themselves and engages them in conversation. This one doesn’t work for everyone. But I’ve had some kids who talked to me about their new Hello Kitty light up shoes for nearly thirty minutes after mom left! (I was sorry I’d brought up the shoes!)

5. Invite a friend! Asking one of the child’s friends to come over and play with the upset child accomplishes not only distracting the child, but teaching the other children about empathy. When we use sentences like, “Jimmy is sad. Can you help make him feel better?” We are teaching children to recognize when someone is upset, and that we can do something to help others.

It isn’t a good idea to mention mommy or daddy during this time – even in song! For example, I wouldn’t sing the “5 little monkeys jumping on the bed” song because one of the lines in the song is “mama called the doctor…” It’s also not always a good idea to try and distract an older (1.5-3years) ‘separated and anxious’ child with a physical game like tickling or tossing them up in the air. This generally only serves to aggrivate them further.

In my case, I and my colleagues were able to get through lunch and through the transition into naptime by working together to comfort all of our crying munchkins. After nap, all the kids felt better and were ready to get on with the second half of our day together!

Good times! 🙂