Tag Archives: Anne Infante

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Life is for living

I first published this post two years ago. I am sharing it again as I continue to hear of similar things happening. I apologise to those who may have read it the first time around. 🙂

Many would agree that to enjoy life to the full we must live in the present moment, appreciating what we have and being mindful of our surroundings and others.

Most would also agree that a certain amount of preparation for the future is necessary to both enjoy and deal with what lies ahead.

marshmallow 5

In previous posts I have referred to related ideas including The importance of emotional intelligence and the ability to delay gratification, for example when studying towards a degree or saving to purchase a car. Recently I wrote about future-proofing kids by preparing them to embrace the future. Schooling is often considered a preparation for the future, for ‘what you want to be when you grow up’.

firefighter and nurse

Are the concepts of living in the present moment and preparing for the future contradictory?

Generally I would say that a balance is needed. We need to live in the present while making some preparation for the future. Hopefully the choices made can still be appreciated now and enjoyment is not all delayed until the future “When I . . .”

Recently I read an article that caused me some concern because, it seemed to me, there was little balance between appreciating the present and preparation for the future. Of greater concern was that the one for whom balance was lacking was not the one making the choice.

 

The article described a situation in which a 3½ year old was being taught to use scissors by an occupational therapist. The teaching, which had been occurring in regular sessions for over seven months, began before the child was three years of age.

Like I did, you might assume the child had a developmental delay which required regular sessions with the occupational therapist (OT). However no mention of that was made in the article.

The parent, writing the article, described feeling sad while watching the child experience difficulty in using the scissors.  Additionally, it was mentioned that the child had not been requested by the parent to use scissors at home as it just made the child miserable.

After seven months the parent finally broached the subject with the OT, asking why the use of scissors was being pushed at this time.

It was the reported response of the OT that caused me greatest concern.

The OT explained that when the child entered kindergarten at age five, the ability to use scissors appropriately would be expected. The lessons in learning to use scissors were being given to avoid the child being behind when beginning kindergarten. The OT went on to further explain that the use of scissors was not developmentally appropriate until age five!

The OT, presumably a trained professional, who believed it was not developmentally appropriate for a child to be using scissors until age five, began teaching a child to use scissors before that child was even three years of age!

The child was miserable when using scissors and the parent was saddened when viewing the attempts!

If using scissors is developmentally appropriate at age five, then when the child is entering kindergarten, unless there is a development delay, coordination or muscular problem, that child will easily learn to use scissors appropriately, without the need for lessons from an OT. Forcing a child to practice a skill before developmentally ready is definitely not in the child’s best interests.

Think of the wonderful things about a child of two or three years of age; the things they are learning and doing. I am always amazed at how quickly children learn and progress. They grow up so quickly and are only little for such a short time. Why try to pressure them through to stages beyond their current development? These years of enormous growth and potential are precious. We are adults for most of our lives. What is wrong with appreciating the special two-ness or three-ness of a child? It will not matter in the future if scissors can be used at age three, age five or age seven.

If the child is constantly pressured to perform in ways that are not developmentally appropriate then feelings of inadequacy, loss of confidence and self-esteem may ensue, resulting in an ‘I can’t do it attitude’, a fear of failure and unwillingness to have a go. I believe many perceived behaviour problems are problems only because the expectations are not relevant to a child’s stage of development.

When adults strive for a child to achieve beyond the age expected norms they are not appreciating, but rather showing a lack of respect for, who the child is and for the stage of development. This is not living in the present. It is attempting to live in the future, which can become very scary if one does not feel it can approached with confidence.

One may hope this scissors example is an extreme and isolated incident, but sadly pressure placed upon children by expectations that are not developmentally appropriate is far too common.

Teaching colleagues here in Australia often express their dismay that children in the first three years of school are crying every day because they find the expectations upon their learning and behaviour too great.

I hear similar stories about trying to rush the children through from the UK, Canada and the USA. Maybe it is happening in other places too. Sadly the pressure of unrealistic expectations doesn’t achieve anything positive for the students, the teachers or the parents.

How different would schools be if, instead of being considered a preparation for life, they were focused on living life now? If three year olds were appreciated and respected as three year olds, five year olds as five year olds, and eight year olds as 8 year olds, rather than as apprentices for the adult they will one day be, how different would their school situation be?

An affirmation song I used to sing with my classes is one by Anne Infante called Just the way I am.

The song is made up of a series of verses about appreciating oneself just as one is – now, not in the future – including characteristics such as responsible,  lovable, confident and friendly; for example:

I am beautiful and I like me,

I am beautiful and I like me,

I am beautiful and I like me,

Just the way I am.

I have written about using Anne’s songs of affirmation in previous posts, here and here.

What do you think? How have you seen developmentally appropriate programs in action? How have you seen them disregarded? What have been the effects?

Further reading: The Cost of Ignoring Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

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I’ve got the music in me – let me count the ways!

For any hearing person, music is integral to our lives.

Every country has a national anthem which may be taught in schools and played or sung at many and varied ceremonies and occasions, inspiring unity and national pride. Many other organisations such as schools and colleges have their songs praising their strengths and fostering a sense of identity. Couples have their special or ‘theme’ songs.

When we enter a store we are serenaded with music chosen to make us feel comfortable and entice us to stay longer and buy more.

Joyful advertising jingles with their subliminal messages encourage us to memorize the product name and make it our next purchase. These jingles can stay in our heads for years, like this famous one about Louie the Fly:

A few bars of a song can revive memories from long ago. I have written about this previously in a flash fiction piece, Vagaries of time.

Music can call us to dance, to relax, to sing, to cry. It can be chosen to match our mood, or can help to create a mood or atmosphere. The soundtrack of a film or television show tells the audience what to expect and how to feel.

Music is also an integral part of education and learning. Learning information in a song can help one remember. Many people like to have music playing when they are reading or studying. I did when studying towards my high school exams, but now I prefer quiet when I write. Programs such as Accelerated Learning recommend using Baroque music to help learners stay relaxed and focused, increasing retention.

I have previously written about using songs in the classroom, such as I love the mountains which I learned from Bill Martin Jr. and affirmation songs such as those of Anne Infante here and here.  I have also composed class songs and chants such as Busy Bees chant, and used songs to support class work, for example The Ugly Bug Ball when learning about mini-beasts.

I have used music to calm and settle after play breaks, and music for activity between seated activities. I used songs in the morning to signal to children that it was time to be ready for the day’s learning, including action songs or songs about our learning, for example a phonics song:

Image courtesy of Anne

Image courtesy of Anne

But of course, once we were settled, every day started with an affirmation song, or two. It got everyone into a happy expectant mood. It’s hard to be sad when singing (unless it’s a sad song).

 

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

. . . and  songs in the afternoons to send the children home happy and singing with joy.

As a year level we would sing songs to settle the children when lining up to return to class after lunchtime play. The children hurried to join in and sang their way joyfully into class. This is quite different from when I was at school and we would line up in silence and then march into school in step, subdued and quietly obedient.

I composed songs as a child but did not continue the practice as an adult, except for one: a lullaby that I sang to soothe my baby girl to sleep. A few years later I decided to learn to play the keyboard from a very talented musical friend who guided my writing of the accompanying music. This remains my one real musical accomplishment!

For someone who does not consider herself at all musical I certainly enjoy, and promote the use of, music in many different ways.

On that note, I leave you with my flash fiction response to the prompt set by Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch Communications: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story influenced by a musical score.

Final act

A collective gasp interrupted the music mid-beat.

All eyes turned synchronously, as if worked by unseen strings, towards the French doors, burst open and revealing a silhouetted figure framed by billowing gossamer-like curtains.

Out of the darkness the figure emerged: clothed in black with coat tails flapping, a top hat in one hand and a white-tipped cane held aloft in the other.

The conductor revived the orchestra as the figure glided across the floor, seized the heroine decisively and whirled her around and around.

The spell now broken, the cast joined in the dance to tumultuous applause.

I hope you can imagine the score that would be written to accompany this piece and its change of moods.

What score would you give it?

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash fiction piece.

Affirmations: How good are they?

In a recent post, Happy being me I wrote about the fragility of self-esteem and how affirmation songs such as those by Anne Infante, can help to build a positive environment.

‘I am Freedom’s Child’ by Bill Martin Jr. (mentioned in a previous post ‘I love the mountains’) is another great song of affirmation.

Click on the link to view a poster outlining the benefits of singing Affirmation songs in the classroom.

I invite you to submit any additional benefits of singing affirmations that you would like included on the list and I’ll be happy to update it.

Feel welcome to make a copy of the poster to share with others if you wish.

PS I made this poster using a template and cutout people I purchased (along with many others) from the eLearning Brothers. Check out their website here. I found out about them on another great site: the elearning coach.

Happy being me

Self-esteem

One of the most precious but fragile qualities of a person is their sense of self and self-esteem.

A positive word of encouragement can reinforce the strength of one’s self-image.

Machovka_Happy_fish

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But that image can be shattered all too easily through a sigh, a grimace, an ill-chosen word or careless remark.

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image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Our self-esteem flourishes when we are happy and wilts when we are sad. It is much easier to boost someone when they are up, and to hit them when they are down. Maintaining a healthy self-image requires just the right amount of self-knowledge and confidence to be resilient when faced with negative feedback and to not adopt an inflated sense of importance when receiving false, or genuine, positive input.

Fostering self-esteem in the classroom

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

As a teacher I have always considered it to be equally or more important to strengthen a child’s self-image as it is to extend their thinking and learning abilities.

My primary aim has always been to cultivate a group of happy children, with strong senses of self, confident in what they could do and willing to have a go to extend their learning. I believe that these qualities are necessary in order for children to learn efficiently.

A child who lacks confidence and is fearful of having a go lest a mistake be made, will make slow progress, finding it difficult to move out of the “comfort zone” into the unknown.

Because children have no choice in whether to be in school or not, despite whether they like it or not, then, I believe, it must be a happy place, a place where they want to be and look forward to coming. How powerless must they feel if they are compelled to attend every day in a situation which gives them no pleasure.

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image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Sometimes the response to this remark is, “It’s life. They just have to get used to it.”

But really, when you think of it, adults, no matter how trapped they may feel in certain situations, do have a choice. The choices may be no more palatable than the one they are in, but they are able to make that choice. My point is: children don’t make this choice. The choice is made for them. We are lucky that most children accept, and most rather willingly, indeed with enjoyment, this institution of childhood.

Start each day with a song

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image courtesy of openclipart.org

Because these beliefs and values guided the choices I made as a teacher, I started every day with at least a song or two, and always one of affirmation. It is almost impossible to frown when singing, and almost as impossible to not join in when everyone around is singing too.

There were mornings when it was just as important for me to sing the songs as it was for the children. As for them, it gave me time to forget the problem that had occurred outside the classroom, the difficulty getting something to work the required way, or the disagreement that had taken place some time earlier. As for them, it gave me a quiet time to reflect and reassure myself, “I’m okay. I can do this. Let’s get on with our day.”

I noticed, too, that when parent volunteers or other visitors were with us for our song, they also joined in with our singing and invariably followed up with a spontaneous comment about how much they appreciated, and needed, the song as well. Many times I received comments from passers-by about how the class’s happy singing had helped them start their day.

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

I took every possible opportunity to remind parents of how wonderful their children were and we always shared at least one of these songs with parents during end-of-term celebrations of work. I believe the songs help to model, for parents as well as teachers, a way of sharing positive feedback and affirmations with their children.

Affirmation songs

Some of the songs we sang regularly in the mornings were from Anne Infante’s “Special as I can be” CD, the title song of which is my favourite and always the first I introduce to the children.

Anne Infante (image courtesy of Anne)

Anne Infante (image courtesy of Anne)

Image courtesy of Anne

Click here to find out more about Anne and her songs.

I always wrote the songs out on charts so that, from the first day of school, we could follow along with the words as Anne sang them, even before most of the children could recognise any of them. The melody and repetitive structure of each verse invited the children to join in:

Nobody else is just like me. 

I’m as unique as I can be.

I am beautiful, wonderful and

beautiful, special as I can be.”

The following verses substituted things such as “Nobody’s face, nobody’s smile, nobody’s eyes.” I simply told them, before the verse started, the words that changed each time.

It wasn’t long before the children were joining in with the singing and recognising some of the words repeated in the songs e.g. “I” and “beautiful”.

If ever I was called away during the song, they took great delight in being the one to point to the words for the rest of the class to follow.

As the children became confident with one song, I would introduce another; and as our repertoire built, we would sing a different one each day. Sometimes the children would change the chart I had selected for another of their choosing for that particular day.

The children loved these songs, and often during the day, while they were working on another task, someone would start quietly singing a song, and before long everyone would be joining in with joyful affirmation. I loved it when they left the classroom in the afternoon singing another of Anne’s songs, “Today I’m feeling happy. I am, I am, I am.”

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Singing an affirmation song is a little “happiness pill” you can take every day without any side effects.

Happy being me

Affirmation songs provide benefits in many ways:

  • Share the joy of being alive and happiness with self
  • Put a smile on everyone’s face
  • Invite everyone to participate
  • Encourage acceptance of and respect for self and others
  • Reinforce self-esteem
  • Insulate the classroom from outside troubles
  • Quiet the mind and settle the body in preparation for the day’s work
  • Provide words to express feelings
  • Give musical pleasure
  • Are an avenue for literacy learning.

Please feel welcome to share your thoughts.

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