Posts tagged position statement
Posts tagged position statement
Technology Redefined, or Maybe Simply Clarified.
A position statement, by Lisa Murphy
So I wrote this in September of 2010 to broaden the definition of “technology” and to keep the conversation from getting bogged down. I wrote it about the same time as NAEYC starting releasing drafts of their “technology and young children” position statement for commentary. This post will be the first of three technology/naeyc position statement posts.
According to a wikipedia post, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/technology in 1937, the American sociologist Read Bain wrote that “technology includes all tools, machines, utensils, weapons, instruments, housing, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and the skills by which we produce and use them.” Additionally, “Technology can be most broadly defined as the entities, both material and immaterial, created by the application of mental and physical effort in order to achieve some value.”
For the sake of future writings, articles, web discussion and workshop presentations, Ooey Gooey, Inc. has adopted a similar, broader definition of “technology” which includes examples that stretch beyond those specifically related to consumer electronics, such as televisions, computers, radios, etc. By intentionally stretching the boundary of definition, we no longer feel bogged down by semantics which often hinder healthy discussion.
A position statement, by Lisa Murphy
I use food in the classroom. Not to be a rebel. (Lisa Murphy, the food user!) I do it because I believe certain substances in the sensory tub provide a level of tactile exploration which is necessary for children. I have been known to use beans, rice, cornmeal and flour too. I use colored pasta for collage art and for stringing. I make ooblick out of cornstarch and water and do nylon splat painting with un-popped popcorn kernels. I use raw spaghetti and froot-loops for stacking. I use corn syrup for edible finger paint. I teach about chemical reactions with baking soda and vinegar. I have been known to paint with pudding. With my toes.
But every point has a counter point and every rule has an exception. The intention of this article is to share with you what I believe and why. Like any controversial topic, discussion of food usage in the classroom cannot be limited to oversimplified statements such as “I use food” or “I don’t use food.” You, as the educator, need to know why you have chosen one side or the other. You also need to realize that there could very well be a time when you find yourself on the other side of the fence. Are you ready for when that time comes? Have you examined all sides of the issue or are you just doing what you were told to do without ever having thought about it yourself?
Here is what I often hear on the road:
• It’s disrespectful to certain cultures and populations
• It’s wasteful
• In school they told us not to
• It teaches children to waste, play with their food, etc.
• Children are starving in some parts of the world
• We/I am aligned with ECERS or ITERS
• Licensing said I can’t use it
So, for the sake of conversation, let’s break it down. Here’s my input for your consideration:
POINT NUMBER ONE: One of my first student teaching assignments was in a child care center located in one of the housing projects in inner city Chicago. Out of respect for the drastic poverty many of these children lived in (some of the families slept in the abandoned cars in the parking lot), the program did not encourage using food in the classroom. As I have gotten older and (dare I say, wiser?) I like to think that courtesy and common sense, not a policy, should guide us to make a program choice such as this. If you know, and I mean know, that there are families in the program who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, then playing with beans and rice in the sensory tub is not a respectful choice. But knowing is different than assuming. And, if there really are families in this situation I would pose the following challenge: Are we assisting these families in getting the service and assistance they require or is our level of involvement making sure they aren’t “offended” by the contents of our sensory tub?
POINT NUMBER TWO: I believe that to “not use food” because years ago one of your college professors told you not to, is not necessarily the best plan either. As a professional you have a responsibility to think things through and make decisions that are in the best interest of the children in your current class. Not just run on auto pilot with what you were taught years ago. Children are always growing and changing. We should be too. If you have a child who is incredibly tactile and you are not providing ooblick because 10 years ago someone told you it was not okay to use corn starch (food products), you need to seriously consider the legitimacy of this rationale. Take what you learned from past mentors and teachers and make it your own. Add to it. Modify it. Adapt it. Change your mind. Continue deepening your education and awareness and knowledge of working with children. Your own personal growth should not stop once you get that diploma.
POINT NUMBER THREE: Remember that there is always a squeaky wheel. There will always be at least one mom or dad who doesn’t approve of the various activities you plan. To stop having dyed pasta for collage art, or colored rice in the sensory tub, or to not make the ever popular corresponding snack after reading Green Eggs and Ham because Mrs. So-and-So doesn’t think it’s okay, is NOT and I repeat, is NOT a good enough reason to change your philosophical position! If you go around changing everything each time she has a complaint you appear wishy-washy. And believe you me, for that parent, there is always something, and if it’s not using food it will be something else! So, what do you believe in? Why? Are you going to change the philosophy of your program for every parent who complains?
If you do, three things will happen: 1) you are going to create a lot of extra work for you and your staff, 2) you will appear too easily swayed by the slightest bit of blustery breeze and 3) you will undermine the credibility of the philosophy within the program because you are not standing up for what you believe in. Changing your mind and position is one thing. Having it constantly changed for you is another. A more long-term solution is to provide opportunities for conversations (both formal and informal) about the rationale and theory that support all of the activities provided at your program on an ongoing and regular basis.
POINT NUMBER FOUR: If you are going to align yourself with a “No Food” policy you really need to have thought about how far you are going to take it. How does making playdough fit into this rule? Think this through. Seriously. When folks tell me they “aren’t allowed to use food,” I love asking, “Do you make playdough?” And when they (always) say, “Yes.” It is hard for me to not point out that I can make a loaf of bread out of the ingredients that go into playdough. Are we sending inconsistent messages? Are some food items okay but some others are not? Who decided what was okay and what was not okay? How were these items chosen? Are all involved parties (staff, teachers, administration) clear not only on the items that are not okay but on the reasons why as well? Can all parties articulate a clear and confident position statement to anyone who asks about the “No Food” policy? Make it a priority to develop well thought out, informed decisions and not knee-jerk policies.
POINT NUMBER FIVE: There are, of course, common sense exceptions to any rule. Examples:
Allergies: Maybe little Kellie is allergic to flour. The reaction is so bad that she cannot touch it. In this case, we probably won’t be putting flour in the sensory tub this year. No worries. I would find something we could use instead though. What can we find that she can touch? There are plenty of options if we look hard enough. We need to be willing to find them. It also means that flour is not okay this year. We must resist the urge to institute a “no more flour ever” policy.
Religious Reasons: There are food no-no’s in many faiths. Be respectful and be prepared! Having this information prior to showing up with activities the following week avoided potential embarrassment and unintentional offenses.
Cultural Issues: I was teaching preschool in a suburban community with middle/upper middle class demographics. Wondering where the next meal was coming from was not a point of concern. I had quite a few children from Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean descent in my classroom. Some of the mothers came to me and said that the children playing with rice was kind of troublesome to them. The important note here is that the families came to me to discuss a concern they were having. I did not assume that because I had Asian children in my program that rice was not okay. See the difference? We didn’t have rice in the table that year. No big deal. Again though please let me reiterate, rice was not okay that year. This is different than making a new policy that now says rice is not okay ever.
POINT NUMBER SIX: If you have found that you are most comfortable on the “no food” side of the fence I would challenge you to make sure that you are finding various non-food materials to facilitate tactile and sensorial exploration. Cornmeal not OK? Fine, so what other kind of grainy soft substances are you using in the water table tub instead? Do not use the policy as an excuse to be lazy!
Sometimes at workshops there are a few folks who are very quick to say, “We can’t do that,” when I demonstrate something that might have a food material in it. Nylon splat painting comes to mind. Instead of them being so quick to shut down the possibility of doing the activity I would rather have them inquire of some substitutes. Could we use sand? Absolutely! How about dirt? Sure can! Some soft gravel bits? Of course. You need to be extra creative to make sure you are still providing substances for exploration. Check out various grains of sand, dirt and rock. Home and Garden stores are going to be a great resource for you. Have you tried mulch in the sensory tub? Have you ever planted grass and then had the kids cut it with scissors?? Be sure that your sensory tub center is not left wanting simply because you have said “no” to food materials.
POINT NUMBER SEVEN: Are you aligned with ECERS or ITERS? If so, you need to read the book a little bit closer. Nowhere in ECERS does it say you can’t use food. Infact, you get a higher score in your Sand/Water Table rating area if you use materials other than water and sand! And in ITERS all it says is that you can’t use food for art. So if your evaluator comes in while you have a table full of toddlers finger painting with pudding you call it a sensory experience.
Now hear me out on this, I’m not not not giving you permission to be snarky or rude. Nor do I want you to get fired! What I am doing is challenging you to actually be familiar with ANY and ALL documents that you are held accountable to. You have a responsibility to have an in-depth understanding of the policies governing you. You also have the right to make sure they are really policies and not personal preferences of someone who is only on site once a year. Which leads us to…
…POINT NUMBER EIGHT: If you have been told that licensing says you can’t use food, you have the professional responsibility to be so familiar with your regs that you know if it’s true or not. Where is that actually stated in the regs? What page is it on? If you are being told that you can’t use food because of licensing but no one can show you in the regs where it says that, you need to have a conversation with someone and figure out what’s going on. Are rules being enforced? Or interpreted? There is a difference. Take the time to figure it out.
Conclusion: Nothing is ever so nice, neat and tidy that it fits in a nice little box. The topic of using food in the classroom, and please pardon the pun, can be a sticky issue. Remember that it is okay to change your mind and to change your position. Maybe you currently don’t allow food usage but you think you might want to start exploring it. Maybe you do use food but for various reasons you are considering a change to the other “no food usage” side of the issue. Either way my message is simple – THINK!!!
Think it through, investigate all sides and beware of knee-jerk reactions. We want to encourage RE-flection, not RE-action. When it comes to making changes (food related or otherwise) you must do so only after thinking about it, talking about it and making sure you are aware of the reasons behind the changes. Constantly asking why why why!!?? Even changes for the better need to be thought through.
To be brutally honest, (and I have come to learn that that is what folks like about my style,) I don’t really care if you use food or not. I do, however, care deeply about whether or not you can talk about what you are doing and confidently articulate the reasons why. Can you have a professional dialogue (not everything has to be a debate) about what led you to adopt your position? Do you have a full grasp on the rationale behind your choice? Talking and thinking about things, not just going through the motions, is how we all continue on our journey of being the best that we can be for our children and families.
Originally © July 2006, Lisa Murphy, Ooey Gooey, Inc. All rights reserved. Reviewed, revisited and slightly updated prior to posting on Facebook © April, 2011 Reviewed, revisited and updated (ECERS, ITERS and Licensing commentary added) before posting to the blog, © February 2012
(because trying to come up with a cute clever title just got too distracting)
By Lisa Murphy
So here’s what started to happen: I would begin to demo a shaving cream activity and as I reached for the can my brain would go into this slow-mo matrix kind of feel because I could already feel the energy change in the audience! I would brace myself, and say (to myself) “Here it comes! Be ready!” And sure enough, as soon as I would start to shake the can… BAM! It started!! One hand up. Two hands up. Three hands up! Then I’d say to myself, “Here we go…” And the comments that followed were always the same.
WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE SHAVING CREAM IN THE CLASSROOM!
I try very hard to not displace my frustration onto the workshop participants. They didn’t make the rule. They are trying to figure it out. Trying to find a compromise. Trying to change it. (Or break it!) My frustration is typically not with people in the audience, it’s with the people (and, for the record, who are they anyway???) who are making the rules.
I look at the can of shaving cream. I think to myself, “Good grief! Why is it under such attack?” I step away from the activity tables and announce, “We are now, once again, deviating from our regularly scheduled program so that you can hear my now oft-presented monologue about shaving cream!” From California to New York, from Florida to Minnesota I hear the same thing over and over… no more shaving cream. What I do not hear is honest to goodness justifiable reasons why this (supposedly) deadly toxic hazardous substance is not allowed anymore.
In Florida this issue built so much momentum that folks actually started to think (to be told?) it was a law. Audiences began telling me that the Florida State Department of Health had issued a statement that it was no longer OK to use shaving cream in preschools. So I called them. No one in the department was aware of such a statement. I asked if they would put it in writing and mail it to me. They did. In a letter dated December 23, 2005 the Florida Department of Health stated, “The Department of Health/School Health Program does not establish regulations for preschools and child care facilities.”
I also called Colgate Palmolive, headquartered in New York City, on December 21, 2005. I spoke with Emily Lowenstein in Consumer Affairs who informed me that, “Shaving cream itself is non-toxic and not harmful in any way to human life.” I asked for a follow up letter on company letterhead. In a letter dated January 6, 2006 she wrote, “You can be assured that Colgate-Palmolive will introduce products into the marketplace only after their ingredients have established an exhaustive scientific record of safety and efficacy.”
My concern is that as early childhood educators we are giving up our power. And, with all due respect, giving it up to people who have never done our job. As a profession we are guilty of accepting too many rules, regulations and policies at face value (1) without being a part of their design and selection and (2) without questioning, investigating or reflecting on them prior to implementation.
Quite frankly, we let people boss us around.
Now this is not permission for us to become rude and defiant. It is a push for everyone in early childhood to become better advocates for good policy and good practice, and to start standing up for ourselves! The real issue at hand has nothing to do with a can of shaving cream per se, it’s about finding our collective voice and, here’s the hard part, using it.
Reality check: Starting to question things does not mean that we spend all day challenging everything and everyone that comes into the room! But it does mean, by golly, that if people start telling you “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” we need to start asking, “WHY?!”
So in no particular order I will provide for your information reference and reading pleasure, my stock (yet still heartfelt, honest and true) responses to the most frequent comments I get regarding the use of shaving cream in the classroom:
FIRST COMMENT: The can says, “keep out of reach of children.”
RESPONSE: First off, so does toothpaste and hand soap.And I don’t point this out to be snarky. Just truthful. If we are going to (potentially) get rid of and make rules about one of the things in the building that says “keep out of the reach of children” then I want everything in the building with that label to be treated the same way. Not just the things that someone might find “messy,” fun, inconvenient or whatnot.
Secondly. Yes. The can does say that. (Loophole Alert!) So, keep the can out of reach of children. When it’s time for shaving cream activities then the adults are the dispensers of the cream. Make sure you provide enough for exploration. If this is the compromise, take it. It’s better than not being able to use it at all.
SECOND COMMENT: Shaving cream is hazardous.
RESPONSE: The cream itself is not going to kill anyone. Unless they eat the entire can. And really, if you are the person who would not notice a kid hunkered down in the kitchen center noshing on a plate of Barbasol, you need a new job. Shaving cream itself is NOT a hazardous or toxic substance. If it was, people would not be putting it on their faces and legs. If, however, you want to get technical, it is the aerosol propellant that can be considered hazardous… IF THE KIDS ARE HUFFING OUT OF EMPTY CANS! And, again, seriously, if you would not notice a group of four-year-olds passing around an empty can in the block center… you need to be fired.
The “Irony Essay” Challenge of the Day: Some programs are NOT allowed to use shaving cream because of the aerosol propellant but ARE allowed to use foam paint that is propelled out via (wait for it) aerosol. Discuss.
Three “Let’s Be Proactive” Tips: (1) Make a list of all the amazing things you can do with shaving cream. For bonus points, drop in some of the concepts children are learning about and being exposed to when you use shaving cream in the classroom, (2) Compile letters of love from past clients, parents, families in support of activities such as shaving cream, (3) Ask to be on the agenda of your next staff meeting or school board meeting and present your findings.
A potential compromise (and/or) something neat to explore: Use the old fashion shave cream. The what? Get shaving POWDER and add water and then let the children mix it in a shaving cup with a shaving brush! This is a neat experience in and of itself! Look for these items in a drug store or ask the pharmacist. Take pictures. Post on your blog. Celebrate your loophole discovering ability!
Reminder of the Day: If we are going to put our eggs in the “we can’t use it because it’s hazardous” basket then we must be consistent and examine ALL the products in the school environment that have a cautionary label. (Kitchen ingredients, bathroom supplies, bug sprays, pest control products, yard sprays & chemicals, air fresheners, cleaning products, etc.) Not just the shaving cream!
THIRD COMMENT: But we are not allowed to use it.
RESPONSE: Who told you that?
COMMENT: My director, boss, lead teacher, co-teacher, principal, etc.
RESPONSE: Who told them that?
COMMENT: I don’t know.
RESPONSE: Find out.
Seriously! Are you being held accountable to something that is real? And by real I mean a written policy, a handbook, a written rule, a licensing reg, etc. Or is it someone’s personal preference? As in, “I don’t like it, so I am going to tell all the new teachers that it is not allowed, so they won’t do it, but really no one said it’s not ok, I just don’t want to be bothered.”
FOURTH COMMENT: Licensing says we aren’t allowed to use it.
RESPONSE: Have you read your licensing regulations? Do you have a marked up, oft-referenced copy on hand as a go-to resource?
If you have not read your regs then someone else has all the power and you have to take their word for it. And by “read the regs” I don’t mean memorize, I mean be familiar enough with them to know if a specific regulation stating YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE SHAVING CREAM is actually written in them.
The main job of licensing is to enforce the regs, not interpret them.
For what it’s worth (and I know that many of you already know this), I have recently embarked on a self-assigned project of reading the childcare licensing regs for all 50 states. I have gotten through 28 states and NOT ONE says that you cannot use shaving cream. If we don’t know, we cannot challenge, disagree or debate. We have to take someone else’s word for it and too much of that can be a dangerous thing. We must take responsibility and do our homework.
FIFTH COMMENT: We do ECERS. We are not allowed to use shaving cream.
SIDEBAR: So here is something you need to know, and this is a very specific mentor-teacher, teachable moment kind of moment. When people say this it tells me something HUGE. It tells me – and granted, potentially through no fault of their own – it tells me that they are being held accountable to a document they have not been exposed too/trained on/given a copy of/read. And seriously, all humor aside, that’s a problem.
RESPONSE: Nowhere in ECERS does it say that you can’t use shaving cream. I know this because I’ve read it. Numerous times. And I don’t say this to be all like rubbin’ someone’s nose in something. I say it to stress the point that the reason that I can say, with confidence, “Show me where it says I can’t use it” is not because I’m a smart mouth. It’s because I’ve read it and because I have read it I know it doesn’t say anything of the sort.
He who owns the language owns the debate.
If you are accountable to the ITERS guidelines or the FCCERS guidelines then yes, it does specifically call shaving cream a “toxic substance.” This means that if you are seen using it when your evaluator is on site you will get a 1 in that category. It doesn’t say you can’t use it. It says you will score a 1. Choosing a 1 is different than getting a 1. And in my world this is a matter of intention, not semantics. So what does thatmean? It means that if I have hired a staff of people who just so happen to be up to their elbows in shaving cream when the evaluator walks in, I’d rather have a team of people who can articulate the thought process behind their choice of materials and activity than people who run and hide and freak out because someone with a clipboard walked in. In other words, I’ll take a 1 along with articulate staff ANY DAY over staff that isn’t able to articulate what they are doing and why they are doing it.
And besides, common sense, not a policy, guidebook or regulation sheet, would dictate that we aren’t doing shaving cream with the babies. Duh.
Moment of “Increased Inconsistency Awareness”: And at some point we must address the fact that shaving cream will not have a negative impact on an ECERS score but will bring down a FCCERS score; even when the shaving cream is being used with children of the same age group!
I’m sure if I see you in the next few months you will get to hear my shaving cream position statement monologue first hand! But until then, I thought I’d repost the article online so anyone who was interested could give it a read and possibly use it as a resource. You are doing great work! Stay strong. Keep your chin up and know that you are surrounded by friends and colleagues who share your views and encourage your passion.
Original article © 2006 Lisa Murphy, Ooey Gooey, Inc. All rights reserved.
Revision © 2011 Lisa Murphy, Ooey Gooey, Inc. All rights reserved.
FRUSTRATED! I am still having trouble adding pics to my blog posts - so while Margaret continues researching, I will - for today - link you to the NOTE on Facebook, as it is the same post! enjoy! comments welcomed!
I need to do a project!
…said Katelyn. At 4:30 pm. So I set out paint, paper, tp tubes and empty masking tape rolls and many of the children joined Katelyn in her “late afternoon it’s almost time to go home printing painting project.”
I honored requests for MORE PAINT PLEASE even as the BUTS filled the air:
I approach each BUT with an AND:
So we keep it going. All. Day. Long. We have an obligation both as early childhood educators and as service providers to make sure that the children are provided a rich, engaging environment All. Day. Long. Right up until closing time (or, until the last child leaves - which every once in a blue moon is actually before closing time!) and not a minute before!
Even if we KNOW this’ll happen:
And that this MIGHT happen:
“ms. lisa my face feels cracky.”
The day isn’t over when there are still HOURS left! So go get that paint! Go gather those towels! Go fill that tub with warm soapy wash-hands water! We’ve still got work to do… even if it is 4:30!