September 25, 2014

Growing our Brains - All Around the World

Preschooler Kieran growing his brain
Friends’ School received a surprising request from out of the blue this week.  More specifically, two of our experienced educators received an email from an early childhood educator in Indonesia, asking their permission.

Back in 2011, preschool teacher Christie Stanford and Shelby Pawlina, the co-director of our Teacher Preparation Program, wrote an article together about supporting children to shift their mindsets in order to create greater resiliency and improve problem-solving skills.  The article was entitled Preschoolers Grow Their Brains and was published by the National Association for the Education for Young Children in their journal Young Children. You can read the full article here.

It is a wonderful article that highlights research in this area as well as a process that Christie and Shelby went through with their students. Their goals were to put a positive spin on the concept of problems and to engage children in seeking and working on their own challenges. They created a treasure hunt of sorts, focusing on outdoor physical activities. Using language like “Remember when you couldn’t . . . but now you can”, Shelby and Christie worked to help children boost their confidence through practice and effort. They provided a framework for building children’s vocabulary, fostering positive attitudes, and promoting problem-solving attention and skills.

At the time of publication, Shelby and Christie received suitable kudos from colleagues and parents alike here at Friends’, fused with a healthy collection of congratulations from educators and friends a little further afield. They gave a well-attended presentation as part of our parent education series. After a few weeks, with the article neatly tucked away in the annals of Young Children, they continued to practice what they preached, but thought little more of the article.

Authors Christie Stanford and Shelby Pawlina
Until this week.  The teacher in Indonesia, Maria Hewitt, wrote in her email:

“I am contacting you about the usage of your article in a professional setting. I currently teach at an International School in Indonesia and our 3 year old classes have woven your article into all of our lessons we use over the school year. We are a PYP school and each of our units of inquiry that we teach reflect the growth mindset attitude.

I wanted to thank you for writing this article as it spurred a tremendous movement in our classrooms, and now potentially will reach other international schools with your permission.

We would like to cite your article and share some excerpts from it with our colleagues at EARCOS, an Asiatic-wide conference for the international school community, held in the spring of every year. Along with giving credit to our idea from your article, our presentation will be widely on how we have incorporated this into our philosophy in our Prep 1 program, taken it further, and how it has changed our children’s language and outlook.

Thank you again for an inspirational article.”

Of course, Shelby and Christie were thrilled and immediately gave their permission. They also sought more information about the school and how the teachers there are incorporating their ideas into their classrooms.

The Indonesian school is looking to implement these ideas school-wide and already sent their presentation to their district superintendent. We are looking forward to hearing how it goes at EARCOS (The East Asia Regional Council of Schools).

Part of Friends’ Strategic Plan is to increase our presence as an educational leader in our field.  In February, I will be presenting in Boston to the National Association of Independent Schools conference on the Gratitude Project that we did for our 25th Anniversary.  In October, Christie and preschool teacher Jessie Vanden Hogen are presenting to the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children on Storytelling & Mindfulness in the Preschool Classroom.

In support of this goal of educational leadership, Friends’ Board of Trustees has, for the first time this year, designated a small fund from our endowment to reward and encourage teachers and staff for publishing and presenting.  Congratulations to Christie and Jessie who are the first awardees for their upcoming presentation to CAEYC.

Sometimes you never know how what you do will effect others down the road, sometimes in the most surprising places. We are proud to be able to share what we do here at Friends’ with colleagues locally and across the world.

We’re proud of our teachers for growing their brains too! 

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