Tuesday, January 19, 2016

RELATIONSHIP REFLECTION



Relationships are the cornerstone of life. They shape and define you. The people in my life are my reason for living. They keep me going through the bad times and help me celebrate the good times. Every relationship is unique and makes up a part of who you are. Relationships provide support, love, comfort….that feeling that you belong and are cared for, while allowing you to give back to someone else. Nothing else, in the end, is as important as the people you love and who love you in return.




Important relationships in my life include:

MY CHILDREN – 2 wonderful boys, I should say men now, Mark (21) and Nick (18)
MY HUSBAND
MY MOTHER           



Long before there was a best friend, husband or children, there was my mother. This is a relationship that as really changed over the years, as all parent/child relationships do. Although we have had some issues through the years, and there were times I wished she would just leave me alone, she never did, and for that I am forever grateful. She's my mom and has been there for me and loved me, unconditionally, no matter what. Having that sort of person in your life is so important. To know that no matter what you do, even when others have turned their back on you, that that one person will be there and love you is comforting in a way that is hard to describe. I can tell her anything and she will listen, accept, forgive. She taught me unconditional love, which I don't really think I truly understood until I had children of my own. 


My husband. Now that's a relationship that takes patience and work, much more than I thought despite all the advice I received prior to getting married. I have learned how to compromise and to build a partnership. I would say I have probably learned the most about the complexity of relationships from ours. We went through so much early in our marriage and learned a lot about each other as we focused on us. Then we had kids and our relationship took a back seat to their needs. This is the hardest part of a relationship, when it goes from being the main priority to none at all. Luckily we were able to make it through and somehow develop a stronger connection and a true partnership along the way. We are a partnership in that we make no major decisions without consulting the other. We respect each other's feelings and support each other's ideas. And we work hard at compromise if we don't agree. It doesn't always work perfectly, but I consider him my partner and we are in this together. 


My children and my relationship with them is the most important thing to me. The love I feel for them overwhelms me and as they have gotten older, maintaining a close relationship with them as they venture out on their own and start their own relationships and families is very important to me. Our relationship has changed and grown over time. From being their caregiver, to teaching them right from wrong, to disciplinarian, to friend…it is an ever evolving relationship that I cherish with all my heart. I have learned to love unconditionally, to trust, to face my fears and let them go. Being a parent, and the relationship with my children, has had the biggest impact on my life and changed me in so many ways.


My experiences in my relationships with those close to me, especially those with my children, will help to make me a more effective early childhood professional. I have learned so much, but most importantly, the need for families to be involved in their child’s educational process. My children attended preschool to prepare for kindergarten and the school system, and at the time, I was unaware of how important it was and the impact it would later have on their schooling. Luckily I chose to be very involved in their schooling and built relationships with all of their teachers, as well as members of the administration. I learned a lot about the educational system, both good and bad, and both of my children did well in school and were very involved themselves in extracurricular activities at the school. 


Sunday, December 20, 2015

When I Think of Child Development....

Image result for quotes about children 

There are so many quotes about children that I love, it is difficult to choose just one.  Therefore, I have listed my favorites….the ones that really touch me.

"A person's a person, no matter how small." 
  — Dr. Seuss

"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."
  — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them."
  — Lady Bird Johnson, Former First Lady of the United States

“If there is one thing developmental psychologists have learned over the years, it is that parents don’t have to be brilliant psychologists to succeed. They don’t have to be supremely gifted teachers. Most of the stuff parents do with flashcards and special drills and tutorials to hone their kids into perfect achievement machines don’t have any effect at all. Instead, parents just have to be good enough. They have to provide their kids with stable and predictable rhythms. They need to be able to fall in tune with their kids’ needs, combining warmth and discipline. They need to establish the secure emotional bonds that kids can fall back upon in the face of stress. They need to be there to provide living examples of how to cope with the problems of the world so that their children can develop unconscious models in their heads.”

                                                                                                                                               

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Note of Professional Thanks and Support

I just want to take a minute to thank all of my classmates for their feedback and support, especially those that read and responded to my blogs and discussion posts.  Your input was extremely helpful and really made a difference. I further wanted to take a minute to send out a special “thank you” to two of my classmates, Chenay Lucas and Diedra Palmer, whose blogs I read religiously and thoroughly enjoyed. You provided so many helpful insights and I looked forward to reading them each week for inspiration.  I have learned so much these past 8 weeks, and the support of classmates makes all the difference. Although we have never met in person, I have truly felt a part of a class, and I just want to thank each and every one of you for experiencing this journey with me. I expect we will be communicating often as we all strive together to reach our goal of obtaining a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Studies. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

TESTING FOR INTELLIGENCE? VIEWING YOUNG CHILDREN HOLISTICALLY

When committing to view young children holistically, I believe it is necessary to look at all areas of development, and not just intelligence as it relates to academics. Standardized testing limits our true understanding of a child’s abilities as they only measure what has been learned, not taking into account the child’s potential for learning.  Many IQ and standardized tests are fine, but need to be used in conjunction with other assessments that reveal a child’s multiple intelligences. According to leading developmentalist Sternberg, “analytic, creative and practical” measures of intelligence should also be valued (Berger, 2015), to obtain an accurate picture of the whole child.

In Cuba, education is measured and assessed through the System for the Assessment of Educational Quality (SECE). The tests are “norm-referenced and include both multiple-choice and open –ended questions” (Ferrer, 2006, p. 85). In addition to assessing student performance in language and mathematics, the tests provide information on students’ values and attitudes. Questionnaires are also provided to the families to provide information on the impact of certain non-school factors on learning, such as “socioeconomic status, gender, and race/ethnicity” (Ferrer, 2006, p. 85). Comparisons are made between the students’ academic performance on the test and achievement in the same knowledge areas as evaluated by the teachers in the schools (Ferrer, 2006).

I am not opposed to standardized and IQ testing, however, I have found that too much emphasis is placed on teaching children to pass these tests as opposed to learning what they need to know for their particular grade level. My children attended elementary school in Florida and, beginning in the 3rd grade, they were required to pass the FCAT in order to proceed on to the next grade level. From the beginning of the school year until they took the test in February, the primary focus was on preparing them to pass the test, mostly due to the fact that they made teachers’ raises contingent upon how well their class performed on this test. One test should not determine whether a child is equipped to proceed to the next grade level as many children do not perform well on tests due to the pressure they feel to pass, which is clearly a problem with this sort of assessment.

References:

Berger, K.S. (2015). The developing person through childhood (7th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers

Ferrer, Guillermo. (2006). Educational Assessment Systems in Latin America: Current Practice and Future Challenges. Washington, DC: PREAL. Retrieved from http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/Ferrer.pdf

Sunday, November 22, 2015

CONSEQUENCES OF STRESS ON CHILDREN'S DEVELOPMENT

Stress is difficult for adults to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but as resilient as children are, stress can affect their development both physically and psychologically. Cumulative stress is more devastating to a child than an isolated major stress in their life, as almost every child can withstand one trauma. However, repeated stress over time makes it difficult for them to bounce back and move past the problem, which can result in problems with their physical and emotional development (Berger, 2015)

Fortunately, I did not personally have to endure any of the stressors that can affect a child’s development. I do, however, know someone who dealt with growing up in poverty in England when he was a young boy. Back in those days it was very unusual to be raised by a single mother, but his father left and his mother was forced to work multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their heads. He had to work and started contributing to the household at a very young age. He never owned new clothes and often worried about how they were going to pay their rent and buy food. There were many nights when they had so little to eat that they went to bed hungry. He was often teased at school for his shabby appearance, even though no one in his neighborhood was well off, he was at the bottom of barrel financially. He suffered from headaches and stomach aches for most of his young life due to stress and spent much time alone since his mother was always working. He ended up getting in with the wrong crowd and got into a lot of trouble for stealing and other crimes. His mother did end up remarrying and her new husband moved them to the United States when he was seventeen years old, which he believes saved his life or at least kept him out of prison. He was able to turn his life around, but still has constant worries about money and not being able to provide for his children. He got his Master’s degree but insists on working two jobs just to make sure there is enough money to support his family. Although he was able to get through that difficult time, it left a lasting impact on him. He saves, will not buy anything on credit and constantly worries that it will all disappear. Despite this, he completely spoils his children by giving them everything they want so they can have a better life than he did, sacrificing what he wants for them.                                                                                                                                              
The country I chose to research regarding stress and children was Haiti. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 77% of its population living in poverty. The issue with poverty is that is causes other major stressors in a child’s life such as hunger and disease. Due to the poverty levels of this country, on about half of the population is literate and only about 50% of children attend school. Those who do attend, only 30% make it to the third grade, and if they do, 60% of those children will leave school before the sixth grade, leaving them with no education and continuing the cycle of poverty. The infant mortality rate in Haiti is also very high at 55 out of 1,000 births, with another 59 out of 1,000 infants dying before their first birthday and 88 out of 1,000 dying before the age of five. Stunting is also a prevalent issue in Haiti with 22% of children suffering from it (Haiti Partners, 2015). Health conditions are also poor, with only about one-fourth of the population able to access safe drinking water and only about 25% of the children being vaccinated. Even with all of this, the population of Haiti continues to grow at an estimated rate of almost 200,000 people per year (O’Dell, 2013).

In order to minimize poverty and the effects it causes, many humanitarian organizations provide relief in the form of food, clothing and immunizations to the residents of Haiti, which helps to minimize the stress the children suffer when they know there is food, clothing and shelter, as well as adequate medical care.  However, relief aid is only a temporary fix to a long-term problem. To minimize poverty and thereby the stress it creates for the children, a way to provide clean, safe drinking water, quality medical care and mandatory education needs to be explored and implemented long term.

References:

Berger, K.S. (2015). The developing person through childhood (7th ed.). New York, NY: Worth    Publishers.

O’Dell, S (2013). Understanding Haiti’s Poverty: Myths, Mountains, and Solutions. World Help. Retrieved from https://worldhelp.net/understanding-haitis-poverty-myths-mountains-and-solutions/

Haiti Partners (2015). Haiti Statistics. Haiti by the Numbers. Retrieved from http://haitipartners.org/about-us/haiti-statistics/

Saturday, November 7, 2015

NUTRITION (BREASTFEEDING) AND MALNUTRITION

The public health issue I chose to discuss is nutrition (breastfeeding) and malnutrition. I included breastfeeding in this topic as good nutrition starts with breastfeeding and is interesting to me for personal reasons.  This topic is meaningful to me as I was unable to breastfeed my first son when he was born and by the time I was able to he was already used to formula and wouldn’t nurse. I was also born during the time when formula feeding was preferred over breastfeeding so my mother did not breastfeed any of her children so I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal.  However, the information I obtained regarding breastfeeding makes me realize a lot of issues that are present with my oldest son could be related, although I have to admit I have always been a little skeptical, which I think way my way of relieving some of the guilt I felt over not breastfeeding him in the first place. He was born 4 weeks premature and was overall in good health except for suffering from extreme low blood sugar. He had to be fed (force fed if necessary) at least 1-2 ounces every 2 hours and I was unable to provide that amount quick enough so the nurses fed him formula. Upon reading the benefits of breastfeeding I came across a few items of concern as my son had chronic ear infections as an infant and had to get tubes in his ears. He also had a bleeding ulcer at the age of 15 and was hospitalized for a week because of it and they were never able to definitively discover the root cause. He has also had issues with his teeth, despite proper dental hygiene. Some other items that were not affected were his IQ, as he is extremely smart and currently attending college, and his vision, which is perfect.

I still consider myself lucky as I was able to receive healthcare during and after pregnancy, was able to provide a healthy and clean living environment for my son, and provide him with needed healthcare as well.  Other countries, unfortunately, are not afforded these advantages and the number of malnourished children in these countries is still unbelievably high, despite advances in medical care and efforts to provide them with the nutrition they need. According to an article on  IRIN humanitarian news and analysis, despite millions of dollars invested over a 15 year period, the number of children in Nepal suffering from acute malnutrition is near emergency levels and was responsible for 60% of child deaths. The main causes of malnutrition in that country are poor health environment due to poor hygiene practices, poor sanitation and poor living conditions.  Even though exclusive breastfeeding rates have steadily increased to over 70%, the mothers aren’t healthy themselves and are expected to return to working in farms and household chores just a few days after giving birth, which negatively affects their health and nutrition. They also do not receive the appropriate care during and after pregnancy, and about 23% of women gave birth before the age of 18.

Malnutrition is a serious issue that even affects children born the United States. When thinking about the health and safety of children in the U.S., malnutrition is not one of the main issues that comes to mind, so we need to be reminded that it does happen, more often than many of us may think, right here in our own neighborhoods. I think it is important for those in the early childhood field to be aware of the signs of malnutrition and the appropriate steps to take if malnutrition is suspected.

References:

IRIN humanitarian news and anaylsis (2012). Analysis: Five reasons malnutrition still kills in Nepal. Retrieved from http://www.irinnews.org/report/97046/analysis-five-reasons-malnutrition-still-kills-in-nepal




Sunday, November 1, 2015

CHILDBIRTH IN MY LIFE AND IN SAUDI ARABIA

The personal birthing experience I have chosen to write about is that of my second son. I have chosen this one as it was very different than the birth of my first son, which was completely natural and involved a lot of pain, crying, begging and threatening. I can still vividly remember the day my second son was born, even though it was almost 18 years ago. I woke in the morning to mild contractions that seemed to intensify pretty quickly. My husband called doctor and I went to his office to be examined before going to the hospital. I mentioned to the doctor multiple times that I wanted an epidural and upon my arrival at the hospital, proceeded to remind the nurse several more times. The pain was becoming intense and I was worried it would be too late to have one, as what happened when I had my first son, so I was beginning to panic. After numerous attempts to run an IV, I finally received my epidural. It was expected that the epidural would slow down my labor and it would probably be hours before my son was born, however, he was extremely impatient (as he still is to this day) and ended up being born a little over an hour later. I remember being shocked, and ecstatic, that I felt no pain, just a slight pressure, and it was over.  My son was born to two smiling parents and two crying grandmothers. I did not feel exhausted or overwhelmed as I did when I went natural with my first son, and I honestly think I enjoyed the experience a whole lot more.  I know a lot of people are against the use of epidurals and such methods, but myself and the baby were fine and I personally felt much better than I did after a full on natural child birth. They were such different experiences, and looking back, I am glad that I got to experience both of them. I do not believe I missed out on any of the wonders of childbirth by having the epidural, but that might be because I had already experienced a natural delivery....who knows. I have heard that the birthing process influences the baby, which is why some people prefer to do it at home or in a less sterile environment, with soft music playing and all that.  I am not convinced it really makes a difference as the child obviously doesn't remember being born, but who am I to say.  I have never really given it much thought, but that might actually be something to research to see if how a child is born affects them in their development.

The country I chose to research regarding their childbirth procedures is Saudi Arabia. I actually chose it believing they would be a lot different from ours (I don't know why) and found that they are just about exactly the same.  Most deliveries are done in a hospital with a gynaecologist supervising the delivery.  A midwife is usually present and will accompany the mother during the entire process. Epidurals are allowed but must be approved by the supervising physician and discussed prior to admission. Once the baby is born it is kept in a nursery so the mother can rest and sleep, but she can see her baby, or breastfeed, any time. A natural delivery requires a 1 day stay in the hospital and a C-section requires 3-4 days. The process is almost exactly as it is here, and to be honest, I was a little surprised by that.  I thought it would be different, not sure how, but not the same as ours.

Since the culture of Saudi Arabia is so different than here, making this comparison only helped to confirm my belief that the impact of the birthing experience does not really affect the child's development, but how you raise that child once you bring them home does.

Monday, October 19, 2015

EXAMINING CODES OF ETHICS

The NAEYC and DEC provide early childhood professionals with codes of ethics for guidance and counsel. A few of the ideals that I find most meaningful, and why, are shown below:

From the DEC Code of Ethics - Responsive Family Centered Practices:

"We shall provide services and supports to children and families in a fair and equitable manner while respecting families' culture, race, language, socioeconomic status, marital status, and sexual orientation."

I believe this is extremely important when working with young children. They need to feel a part of the process, as well as their family, and not as an outsider based on their differences. Young children do not understand when they are treated differently based on their culture, race or other family aspects. All they know is they are not being treated the same as other children and it hurts. It can hurt their emotional development as well as affect their long-term outlook on school and education in general. Providing children and their families with an open and safe environment that is equal to all who attend is essential in ensuring their succes.

From NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct

Ethical Responsibilities to Children:

I.1.10 - "To ensure that each child's culture, language, ethnicity, and family structure are recognized and valued in the program."

Educators need to be aware of and open to all cultures and family structures so they can ensure that the best possible program is being offered to everyone. Researching the cultures of the children in your class will help to make the transition easier for them and their families.

Ethical Responsibilities to Families:

I.2.3 - "To welcome all family members and encourage them to participate in the program."

Of course it is important to make sure that each child's family is involved in their education and made a part of any program the child is attending. Therefore, making the families feel welcome, comfortable and a part of their child's learning environment is just as important as making the children feel safe and comfortable.