Sunday, September 20, 2015

Gender roles in Fairy Tales

Hello! Welcome to the fourth and finals installment of my fairy tales series: gender roles. I promise not to bash Disney too much.

If you want to catch up, you can read parts one, two, and three by following the links.

This post is about gender in fairy tales, specifically females. We don't want to leave out the boys, because we know there are lots of strong male heroes in fairy tales already that they can relate to. You are reading fairy tales to your boys, right? Involving them in storytelling? Ignoring the marketing that says superheroes are for boys and princesses are for girls? Good. I'd like to focus on princesses.


Disney

When you think of fairy tales and, be honest: what pops into your mind? Disney princesses, right? Now, I promised not to bash Disney too much. I grew up with them; my favorites were the Little Mermaid and Belle (mainly because she was a bookworm). I enjoyed Tangled and I love Alan Menken's music. Disney has classic, timeless stories, but the fact is that most of their female protagonists are princesses that need to be rescued because they have very little power of their own. You may have heard the theory that Belle has Stockholm Syndrome. Ariel literally doesn't have a voice. Cinderella cries until her fairy godmother shows up. Occasionally, Disney will give us a character like Mulan, who saves the empire.  Frozen comes close, since the main conflict is Elsa learning to open up and stop letting fear rule her. And she does save her sister at the end, which gives this movie bonus points.
And it's not just Disney. All you have to do is Google for "videogames and girls" and "superheroes and girls" and you'll find enough material to keep you reading for days about the lack of good representations of strong women in children's media. Why is this important? The fact is that little girls look to the women in their lives so they can emulate them.

Role Models

One idea Bettelheim mentions is that it does not matter if the protagonist of the story is male or female; children can identify with them no matter who they are. I have a problem with this because, while children have loose concepts of gender, they still identify with those most like them. Children's stories star children, not adults. And while children can certainly identify problems in the story as their own, their play reflects the gender roles they see in the world. As children grow, they see someone like them act a certain way and emulate them. If boys see primarily heroes and girls see primarily helpless princesses, then those are the behaviors they're going to copy.  Research supports this as well. Here's an article from the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/women-leadership-blog/2014/oct/22/women-role-model-penguin and this one from APA. http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov00/mentoring.aspx

Mighty Girls


Some have started offering solutions to the lack of strong women. There's a fantastic movement called Mighty Girls, a collaboration between Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Together, they show girls real-life heroes that are women as well as modern fairy tales with a focus on heroines. Target, meanwhile, recently decided to stop sorting their toys by gender so that boys and girls can choose toys without bias.

So if our early experiences provide models for us and shape our perceptions, what does that mean for fairy tales?

Wait, wait, put down those pitchforks! Don't light your torches just yet. Because, as it turns out, we only get out of stories what we put into them. Even Belle's Stockholm Syndrome (some language in the previous link).

The Grimm Truth


The classic fairy tales by Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson show a different side of princesses from Disney. These princesses have agency, making choices in their own lives. Remember Bowdler? Changing fairy tales lessen's women's roles as well.
Grimm's Cinderella, for example, is very much the maker of her own destiny. She's the one who buries her mother in the backyard, waters the resulting tree with her tears, and completes the tasks her stepmother sets her (with a little help). She repeatedly asks to go to the ball, even when told "no," and actively hides from the prince using cleverness. This is a far cry from simplified versions, in which a fairy godmother simply appears at the right time.
The Little Mermaid, meanwhile, is a beautiful story of true love and sacrifice. In order to gain her legs, she must feel as if she's being split apart; when she walks, it will be as if she were walking on sharp knives.  When she finally meets the prince for which she suffers so much, he's already engaged to be married. At the end, she chooses his happiness rather than her own by refusing to kill him on his wedding night, fully accepting the consequence that she would turn into sea foam. Her sacrifice is rewarded when she is allowed to remain as a spirit watching over the happy couple.
It turns out that Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, Mulan,http://ancientstandard.com/2011/06/17/the-real-story-of-mulan and Frozen are true to the spirit of the source material, at least, while there are several others that Disney hasn't made yet, including Hansel and Gretel, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Seven Ravens.

Happily Ever After


You can see that there are some great heroines in fairy tales. Now, you might argue that the main goal of these women is still to find their prince. But something I found interesting is Bettelheim's theory that a main theme in fairy tales is maturity. I've already talked about what heroes can teach children, and the ability to make good decisions is a sign of maturity.

Sleeping Beauty, for example. She pricks her finger at 16 (or 15). What usually happens at 15 or 16? In medieval times, it meant that children started getting older, prepared to be married or to take on an apprenticeship. Girls turned into women, ready to start bearing children. So, according to Bettelheim, Beauty turns 16, she pricks her finger, bleeds, and enters a resting state. This state represents the reflection that we all go through when we mature. We may write in journals, listen to music, talk to others about who we are. We're introspective. Now the prince, after a certain period of time, must struggle to save the princess. He represents the battles and trials that we go through in adolescence on our way to adulthood.

Snow White shows this as well. Her happily ever after cannot come after she escapes the queen; she is still a child. Instead, she is warned against danger and falls to temptation several times. Just like Sleeping Beauty, the heroine falls into a deep sleep for a long time. When the poisoned apple falls from her mouth, she is able to wake up having finally learned from her mistakes and ready to enter adult life. The prince, meanwhile, must win her from the dwarves and gives them whatever they ask. He must fight for her. And what do we want? To be worth fighting for!

Then there's the fact that many fairy tales that don't end with a wedding at all. The 3 Wishes and the Fisherman's Tale are both about couples who are already married. Rumpelstiltskin doesn't end until the queen's child is already born, long after she marries the king. Her trial comes when she must use her resources to find Rumplestiltskin's name.


The Moral


Children learn from the world around them. The messages they take from various sources will be entirely their own, based on the struggles they are going through. It's up to us to make sure the children have the freedom to make those choices while being there to talk them through it.

"This is exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form: that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence--but that if one does not shy away, but steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles and at the end emerges victorious." --Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales

All images from clker.com



Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gender-specific praise

Hello teachers!

September's a great time of year, isn't it? If a new year is starting for you, there's the excitement gettimg your room just the way you want it, meeting new staff, and welcoming more little ones into school. I'll borrow a phrase from a training I went to once and say that it's like opening a brand-new box of crayons. Even if you work in  year-round setting, it's nice to take a moment to reflect on your classrooms and possibly change it a little.

I really am working on gender roles in fairy tales, but there's a lot of information out there and a lot I would like to say, so I want to make sure that I get it right.
Clker.com


Perhaps it's because I've been thinking of gender roles lately that I noticed something happening in the classroom this morning. A teacher was in our room with us so everyone would be in ratio. We were all making sure to use specific praise and say something positive to the children as they came in. As they were playing, we asked them questions about what they were doing and giving them words (since they're one).  Then I heard, "What a pretty dress!" "All of the girls are wearing pretty dresses today!" Then, to a girl, "You have a bag! Are you going shopping?" Meanwhile, the boys who carried a bag were simply asked where they were going. If there were any details, they involved grocery stores.

Now, what's wrong with this picture? There's nothing wrong with the statements in themselves. Of course people go shopping and the girls were wearing pretty dresses.

The problem begins to show up when this type of language becomes a pattern. We know that children get their self-worth and abilities from us. If we don't recognize their art, their brain patterns change. Slowly, the child won't be interested in art because their environment is telling them that it's not important. The brain is very adaptable, especially at this age, and constantly removes or adds neural pathways based on outside information. It's why we use specific praise and positive commands; we want the child's brain to say, "This is essential information for this environment!"

So what do you think happens if we focus only on appearance for girls? Are we training them to become thinkers and leaders, or are we reinforcing the stereotype that we claim to disdain when we reject Barbies? What if, instead, we started saying, "What's in the bag? Are you off to collect some samples?"

Let me know your thoughts below! How do you encourage critical thinking and positive behaviors in your students?

Happy teaching!

Amy Latta, KidatHeart

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Science and Math with Infants and Toddlers

Hello!

It's that time again! Hot dogs cooking, fireworks popping, baseballs cracking. All these add up to one thing:

Source unknown

Now, I don't know what feelings you might have about science. Maybe you were never any good at it, maybe you think it's too complicated, maybe you love digging into research and scientific concepts. Maybe you just love going online to watch things explode or learn cool things. 
Put all of those away right now. 

In case you haven't noticed from previous posts, I love Science. I love exploring, learning new things, and asking questions. It's only natural that I share this with my students as well.

"But wait," you're saying. "Don't you work with toddlers?" Why yes, I do!

When I first started teaching my toddler class, I was skeptical about how it would work. Here I am, coming from 4 years in a preschool classroom, suddenly teaching children who can barely walk. And forget talking. How was I going to introduce them to the wonderful world out there if I can't ask them questions?

As it turns out, fairly easily. We know that babies are already hardwired to learn everything they can around them. Neurons fire and create connections in the brain that tell children what kind of world they can expect. This is most noticeable in studies on stress, such as this one about the lifelong effects of stress.  It's why we know that what we do is so important and why standards exist for early childhood (in NC, anyway).

How does this tie into Science? At its core, science is about exploring, questioning, and creating. Remember the Scientific Method from elementary school? Ask a question, form a
hypothesis, test your hypothesis, then start all over again.

This is what children do every day. When they rebuild a block tower after it falls down, they're testing a hypothesis, even if they can't articulate it yet. "Why did it fall? What happens if I put this block here?"
One of the ways we can support children's scientific learning is to provide running commentary on what they're doing and ask questions for them.

But you know all this already. What I want to focus on is how we can expand this knowledge into meaningful and engaging scientific activities for toddlers. And maybe stop them from biting each other for a few more minutes.

In that light, here are some things I've done with my toddlers. Feel free to steal these.

Space

When we talked about weather, I found some pictures taken from weather satellites. We looked at photos of the sun, photos of stars, photos of hurricanes and clouds, and photos of storms. Several of the students regularly went to the wall and pointed to them, giving my co-teacher and I an opportunity to talk about them and expand learning. They also stayed on the wall, which I'm learning is an indicator of interest. Of course, we connected lots of art to it, too.






Goop

Quick, what's the one thing you hate about playdough? Other than the fact that toddlers eat it. Ok, and it gets all over the carpet. And it stains clothes. There's lots to hate about playdough, but mainly, it dries out. You spend all this money only to have it crumble after a few uses.

That's why we always make our own playdough with flour and water. It doesn't last longer than a day, but then it doesn't have to. Plus, it's so much fun for the kids to mix up flour and water. Of course, it creates a huge mess, but if we're not getting messy, we're not learning. Plus, with liquid watercolors, it's completely washable. And if the children eat it, it's ok. It's flour and water. And possibly some spices.

Here's my recipe:
Flour
Water
Liquid watercolor or washable tempera mixed with water
Scent: cinnamon, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, orange extract, etc.

Add in various quantities until it looks like playdough. (For best results, add water a little at a time, then add the dye and scent)

Some other toys we like are sensory bottles.  I love them so much, I presented a poster about them.  Sensory bottles are easy and engaging. The most recent one I made was an "accidental" glitter bottle. I wanted to make a red, white, and blue glitter bottle, but I ended up not having enough glitter glue. And then the bottle itself had soap in it. What we got was this:

A bottle that looks perfectly innocent until you shake it up, and then:

Glitter! Bubbles! Magic! Children explore scientific concepts by shaking it up and seeing what happens. Here's a handout that tells you some skills and gives you some more ideas.

Physics and Senses

We've also dissected flowers, looked at pictures of animals in their habitats, and created a sensory wall with velcro and felt.

Here's a picture of a marble run we built from a trifold board, plastic bottles, and cardboard tubes: (we used a cotton ball and magnet for the marbles)


Here we are exploring textures with dyed salt and glue:


Yes, it went everywhere. Yes, the salt fell off after it dried. Yes, we had tons of fun.

And exploring different textures from our scrap paper bucket one day:
Fun fact: this is how I found out that one of our students absolutely loves collage! That's his on the far left.
All of these activities were engaging and held their attention spans for 10-20 minutes. For a one-year-old, that's forever.

And through it all, you integrate concrete math words. How much more flour do we need to add to our playdough: one scoop or two? Did this block fall because it's bigger? Let's count how many tubes we have. Let's see how high we can count before the glitter settles. Remember: with young children, always move from concrete to abstract.

I had a director once tell me that we're not just teaching, we're creating experiences for our students. When you're selecting a science experiment or activity, don't be afraid to try something new. But most importantly, find an experiment and topic that you personally like. Because when you're excited about it, your students will be, too. And hopefully, you'll all learn a little more about science.

Happy Teaching!

Amy Latta




Friday, June 5, 2015

An Evil Arises

Hello!

Welcome to part 2 of my Fairy Tale series, where we discuss the importance of evil in fairy tales. Grab the popcorn; this is going to be a fun one. (And a long one; sorry.) Please feel free to argue discuss in the comments.

If you missed the earlier posts, you can find them here and here.

Fairy tales have been around a long time. Cinderella originated in the East long before Grimm and Perrault gave their views. The reason they've survived in our technological and informational age is
that every listener and reader has had something to gain from it, so they tell their own version to someone else. Think of your favorite fairy tale from when you were little. Can you remember what you were going through? Maybe you can even remember something specific that's stuck with you. All literature is like this, really; it's just that printed words are more permanent. When children read or hear a fairy tale over and over, they internalize it. They fit the words to their own world and problems and take away their own meanings. Bettelheim has some great stories about children who clung to fairy tales as a reminder that they could make it through anything. How does this get accomplished? What drives the hero to success?

Enter the antagonist.

It might be an evil stepmother, it might be jealous sisters. It might be an impossible task the hero needs to do, like climb a glass mountain. In every fairy tale, Something blocks the hero's way and keeps him/her from getting what he/she wants. And really, this is the key to the hero's success. Where would Luke Skywalker be if the stormtroopers hadn't burned down his house? Just as in real life, conflict forces the hero to grow and change and accomplish the seemingly impossible. And children need reminders that it's possible. We know from research that when children play superheroes or turn something into a weapon, it helps children work through whatever problem they're facing at the time. Fairy tales are no different. A younger child who feels teased by siblings may identify with Cinderella. A foster child might identify with Rapunzel or the Little Mermaid, finding somewhere they belong. Maybe Allerleirauh offers hope for escape from a difficult situation. Perhaps they're just angry because they weren't able to do what they wanted or they feel that their homework is impossible.

And what do we know about fairy tales? "And they lived happily ever after." The evil is always vanquished, the girl gets the prince or the prince gets the girl, the seemingly impossible obstacle is overcome. It never varies. Fairy tales offer children hope that no matter what, they can work through their situations and emerge victorious. I'm going to talk more about this in the next installment about gender roles, but in the meantime, keep this in mind as you read the next section.

Now, this is where it gets fun. I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

There's a term called "bowdlerization." Long ago, there was someone named Thomas Bowdler who looked at Shakespeare's works and thought they were unsuitable for his family, so he took out the worst parts and republished them. This gave rise to the term "bowdlerization," which has come to mean the sanitizing of stories for more general use. Some books leave out the wolf's desire to eat the pigs, for example. Now, this isn't a bad thing in itself. I think we can all agree that Shakespeare's works are too mature and violent for children. But what about fairy tales? In general, they were written specifically for children, yet we see plenty of violence. Stepsisters cut off parts of their own feet. Rapunzel's prince is blinded. The Little Mermaid feels pain with every step she takes. And worse.
I'd like to present two theories. You decide which one you ascribe to, but I ask you to consider each.  In the end, it's up to you to examine your own theories of education and how you feel you should best protect and teach children.

1.  Fairy tales are too gruesome.
A book I own, "Grimm's Grimmest," suggests that some of the more gory tales were, in fact, not originally for children at all. In fact, it was closer to modern adults enjoying Game of Thrones or horror movies. Grimm and Perrault both changed aspects of the fairy tales they had heard to make them more suitable for children. Grimm removed any references to pregnancy, for example, while Perrault focused more on telling the stories to court, resulting in Disney's Cinderella. (Think about Perrault's Puss in Boots, one of my personal fairy tales.) When Grimm, Anderson, and Perrault were developing their fairy tales, we had stories that violently punished children doing wrong in order to teach moral values. Even Mark Twain satirized these stories. Research supports families in saying that children exposed to lots of violence on tv and in media can cause them to act aggressively later on. Today, in our already violent culture, fairy tales need to be sanitized for today's audience so we can show children how to be compassionate. In the tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper, the grasshopper doesn't die; the ant lets him stay, even though the grasshopper never did any work.*

2. Fairy Tales are gruesome, but it's ok because the villains get what they deserve.
 Children are violent. We could go on about nature v. nurture and tabula rasa, but the fact is that children's stories today are still loaded with violence. We have all of the superhero movies. Kids' Choice Award nominees include "Teen Titans," "Adventure Time," and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (all violent). Children's play outside turns sticks into guns and swords.
We do, however, know some interesting research. Superhero play promotes prosocial play. Research shows that when children grow up and play violent video games, they are less likely to be violent in real life.  And the reason is simple: these stories take place "Once upon a time, in a land far away." Ask your five-year-olds if what you just read is real and they'll tell you truthfully. Children know that
they're not really supposed to hurt people, so violence in stories gives them an outlet, a safe place to carry out their violent fantasies, according to Bettelheim. This may not apply to heroes, whom children empathize with, but it certainly applies to villains.

And here's the difference for the purposes of this theory: in fairy tales, villains are the aggressors and get what they deserve, while heroes are more innocent.

And the worse the villain is, the worse their punishment is, the more the child can feel a sense of justice and hope. The more the child can learn what's right and how to triumph over obstacles. Bettelheim points out that often, villains bring their own destruction on themselves. Let's look at an example: the Three Little Pigs. In sanitized versions, the wolf blows down the houses, the pigs hide in their brothers' house, and finally the wolf gets frustrated and runs away, never to be seen again. In the original story, the wolf blows down the house, eats the pig, and moves on to the next. Finally, he
gets tricked by the final pig multiple times until he decides to break in and gets boiled alive. Sounds pretty gruesome, right? But let's take a look at the lessons children are learning. What's the moral of the first story? "Even if you're stupid and build a house of straw, you can always count on your older brother for shelter." "Don't worry about that bully; if you have a strong defense, eventually he'll give up and you might not see him again. Probably."  "If you're mean to people, nothing's going to happen to you except you might get a little sad." Now, let's look at the second one. "If you build a flimsy house, it's going to fall down." "If someone's bothering you, you can outsmart them." "If you're mean to people, you're going to get what you deserve." Fairy tales are designed to teach lessons about how we should act and the more gruesome the punishment, the more children will be scared away, especially if there is an adult to help them through their thought processes.

I'll give you a personal example. When I was 7, my favorite book was Roald Dahl's "Matilda." I shared her love of books and I loved all the tricks she pulled on the adults. Because in Dahl's world, many adults are evil. Matilda's own parents verbally abuse her while bragging about cheating customers. They won't let her explore her own interests. School isn't safe, either. Her teacher is nice and loving, but the headmistress is quite the opposite. She locks our hero in a cupboard filled with spikes as punishment. She throws another child over the fence by her hair because the child wore braids. That's why it was so rewarding to see Matilda find a safe haven with her teacher and eventually drive out the evil. As horrific as I found the punishments, I never got scared because good
triumphed in the end. Dahl didn't talk down to children. His message, throughout his books, is that evil exists and we can beat it. Isn't this a fantastic lesson?

So, which theory do you believe?

All images from clker.com

Continue to part three.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Rainy Day Rainsticks

I'm working on part 2 of my fairy tale series, but I had to take a break. The next one's going to be good.

 In the meantime, I thought I'd ask the question, "What to do with one-year-olds when it rains?" The answer, of course, is to make rainsticks!

This project took us all day and it was so rewarding for the kids as they completed it.

I impressed one parent, who said, "I don't think I made these until I was in third grade!" It's amazing what little ones can do when they're challenged.

Now, on to the project!

First, we gathered some tubes and painted them. The toddlers did a fantastic job holding their cardboard tubes while they painted them. Some of them painted the table and rolled the tube around in it, others fingerpainted. The older children modeled how to dip paintbrushes in paint and put it on their tubes and some of them were very selective about which paint they used.



We let those dry while we finished our morning routine.  During naptime, I made a wonderful discovery: the bottoms of our plastic cups were the perfect size for most of our tubes! I started cutting and soon had the caps attached to one end with clear tape.



The bottoms of the cups, all ready to go.


Since I was by myself today, I put out some foil and let the children explore it while I washed the tables after snack. They loved tearing it and attempting to put some into their (and each other's!) tubes.





After we were done, I crinkled up the foil and let them put it in the tubes.


Finally, we added some sand/rice mixture from our sand table.
It turns out that the cut cups made a fantastic funnel.

There were so many domains and skills involved! The children used fine motor to tear up the foil and put it into our tubes. They used Cognitive to figure out the best way to turn the cup in order to dump the sand in. Creative art as they explored the paint and made their rainsticks their own. Color mixing and recognition. Use of writing and drawing tools. Scientific exploration as they asked questions and answered them by shaking it.




I wish I could have taken pictures of the children enjoying their rainsticks, so you'll have to try it in your classroom and see for yourself!

Which rainy day activities do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Teaching!

Amy Latta

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Long Time ago in a Land Far Away...

Hello and welcome to part 1 of my fairy tale series!



If you missed my last post, you can view it here and get some context.


Today, I want to explore what makes fairy tales so enchanting. The fairy tales we know and love today have persisted for thousands of years in millions of iterations. But why is this? The stories in the recently published "Turnip Princess" certainly have not carried the same meaning for us as Cinderella or Snow White. Disney has had some part in this, but they're only about a century old.

To answer this, think about your favorite movie and why you like it. Not the one you saw last week or the latest summer blockbuster. The one you reach for when you're feeling down and know all of the lines by heart. Chances care, it carries some meaning personal to you. Does it cheer you up? Give you hope? Present a worldview or way of life that speaks of truth in your own life?

The same is true of fairy tales.


To start, let's look at the main elements of fairy tales.

  • A child starts out simply, but goes on to become a hero (protagonist)
  • Villain (Antagonist)
  • Magic saves the day
  • Happily ever after


At first glance, it doesn't seem like any of these elements could possibly be relevant to us. After all, magic doesn't exist and can anyone say we've yet found our happy ending? In truth, just like most heroes, fairy tales' apparent simplicity belies great wisdom. So much so that modern creators are taking these themes and creating their own fairy tales. Star Wars springs to mind. (A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...)


Through the Eyes of a Child


Children especially love fairy tales because they can relate to them.
Psychological theory tells us that young children experience animism, or the belief that everything is alive. As educators, I'm sure you've witnessed children talking to a favorite stuffed animal or being afraid of a scary mask. In fairy tales, then, talking animals come across as very natural and even friendly. They are a common motif as helpers and companions. In Grimm's Cinderella, birds help Cinderella complete her difficult tasks; in Hansel and Gretel, they are used as guides. Animals can also represent what's scary for children, such as the Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast.


 Magic

As for magic, there's a saying that magic is simply what we don't yet understand 1. Young children certainly don't yet understand how everything works. In their world, plates of food suddenly appear when it's mealtime. A car that may as well be a magic coach transports them from place to place. As they play, they invent fantastic scenarios in their imaginations. It's also true that the fairy tales we're familiar with were told long before modern scientific marvels such as automobiles. Fairy tales, then, rely not on science, but on deep-seated beliefs of the region and magical constructs. Even Star Wars, created in the 70s, introduces the mystical concept of the Force, which defies scientific explanation. (The prequels don't count for the purposes of this article). Other modern fairy tales may include science fiction or something just beyond our grasp. It is that sense of wonder that children naturally possess that allows the hearer of the story to suspend disbelief and skepticism for a little while.


The Hero


Finally, the Hero. In his book, Bettelheim brings to the surface an idea I had never considered. In fairy tales, the hero is usually the youngest child or a simpleton, looked down on by everyone. Now think about the child: younger than everyone else in their world, looked down on by adults, and generally thought of by many as being ignorant of the ways of the world. They may have siblings who they feel treat them as cruelly as Cinderella's stepsisters or invoke jealousy as in Puss and Boots. As they play, then, is it any wonder that they often act out superhero stories and cast themselves as the hero?


So you see, fairy tales start where the children already are and form that initial connection, which is essential for learning.


Learning what? The answer is one that intrigued me so much, it inspired this entire series of blog posts. Unfortunately, it also takes a bit more time than we have right now. I'll simply say that the role of the villain in a child's life strikes closer to home than many of us would like.


So in the meantime, I'll leave you to ponder the question while I prepare part 2: An Evil Awakens.


Can you think of any modern fairy tales? Comment below!

Until then, happy teaching!

--Amy 

*all images from clker.com

1. "That's one form of magic, of course." "What, just knowing things?" "Knowing things that other people don't know." --Equal Rites, Terry Pratchett

Continue to parts two and three

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Importance of Fairy Tales



There was a teacher who worked very hard for her students. She toiled away, but felt like she was making little difference. One day, she thought, "I wish I could enhance my students' lives a little more. How else can I teach them important skills like independence and hard work and hope for the future?"  Suddenly, a magical prince named Bettelheim suddenly appeared. "Take these words of wisdom," he said, "and your students will prosper."  He handed the teacher a book and as she studied the magical tome, her world lit up and she knew that the answer had been in front of her all along:

Fairy tales.

There's no doubt that fairy tales still have a hold on us as a modern society. "Into the Woods" saw new popularity as a movie; "Once Upon a Time" and "Grimm" are successful TV shows, and Disney is already planning a live-action Beauty and the Beast as a follow-up to Cinderella.

What's interesting to ask is, "Why?" Why have these fairy tales endured for hundreds or thousands of years?

Recently, I read a book called "The Uses of Enchantment" by Bruno Bettelheim. He was a child psychologist in the 1970s, during a time when the world in general was thinking about education. Piaget and Erikson were both doing important research and changing the landscape of early childhood education to be what we know it today.


In the book, Bettelheim theorizes that fairy tales have persisted because they contain deep psychological truths that we can all relate to. Not only that, but they can become guides for us in solving our own problems.



I'm about to start a 3-part series about some of these theories; mainly, how we can use fairy tales and other literature to guide our children into finding their own path through the woods and becoming independent and thoughtful adults.

So please, take my hand, and follow me into a land far far away and a long time ago.

Comment with your favorite fairy tale below!

Continue to parts one, two, and three.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

5-month anniversary!

Guess what, everyone? It's my 5-month anniversary! That's right; I haven't posted for 5 straight months! Thank you, thank you; you're too kind.


I've had a lot of changes the past 5 months. I switched jobs twice! That's got to be a record. I tried Head Start, but it didn't agree with me. For those of you in Head Start programs and surviving, I give you my undying respect. The amount of paperwork and bureaucracy involved every day heaped on top of teaching is an enormous task.

So, now I'm teaching one-year-olds. I really miss my integrated class, but I love the environment I'm in now. I might see if I can take some classes to get a bachelor's in special education, but my husband just applied for a PhD program at a few schools. But you never know. So far, my life has been full of surprises, but they've helped me figure out what it is that I want to do with my life and what kind of person I actually am. For instance, I'm really creative but I'm terrible at communicating with my co-teacher (I'm getting better, I think!).

I also love my network at NAEYC. If you joined just to have it on your resume or get that requirement fulfilled, I encourage you to think about joining. There are lots of resources both on the site and in your local chapter. For example, I talked with one lady last month about being an assessor, something I didn't even realize existed. They've provided lots of encouragement and professional development for me as a teacher and I can't wait to start a new year with them.

If you're reading this at all, thank you. I'd like to let you know that I do plan on starting updates again, this time more focused on toddler activities than preschool. (Obviously, since I don't teach preschool any more.) Hopefully if you do teach preschoolers, you'll find some activities that can be adapted up. You won't find any lessons on TPT or TeachersNotebook since the school where I work uses its own format and those sites don't promote learning that early. Yet. I do want to continue tweaking the lessons and adding any I may not have up yet, so be watching for those.

Thanks for reading if you are and listening to my ramblings and expect an update soon! (Definitely before another month is up).

-Amy