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Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Chicken or the Egg.....

Over the past few months I have shared our teaching team's bios and all the qualities that they have that combine to make BELA such a  special place. The one bio I haven't shared yet is that of our Director of Education, Jody Rutherford who is  the founder of BELA and my Mom! Throughout my life I have often wondered if my Mom is such a wonderful Teacher because she is a such a great Mom or vice versa...the age old question, which came first.....

When my sisters and I were growing up, my Mom worked, a lot! She was always at the school and we spent many weekends there playing, or when we were older practicing our various sports in the gym while she worked. She spent early mornings and late nights there. As an Administrator she was forever running here or there on weekends or evenings to meet with a staff member who needed her or a parent who just needed to talk. She sat up late at night worrying about this child or that, wondering if they were getting everything they needed at home, and if they weren't, making a plan  to ensure their time at school the best and most impactful that it could be, to sustain them while they were at home. If they weren't getting the love and compassion they needed at home, she would pick that one special teacher or assistant to put them with, knowing they would spend seven hours a day, five days a week feeling special. Could that make the difference for them? Often it did, but when it didn't I know it hurt and she still talks about those children today. I am shocked that we didn't end up with 50 or 60 more siblings over the years!  She sees gifts and abilities in children that others don't and sees challenges that children face that others sometimes can't acknowledge. As teenagers we often talked about how much my Mom loved her job! I still do not know anyone who loves their job as much as her, who has the passion that she has for education and who will put in the kind of time that she did and still does everyday to be a positive influence in the lives of children.

As a Mom to three girls I am sure there were some extremely challenging days, in fact I know there were because she told us! She has always been honest about the joys and challenges of parenting, especially as a working Mom , with a demanding career. She knew each of our strengths and gifts and gently pushed us in the direction that would best utilize our talents. She also knew our weaknesses and challenged us to focus on them and improve, to set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. Though she worked a million hours a week she spent her weekends driving us to sports & dance. She rarely missed a game, even when I played in College. Most weekends I would look up into the stands and see her and my Dad there. She spent early mornings taking us to practice before she went to work and  late nights patiently listening to the current heartbreak and  drama of teenage girls! Her gifts as a teacher were often used in our home- most definitely her ablility to instil in us a strong sense of self.

I never had the opportunity to work with my Mom until she decided to start BELA. Education is not my background or area of expertise but she brought me on board to help her with the business side and it is a decision that I will never regret. Making her dream  a reality is truly a gift to me and our family. That being said, I don't think I truly understood the depth of her passion for education until now.  She fought her way through miles of government red tape to bring her vision to life. She will fiercely defend her decisions to purchase items at the school, even if I say I am not sure if we can afford it at the time. Her argument is alway the same, " But the kids need it!" So it is my job to find the money to make it happen. It is a challenge but I've always loved a  challenge! We are now back to watching her worry about some of our students and push herself to find ways to support them in any way we can.   I see her again spending extra time with parents, just lending an ear and if needed offering solutions. The things that bring her the most joy at BELA.....watching our student's awe and excitement as they work on a science experiment, seeing a student write their name on their own for the first time, seeing a shy child come out of their shell under the guidance of the team we have put together and sharing ideas with our staff about how to instil a love of learning in our little students!

If you haven't read my Mom's BIO before, I urge you to take the time to read it.  If your child attends BELA I think it's important to know the level of experience and knowledge your child is exposed to every day through our programming and through interactions with Jody. I'm not going to lie, it's a pretty impressive bio and makes me proud to know all the things my Mom has accomplished over her 35 years in Education.

I am not sure if I have the answer to the chicken or the egg question. I believe that her background and experience played a strong role in her approach to parenting but I also believe that her love for us carried over into her love of all children and her passion for helping them. It took me awhile to write this post as I found it difficult to be objective about a person who has influenced me everyday for 33 years! Then I's okay to throw the objectivity out the window and just share my view of a lady who is both my Mom and now my partner at BELA. So while it may not be objective, every word is a glimpse into  my life with a lady who is a phenomenal educator and parent. And which came first....maybe we will never know. But I do know that I am  blessed to have a Mom who has the background that she does, who has now become a Grandma and is doing all the things she did for me for my babies. A Mom who I can ask almost any question about my boys and she has not only an answer but a strategy and a plan in minutes! And all her students have been lucky, whether they knew it or not to have a teacher  and or administrator with a true passion for helping children, the tenacity to fight for what they need and the ability to see each child as an individual with all their gifts!

Thanks for everything Mom, Love you!! xo

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Through Those Little Eyes....a post by our Mrs. P, Early Childhood Assistant

              “I am making a hotdog tea!” was the response I got from one of the students when I asked what they were making in the kitchen center. Would you find that rather funny or surprising? Who would ever think that you could make a tea with a hotdog flavor?  That’s how imaginative our students can get at the preschool. Sometimes adults think that young children have the craziest ideas in the world and that those ideas are nonsense most of the time. While some of their ideas may sound crazy to an adult, by the age of three and a half, a child’s ability to imagine is a crucial part of their development.  By the time a child is four to about six-and-a-half, their imagination fully functioning. ( 
                 Along with this ability to imagine comes a variety of other abilities that begin to develop, especially when they enter preschool. One is the ability to represent the world symbolically (Jean Piaget’s Insights).  Although young children have these abilities, it doesn’t mean they would have an easy grasp, or clear understanding of the world around them the way that adults do. Developmental researchers say that children of this age do not yet have a theory of the mind* (Child Development, Psychology, 2008).  Theory of mind (often abbreviated "ToM") is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one's own.
                Parents may have high expectations of their children once they go to preschool or kindergarten in terms of the child’s intellectual, emotional, social and even physical skills. Expectedly, these children won’t be able to meet all of the expectations, even if the children are considered “early maturers”, much more so for those children with exceptionalities.  As a result, adults sometimes get frustrated.  At times, many of us forget that children are not miniature adults and we regard them by our own standards.  Let us remember, they learn at their own pace.  Every child will make progress, some more slowly than others but all progress is something to celebrate!          

                The Preschool curriculum of today has become more responsive to the needs of young children, preparing them for higher learning and more stimulating experiences. But according to Vygotsky, when children are presented with tasks that are outside their current abilities, they need the help of culture and society, usually parents and teachers to accomplish them. When a more skilled individual helps a child, the child is able to incorporate new skills and ideas into his or her repertoire of behavior (Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory, Psychology, 2008). So let us be there for the children.  Let us see and understand the world through those little eyes, so that we can best support them in their learning.
            - CP

         * Further researches on Theory of the Mind was conducted by Janet Wilde Astington, Professor Emerita at the Institute of Child Study, Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, where she has held a faculty position since 1990.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Character Education - a post by Jody Rutherford, Director of Education

   Happy New Year to our BELA family, and those who follow our Blog!

   This is a time of year for reflection – on all that we are, and all that we would wish for our children.  Which brings me to speak of one of my driving passions – character education!  Some would ask, why is character education important, isn’t that the responsibility of the child’s family?  The oft used phrase ‘ it takes a village to raise a child’, has never been more important, we all choose the virtues and values we wish to instil in our children.

 Recent events have caused great joy, and great sadness, as I have had the opportunity to meet and follow the mission of Jamie McDonald– every day hero.  A young man giving of himself, visiting our country, to run across Canada with no support team, to raise funds for Children’s Hospitals in each province.  It was an honor and a privilege recently,  to hear his message regarding the genuine goodness of all people he has encountered on his journey! Jaime encouraged all of us to find our ‘inner hero’ and believe that we can do whatever we set our minds to accomplishing. The resiliency and selflessness of this young man is truly inspirational!  Which is why, recent events in Banff, which resulted in Jamie being assaulted and his belongings taken, bring shame and sadness on behalf of our country.  What a terrible way to thank this courageous young man!

 Before we decide that this type of thing only happens in places like Banff, and larger centers in our country, we need to reflect on the use of social media during our recent election, to batter and bully those individuals who chose to let their name stand in the hope of representing us in local government.  Is this the behavior we would model for our children?  Would we be willing to stand face to face with these individuals and say the things that were said via social media?  I believe that technology brings us even more challenges, as we strive to model good character for our children, and we should not model the use of social media, as a means to bully others.

 But we must have faith, that the character of Canadians will rise up!  Jamie’s supporters, and followers, utilized social media and individual determination to ensure that his belongings were returned to him. The groundswell of support will continue to grow, as those individuals who chose to try and strike down this resilient young man, have brought enhanced attention to his heroism, and a renewed determination among his supporters, that Jamie will succeed with his mission.  Canadians are people of strong character, with an international reputation for peace-keeping and supporting those less fortunate. Jamie McDonald will succeed in his mission, because we care, and are determined he that he will!

 And as a community, we will continue to make the choices which determine the type of City we wish to live in, and can choose to model the virtues we would develop in our children.  Activities such as food and clothing drives; fund raising events to provide funds for those struck down by natural disasters such as the recent hurricane in the Philippines; and opportunities to model positive character by helping someone stuck in the snow, or shoveling the walk of an elderly neighbor; all combine to teach our children the importance of virtues such as: caring, kindness, perseverance, and determination.  The Virtues Project, recognized internationally as a program that teaches the importance of teaching and modeling character development, is one which I have found during my educational career, to have a definite impact on the positive character development of children.  As a community we choose, the type of town or city we live in, and the type of character we model for the children of our community. This is why at BELA, we strive everyday to model appropriate behaviour for our students. We treat each student and parent as an individual and make it our focus to treat each with respect and compassion. Just as we teach our students to become responsible citizens, to “fill buckets” and respond to others with kindness above all else, we ask our community to strive to do the same.   It does take a Village to raise a child, so let’s work together to develop the character of our children – they are our future!

For more information about The Virtues Project, see the link below: