Category Archives: teaching

Parenting, Without Losing “You”

peruweaveI admit I like garage sales. The treasures I find aren’t always things, but sometimes people. I met a woman whose fifth grade daughter is in a charter school. Along with a nurturing curriculum, the program includes a lot of parent participation. Sharing our parenting stories brought a commonality to the surface: “How do you parent, without losing yourself?” It’s not a simple answer, and it varies from individual to individual.

In the moment, I found myself reflecting on my over twenty years of parenting and saying, “If I could talk to my past self now, I would tell her to weave her passion into her parenting.” I shared how all these years later, I am weaving my writing into the teaching I do. Parenting and teaching have so much in common, including going beyond the expected duties and obligations. I put a lot of myself into my teaching, and that includes my extra time. One important way that I don’t lose myself is that I weave my writing into my teaching. I often write short stories and plays for the curriculum I am teaching. This sometimes includes addressing classroom dynamics in the form of social stories. In this way I have writing time while compiling stories for my next book or project. It’s a tapestry of mattering. The children matter, and so do I.

It makes me think of some questions to ask ourselves: What nurtures, nourishes and replenishes me? What matters to me? What makes me feel happy, and joyful? What makes me feel alive? What inspires me? What inspires my creativity?  How can I include this in my busy life so that it can inspire the children I work with? How can I share more of who I am with the children in my life?

I hope this plants some seeds, and that you weave your own tapestry of parenting and teaching without losing “yourself”.

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

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Social Story Impact

comicpaperbackThe benefits of social story may not always have the results that we think it should have or show up in the form we think it will take. What I do know with certainty is that social story works. I trust the process.

Yesterday, I noticed that the pile of blank paper that I had just brought into our open classroom the day before, (I bring my own supplies) was completely gone. I couldn’t believe it. I expressed my dismay out loud. Later in the day, two first graders came up to me while whispering to each other, and then one of them said, “We used up the paper to trace our characters.” (They used it to make stick puppets, and for coloring.) “We will bring paper from home to give you.”

I was moved by their honesty and caring, and the desire to take positive action. They saw the impact their actions had and they wanted to do something to change that. I responded in surprise and thanked them for their honesty and their caring and let them know how much I appreciated their thoughtfulness, which made them feel good about themselves.

I have also noticed that there is more interest in the social story books we have in the classroom, and that generally everyone is more conscious of putting things back where they found them.

Although the missing story “dream” stone has not yet returned, writing and reading social stories together, and then talking about choices and the impact we have with the choices we make has had immensely positive impact. I am amazed and grateful!

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

How to Write Social Stories

dreamstonepage10There are many  helpful tips on the internet on “how to write social stories.” Most of the guidelines focus on stories that are meant to help children learn social cues and understand social situations.

I have been writing my own form of social stories (or what are called pedagogical stories in Waldorf Schools) for nearly 20 years now. I have written stories about many topics including bullying, teasing, racism, kindness, and recently, stealing. Writing and sharing these social stories with children has shown me that it is really important that the story is engaging.

When children are engrossed in a story, the lesson is more gently received. I might start writing with the theme in mind, like stealing. I think about the context of how it is playing out in the classroom or the household. I consider the children involved in the actual life situation, and I consider their interests and the dynamics of what is going on. I create a main character who has a similar challenge to one that the children in my life are facing, and I create a resolution. The setting I use is usually a village or a world I create that will engage the children’s imagination.

I ask questions about my main character like who are they? How old are they? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their dreams and wishes? What do they hate? What are they afraid of? Who are their friends? Who are their enemies? I ask other questions to, including what really matters to my main character? What do they want? What is their problem or challenge? Why? And how do they resolve it?

As I answer these questions, the story starts to unfold. Often, a magical alchemy happens where the story flows from beginning to end as though it has a life of its own. And it does!

Once the story is written, I share it with my students. We discuss what happened in the story and why. We talk about the subject in context of their lives and in context of the character’s lives. Usually, new awareness, and understanding surfaces.

This is one way I create and work with social stories that address emotional challenges in everyday living with children. When writing your own social stories for the children you care about, I suggest that you do a google search: “How to Write Social Stories,” or, “Social Story Writing Tips.” Here is a link that might be helpful: http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/explore/pbs_docs/social_story_tips.pdf

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.