Tag 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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Dialoguing About Wealth with Children

money

I learn as much as I teach when teaching creative writing to my students. A few weeks ago, a first grader wanted my help writing a play. He wanted it to be about a teacher who took a cheap job because she was poor. I noticed at the time that he was putting a lot of emphasis on the value of expensive cars and on money. I took the opportunity to discuss the issue with my mentor. She suggested I write a play and begin a dialogue about what wealth means.

It made me question what it is we teach children about money and wealth. What is wealth? Does being wealthy mean you have a lot of money? Or does being wealthy also mean that your life is rich and full and meaningful in many arenas of living? The dictionary meaning of wealth is “an abundance of valuable possessions or money.” But is that really the true meaning of wealth? The dictionary meaning also includes: “plentiful supplies of a particular resource.” Could that resource be fun, happiness, joy, passion, or inspiration? Maybe a person is wealthy because of the depth of intimacy, love and caring in their lives. Maybe a person is wealthy because they feel joy from being, giving and receiving. Maybe a person is wealthy if they bring meaning and hope to their own life and the lives of others.

I wonder.

A week or so later, I ended up having another conversation with the same student. We talked about what else wealth could mean. The following week he told me that he decided to write a different play.

What are your concepts of wealth? What are the concepts of wealth the children in your life hold? Could they be expanded?

The California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco is holding a
“Women, Money & Spirit” Conference, April 29th, 2017, from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Leaders in psychology, social justice, religion, and finance will explore money from the perspective of spirit. It gives us an opportunity to examine our relationship with money and take a look at our beliefs around wealth. Here’s a link: http://www.ciis.edu/public-programs-and-performances/conferences/women-money-spirit-conference-2017

Image courtesy ClipartFest: clipartfest.com

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.

Writing Social Stories About Stealing

dreamstoneWise mentors I know have used life situations as teaching moments. Recently, I brought a “dream” stone, a large tumbled quartz stone with yellowish iron veins and the word “dream” carved into it, to the after school where I work. My intention was to use it as a “story stone” encouraging the children to imagine and think about their “dreams” in context of story.

I set the stone aside on the pink drawers that contain all of the writing journals. I was aware of placing it there as one class left, and the other arrived. We had a lot of activities reading and writing plays, that I forgot about the stone. At the end of the class, as I was putting things away, I noticed that the stone was gone. I searched high and low, moving furniture, looking under tables, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I wondered if it was lost or if it had been taken without permission.

Later in the evening, I found myself still thinking about the missing “dream” stone, and wondered how I could use this as a teaching moment. I have written social stories professionally for classrooms in Canada and here in the United States, but I haven’t really written my own social theater play yet, so I decided to do so last night. The story flowed, and 11 play pages later it was written. My intention is to read it to the classes that were present when the “dream” stone went missing. While we discuss the story, we can also discuss the concepts of taking things without permission, and the consequences of how people feel when something is taken.

There are a lot of good articles on the internet on “How to Write Social Stories”. My method is different. The focus is more on the story, and the lesson is woven subtly through it.

My experience has shown me that when writing social stories it is important not to be too preachy or even obvious. The lesson can be woven into the story, but a strong main character still needs to move the plot forward. If you know your audience well, you will know what sort of story will draw them in, so that they are so involved in the story they don’t realize it is teaching something until it is over. That’s when you can discuss both reading comprehension questions, and questions about the particular social topic.

(More on how to write social stories in the next blog post.)

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

Creating Plays with 1st Graders

dragonmasktheatrePlanning ahead before initiating a puppet play with first graders is important. I work as a tutoring teacher at a reputable Chinese after school. The curriculum I have created is a Creative Writing curriculum for grades 1-5, drawing on my experience of teaching storytelling and writing for children grades K-7 and my experience as a writer and author.

It’s important to have a structure with varied activity. I started our class with a reading of the play, “There’s a Dragon in the Library” by Dianne De Las Casas and Marita Gentry. As an introduction to the play, I read while the children used stick puppets to act out the story. This particular story has a lot of repetition so it is a good one for first graders to easily memorize some of the key phrases and repeat them together. The children enjoyed this very much.

Afterwards we discussed the play briefly, reinforcing familiarity and understanding of the story. This was followed with making their own Chinese dragon puppets. I tied in the dragon story and celebrating Chinese New Year with this project. I printed up copies of a Chinese dragon head ahead of time. The children colored and cut out their Chinese dragons, then glued them onto brown lunch bags to make their dragon puppets, or onto paper plates to make dragon masks. They proudly named their dragons and wrote their names on the back.

The children were so excited about their unique puppets and masks with their very individualized colors, that they asked if they could write dragon stories and make dragon plays. Of course, I said yes. It is wonderful when the actual writing and performing of puppet plays comes as a request from the children.

Some of the children already started writing their dragon stories in their writing journals. They are very excited. It is very rewarding to see them having so much fun while learning.

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