Grief: A 101 Guide to the Basics of Grief and Loss in Children.

Presented by Kat Brown

Tuesday 8 June 2021

3:45-5:45pm

Our school community has faced quite a few family losses over the years. It is vital that we find ways to support the families in our community. Teachers are often on the front line to support children and families after the loss of a loved one. This presentation by Kat Brown outlined the grief process for adults and children of different ages. This presentation was obviously a sensitive topic for all involved who have experienced loss and grief. This post has some of my notes and some resources that were shared with us. I want to thank Kat for sharing her story as a bereaved parent and the insight into the process of grief from her professional and personal experience.

My Notes:

As adults we process grief and loss in different ways, depending on the circumstances, the relationships, the individual experience, we all grieve in our own way. There are stages or processes in grief, but they are not linear, they are usually a mess of emotions that can happen at any given time or day.

So, this evening we have been presented with Professional Development by Kat Brown around grief and loss for children. We discussed if their experience of grief and loss is different to that of an adult? Yes and no. Depending on the stage of development a child is and what their circumstances were in their loss. It is important that educators and schools are ready to support families and especially their students through their grief and loss journey.

“Death neither obeys the school timetable nor appears on it…it enters the classroom without knocking”. Author unknown.

It is important to understand that sometimes the loss of family structure is not just from a death in a family, family break ups, divorce/ separations also hold grief and sense of loss, which we need to me mindful and supportive of.

Please see the link below to learn about the different reactions of children at different ages to the grief process.

Bereavement Reactions Of Children & Young People By Age Group: 

https://kidshealth.org.nz/bereavement-reactions-children-young-people-age-group

Some notes that I took away from this PD tonight that I felt important to document include:

  • Give our students the grace to grieve in their way.
  • Communicate with your student, give them choices and options for inclusion.
  • Be aware of triggers and “Firsts” to assist in supporting them through their grief. We cannot control the “triggers” like them hearing a song that reminds them of their loved one, or someone saying a phrase used by their loved one etc. But we can give students time to work through their triggers and come back to a place of calm. “Firsts” include events like birthdays, Christmas’, Easters, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc the first time having those events without their loved one. Be mindful of those first events and support the students through them.
  • I loved the idea of  a School Memorial Garden for community members who have passed. Something to consider in our school setting.

What You (Teachers/ Staff) Can Do:

  • Offer your sincere condolences, don’t say “I’m sorry” but “I’m sorry for your loss” or if you don’t know what to say: “I don’t know what to say, I’m sorry, I am thinking of you”
  • Offer reassurance. You are safe and you are cared for today. Offer them a safe place in your classroom, your classroom is a place of security, consistency and safety. You are not alone here. Children often experience fear after a loss of someone they love, fear that it may happen again, or something will happen to them. Remind them that they are safe with you.
  • Maintain routines. School, co-curricular activities, play dates etc Try to maintain some sort of normality in a time when everything else appears to have fallen apart for them.
  • Answer their questions simply and directly. If you don’t know the answer that is fine, talk to their family members, seek advice from your school counsellor.
  • Normalise feelings of grief. Talk about grief. Read books about grief, loss, death. Give them resources to assist them with making sense of this process.
  • Give your students space but also be available. Read their mood, offer assistance, be open and approachable.

Some books worth looking at:

Handout that was emailed to us from Kat Brown from Sids and Kids SA:

How Do Students Grieve?

This PD was worthwhile in providing us insight and some tools to support our students and families within the school community. Thank you Kat Brown.

No Computers to Be Found! No Screens at All! They’re Not Allowed in the Classroom!!!

Digital Citizenship in the PYP: Day 1 of 3

Workshop facilitator: Nathan Pope: @Chinaheadk12

Homework for this evening is to read this article:

At Waldorf School in Silicon Valley, Technology Can Wait – The New York Times (1)

Waldorf School frowns upon the use of computers and screens within classroom environments and discourages home use.

I had to go back and check the dates of this article and was amazed that this was only written in 2011… if you read the article you would understand my confusion.

The article goes on to explain that children do not need computers in education, instead this school is “focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans”.

My experience is polar opposite to this mindset.

Other points to note in summary of this article:

  • The debate comes down to subjectivity, parental choice and a difference of opinion over a single word: engagement.
  • Advocates for equipping schools with technology say computers can hold students’ attention and, in fact, that young people who have been weaned on electronic devices will not tune in without them.
  • “Teaching is a human experience,” he said. “Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.”
  • And where advocates for stocking classrooms with technology say children need computer time to compete in the modern world, Waldorf parents counter: what’s the rush, given how easy it is to pick up those skills?

My thoughts on these points:

  • The word engagement is key. Student engagement should not be centred around the use of technology. I believe hands on, visual and human based interactions in learning are of the upmost importance. Technology should be used to enhance the learning experience, using the tech is not the learning experience. We are not teaching technology for the sake of the tools, we are using technology to support the learning process. If we are just using the technology for the sake of learning about a new tool we need to seriously rethink our approaches to teaching and learning.
  • The whole notion of working with children who have been raised with a dependence on electronic devices to maintain attention and engagement is frankly a scary thought! I believe that balance with devices is important and children require boundaries with the amount of screen time they have day to day. It seems that it has become socially acceptable/ tolerated for people to look at their devices at ‘inappropriate’ times, adults are just as guilty of this offence as children. What happened to the good old days of eye contact and having a lunch with a friend, or listening in a staff meeting, a friendly interaction at the grocery store with the checkout attendant, without the interruption of a mobile phone notification? I’m thinking that people need to be taught digital manners as well as digital citizenship! Working in Junior Primary I’m constantly reminding and supporting children with eye contact, body language cues, reading people’s reactions, emotions and expressions. Look up and engage with others around you! There is no need to use a device to engage a student, sometimes the tech does that but it is not the reason we use it.
  • Human interactions are of vital importance. We are more capable of connecting and collaborating with people from all around the world than ever before. We can learn from others, critically reflect on content that we are sharing and question how we could solve problems. Critical thinking and problem solving is a big part of digital interactions. We can do this in person, face to face and we can also do this digitally. Some children are better at communicating online than in person, I personally find that I’m a better communicator whilst online too! Not that I don’t enjoy speaking with people, it’s simply that I’m capable of clearly communicating my points of view after reflection and consideration whilst typing on my blog rather than in real time conversation. I’m a slow processor and appreciate time to think things over before expressing my opinion.
  • Lastly, just how easy is it to pick up computer and digital technology skills? If you isolate a student from using a computer and then introduce it to them at a later stage in their development they won’t simply pick it up and know what to do with it. We learnt about the phrase ‘Digital Natives’ during our workshop today, please visit the podcast and article: http://podcast.concordiashanghai.org/blog/2014/11/17/tech-talk-roundtable-72-digital-natives-use-digital-spears/
  • Students are not born with tech knowledge and they need to be taught how to navigate through a digital world. So much of what they will need in their lives revolves around being a digital citizen and learning the skills required to collaborate, create and critically analyse things that are online.

Another great video to watch after todays session to get this point across:

Enjoyed the reading and looking forward to sharing this post for further discussion in tomorrow’s workshop.

Thanks for reading

Jade

Sensory Needs: Putting the Pieces Together

Presentor: Dino Mennillo: Occupational Therapy for Children

On the 10th of August I attended a sensory needs training session with a colleague, as we have a few students in our classes who require sensory stimulation and output.

Here are some of the notes taken and areas that I will be implementing in my teaching practice.

What is it, how do we recognise it?

  • Sensory integration therapy, can we offer this in the classroom? Yes. How?
  • Restless students, movement and fidgeting.

Sensory preferences: There are different types of sensory needs in students.

1.  Under sensitive: these are the students who love sand, messy play, seeks lots of movement.

2. Over sensitive: avoids noisy, messy play activities, doesn’t like to be touched.

3. Tactile: Deeper firmer touch is more tolerable, use putty, shaving cream, beans

Parent Involvement:

There was a huge focus on this point and I was pleased to hear it.

  • It is the parent’s job to get the foundations right. Your child’s body learns when they fall, we need to let them fall, play, climb etc. We are seeing too many children who are not being given the opportunity to play, take risks, climb trees etc. So their bodies are not learning movements and developing the core strength, coordination and balance they need. Get your children involved in sports, playing games outdoors, give them time to play and move.

Importance of Play

  • Parent Questions: What time does your child go to sleep at night? Sleep patterns, ask the basic questions. Screen time before bed? Activities before bed? Limit screen time before bed and first thing in the morning.  It is recommended that school age children from Reception to Year 7 get 12 hours of sleep per night. This should be brought up at Parent information evenings.

 Classroom Strategies to Implement:

  • Provide regular movement breaks. Get this happening before they get restless, short spouts of movement. Get up walk to drink taps, do a small lap of the yard, 5 star jumps on the spot. Get them moving, it will help with their concentration and physical need for movement. I have been implementing brain breaks in my class with students and have noticed improvements in focus, concentration levels and quality of work.
  • Bum bags for fidget toys. This strategy allows the sensory need to be fulfilled but does not distract the student from the learning. Keep the sensory toy in the bum bag, if it comes out of the bum bag it gets taken away.

Sensory Diet: The Key to Sensory Success

  • Intensity (when they have the physical activity make sure it is intense so that it last for the period of time to aid focus),
  • Duration (Short breaks for 2-5 minutes),
  • Frequency (Have the breaks every 15-20 minutes). Get the pattern for sensory breaks right.

Key Points

Discussions and Questions at the end:

  • Handwriting and Pencil grip. This can’t change after age of 5 years old. You can try but unlikely to change it. When writing your left hand is the helper, one side of the brain switches off. 2 minutes a day colouring in on a vertical surface will improve handwriting/ pencil grip.
  • Develop typing skills instead. To be typing both sides of the brain need to be working.

Complexity of Writing

Certificate of Attendance Dino Mennillo: Occupational Therapy for Children

This was a useful session and I was able to use some of the information and strategies shared within my current school context.

Welcome back to school! Let’s play!

IB: Play-Based Learning in the PYP

PAC: Wednesday 14th to Friday 16th of January 2015

Presenter: Jo Fahey & Workshop Facilitator: Heather O’Hara

IMG_3523

It’s only a couple of weeks until the children come back to school and I’m trying to get my junior primary headset back and what better way to do that than to engage with play-based learning!

For the last three years I’ve been teaching in Year 6 in the MYP, prior to that I was teaching Year 2’s in the PYP and now I’m back! Very excited to be back too. My colleagues in year 6 would often say to me, “You’re such a JP teacher”, usually as I sat on the floor with my students, materials sprawled across the floor. I am generally a visual and hands on learner and I believe this way of learning is natural for myself and many children. This is also known as exploratory learning or play-based learning. Using materials, props, resources to make meaning and sense of our world.

We listened to Jo Fahey about the importance of socio-dramatic play. Research has shown that students are highly engaged and participate in an authentic and mature way whilst role-playing. These play experiences help students to make sense of their world and how it works. It also allows students to take on roles and responsibilities as global citizens.

We then went to our workshop with Heather O’Hara. As part of this course we explored the definition of play:

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We then looked at the image of the child and what was at the core of what we do as educators to meet the needs of children. Why do we teach? What is the purpose behind what we do? What do we as educators do to support and develop the child?

Great read: Your Image of the Child: Where Teaching Begins by Loris Malaguzzi

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We had some interesting discussions about the words inquiry, play and learning. Are these words interchangeable? We couldn’t come to an agreement but it was agreed that playing is inquiry and learning is a product of both.

I loved exploring learning spaces at PAC. We visited the ELC and Reception rooms. In particular I enjoyed looking at this writing space pictured below. It showed intention and purpose, involved sensory elements and tied in students prior knowledge and resources to further develop their understandings. It was an inviting and engaging learning space to assist playing with writing.

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IMG_1822 IMG_1823

I have also been inspired by Reggio classrooms. Something I have been researching and trying to work on in my own learning spaces for the last few years.

Here are some links to my Pinterest boards regarding Reggio and Play-Based Learning:

https://www.pinterest.com/jadevidovich/reggio/

https://www.pinterest.com/jadevidovich/play-based-learning/

These images were in the PAC Early Learning Centre. I particularly liked the grass mat and wooden blocks and tree stumps. Things I have been on the look out for and am acquiring soon 🙂

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We explored this Central Idea:

Respectful and careful consideration of space, materials and relationships infuse all aspects of early childhood instruction.

From here my group came up with these lines of inquiry:

Developing Learning Spaces
Why is it important to change and develop learning spaces?
How can spaces be utilised effectively?
How can spaces be a provocation for learning?

Materials for Engagement & Exploration
How important are materials and resources for learning?
What types of materials engage the learner?
How do we select appropriate materials for learning?
Forming Positive Relationships
What does a positive relationship look like?
Why are positive relationships important to student well-being and their development?
How do we know that we are encouraging positive connections with self, peers, environment and the community/ wider-world?
It was great to listen to and discuss our own beliefs and experiences around these. We also had time to do our own research about each of these areas. Some other groups took us outside to explore how nature and the outdoor spaces around us can be learning spaces that engage students and activate inquiry and play-based learning. Visiting other learning spaces at PAC and this group time was probably the most enjoyable part of the course. I was also able to look at my current planners and think about how to set up my class as a provocation for our first inquiry. This was useful reflective time.
I’m looking forward to setting up my classroom for 2015.
Stay tuned for pictures of playful, intentional and purposeful learning spaces on my blog.
Thanks Heather O’Hara for running the course for the last three days. It has given me time to get my JP headset back and explore ideas for including more play in my learning space.
Lets start 2015!
Action Plan: 
1. Set up my classroom with the ideas I’ve accumulated over the last 3 days. Post pictures on my blog.
2. Share these play-based ideas with my staff and encourage this to be resourced and funded by the school.
3. Keep contact with the group to share our play-based learning strategies. Do this via Twitter, Pinterest and the Wiki.