Dr. Rebecca Isbell’s Blog

I thought you might be interested in the interview I recently did for a publication in India.

As we said in our past communication, “the world is shrinking.” But, what I find amazing is how many similar interests and concerns we share.

Collecting ideas and possibilities,

While we are confined in our homes, the world is shrinking around us. This past week I had the amazing opportunity to provide the keynote for the International Summit on Early Years, or ISEY 2020, originated in India. I learned so much about the shrinking world as we developed a plan for making new connections – a dream that became possible.

When I first received the invitation to be a part of this summit, I looked on my globe to locate India. I had never been to India but had read about this beautiful country. I wondered how far India was from my home in Tennessee in the United States. A search on a mobile device told me it was 7,750 miles from my home to Delhi, India. What did I have to share with leaders, teachers, and parents in this distant land? How could we make the impossible possible? What topics would connect to early childhood educators in India?

I began collaborating with the Summit Chair, Meghna Yadav and her colleagues, Jananee Gangadhar and Akshay Chpora.  I found that we share a concern. We all wanted to create a wonderful world that supported the development of young children. Early Educators in India were interested in developing creative thinkers, problem solvers, and communicators. Our common commitment helped us overcome some of the challenges that are a part of this new adventure. The first issue was the time difference – a nine-and-a-half-hour difference. How can we do a live keynote for a conference that is originating nine hours from me? What platform would work for India and my team in the US? So many questions and issues to be addressed. However, we developed a plan of action and solved the problems as they appeared.

Just Do it!

On Sept 4, I presented LIVE the Keynote on Meeting the Challenge of the 21st Century at 7:30 AM in Tennessee and 5:00 PM time in India.  We used an online platform called StreamYard and connected our mobile phones by WhatsApp. Over 2,500 people watched in India, UK, US, and Finland. Although we were thousands of miles apart, we connected virtually, answered questions, and celebrated Uniting for Young Children theme as we strive together to nurture their creative thinking.

When we feel so isolated today, it is wonderful to realize that people throughout the world share similar interest in developing the creative potential of ALL children. We are connected, we are working together, and we can make a difference in the lives of Young Children.

Dedicated to expanding the thinking of All Young Children!

Gardening has long been one of my interests, but I have seldom had the sufficient time to obtain great results. I have always tried to grow flowers and not vegetables.

This summer, along with many more people, I have had the time to focus on planting, watering, fertilizing, and enjoying the beauty of my very own flowers. Today I have fresh flowers on my table, in the kitchen, and next to my computer. They bring me joy!

As I watched my flowers bloom, I was reminded how we, as early childhood educators, nurture the growth of young children. Fröbel called the first preschool programs he designed in Germany as Kindergarten or Children’s Garden. It is a name that is appropriate for many early childhood programs in 2020.

We plant the seeds of learning in young minds that will develop for many years. We water their creative ideas as they think and express their thoughts. We fertilize their possibilities as we provide unique materials, variety of choices, and encourage curiosity.

As early childhood educators, you have the amazing opportunity to provide the support, environment, and foundation that will have wonderful results – young children who grow and bloom!

During these difficult times let us not forget how important you are in helping young children bloom!

 

I am forever encouraging you to try something new, and now that I have some time, I am venturing out into a different territory. Although I have enjoyed music and the arts for years, I have never painted.

So, this week I had my first lesson on painting with acrylics. I knew that the right teacher would make all the difference in my beginning experiences, so I chose carefully. Beverly, my teacher, is a talented local artist who is known for her innovative and unique mosaics as well as colorful paintings. In my contacts with her, I knew she would help me gain the basic skills but allow me to do it my own way.

In this new endeavor, I would need lots of support as I collected new techniques, tried new materials, and made choices.  It was a little scary when I first looked at the blank canvas. What could it be? Could I do it? Were my expectations too high?

As we began painting Three Trees in a Forest, I was cautious, shaky, and intimidated.  Beverly’s positive words encouraged me: “That’s the way,” “Looking good!”, “Nice!” and “It doesn’t have to be perfect!” Interwoven in her conversations were instructions for how to hold the brush, thin the thick paint, and make my own color.

It was exciting and exhilarating!

As I grow as a painter, I will share with you my feelings and hesitations.

So, today I am challenging you to venture into something new…and feel the excitement of your creative juices being set free!

Growing creatively,

Yesterday I listened to the eulogies dedicated to John Lewis from Atlanta, Georgia. Many powerful speakers shared Lewis’s principals that ruled his life: Kindness and Truth.

One gem, shared by Former President Obama, was the story he told of John Lewis when he was a little boy.  He was quiet and studious. His observant mother recognized that he was special and told him, “If you put it in your head, no one can take it away from you.” What a wonderful message his mother gave to her son. He did put so much in his head. He read, studied, and led.

In our difficult times this amazing leader and person of character will be missed.

It makes us reflect deeply about the positive messages we send to our children.

In these difficult times, an essential survival skill is to be able to deal with new issues, problems, and find innovative solutions. How can leaders develop creative thinking in their children, teachers, and themselves?

I have designed a special session for Directors and Leaders that focuses on creative problem-solving skills and gives you tools to use in these changing times. Join me on Leaders Lounge to learn ways of gaining the 21st Century skills that will help you and your children develop into the thinkers, communicators, collaborators, and problem-solvers who will change our world. Together we can create positive changes that will serve us well in this new environment!

For 4 days, July 27-30, The Leader’s Lounge, a solutions-based program, is bringing you presentations from 19+ engaging experts who have found ways to simplify and strategize, educate and eliminate all things unnecessary to give EC leaders the freedom they need to run their schools, serve their families, and motivate their teams. PLUS – You can earn up to 20 clock hours of training with an all-access pass.

Every day we are receiving negative news and depressing predictions that I began to wonder if we could at least find some positive happenings in today’s world.  I became attentive to the creative thinking that was being demonstrated throughout our country during this difficult time.  Perhaps this was the light I was seeking to move me to a more positive way of thinking.

Once I focused on the creativity of teachers, parents, and health care providers, I was delighted to find many examples that demonstrated their amazing abilities to solve problems and come up with workable solutions. So many unique possibilities were found that it was difficult for me to decide which examples to share with you.

For this blog, I have selected five remarkable examples from hundreds of possibilities that I was able to identify. I hope these will spark your thinking so you will be able to appreciate the creative ways we have coped during these new challenges we had never anticipated.

Five Creative Innovations

 

First Challenge

Insufficient number of masks for health care workers, and community members.

Solution: Making basic mask patterns and then moving to making unique masks that demonstrate design flexibility. This creative fluency was seen in the many variations of materials used and ways to secure the mask in position.

 

Second Challenge

Schools and Early Childhood programs are closed, compelling parents and caregivers to plan learning opportunities at home for their children.

Solution:  Determine how materials distributed by school and childcare teachers can be used in the home environment. Providing more opportunities for play with materials that are found at home. Identifying more outdoor time with parents and children exploring together.  Using additional time for reading wonderful books and finding the joy inside the stories, illustrations, and meaning verbal interactions.

 

Third Challenge

Some children need more help than parents or caregivers can provide at home.

Solution: There are many possibilities for supporting learning but one of the most interesting was offered by the Retired Teacher Association of Illinois.  They volunteered to mentor students who need extra help in reading, writing, math, or sciences. One 85-year-old retired teacher, with over 30 years of experience, explained that her life work was to help children learn, and now she could continue doing just that. Her grandson has helped her refine for technology skills.

 

Fourth Challenge

Communicating with others when you are confined to your home.

Solution: Use of Facetime, Zoom, and other technology platforms offer connection with coworkers, friends, and family members. An interesting twist of technology was to find ways to communicate to Health Care Workers how much they are appreciated and valued.

 

Fifth Challenge

We have been unable to be present at live performances of theater, concerts, or visit art galleries.

Solution:  Amazing opportunities have been developed for virtual experiencing musical performances, Broadway shows, and museum visits. One of my favorites was the inventive way the Toronto Orchestra was able to play together from their homes and preform a spectacular rendition of Copeland’s Appalachian Spring.

Enjoy the video!

In this time of new challenges, it is encouraging to recognize that our creative thinking is alive and thriving!

In the next few weeks, take note of the wonderful creative ideas and solutions that are occurring around you…

You are creative,

In early February, Anchorage AEYC held their annual early childhood conference. For over a year, I had been communicating with Christie and Cecilia (co-conference directors) learning about their members and their interests. These two dynamos planned and implemented a fabulous conference with early childhood educators from throughout the state.  Some teachers traveled hours in small bush planes to attend this quality professional development opportunity.

Anchorage was experiencing a warm front, with day temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and snow falling on most of the days of the conference. But that did not slow down these dedicated early childhood educators who are committed to creating a nurturing environment for Alaska’s young children.

My keynote focused on inspiring the 4C’s: Creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking in young children. The participants were so responsive as we waved our hands, sang songs, and discussed the amazing capabilities of young children. On the final day, I closed the conference with “The Story Behind the Humor” where we shared humorous moments in early childhood classrooms. We laughed at the funny stories, discussed the learnings they demonstrated, and shared personal experiences. It was a great ending for an exceptional conference!

It is amazing that in the middle of winter, and in Alaska, I had the warmest experience of 2020 so far! It happened because of my interactions with these dedicated and caring early childhood teachers and directors who work diligently every day to make life wonderful for young children and their families.

Together we can change the lives of young children and support their families!

As you make plans for 2020, here are 20 ideas to get you off to a creative start.

For you

  1. Do something you have never done before. (What will it be?)
  2. Wear an item of clothing or jewelry you have never worn.
  3. Notice the change of the seasons and identify your observations.
  4. Drive to work using a different route.
  5. Try a new recipe or change the ingredient in an old favorite.
  6. Wear two different earrings or two different shoes.
  7. Use a new word or phrase in your conversations. Observe the response.
  8. Bring something you love to work and share it with others.
  9. Actively listen to someone else’s story.
  10. Have a conversation with someone significantly older or younger than you.

With your children

  1. Respond positively to children’s unique ideas. (Wow, amazing idea! You are really thinking.)
  2. Read a new story to your children that is intriguing and thought provoking.
  3. Add a large piece of colorful fabric to the block center and observe what happens.
  4. Include a beautiful new item in your classroom. (a picture, sculpture, pottery, weaving, collage)
  5. Provide a new center in your classroom that builds on your children’s interest. (Nature Center, Fitness Spa, Inventors Lab)
  6. Introduce a finger play or poem that you haven’t used in several years. Add motions, sound effects, or music to create a new version.
  7. Add a collection of interesting hats to the Home Living Center.
  8. Collect paper that has texture and include it in the Art Studio for painting, cutting, and constructing.
  9. Think about ways to give your children more choices during the day so they can become decision makers.
  10. Design a quiet space that will provide a place where a child can find a place to calm, think, or have creative ideas.
  11. Ask your children what they would like to add or change in their environment.  Let them help make some of these changes.

Everyday we have the opportunity to try something new or do it the same way we have always done it. Make 2020 the year you break out and try new things, adventure into new possibilities, and nurture your creativity.  You and your children will be glad you did.

Grow creatively,

Let’s reflect on our wonderful week in Nashville with thousands of Early Childhood Educators. What an exhilarating experience connecting with long time colleagues and new found friends!

Sonia and I visited our latest book published by NAEYC in their bookstore, Nurturing Creativity: An Essential Mindset for Young Children’s Learning.

On Saturday, creative teachers and students joined us in our early morning NAEYC session, “Nurturing Creativity Throughout the Day in Early Childhood.”

The problem posed: Create a sculpture using all the people in your group.

  • Collaborate to decide what you want to create.
  • Construct your original design.
  • Elaborate on your idea by using colorful scarves and flashlights to highlight your sculpture.

At the close of our session, they collaborated in group activity. Here are some of the Structures and Creations that were completed!

Let’s celebrate these Creative Early Childhood Educators who are supporting young children’s development!

Power to your profession!