Happy Thanksgiving from Redleaf Press

November 25, 2015



We point to our heart

November 18, 2015

quote for blogAsk a child to point to herself. Where does her index finger land?

If you or I were to point to ourselves, we would likely place our hand on the  same destination as that child.

We point not to our forehead, not to our stomach, not to our ear or our other hand. We point to our heart.

I point to my heart because that’s where I live. I live through my heart. I see the world through my heart. I breathe through my heart. I listen to people with my heart. Heart to heart conversations are, for me, timeless, precious. “Your vision becomes clear only when you can look deeply into your own heart.” (Carl Jung).

I point to my heart because I “take heart” when a child smiles. I am “heartened” when I am in the presence of kindness and beauty.

Often I “wear my heart on my sleeve.”

We know we are approaching truth when our actions are “heartfelt”, when we open our heart, when our “heart is touched” by someone’s love, when we have faith to “harden not our hearts”.

We long to get to the “heart of the matter”. We feel “heartbroken” when we are hurt and heartache when we lose a person we love. My heart broke when I lost my sister Karen on May 26th. In so many ways, we identify our true selves with what is in our hearts.

We educators also go to school and more school and more and more school to educate our minds, empower them with knowledge, broaden them with theories and research, deepen them with insight and perspective. And, in the end (as in the beginning) we find our true self in our heart. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” Maya Angelou’s heart reminds us.

We are our hearts. So, we need to tend to and care for our hearts as much as we pursue knowledge because if that big bear of a muscle fails, we have nothing left.

Do you tend to and care for your heart? John Donahue tended his heat when he made decisions to “waste his heart on fear no more”. Does he speak for you?

He does for me.

the surgery team

The surgical team

Two week ago, I tended to my heart. I chose to surrender my heart to four and one-half hours of flat-on-my-back surgery. Such surgical tending was necessary for my heart to beat effectively.



The surgery failed. I did not.

I faced my tigers above, tigers below, and tigers within, those clawsome forces that can ignite PTSD flashbacks, and addle me with panic so strong I want to run away. I did not run.

I did the opposite. I shared my fears. I asked for help. I admitted deep vulnerability. I owned my disability, PTSD. The surgery failed. I did not.

The surgery failed. My surgeon did not. Dr. Robotis and his team worked competently, intricately, and diligently to make things right. About thirty percent of the time, heart ablation surgery doesn’t work. When that happens, the surgery needs to be repeated, sometimes more than twice or three times. One colleague tells me a friend required nine surgeries. Another colleague knows a doctor whose heart didn’t heal until the fifth surgery.

So, I ask: What is the deeper message, the second, third, or ninth chance when something we need fails us? You’ve faced disappointments, loss, failures. What does your heart tell you about loss?

I do not love the saying: One step forward; two steps backward. I do not love victim status. I love my life’s unfolding adventure. Today, I feel more confident facing the unknown. Of course, I may still get scared. Terrified. Tigers can circle with neon eyes. Some hearts take a lifetime to heal.

Today, as I just begin to understand this pothole in my pathway, I make choices. I chose to:

  • See my heart as a metaphor, an emblem of the truth, of deeper understanding;
  • Acknowledge generations of heart disease in my family, much of which was incurable at the time or too frightening for ancestors to face;
  • View heart disease itself as a metaphor. Mine is a family of heartbreak, mental illness and hidden abuse, none of which we are supposed to name.
  • Accept the gift I am given: As my heart heals, my actions can begin to reverse the cycles of heartache handed down through generations.

When I was a child wounded by my parents’ abuse, I learned from my older sister, Karen, to swallow my grief to avoid, “If you want something to cry about, I’ll give you something to cry about”. Karen modeled for me my family’s “grin and bear it” motto. Even then, I walked my own pathway, using words, writing my parents: “You are choking my heart”.

I believe my parents, their parents, and generations tracing back to island nations scared by warfare lived as best they could. Who would want to pass cruelty and disease onto their children? I love my parents; they did the best they could.

Now the work is mine: as I face this 2nd, 5th, ninth chance to breathe freely, to walk with a stride, to swim without fear of breathlessness, I am grateful.

I may never love surgery. I may never love facing emotional flashbacks. I may never love the possibility that my heart could remain wounded until the end of my days. I can love the hope that comes from having done my best. I can love the belief that the healing I seek will help others. I do love walking alongside my tigers, rather than running from them.

Poets and sages tell the truth in a deeper way than facts and figures:

  • Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince knows: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
  • Thich Nhat Hanh notes: “The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom you have in your heart”.
  • Martin Luther King reflects: “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart”.

My task is to listen more fully, to hear and one day better understand the “inaudible language” of my heart. Yes, I will revel at the NAEYC conference this week, pacing myself to be kind to my heart. Yes, I will fly solo to discover Sri Lanka the next week, and join a small group adventure to the “Soul of India” in the weeks that follow. Yes I will celebrate my seventieth birthday New Year’s Eve with authentic gratitude. And yes, I will waste my heart on fear no more.

May we “do at last what we came here for”: claim our birthright to wonder and joy.

Apple picking one week post surg

Enjoying life post-surgery

~ Holly Elissa Bruno

Halloween Science: Some pumpkin fun for children

November 4, 2015

s.t.e.m. ICON

Do you have some left over pumpkins from your Halloween celebration? Or perhaps your local store or garden shop has some extra stock of gourds?

If so, you are well on your way to a fun science and math lesson for the children in your class. STEM page 1

STEM page 2

You can find this and many more science and math activities designed for young children in Teaching STEM In The Early Years. It is never to early to start getting children excited about science, technology, engineering, and math!

Practical tips for 4 common winter illnesses

October 28, 2015

As a caregiver of children you probably see your fair share of illness, especially in the winter months. Children are stuck indoors, spending their time close together, and, of course, they love to share everything, including germs!

The first step to fighting common winter illnesses is prevention. That means parents, families, and other caregivers need to be informed about the illness and how to head it off. The images below are great to share with them as we head into colder weather and germ sharing season.

The Common Cold


Cold infoEar Infections

Ear infections

Ear infection infoSore Throats

Sore throats

Sore throat infoThe Flu


Flu info

All of this information came from Hip on Health by Charlotte M. Hendricks, PhD, where you can find tons of practical and easy-to-understand information for a full range of common health topics for caregivers and families. Good luck this winter season and stay well!

Redleaf Lane honored with a Moonbeam Award

October 21, 2015

 NNoah cover artoah Chases the Wind was released in April but was a special story for the staff of Redleaf Press long before that. Many of us instantly fell in love with Noah and the magical world he creates for himself. Just like first-grader Jewel, who reviewed it for the San Francisco Book Review, we enjoy going back to the illustrations time and again to take in the jewel tones and enchanting settings.

This book embodies what we hope to accomplish with the Redleaf Lane children’s stories. Noah encourages children to ask questions and learn in their own special way. It also advances acceptance of those on the autism spectrum and all the wonderful gifts they possess. Moonbeam silver medal

That is why we were so excited to find out Noah Chases the Wind was chosen as a silver medalist in the 2015 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards! These awards encompass all that Redleaf Press strives for in our books and brings together a stellar selection of children’s book year after year. The Moonbeam Awards were founded nine years ago “to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading.”

We invite you to check out Noah and encourage you to take a look at the great list of books that were honored with a Moonbeam Award this year.

And of course, congratulations go out to author Michelle Worthington and illustrator Joseph Cowman!

Tigers Above; Tigers Below—A Guest Post from Holly Elissa Bruno

October 14, 2015

Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”

~ Pema Chodron

specialguestblogger“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” From The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World by Pema Chodron

Truth is I’d rather run. Board a plane. Take a hike. Read a book. Listen to Brahms or Marvin Gaye or Aretha. Jump out of my skin. Escape.

I have a certain expertise at running: I’m an escape artist. Houdini and me: we have got our act down! I have run from things scary, painful, disorienting or just unfamiliar.

I learned to be an escape artist as a child. When violence threatened at 12 Orchard Drive, I climbed a tree. I climbed a hilltop. I hid invisible (I prayed) behind a formal chair in my mother’s (un-lived-in living room). Later on, I hid in so many extracurricular activities, chose universities far away, accepted jobs that kept me from tigers.

I became adept at recalling only fully-lighted moments from my childhood while turning my back on dark memories where tigers lurked.

Those tigers are smart cookies. They took up residence inside my heart so I would never be without them. Even in what appears to others as a safe place, I feel the tigers prowling. My heart beats a fast and breath-taking tattoo.

Another tiger from my travels

Another tiger from my travels

Now to be fair, I also can summon up courage. Not every day. Not in every situation. Not when I’m feeling low in confidence or energy or both. But, yes. I have faced my tigers and even at times befriended them. Those tigers can be my best teachers if I’m confident. As Eleanor Roosevelt reminds me: “We must do the thing we fear the most. We must face down the fear.” You know how lovely it feels to face a fear and reclaim your serenity? That’s one sweet reward.

So what’s frightening me like an out-of-control, plummeting jet? Heart surgery. I have chosen to undergo a minimum of three hours of heart ablation surgery on October 30 at University of Massachusetts Hospital in Worcester, MA. I have chosen this path. Why do I walk into the mouths of hungry tigers?

Three different courses of medication haven’t cured my overworking heart which beats samba or rumba or salsa or the jerk, but almost never, the steady foxtrot. In August, a four-legged octopus, heart monitor with gooey sensors in gooey weather, clung to me like my BFF. “The disease is increasing” reported the monitor.

But I knew that. I knew I could stride for one minute and not be able to catch my breath in the next. Swimming in clear New England lakes? Brilliant until I couldn’t breathe mid-stroke. And keynoting? I fell off the stage in Austin, TX, in a dearth of oxygen. Fortunately, I remembered an old lesson: roll. So I rolled, stood up and kept going (while participants smilingly shook bottles of Aleve if I needed them). This low-to-no oxygen state is not the way I want to live, given I have a choice.

So, having gotten the test results, while waiting for my busy cardiologist, Dr. Dionyssius Robotis, to join me in the consultation room, I looked out the window over the treetops, breathed in and exhaled this decision: quality of life wins. Fear loses. “Set me up for surgery,” I said without question.

The man cares: He’s a surgeon with a concerned heart who looks in my eyes and insists: “Call me anytime, dee-ah”. He rearranged his schedule so I could get in soon and between my travels. I felt resolved. Decisions made are more assuring to me than decisions pending.

That was then: August. Sunny August. Raspberry-picking August. Easy as Sunday morning August.

This is chill-in-the air October. October is “under the knife” month. October is “what on earth was I thinking? What if I chicken out?” month. Maybe you know how this goes: a decision that sounded good gets scary as the change (aka loss, threat, unseen territory) comes closer? Tigers in autumn grow hungrier.

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth”: How is it that this fear I am feeling is a slow albeit leaky boat to the truth? Maybe truth isn’t as noble as I believe it to be. Denial: now I know denial like I know how to run. Denial has often been my drug of choice as I step toward the precipice.

What’s scaring the blazes out of me? OK, I’ll say it. Think of me what you will. PTSD can terrorize me. From ongoing childhood trauma, including sexual abuse, any unwanted touching, especially an invasion of my body causes (what feels like) unbearable flashbacks. Flashbacks so terrifying and shaming, I’d almost rather die.

Only while confident, can I acknowledge PTSD as my most rigorous professor.

What’s really frightening me? OK, I’ll say it. I’ll humiliate myself by getting so scared I’ll run barefooted and banshee screaming out of the hospital in my (decidedly un-chic) johnnie. What’s really frightening me? I’ll lose it and go crazy like my mom, who (bless her) was afflicted with mental illness and whom I saw lose it too many times. What’s really frightening me: I’m not sure I have enough trust to surrender to the unknown.

What’s really frightening me is Fear’s tiger-y cousin, Anticipatory Anxiety, the storm before the calm. I have scared myself before root canals, cataract surgery, the Bar Exam, flying for 14 hours over the Pacific, leaping from a zip-line platform in Tikal, Guatemala, climbing up the heathered hillside of the Mare’s Tail waterfall in the Scottish Borders.

Stepping back, I was able to find my way to the other side in each of these (once) scary events and come out triumphant (albeit exhausted, but smiling) on the other side. The only fear I was not able to face was the climb up the mountainside in Scotland. A crisply elegant hike up the purple path was exhilarating until I looked down. Down. Way down. I froze. Tigers below. Tigers above. Tigers within. I forced my frozen body to descend one step at a time while looking only at my feet, not down the precipice.

Which of these dynamics will be in my heart on October 30 as I await the opening of the surgery room doors? Will I find courage and trust? Will I lose myself in fear?

I want to believe I will face my fear, stare it down, be strong in my vulnerability, by asking for and accepting every ounce of help that is offered:

  • Anesthesiologist? I need medication as much to counter the PTSD as I do to relax and let the machines do my breathing.
  • Cardiologist? Be your best self.
  • Surgery team: I need your expertise.
  • Hospital staff: I need soothing, comfort and kindheartedness. Inside me a terrified little girl needs to know she is cared for and safe. Hold my hand.

My friend Steve will accompany me on pre-surgery day; he’ll listen for what I may miss. My friend, Marina, will move in with me to bring chicken soup, pho, laughter, chamber music, Turner Classic Movies, and a steady supply of novels and hugs. My son, Nick, will ride the doctors insisting: “You do right by my Mom!”

And my dear friends and family are and will be praying for me. So many kind-hearted people want me to have a second chance. Can I be as kind to me as they are?

Hey, I’ll pray for me. I’ll pray to reach for the sweetest of strawberries. Tigers above and tigers below, with neon yellow eyes, take a rest. Tigers within, stick out your paw and pull in your claws. I’m going to look you in the eye and not run. I’ll share the strawberries.

And here’s something new. I want to choose faith over white-knuckle will-power. I want to acknowledge “my” fear, claim it as a predictable physiological, not out-of-control insane, response to a real threat.

May I befriend you, my tigers? How gloriously relieving to imagine you by my side as we stride (or even unsteadily tiptoe) shoulder to shoulder into the operating room.

Is the back-to-school glow gone? Bring the shine back

September 30, 2015

For most of us school has been back in session for several weeks. The luster of the new clothes, backpacks, and classmates has begun to wear off. So what can you do to re-engage students and get them excited to be there again?

Here are a few ideas to bring back a little of the novelty that sparked excitement the first week of school:

Change the environment

Consider new décor or a new classroom set-up. It can be as simple as re-arranging tables or as thorough as starting from scratch. Involving the children can get them excited about the changes and can be a great way to teach them about a variety of topics.

room layout

Refresh the space with a new layout. Source: Pedagogy and Space by Linda M. Zane, EdD

Change seating

Even after a short time together children can start to congregate with the same group of people. These friendships can be very good for their social and emotional development, but moving them to sit by someone new can also be a good way to foster friendship among the whole class.

Get outdoors

As fall begins the days get shorter and that can make children feel even more like they are “stuck” at school. Getting out in the sun and fresh air year round can be a great way to wake up and get a little energy for the next activity or lesson. Besides, a trip outdoors can be full of educational opportunities.


Source: Celebrate Nature! Activities for Every Season by Angela Schmidt Fishbaugh

Enlist parents and family

Everyone is in this together and the grind of getting ready in the morning and evening activities is most likely taking a toll on the whole family. So maybe it is time to re-engage the whole support system and bring back the excitement of going back to school.

Consider having a fall festival, classroom party, or other fun activity for the whole family to partake in. This is also a great opportunity for you to get to know families better and of them to get to know each other. If they feel more engaged they will be more excited about working together and encouraging their children to enjoy school.

How do you keep children engaged as the school year gets underway and the shine of the new year has worn away?

Celebrating second chances

September 23, 2015

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”

~ Jacques Barzun

Teachers often feel like they are a world apart from other professions. Misunderstood. Overlooked. Undervalued.

Those emotions are why we were so excited to find out Holly Elissa Bruno’s newest book, The Comfort of Little Things: An Educator’s Guide to Second Chances, won the silver medal in the personal growth and motivation category of the Living Now book awards. award winner

This award program is designed to “honor those kinds of life-changing books” and “celebrate the innovation and creativity of books that enhance the quality of life”.

We see the amazing work teachers do daily and how they enhance the quality of life for every child and student they come in contact with. This honor brings that recognition to a wider audience and shows the valuable insights the profession can bring to all of us as students of life.

As Holly points out . . .

Life’s too short to do anything but enjoy it daily.

As hard-working educators dedicated to making a difference, however, it’s easy for us to become weighed down with work and worry. Burdened with the weight of too many responsibilities, we sometimes have trouble looking up. Being burdened, it’s hard for us to remember what it originally meant to educate: To draw out that which lies within. (Latin, educare) What lies within is our birthright to joy.

This book is about unburdening. It’s about looking up. It’s about choosing to take (and offer) as many second chances as our hearts can bear. It’s about reclaiming the joy and humor and passion that are rightfully ours, especially when our joy, humor, and passion are under threat. It’s about drawing out the promise that lies within you, me, and each person we touch.

As we do this, we find and share in all the little comforts awaiting us in our everyday lives.

             ~ From The Comfort of Little Things

We hope you will join us in saying “Congratulations” to Holly Elissa Bruno and all teachers for this second chance at the recognition you all deserve.

“I have to tell Gwen!”: A guest post from Holly Elissa Bruno

September 16, 2015

Gwen enjoying two favorites – the outdoors in fall and a good murder mystery. Photo: Terri Tucker

Homage to Gwen L. Morgan, 90, who died peacefully at home in Lincoln, MA, on September 4, after decades of innovative life-changing contributions to the early childhood field.


Angels. My Mother loved angels. So, when I traveled afar or down the street to my local Home Goods store, my eyes scanned for the loveliest angel to take home to my Mother.

My Mother died on July 4th sixteen summers ago. But even today, when my eye spots an angel, my heart whispers: “Your Mom would love that.”

If you have reached for your phone, ready to text or call someone you love who is no longer on earth, you know this feeling of incompletion: The ache of loss, of something important forever unfinished. We humans need connection; missed connections hurt.

I can’t tell when these moments of yearning will come. Sixteen years ago, I ran from their sadness. Today, I am stronger in my vulnerability. I am more willing to stop and to wait and to breathe until the memory that wants to come to me unfurls. And there in the light is my mother: healthy, smiling, happy even, spinning her once agile body into a cartwheel each spring just for me. In these moments, angels gather for us both.

This summer in West Dummerston, Vermont, my colleague and friend, Kay Albrecht, and I sat and reminisced, feet up, savoring bowls of lush fresh raspberries splashed with Vermont cream and Vermont maple syrup. Such an unusually easy day this was for two recovering workaholics: swimming in the crystalline West River, picking raspberries at Whetstone Farm in Marlboro, marveling at cheese being crafted by hand at the Grafton Cheese factory, laughing our way through Chinese Checkers.

With Brahms’ mellow Opus 26 dancing us toward the sunset, Kay told me of her mother’s time in Seattle during World War II, working at a child care program for shipyard families involved in the war effort. I dropped my spoon: “Kay! Your Mom worked at a Kaiser Center? With 24/7 care? Where children’s bathtubs were high enough so teachers wouldn’t hurt their backs?” “She did”, Kay smiled. “My Mom did”.

And that’s when I knew I had to tell Gwen. “Gwen would love this!”

Gwen Morgan discovered the brilliance and brevity and the near-perfection of the Kaiser Centers. She loaded students’ notebooks with mimeographed histories of Kaiser’s model environments. Kaiser Centers defined “family-friendliness” for Gwen. With doctors and nurses on staff, healthy nutrition, replacement shoelaces, haircuts, immunizations, innovative curriculum and sick care, meals-to-go, children were safe and free to learn. For staff, complementary ideals were practiced: the best teachers were sought out, well-paid and highly respected. Problems were identified and resolved with urgency through collaborative team meetings. Everyone’s input mattered.

The War had to be won; shipbuilding parents needed to know their children were well and happily learning. First rate early childhood education was as essential to the nation’s well-being as it is in this moment.

Gwen challenged her students, mostly childcare directors, who studied at Wheelock College’s Summer Seminars in the heat of July with questions like:

  • Can we provide the same quality care and education today as Kaiser did at wartime?
  • How do we solve the “trilemma” of depending on tuition for our livelihood, especially in difficult economic times for families?

Students sat rapt. I joined them, even though I was Gwen’s co-instructor. We were all learning, fascinated, and inspired. We called Gwen early childhood’s “national treasure” because she raised and worked to resolve long-avoided seemingly insurmountable deeper issues.

Gwen noticed what mattered to our profession. She noticed and she acted. And when she acted, she made a difference.

If you didn’t know Gwen, or if you did, please take this moment to read Ellen Galinsky’s Huffington Post blog about Gwen’s passing. You too will marvel at the innovations Gwen envisioned and made real:

  • Research and Referral agencies that help parents find just the right child care for their children? Thank Gwen for that.
  • Not just compilation but incisive assessments of each state’s licensing standards for quality. Gwen did that.

Thank Gwen too for persuading the American Business Collaborative (ABC) to fund leadership courses for directors across the country. Courses like the Human Side of Management and Family Friendly Programs, Managing Infant Toddler Programs and Legal and Financial Issues.

Gwen and her Wheelock team (led by the gifted Andi Genser) at the Institute for Career Development insisted that early childhood leaders deserved the best of everything: theory, practice, policy, trends, analysis of underlying and overarching issues, instructors and above all, the chance to meet and support and learn from one another.

Gwen and team also saw to it that the ABC funded each of these graduate courses (or undergraduate if the student needed), to be conducted at a hotel or resort or retreat center designed to help each director feel honored. Because, Gwen said, directors deserve to be honored, pampered and respected. Above all, respected. Directors needed to be away from their everyday demanding schedules; so, these courses included overnights and meals served in appreciative surroundings.

Teams of instructors were trained and sent forth in the fireworks from Gwen’s academic canon including Judy Bencivengo, Luis Hernandez, Sue Twombly, Lui Reyes, Kate Lafayette, Margaret Leitch Copeland, Bess Emmanual, Barbara Bagwell, Lori Harris, Patty Hnatiuck, Marta Rosa, and me.

Off I went to Phoenix, Park City, UT, the Poconos, Princeton, NJ, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Tampa, Fort Worth, Austin, TX, Washington, DC, Lexington, KY, and Oklahoma City to teach the Human Side of Management. And to learn by listening deeply to each director’s sharing. We had five days to co-create a cohesive learning community. Those directors and that community would be charged to make a difference individually and together. Our five days together was just a beginning.

In Huntington, WV, thanks to collaboration with Norma Gray, Gwen’s visionary colleague, our Human Side of Management course gathered directors from the far reaches of that state for the first time. Suzi Brodoff, Helen Post-Brown, Marsha Dawson, Judi Olson caught fire and formed “Directors on a Mission” (DOM) to persuade the legislature to improve funding and raise standards for young children. DOM prevailed. Children were honored. Teachers were honored. Determined directors established the West Virginia Leadership Academy which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2016. Directors report that this Academy, based in Gwen’s vision, has been “life changing”.

I too caught fire and began to write articles combining what I knew about academic management and law with the genius ideas and experiences of the directors I met. It’s no accident that my first published article was “SUPERDIRECTOR: All things to all people but one (yourself!)”, followed by “Gossip-free zones: Problem solving to replace power struggles”. My first book Leading on Purpose: Emotionally Intelligent Early Childhood Administration (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and second, Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs (Teachers College Press, 2012) all were based in the heartfelt experiences of our students.

Gwen said no textbook already written could embrace the concepts of her expansive curriculum. So, I did my best to write that text. Happily, What You Need to Lead: Emotional Intelligence in Practice (NAEYC, 2012) is a best-seller. Gwen smiled.

We called Gwen a “national treasure”. Gwen also was one tough cookie, brilliant and prickly at the same time. Gwen and I disagreed often and passionately and remained close. When Wheelock’s air conditioning malfunctioned, I extended our afternoon class so we could dismiss the evening class when the building would be sweltering. Out of the elevator and into the classroom like Clark Kent with glasses, Gwen resolutely announced the evening class would be held. We could not alter the set schedule. We soldiered on and in fact, sang and maybe even danced that evening to keep our sense of humor with fans blasting.

And that is what Gwen would want of us today: to soldier on regardless. She reminded us to support each other and to include everyone regardless.

And to remember that the human side of management is what prevails: dignity, grace, originality, courage and humor. Gwen embodied these all in her sparrow-like body, with flowing shirts and bohemian tops, too-large glasses and fluid laughter. When Gwen laughed, the world was full of hope.

My fingers reach to email this to Gwen with a simple click or two of the keys.

I’d like to call to tell Gwen about “our students’” many successes: Mary Cecchinato’s celebrating her 33rd anniversary as endlessly compassionate director in Connecticut, Liz Kendall’s creative initiatives in New Jersey, Gail Wilson’s championing of City Year in South Carolina.

But there it is again: the yearning for what is no more. Gwen has passed. Her Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, September 19th at the First Parish church, in Lincoln, MA. When Gwen’s beloved husband, Henry, died in 2001, I was one of many people who spoke. With quavering voice, I said: “I only knew Henry because of Gwen and I love Gwen.”

In time, as memories of Gwen return, as memories of my mother return, I trust Gwen and I will again challenge one another, inspire one another, and laugh at our quirky selves together. Angels are welcome to join us.

I will miss you less then, Gwen Morgan, when more than your passing, I will remember the gifts you left for generations of children and families and the directors who care for them all.

Teaching children the power of hello

September 9, 2015

FriendshipEveryone is heading back to school and child care which means it is time to meet new people and make new friends. For some children, that can be a scary idea and even if you aren’t shy there are times that being the first to say “hello” isn’t easy.

But that one simple word can hold a lot of power. It can be the beginning of a friendship. It can ease the other person’s anxiety and let them know that they belong. It can be the introduction to an opportunity that you may have missed.

To make it a smoother transition and help all the children in your care get to know each other here are a few easy ideas from The Kindness Curriculum.

Hi and Bye

From The Kindness Curriculum by Judith Anne Rice.

Fishing for Friends

From The Kindness Curriculum by Judith Anne Rice.

Activities such as these can make for a more enjoyable environment and helps teach children that it is polite to say “hi”. Hopefully, it can also ease their nerves and make it easier to introduce themselves as they get older and enter new situations . . . a simple introduction can open a lot of doors.

Here is to another year of new friendships! 


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