Editor’s Note: Pam Parmenter is Director of Quality Initiatives for the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County and a Mind in the Making Facilitator.
Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. I read the book and delivered a professional development session on its contents, wondering the whole time, will the community go for a training stretched out over eight sessions; will people commit to 16 hours of in-depth training; who is going to work with me to facilitate these sessions?
The last question became the first hurdle that was mastered. Shelly Dorfman — community volunteer extraordinaire — took a leap of faith and agreed to work with me. Her vast knowledge and experience working with infusing the arts into reading and literacy education boosted our potential of guiding the group toward their learning goals.
Shelly and I found 12-superb community partners — Team Diamond — in this learning journey during the summer of 2016. We met at the Bible Baptist Church Academy in downtown Palmetto and offered two learning modules every other Saturday.
Our 12 partners consisted of three program administrators, three program supervisors, one owner/director of a private preschool, two owner/operators of family child care programs, and three parents – quite an eclectic group! Initially, there were additional participants, but some dropped due to language constraints, others for family emergencies, and yet one more due to transportation issues. But our group of 12 prevailed.
A large factor in this success was our very competent child care. We had a Level 2 background-screened staff — a teacher from Head Start and an as-needed assistant from the Early Learning Coalition coaching staff — ready with activities and games for the children.
As we progressed through the modules, we learned to WOOP: make a Wish; imagine what the Outcome might be if the wish came true; explore what Obstacles might prevent the wish from coming true; and develop a Plan to deal with the obstacles if they occurred. Just like I said, WOOP!
We also became supporters of one another through this journey. We learned that marshmallows can be educational tools. We watched videos of infants communicating with one another and recognizing parent voices at birth. We saw evidence of children problem-solving with the positive encouragement from caring adults, and then we problem-solved with The Great Race (my affectionate term for our activity).
To open our session on Perspective Taking, I read the book The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume, and we laughed together. Each of us could relate to this tale told from the perspective of the older sister, and then retold from the perspective of the younger brother.
We explored the importance of focus and self-control, not only for children but for adults too. We discussed holding ourselves accountable for what we expect of our children. We learned that making unusual connections — the core of creativity and invention — demands time for exploration and experimentation. Taking on challenges became a simpler goal to achieve as we examined stress-control methods and strategies for encouraging children and ourselves to persevere. Critical thinking, quite an abstract term, became easier to understand as a process. Finally, we wrapped it all up with discovering that if we implement the seven skills ourselves and encourage their development in our children, we will have set the stage for children to be self-directed and life-long learners.
We laughed, we cried, we learned with one another and supported each another. Team Diamond coalesced into a community of practice who determined they would like to reunite occasionally just to get together. That is what Mind in the Making is first and foremost based on — the development of positive relationships. Facilitating this group has definitely become a highlight of my career.