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a heart across the ocean

Teacher Lounge

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Like food and water, healthy breathing is an important component in healthy living. However, perhaps because breathing comes naturally, many of us do not pay much attention on its benefits.

According to Harris Lender, adults have to understand that young children, like grown-ups, have also stress in their lives. Hence, it is important that they learn techniques on how to relax and manage their stress. He explained that deep breathing gets to the very bottom of our lungs where we store toxins, so just imagine what happens if we do not fully exhale. Here is one breathing exercise which Lender proposed: Place a small pompom in a child’s hand and have him inhale a deep breath through his nose. Next blow out the mouth trying to get the pompom to land in the bowl placed about two feet away, or try blowing the pompom in a back and forth movement.

Drs. Caron and Tom Coode, co-directors of the International Breath Institute, added that deep breathing is also a good technique to calm an upset child. So, when you see signs of a tense child ready to act out, better get ready with your deep breathing exercise. This technique is said to work for toddlers and teenagers, and, I am sure, is worth to try.

Remember, breathe in and breathe out, but this time deeply.

Source: Kidding Around Yoga by Haris Lender






I was about eight years old when a frantic dog lunged at me and bit me on my leg. That was decades ago, but I still remember it all vividly. I was quietly walking down the street from the market when I saw a huge German Shepherd aggressively approaching me. He was panting, tongue hanging out, and  his coarse hair standing on end. Everything happened so fast, I didn’t even get the chance to think what was going on. Before I knew it, I was pushing the dog away from me as he attacked my right leg, like David fighting Goliath. When the owner finally got to him, it was too late. There were already four indelible marks where his teeth punctured my skin, and I began to bleed instantly. My father was so enraged when he found out. I was rushed to the doctor immediately and was given shots. I didn’t cry when I was battling my aggressive attacker, but I surely had an outburst of tears when I saw the needle injected on me.   Since then every time I see a dog, regardless if it is the cutest Shi Tzu from China, I don’t care – I always get the cerebral alarm that sends an instant message to my little feet that says, “feet don’t fail me now; run, run, run!”

Dr. Kathy Siefert, a forensic psychologist,  explained that childhood trauma ( just like I experienced) negatively affects neurotransmitter regulation and brain development. It is said, the amygdala is a brain structure that helps control emotions. Brain imaging has demonstrated that many children who  were mistreated, or have suffered a traumatic experience  at a young age have amygdala that are small, and under developed. It is believed that these children can have difficulty managing their emotions for a lifetime. Hence, if the damage is severe enough, the child may feel little or no emotions at all.

According to  Dr. Seifert, neurotransmitters functions are to prepare the body to freeze, fight or flight in dangerous situations. However, a child that grows up in a chronically chaotic, conflicted, violent, or dangerous home environment can have the “set point,” the stress activation system set higher, so they can act more quickly, or always be on alert for danger. It is said that this child will always be on a “hair trigger” when it comes to reacting to anything that might even remotely be seen as dangerous. As a result, everyday things can be interpreted as frightening even when they are not.

Looking back, I guess this explains why even though my dog-incident happened a long time ago, I still dread for my life every time I see an excited K9. Sometimes I wish I could be a Klingon or Romulan of Star Trek, so I could cloak  and disappear every time one comes within sight.

Cynophobia – fear of dog

Dr. Kathy Seifert :






Before involving myself in the field of early childhood education, I never imagined it to be so complex. I thought it was as simple as teaching alphabets and numbers. I was so naive I even assumed that children learn language naturally, like how their body changes and increases in size. Of course, I was wrong. When I began swimming in the sea of children and started exploring the principles of childhood development, I had my “Aha” moments.  My ECE course somehow explained to me  the different concepts and theories involved in early childhood development, which eventually put an end to my (unforgiving) naivete. Now everything makes sense.

(borrowed picture online)

# 1. Talkativeness

Dr. Todd Risley, of the University of Alaska and co-author of the book “Meaning Differences in the Everyday Experiences of American Children,” explained how talkativeness in a family could affect a child’s intellectual outcome. He revealed that based from their study, business talk is the common denominator between taciturn and talkative families; what really sets them apart, however, is the “chitchat” talking that is a common sound to household of the latter.

According to Risley, chitchat brings about a vast language which provides more vocabulary words; opportunity for active listening; affirmations; and, responsive turns that have great implications to a child’s cognitive development. Thus, the more talkative the family members are, the faster a child will develop and master his language skills.

# 2. Biomapping

Dr. George Hynd of Purdue University explained that reading is extremely complicated and dynamic process. It involves the whole brain from looking at each word to understanding what is being read. Thus, Dr. Nina Kraus of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory,  made a study on what is called Biomapping the Brain, which explains the contribution of processing sound in reading comprehension. According to Dr. Kraus, what the Biomap does is it measures very objectively how the brain responses to sound. It looks at the responses from the brain stem, which is the input to the cortex. The responses are said to be involuntary. Meaning, having a bad day and being stressed are not factors in the end result. The idea suggests that if a child cannot distinguish between a b to a p sound, the child’s ability in attaching the correct interpretation will be a problem. Therefore, it is important for parents and educators to help their children to accurately hear the sounds or train the brain to hear the sounds precisely in order to help their young ones not only to hear but also to read.

Source: ECE 1603, St. Petersburg College, Fla. USA






(In honor of my first year anniversary as an early childhood educator)

If you think only students learn from their teachers, then you’re totally mistaken. We, teachers also find teachable moments from our colleagues, parents of our student, students, and from our work itself. In my short stint as an early childhood educator, I have learned a lot about the astounding world of children: their physical, emotional, linguistic, psychosocial, and cognitive developments as they go from one stage to another. I describe my experience working with young children almost like going through motherhood except, of course, for the pregnancy and the terrifying delivery.

If there’s one thing I have learned in my first year in the profession, it is the vital role of environment in the biology of human brain. Although the concept of “nature versus nurture” argues concerns relative to the importance of an individual’s innate qualities against personal experiences, I still believe that their contribution to each other shouldn’t be debated on which is which. I totally agree with Dr. Shonkoff that it is not nature versus nurture, but rather nature through nurture. It may be true that in certain situations the influence of heredity or environment is apparent, but more often than not, the behavior and general make up  of an individual is  best explained by the interaction of both his healthy genetic traits and his supportive environment.

“The active ingredient in the environment that’s having an influence on development is the quality of the relationships that children have with the important people in their lives. That’s what it is all about.” – Dr. Shonkoff






Have you been in a situation wherein you wish your child was less dramatic  when expressing his displeasure?

In my 17 months stint as an early childhood teacher, I learned that the difference between a child who can control his temperament lies in the degrees to which he masters the capacity for rapid exchange of his feelings and gestures. According to T. Berry Brazelton, when a child is capable of rapid interactions with his parents or other adults, he is able to negotiate how he feels. Example, I have a preschooler in my class who always gives me a disdain look every time he feels frustrated. When I see that signal, I usually approach him with a gesture signifying that I understand how he feels. I sit with him and courteously ask what is wrong.  If it is responsive to his sign, he gets immediate feedback that can modulate his own response. Together we then have fine-tuned a system. Rather than throwing a dramatic tantrum, he knows that he doesn’t need to act out; he understands that he can communicate to me  his frustration  with less catastrophic annoying look.

How to develop Self-Regulation:

1. Expected Routines – A child is less is likely to get fussy when he knows what to expect. He feels more secured when he is aware of what is going on and what is more likely to come next. Likewise, he feels safer when he knows the people around him, and what to expect from them.

2. Nurturing Relationship from Adults – When a child is protected from over-or-under stimulation, he is more likely to stay calm and alert for new learning. A child who is exposed to a secure, empathetic, and nurturing relationships are more likely to learn intimate relationship making  him more confident in expressing his own feelings and wishes.

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.  ~Willa Cather




After more than a decade of working for a diplomatic mission,  my innate interest in early childhood was finally cast in stone when I moved in to Florida (my current permanent residence). I describe the transition from my Communication Degrees to Early Childhood Education like  a supersonic speed Cheetah Ride at Bush Garden. After being accepted as a substitute School Age teacher, I was promoted to Administrative Assistant/Lead Teacher three months later. Although my main responsibilities are in the administration end, I spend half of my time assisting our teachers in their classroom needs, substituting them when necessary. This latter part of my job has required me to go back to school for a year to become credentialed preschool teacher. It was not easy, but at least the payoff  gave me the opportunity to be part of the exciting world of young children, and be a vital force in their development.

Visit the Florida Department of Families and Children for required courses and competency tests.


One thought on “Teacher Lounge

  1. very good beginning Tess -in this world of tots…you can easily relate your experience with your readings…keep it up!!!

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