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Five Career and Life Lessons From the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and a Celebration of Team USA’s Female Athletes on the World Stage

Posted on: September 24th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

So, sure, this topic is a little late, but I still think there are lessons we can learn from the athletes of the 2020, now 2021, Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The American spirit was on full display, the best of the best competing for the gold seemed to bring our nation together in a time of pandemic, politics, and uncertainty.

And likely, you were into it too.

There were tears and upsets. Photo finishes and unbelievable world records set. Some of your favorite familiar faces and new ones alike, competing in some events you know well and some new ones you hadn’t seen before.

Even before the games got underway, there were big headlines and controversy surrounding the competition.  One of the biggest draws of the Tokyo Olympics, the talented and charismatic American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, was banned from competing.

A year delayed, this Olympics seemed to have more hype, more pressure, more eyes on it than ever. Likely you handpicked a few of these superhumans to follow, to support. And you cheered. In fact, you may have stayed up way too late to watch the once-in-four-yearectacle of it all. 

Because you enjoy witnessing top talent, a diverse group of humans who train hard and are at the top of their sport, the peak of their careers. The mere act of watching these competitors ignites your desire to raise the bar of your own performance.

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.”

– Edmund Lee

But what can we take away from these games? 

Here are five lessons you can learn from and apply to your everyday life, both personally and professionally.

  1. You’re Worth More Than Other People’s Opinions

This year, more than any other, you saw this on display. You witnessed Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time and the face of the 2020 Olympics, prioritize her own mental and physical health. On what some would argue as the biggest stage in the world, she pulled out of the team finals, as well as the individual all-around, vault, floor, and uneven bars. 

“I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. That’s why I decided to take a step back.”

– Simone Biles

With one event left, the balance beam, she decided to compete. And she won bronze.

In speaking of her win, Biles said “it means more than all of the golds because I’ve pushed through so much the last five years and the last week while I’ve even been here.”

Biles is the epitome of grace, humility, and leadership, and she showed us all that elite athletes are human beings first and foremost. She boldly demonstrated her worth, and that it’s way more important than other people’s opinions… 

  1. Greatness Begets Greatness

In the much anticipated men’s 400-meter hurdles, two men broke the world record during the final heat – Karsten Warholm of Norway with the gold and Rai Benjamin of the United States with the silver.

And that’s saying something. Before this summer, the world record stood for over 29 years, more years than the 25-year-old Warholm has been on this planet. 

“I told myself going into the race to remember all the work you have put in. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready. Now I need to set myself new goals, I don’t think I’m done yet.”

– Karsten Warholm

It goes to show that speed begets speed, and greatness begets greatness.When you achieve great things, you have the traction to continue to achieve great things. 

  1. Achievement is Best Shared

In the grueling men’s high jump competition, something unheard of happened. With the final two men tied for first-place after hours of competing in the hot sun, locked in what the track world calls a jump-off, Mutaz Essa Barshim paused to ask… “how about two golds?”

And in what was truly an act of sportsmanship, love, and acceptance, good friends Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy both took home the gold medal.

“He’s one of my best friends. Not only on the track but outside of the track. We’re always together. It’s true spirit, coming here and delivering this message. Appreciate what he’s done, he appreciates what I’ve done. This is amazing. This is beyond sport, this is the message we deliver to the young generation.”

– Mutaz Essa Barshim

The lesson here? Achievement is best shared. When you put in the work, deliver your very best, and build strong relationships along the way, take the time to celebrate the results together.

  1. Regroup and Recenter

The US Women’s soccer team had quite the showing during the 2020 Olympics. These athletes were favored for gold but were knocked out of contention for it after losing in the semifinals to a strong Canadian team. The score? 1-0. 

After their shared grief and disappointment, the team rallied in the game to determine the bronze medal. Win, you get a medal. Lose, well, you go home empty-handed.

The team regrouped, recentered, and did what they set out to do. In fact, team veterans Megan Rapinoe and Carli Llloyd both scored two goals, clinching a 4-3 win along with the bronze medal.

“Hopefully, everyone on this squad and people watching and people that have been in the pool remember that we don’t win championships without the U.S. mentality. That probably has been the biggest takeaway from this tournament, and we need to continue to bring that each and every day. Each and every game. … that, ultimately, is our secret weapon.”

– Carli Lloyd

A strong team bond, the ability to recenter, and the U.S. mentality delivered a medal to these female athletes.

  1. You’re Never Too [Insert Adjective]

You get to insert the adjective here. You’re never too old, too young, too stuck, too small-town, too remote, too anything, really. You get to write your story, you get to try, no matter your adjective.

And while there were many examples of  this through the Olympic games, two of the most riveting were Lydia Jacoby, the 17 year old from Seward, Alaska who won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke. And for the record, there’s only one olympic sized swimming pool in the state.  This is a person with big dreams, huge talent, and seemingly very little resources. She didn’t let that stop her. 

Another phenom, Wisconsin native Molly Seidel, won bronze in the marathon. It was the third marathon race she ever ran.  And she came in third. Third in the world.  She clearly believed in herself and didn’t listen to others who say you need more practice. You need more experience. Who are you to think you can compete with more seasoned runners?  She gave it a shot and come out on the podium.

“I came in today with not a whole lot of expectations. I was hoping to be in the top ten. Just trying to like stick my nose where it didn’t belong and just kind of get after it. I mean, Olympics only happens once every four years, you might as well take your shot.”

– Molly Seidel

Powerful women pursuing their dreams, competing until the end, and believing in themselves. Never letting anyone tell them their too inexperienced or too young. If they can do it, so can you. 

A Celebration of Team USA Female Athletes 

Team USA had a strong showing in Tokyo, leading the medal count and continuing its legacy of greatness. Even in a year of delay, even in two years of pandemic and controversy.

And it was clear, U.S. women dominated. The female athletes won over 58% of the medals secured by the United States – 66 medals to the men’s 41. 

Or, as reported by USA Today, “If U.S. women were their own country, they would have finished fourth in the Olympic medal count, ahead of Great Britain, Japan, Australia, Germany and nearly 200 other countries, and behind only the entire U.S. team, China and the Russian Olympic Committee.”

In fact, the 2004 Olympics in Athens was the last time U.S. men brought home more medals than their female counterparts – 55 medals to the women’s 40. That’s four consecutive Summer Olympics in which the U.S. women came out on top.

As showcased by Time Magazine, “on the final day of competition alone, the U.S. women’s basketball team won a seventh straight gold, the women’s volleyball team took its first-ever gold, and Jennifer Valente won America’s first-ever track cycling gold in the omnium. This flip speaks to the momentum building for women’s sports in the U.S.; the Olympics will only help push this movement forward.”

It’s true, women are more empowered than ever. They are tapping into their authentic strength and intuition, and the results speak volumes. Let’s take time to celebrate our female athletes as we remember they are human beings, beautiful, complicated, whole beings, just like you and me. 

“If you give girls and women the same investment, opportunity and access, their potential, like all people, is unlimited.”

– Billie King


Continued Reading:

TIME: The 9 Most Inspiring and Surprising Things I Saw At The Tokyo Olympics

USA Today: US Women Dominated Medal Count at Tokyo Olympics in Ways They’ve Never Done Before


About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.

Child Care Consultants (CCC) stands with the Central York School District students and families, as well as the wider community, that are protesting against the misguided decision of the Central York School Board to ban books.

Posted on: September 20th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

As the Early Learning Resource Center for York County, and with our nearly 35 year history of serving York County youngest learners, we are dismayed by leaders who discriminate.  The rationalization of this behavior through comments such as wanting to ensure balance in books and fears of indoctrination are troublesome.  All children and families deserve to be represented in their educational materials and resources.  All children need to be presented with honest, well rounded information about our history, a variety of opinions, and encouraged to think for themselves.  Anything less, is in fact supporting the very indoctrination and imbalance the school board members say they fear and that they say guided their racist actions.

Child Care Consultants supports and serves all the early education, childcare, and school age programs in York County. It is our mission to ensure that children enter school ready to be successful.  We administer Keystone STARS, the quality improvement and rating system for the Commonwealth in 13 counties.  One of the PA standards of high quality programs is that classroom materials and curricular resources are diverse so that all children and families “see themselves” in the classroom.  A critical component of this work is to incorporate in meaningful ways, the rich cultures and contributions of every person and family, to honestly and age appropriately reflect the realities of the history our country, and to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Child Care Consultants, through a grant from the Donley Foundation, has engaged in meaningful in depth DEI reflection and work. This fall we will offer DEI and Cultural Responsiveness workshops and communities of learning and support to ECE and SACC programs. CCC staff were reading one of the books on CYSD’s banned list, “So You Want to Talk About Race”.  A challenging book to be sure, and one I encourage every York Countian to read if they are committed to bringing about meaningful change in our community.

Child Care Consultants encourages ECE, SACC, K-12 systems, school boards, and our entire community to do the hard internal work to ensure that they have a culture of inclusion, respect, equity, and antiracism.  Our families, children, and those we serve deserve no less. 

Christy S. Renjilian

Executive Director

Child Care Consultants

Wondering what fifth-grade students and teachers are thinking and feeling this school year? Check out my latest #blogpost. It’s a reminder that life is about people and caring not politics and conflict.

Posted on: September 16th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Back to School: A Focus on 5th Grade and Getting Off on the Right Foot

With Real Thoughts From a Fifth Grade Student and Teachers

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Ahhh, remember your fifth-grade self? And those feelings you had as you started the school year? Your interests, friends, and what made you, well, you?

You were geared up with whatever the new fad was. Maybe it was a bookbag brand, maybe a shoe, or those metal lunchboxes with the matching thermos. Either way, you were living your best life.

Hopefully, you had a strong, positive influence in fifth grade, too. A teacher or mentor who had a real impact on you. One who opened your eyes and mind, as you absorbed their lessons and really appreciated the space they made for you to grow in.

Kids this age typically start thinking more about abstract ideas, and not just about things they can observe.1 

Today, we’re taking a look at the perspectives of a student entering fifth grade, a first-year fifth-grade teacher, and an experienced fifth-grade teacher, to shed light on how this pivotal time is experienced in each role.

And we’ll finish with some tips to help you get your fifth grader’s school year moving in the right direction. Or, any student, for that matter.

Before we do, I want to tell you about my amazing fifth-grade teacher. He was the first male teacher I ever had – Mr. Lifshitz at Shubert Elementary School in Baldwin, NY (pictured below). He was warm, caring, and committed to every student. 

That was way back when, in 1975-1976, the Bicentennial year. That was a time marked by a lot of celebration of America, lots of red, white, and blue. The abstract idea and concept that stands out for me, learned from Mr. Lifshitz, was equality for the girls in the classroom. 

He named me and my friend, Jill, to the Audio/Video Squad. We were the first girls in school history to be the ones to set up the movie and filmstrip projectors in classrooms. We pushed the big carts around, threaded the machines, and fixed them when they skipped and looped. He also picked, “Free to Be You and Me” for our class play. The TV special had been on the air the year before; it was created by Marlo Thomas and many others to address gender stereotypes. 

Fifth grade is a big year. In some schools, it’s the last year in elementary school. For everyone it’s a year of in-depth learning and maturity, refining one’s ability to think critically.  

Fifth graders no longer learn to read, they read to learn and are growing as independent thinkers. To have a teacher in 1976 recognize that his job was to provide equal opportunities for all his students was an empowering gift. I haven’t been in that school in decades, but if I close my eyes, I can still see his smile, hear his big laugh, and sense the support and acceptance he offered his students. 

My wish for this new school year is that every teacher provides a safe, empowering environment for every student. And that every student and her family is able to receive the gift of care, hard work, and dedication from their teachers. 

This year especially, as we begin a new school year, one filled with things our fifth-grade selves never would have dreamed of, we can begin anew. For ourselves, for our students, and for our children.

To better understand fifth grade today, let’s take a look at a few perspectives. Each helps us wrap our minds around all it takes to make a school year successful.

First, let’s take a look at how a fifth-grade student is viewing the school year.

Q: How are you feeling about starting 5th grade?

A: I feel good and happy.

Q: What do you hope to learn?

A: Algebra and decimals.

Q: What do you hope your teacher is like?

A: Nice. 

Q: What advice would you give your teacher about teaching you and your classmates/friends? 

A: I would tell my teachers to answer questions we have.

In reflecting on these responses, it’s easy to see that our students enjoy learning, have unique interests and hopes, and simply want to be heard.

Next, let’s listen to the perspective of a first-year fifth-grade teacher.

Q: As a first-year teacher how are you feeling about the 2021-2022 school year?

A: I am nervous, terrified, cautious, excited, emotional, and uncertain. 

Q: In one or two words, what mindset is most needed by students this year?

A: GRIT and GROWTH.

Q: What can we (families, community members, advocates) do to help support teachers?

A: Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Push for school reform, more funding. 
  • Vaccinate/take care of each other. 
  • Stay home when sick. 
  • Don’t project problems onto students/teachers. 
  • Send in supplies. 
  • Say thank you. 
  • Volunteer at the school. 
  • Read to students at home. 
  • Ask for help. 
  • Show up. 
  • Listen to what we have to say and genuinely do something about it. 

Q: What would you like to say/ask your former 5th-grade teacher?

A: Thank you for allowing me to be an individual and pursue my interests. I am now a teacher because there were people like you that let me try it out when I was younger. I know what you do is hard – what you did was enough and worth it. 

These words may take you back to a time when you were starting a brand new journey, one you worked hard to explore and put time and effort into achieving. It’s pretty special, the human experience, how good people step into leadership roles at pivotal times.

And finally, let’s check in with an experienced fifth-grade teacher.

Q: How are you feeling about the 2021-2022 school year?

A: I am looking forward to a more normal school year. Last year had many challenges. I think this year will as well, but I am hoping the changes will be less daunting for students since they have already experienced most of them.

Q: In one or two words, what mindset is most needed by students?

A: The sooner that students learn to look at their education as a gift and a pathway to a better future, the sooner they will value it. This is a tough concept for younger students, but a savvy teacher can help foster this idea.

Q: What advice would you give to families?

A: As much as possible, allow your child to have ownership of their education. The more you control it, the less they will value it. 

Q: What can we (parents, students, community members, advocates) do to support teachers?

A: Trust them, they are professionals. Keep the lines of communication open. 

Q: As you think back over your career, what advice would you give to a new teacher?

A: I would give the same advice that my cooperating teacher gave me, although it took years for me to understand it. Figure out your philosophy and stick with it. In other words, be true to who you are as an educator. 

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: It is not about clever lessons, it is about people. Specifically, it is about small people who are forming opinions about everything, including themselves. If you help them to feel good about themselves, they will want to learn. Also, never engage in a power struggle with a child because you will lose. What you will lose is much more valuable than whatever the conflict was. You will lose an opportunity to have a relationship with this child. 

Such wisdom, such grace shared. A good reminder for all of us to remember it’s about people. It’s not about politics, shame, or conflict. It’s about being true to yourself, and in turn, modeling that behavior for the next generation.

Now that you’ve heard from a student and a few teachers, you may be wondering how you can help your fifth grader approach his school year. 

If so, here are the top five things a parent or student can do now to set themselves up for success.

1. Gradually get back on a schedule.  

If your child has been staying up late and sleeping in all summer, gradually help him or her get back on a schedule that aligns with the start time of school. Going to bed at a set time is essential. A little change of 10 minutes or so each night is much easier on everyone than a jarring shift a night or two before school starts.

Good-quality sleep helps improve your child’s concentration, memory, and ability to regulate their emotions and behave well. This all helps your child learn well. Getting enough sleep also strengthens your child’s immune system and reduces the risk of infection and illness.2 

2. Read every day.  

Your child should read something they pick and are interested in every day. Summer days. School days. Weekends. If you need help finding something your child likes, go to your library and ask the librarian for their suggestions. Or pay attention to the things they watch or participate in – there’s likely an age-appropriate book on the topic.

Did you know, only 35 percent of fourth-graders are reading at or above grade level?3 

“The ability to read, write, and analyze; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in that door and take your seat at that table – all of that starts with education.”

– Michelle Obama

3. Encourage your child to set goals for the year.  

You’ve heard about vision boards and fancy dream catcher things. This isn’t those. Even if your child struggles with school, setting a few, realistic goals will be beneficial. Maybe your student wants to speak up more in class, try a new sport or activity, make some new friends, or be more organized. Let your child take the lead in setting their goals and have him write them down.

“Having goals makes learners aware of their actions, efforts, and even their time management skills. Setting goals obligates them to take action, regardless of the obstacles that may be in place. As such, it can encourage students to develop critical thinking skills, new problem-solving techniques, and a better understanding of how to overcome issues.”

– Julius Zigama

4. Develop a plan to stay informed and connected to the teacher.

In the age of quarantines, closures, and virtual schooling, plan out how you and your student are going to stay informed and connected to their teacher and school. 

Is there an online system for sharing information? If so, make sure you have access and know how to use it. Do you and the teacher prefer email or phone calls?  What time of day is best for you? For the teacher? If they aren’t in agreement, work out a compromise and plan this month. Remember if you change your phone number and/or email address to let the teacher know. Teachers know that all families want to be connected and informed. They just may need some assisstance to do so.

5. Take a deep breath. 

This is going to be another challenging year. Remember that everyone – families, students, teachers, and school personnel- are doing the best they can with changing guidelines, trying to keep every person safe, and meet everyone’s needs.  Patience goes a long way.

Deep breaths all around. For you, as a parent. And for our students, our educators, our school bus drivers, our administrators, and for every person who contributes to your student’s education. 

P-S- In a bit of a full-circle twist, the experienced fifth-grade teacher actually taught (and inspired!) the brand new fifth-grade teacher interviewed for this article. 


Resources:

1 Developmental Milestones for Typical Fourth and Fifth Graders

2 School-age and Pre-teen Sleep: What to Expect

3 The NCBLA Statistics


About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.
To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.

Did you know that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year? [Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness] If you, or someone you know is struggling, check out my latest blog. It may just prove helpful in your journey.

Posted on: July 30th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Mental Health: Where We Are and How to Move the Conversation Forward

Shocking Statistics and Two Mindset Shifts You Can Embrace Today 

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

Mental health doesn’t just show up in your life. Mental health is your life. In the same way, physical health is your life. 

Walking through struggles and facing challenges is part of the human experience. And unfortunately, so is trauma.

Research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that children who have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are more likely to have chronic health problems, mental illness, substance abuse problems, and difficulties in school. 

Often, the more numerous and severe the adverse experiences a child has, the greater the long-term negative impact on their physical and mental health. Evidence also suggests that adversity and stress can influence  brain development in infancy and early childhood and can even have intergenerational effects.

And we have seen, personally and professionally, the effects of trauma on mental health each day. From persons impacted by child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and community violence, to the struggle with depression, bipolar, and other mental health issues that impact wellbeing. 

A Snapshot of Where We Are Now:

We know mental health challenges are prevalent in today’s world. But just how prevalent is it? 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year

1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year

1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34

You know these statistics are true. Chances are good you have someone in your life, right now, working hard to improve her mental health. 

She’s stuck in a rut, as they say. And you are doing your best to reach out to her, to encourage her. Or if that someone is you, you might be actively talking to a professional. Because so often it’s more than you and your community of support can cope with. 

This past year, especially, you’ve been trying your best to practice radical self-care and wellness. It’s been a struggle. And you want to do more. You want to model a life of engagement, a life full of living and love. And you want to help the next generation cope in a healthier, more aligned way. 

Because the numbers are staggering. And behind these numbers are real-life people like you and me.

Two things you can do to move the mental health conversation and movement forward:

Support Mental Health as You Do Physical Health

It’s time to admit that mental health and wellness affect everyone. It’s time to support co-workers, friends, and family members who are facing mental health issues as we would those experiencing physical health issues. 

In fact, the two are often intertwined and influence each other. During the past 18 months, as a society, as an employer, and as individuals, we have all experienced times of struggle in our ability to cope with COVID and the impacts it had on our ‘normal life.’  

It brought to light that everyone can suffer from mental health issues, and there is no need to be ashamed or to avoid getting support from friends, family members, and professionals. 

Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said “the rate of mental health conditions and substance use conditions essentially doubled during the pandemic from one in five to two and five. At the same time, I think mental health went from becoming a ‘they’ thing to a ‘we’ thing.

“People have recognized that mental health is, in fact, a part of health. And most of us know somebody or have had a personal experience of somebody who struggled with their mental health through the pandemic.”

In fact, just last month a friend and mentor shared with me that her husband was in the midst of a mental health crisis. And as a mother and business owner, it greatly affected her mental health, too. So she turned to a professional for help.

These crises are happening in homes across our community, our nation, our world. And so, too, are conversations. 

So go on, be a part of a conversation. Support a friend’s journey toward wholeness as you would his going through a physical health challenge. 

Be a positive influence on their healing, their recovery. It can be as simple as making a meal and dropping it off, going on a long walk together, writing a note of encouragement, or making open, judgment-free space for him to express himself during your next phone call. 

You can make a real difference.

When Talking About Mental Health, Use Strength Language

Just as you wouldn’t judge someone for breaking a leg or having cancer, you shouldn’t judge someone coping with anxiety and depression. In fact, you may even use strength language to talk about people who are living with depression, childhood trauma, or PTSD. 

“Words like suffering and illness have negative connotations associated with them. Thus, I choose to use healthier phrases such as ‘I’m living/thriving with mental wellness issues’ because I continue to push forward on a daily basis, with the language that I choose to use playing a critical role in that process. My wellness issues will not stop my ability to thrive, but if I look at it as an illness, it may. The mind is very powerful.”

– Phillip J. Roundtree

What seems like simple shifts, challenge instead of problem, seeking professional help instead of having a crisis, make a big difference.

In the same way you talk about preventative strategies and wellness for physical health, be open to talking about wellness in terms of your mental health.  Mindfulness, resilience, and things that feed your mental and emotional health are to be practiced. 

Encourage those around you to take time for their mental health, in whatever form that takes for them. Some like to meditate, practice yoga or go for a walk. For others it’s a hobby, good movie or concert. Some seek out human connection. Others like to be alone. The important thing is to be aware and honor yourself, to be okay with taking time, stepping back, and breathing deeply. To rest and restore your emotional and mental health.

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

– Dr. Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame has resonated and captivated the nation and the world. It has shifted the lens of how we think about vulnerability from one of weakness to one of great strength. 

Takeaways

Mental health, physical health, and emotional health are all of the same importance. They all make up this very human experience you’re living day in and day out.

It’s time to support them equally. And to do it from a place of strength.

Along the way, be kind to others and to yourself. Often, it’s the most challenging time of our life. Extend grace and kindness to yourself. And to others.

“Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle” 

– JM Barrie


Resources:

NAMI: Mental Health By the Numbers

ABC: How to recognize when someone needs help coming out of the pandemic and what to do


Additional Reading:

Brené Brown

Tara Brach: Guided Meditations

Harvard University: ACEs and Toxic Stress

Harvard University: Resilience 


About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.
To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.

The trainings you need to get your child care business off to the right start…CONNECTIONS TO CAREGIVING

Posted on: July 28th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Ready for more meaningful conversations with your child about LGBTQ+ inclusion? Start with this short, powerful read, where I share my four of my favorite children’s books. Inclusion, it starts with us.

Posted on: July 16th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

LGBTQ+: Raising An Inclusive Child

Three Things You Can Do to Start a Conversation in Your Home

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

You believe all families and individuals are worthy of our respect. Everyone should have the ability and opportunity to feel good about themselves.

So being inclusive and welcoming is essential to you. And creating a space where you, your family, friends, colleagues, and those around you can see themselves and be themselves, you’re all about it.

And you know your child wants this, too. He’s naturally inclusive. And curious. And you want to nurture those traits.

If we all did that, it sure would make for a more inclusive community. A more inclusive world.

At Child Care Consultants, Inc., we work equally hard to ensure equal opportunities for all children so that they have the resources they need to grow up and be successful. 

For me personally, inclusivity means that coworkers, clients, friends, and family members that identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, see me as an ally. I’m committed to doing the hard work of listening and learning, to grow in my understanding of the issues they face and how I can be supportive.

And clearly, you are too.  

If you’re ready to take the next step, to have meaningful conversations with your child about LGBTQ+ inclusion, here are three ways you can start.

Read Inclusive Books With and To Your Child

You know the importance of reading and the impact it has on early childhood development. So start there. Find a book that showcases that families come in all forms, and each person is to be valued and included.

“Diverse literature enables students to see themselves as the heroes of the story.”

– Lily Eskelsen García

Not sure which book to start with? You can always head to your local library. Your librarian will be happy to lead you to really great choices.

Or, if you’re looking to order online, here are some of my favorite inclusive children’s books:

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Families by Shelley Rotner

The Family Book by Todd Parr

Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

Create opportunities for sharing and teaching. Welcome your child’s questions and curiosity, and if you don’t know the answers to his many questions, seek out the answers together.

The best books spark new thoughts, new conversations, and new ways of thinking. So go on, read an inclusive book with your child. 

Immerse Yourself in Communities that Include LGBTQ+ Members

Be a part of communities that include LGBTQ+ members and provide welcoming spaces for them and their families. 

For you, it may be participating in a local, regional, or online workshop. Or volunteering your time with an impactful organization. Maybe it’s a celebration or parade. Or maybe it’s inviting a loved one or community member to have coffee with you.

If you’re interested in learning, immerse yourself. Become better informed. And do the work.  

And when you’re ready, intentionally immerse your child in inclusive environments, if possible. Start by bringing her along to an inclusive environment. As a next step, maybe you work together to identify a summer camp, an extracurricular activity, a local community day, or another experience she’s interested in. 

Look for opportunities. And have open conversations.

“The richness, beauty, and depths of love can only be fully experienced in a climate of complete openness, honesty, and vulnerability.” 

– Anthony Venn Brown

Many nonprofits are a great place to start. They serve the needs of all the members of their community and are some of the most inclusive businesses in the region. 

At Child Care Consultants, Inc. our mission is to ensure that all children succeed. So we are mindful of the challenges facing LGBTQ+ families and work to promote their well being. 

As an organization, CCC staff have attended workshops sponsored by other community partners and state and national experts. These inclusive, immersive training events assist us in our support of early childhood education providers and community partners; and ultimately impact families here in our region.

It’s about learning and doing and engaging in the communities we serve.

Seek Out Trusted Resources to Expand Your Thinking

When we want to learn something new, to train our minds on a particular subject or topic, we often go to the worldwide web. And while it can prove helpful, at times, we can also get sucked into an endless vortex of knowledge and ideas and opinions. 

Because you want to expand your thinking, your awareness, and really be that welcoming, safe place for young people in your life. 

Let me point you in the right direction. Visit PFLAG, an organization of parents, families, allies, and others who support people who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. They are working toward a world where diversity is celebrated and people are respected, valued, and affirmed regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. 

PFLAG works to build on a foundation of love, helping families unite with LGBTQ+ people and allies who support one another. And to educate people and communities to speak up as advocates until all hearts and minds respect, value, and affirm LGBTQ+ people.  

They offer free resources, like their video blog series, membership, which comes with access to PFLAG Academy Online, and local and regional support.

If you’ve never visited their site, do so today. 

Start Talking to Your Child Today

Look, you don’t have to have it all figured out. Chances are good, really good, that your parents didn’t talk to you about sexual orientation or inclusivity during your childhood. Or even as an adult. 

But you, you can change that. The most important thing is to start learning, and to follow that up with conversations in your home. And then, together, work to build a more inclusive spirit and environment for our LGBTQ+ family and friends.

“We should keep calm in the face of difference and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity” 

– George Takei

As you read a book together, with your child, turn to her to discuss what you just read. Ask her how she’s feeling and what she thinks about it. Share your thoughts, too. 

Because you’re ready to wonder, to soak in the diversity of humanity, to not only know it in your heart and see it from a screen, but to really engage and live a full, meaningful, inclusive life.

One step at a time.


Learn More About Being a LGBTQ+ Inclusive Parent 

PFLAG

Parents.Com: What is an LGBTQ+ Ally and How to Raise One

Research Brief: Accepting Adults Reduce Suicide Attempts Among LGBTQ Youth


About Child Care Consultants, Inc.

Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They serve childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.
To learn more, visit childcareconsultants.org.

Child Care Consultants Diversity, Equity and inclusion Position Statement 

Posted on: July 13th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Child Care Consultants (CCC) serves as an Early Learning Resource Center and is committed to helping children, families, and early childhood education programs be successful. As part of that commitment, we acknowledge the diversity that comes from within and outside of our organization.  We envision a thriving, growing community where children embrace a culture of learning, stay in school, and excel.  To achieve this goal, we strive to be inclusive regardless of ability, age, religion, politics, race, national origin, class, family status, sexual orientation, and gender.  We believe that hatred, in any form, negatively impacts our community because all people are different, deserve to be respected, and have their humanity recognized.  We provide tools for success and accommodations that contribute to an equitable environment, so all people receive what they need.   

At CCC, we understand that individual needs will vary, and we strive to be fair and equitable across the board. As an organization, we are committed to advocating for social justice and intentionally including all our stakeholders.  Through our many programs and roles in the community, we actively support and bring awareness to opportunities for marginalized voices and opinions at the local, state, and regional level.  We believe in transparent communication, listening, volunteering, and creating a sense of belonging for all stakeholders.  CCC values the rights and unique gifts of each individual.  We are intentional about developing and maintaining relationships based upon respect, open and honest communication, acceptance, and inclusion so that each person we come in contact with has the best chance at success.  CCC is committed to continual growth in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.   

Waitlist Update!

Posted on: July 2nd, 2021 by Kristen Miller

ELRC Region 9 (Cumberland, Dauphin, Lebanon and Perry Counties) currently does not have a waiting list.

ELRC Region 10 (Adams, Lancaster and York Counties) currently does not have a waiting list.

Attention: Provider COVID Absences

Posted on: May 27th, 2021 by Kristen Miller

Six Education Trends for You to Consider and Embrace

Posted on: April 1st, 2021 by Kristen Miller

The Future of Learning In the Susquehanna Valley

Written By: Christy S. Renjilian

The entire education world, and beyond, was rocked in 2020. It was forced to evolve and change at lightning speed. While shedding decades of tradition, it tried to adapt to the demands of a global health crisis.

And yes, it was a struggle. And added to those educational challenges were the personal challenges of living through a pandemic. There was trauma, loss of loved ones, isolation, fear, and the emotional impact on the professionals working day in and day out. Those deemed essential employees.

But even amid the crisis, the struggle, there were glimpses of light. In education, that looked like options. Along with a deeper appreciation for the industry, overall, and its professionals – from school nurses to administrators, from teaching assistants to bus drivers. And teachers, those teaching babies, preschoolers, K-12, and beyond. Definitely the teachers. Deservedly so. 

In the midst of unrest, tension, and a public health crisis the likes of which none of us had ever seen, the education community stepped up. And leaned in. Virtually. And in-person. Through a combination of approaches. Many family home-based child care providers never stopped providing care. Not for a single day. And centers applied for waivers and re-opened as quickly as they could. As always, child care provided a strong foundation for our economy, our families, our children.

And wow, there was a learning curve. For everyone. But there was grace. Our educators, those positioned to teach and guide and lecture, were in a storm.. But they adjusted. And pivoted. And learned a thing or two this past year. About their resilience, their profession, the impact they have on their students, their families, the community, and the greater economy

So let’s take a look at where education is, where it’s going, and the long-term trends and innovations that are on the horizon.

Where is Education Going in 2021?

We are all so proud of our education partners, leaders, parents, and our students. They have adjusted their day-to-day and continue to do their best amidst global, rapid change.

And as we look to the 2021-22 school year, one of the things we found most positive for our students is going to stick around. 

Choice.

In a recent conversation with Randi B. Payne, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent at Northeastern School District, she shared, “As we look toward next year and beyond, I think we are realizing a new arena of K-12 public education. Students and families have a great deal of choice within our public schools right now. For instance, students can attend fully in-person, fully online – synchronously, fully online – asynchronously, or a blended option of some in-person and some online. We have found that there’s a population of consumers for each of these models. To meet our families’ needs, we’ll need to maintain the options that they’ve come to appreciate.” 

She continued on to say, “for teachers, some prefer teaching in person and some prefer online. Moving forward, teachers will be able to focus on their instructional strengths by teaching in the model that best matches their skills.”

An innovative approach to meet the needs of our students and teachers in the most effective way possible. 

The Impact on the Teaching Profession

Early childhood teachers all the way through to post-secondary, teachers have been through it this year. 

This past week and month, teachers across our region received their vaccine. And tears were shed. Tears of hope, tears of courage, tears for what they’ve walked through. For what was, and for what’s to come.

In this new age, their demands continue to grow. And grow. 

As we move forward, our teachers need support to address the new and changing demands of the children and families they serve. They are going to need time and patience to address the gaps and challenges left in the wake of the pandemic. Along with additional training and peer groups to foster support for children with socio-emotional and behavioral issues.

Along with a rework of the current performance standards, so they can meet each student where they are and to adapt to the realities of the past year’s impact on children’s development.

In chatting with Ruby Martin, M.Ed., Chief Child and Youth Program Officer at YWCA York, she expressed her hopes, “that next school year will mean less stress and less exhaustion for our teachers.”

A sentiment we can all get behind. 

Because the impact on our teachers has been staggering. In fact, a nationwide poll of educators conducted by the National Education Association found that 28 percent of teachers surveyed said the pandemic has made them more likely to retire early or leave the profession. That number includes a significant number of new or young teachers – one in five teachers with less than 10 years experience. It also includes 40 percent of teachers with 21 to 30 years experience, and 55 percent of those with more than 30 years.1

A challenge that could heighten the already desperate need for qualified teachers, leading to an even bigger shortage here in the U.S. In the early education sector, this issue is exacerbated by extremely low pay, long hours, and little support for the vital role they play in supporting children’s development. 

We need to work to retain our educators, those who give so much to their students and their profession, and at the same time attract new educators. 

Knowing what this next school year will bring is a start. As a community, we can use that knowledge to be proactive in creating policies and services that address the current challenges. We can craft a nurturing, more inclusive, more equitable approach to meet the needs of our students, our teachers, our support staff, and our economy.

Six Trends in Education in 2021 and Beyond

To craft that approach, we’ll need to set our collective sights on these six, high-priority trends and focus areas. A holistic view on the future of education.

  1. The Mental Health of Students

Look, our children are struggling, struggling, with socio-emotional and mental health issues as a result of the stressors of this past year. And so are parents, guardians, and our educators, too.

And it’s up to us, the helping professions – the non-profit agencies, the education system, and the medical profession – to pay close attention to the overall wellness of children. And to proactively implement prevention and intervention programs to help the children and their families.

If you’re a caregiver, you can have an even greater impact for your children. Increase your awareness of the signs of mental health struggles in children, and seek help, if needed. Reach out to the support systems in place, be it your pediatrician, teacher,  your school counselor or administrator, or a telehealth professional through your workplace health program.

From a school leader’s perspective, Randi B. Payne, Ed.D., said, “I think we all recognize the importance of mental health services, especially for our young people. The time with limited social interaction, athletics, and the arts has definitely taken its toll. We’ll need to focus our efforts on the social-emotional side of learning for some time as we move forward.”

Focusing on mental health is an absolute must.

  1. Equity to Access and Learning

As you know, there is a big gap that exists in our region, in our country, and it’s the economic disparities between school districts. At the core of it is an archaic funding formula that reinforces the differences between communities with wealth and resources – and those without.  

There’s an even bigger chasm between early childhood education and K-12 schools. The amount of public funding for early childhood education and child care is woefully short of the needs. And for middle class families, there is no support to help them with the cost of child care. This has been a problem for decades, and it’s time to solve the child care crisis.

It’s essential that we address it. And work together on viable and effective solutions.

And it’s linked to the diversity, equity, inclusion, and racism issues challenging our country, region, and school districts. Some school districts need more support, additional resources to ensure that each and every child has access to high-quality education.  

And this additional support needs to start at the earliest of ages.

In Pennsylvania, there are over 475,000 low-income children aged 0-8. That’s 39% of all children in the State as reported by The National Center for Children in Poverty. In diving into their data, there are major percentile differences for children of color. The percentages for low-income children in the same age group are: 70% Non-Hispanic Black; 65% Hispanic/Latino; 30% Asian-American; and 27% Non-Hispanic White. 2

Differences Ruby Martin, M.Ed., is all too familiar with. “In York City, students really struggled with being connected at the end of 2019-20. And then staying engaged this school year. The disparity between our urban center and the surrounding districts has grown significantly this past year, and we may spend the next five years trying to recover from the additional disparities caused by Covid-19.”

Equity to access and learning is a top priority in our region.

  1. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Improving access is key. And so is changing the diversity, equity, and inclusion landscape of education and curriculum. The curriculum must include more content regarding underrepresented communities and be a reflection of all stories, not just some stories.

The curriculum changes should be accompanied by culture change. They work together. And it starts by fostering a more welcoming culture within our buildings, our hallways, our classrooms, and all virtual spaces in the education arena. For children of all ages. To provide opportunities for them to see and be seen.

Things like assigning and reading literature from a broad range of authors and sharing the history of all cultures will help. Encouraging and attracting a more diverse workforce in and around the education system will make for a more inclusive environment. This environment will provide a place for safe, productive conversations about pressing current events at all levels of education and within leadership.

And will give our students space to innovate, leading the culture shift. 

And encourage our leaders, administrators, and board members to take best practices from the decades of inclusivity work corporations have been doing within their workplaces. And work on implementing them in a school setting. 

  1. Experiential, Individualized Learning 

Another trend to embrace is a more individualized learning experience for students. We’ll start to see more student-led design groups, small-scale innovations, and peer-to-peer conversations focused on a common goal.

And as we do, we need to redefine what “mastery” means and the expectations we have for students. And how we measure success and adequate learning. 

In ten or twenty years, education at all levels will occur both in-person and remotely. And if your school, your district doesn’t have a teacher certified in a particular specialty or enough students to make a class, then you can connect with another school or district. 

In that same conversation with Ruby Martin, she shared her beliefs. “We will see elements of cyber and homeschool learning in public education. With a shift of curriculum, from large group instruction to a more focused, individualized instruction. A response to meet children where they are. This will allow students to feel more empowered to share their own goals for learning, to be assessed authentically, and be more active, valued participants in their own experiences.”

This past year has shined a light on what works really well for each student, for each family. And the education community has a real opportunity to take the best of each facet and adapt it in their own way to enhance the learning experience.

  1. Innovative Classroom Design

Another area for improvement is classroom design. The traditional classroom, be it in public school, private school, in-home, has been relatively unchanged for decades. 

In early childhood education programs, home and center based, there is much more emphasis on individualized, child centered learning through active engagement and play. Following the child’s interests and lead. The K-12 system has much to learn from the child care system.

Recently, we’ve seen a shift to a more open, flexible learning space where a teacher guides the experience, instead of teaching to the collective whole of the class about a specific subject or topic. 

The pandemic has had a silver lining of further requiring schools to reconsider classroom design and the “when,” “where” and “how” of learning. To what extent and how quickly these lessons drive the formation of K-12’s next iteration is uncertain, but the table is set with significant opportunities for forward-thinking districts this year.3

As education evolves, classrooms will, too. Teachers will continue to use more and more technology in the classroom, resulting in more individualized instruction for each child. And the trend towards experiential learning – learning through play and active engagement and exploration of the world – will increase.

  1. Change for Early Childhood Educators

Early childhood educators are the forgotten heroes of this past year. Working with far less pay, even when they have the same teaching certificate as their K-12 colleagues. 

Government officials, business owners, and the public expected them to work during the height of the pandemic. And of course, they did. Very early on we rediscovered what the industry has known all along – early childhood educators are essential. Essential for the economy, yes. And essential for the mental health and well-being of children and their family unit, ensuring a safe, high-quality environment for play, growth, and development.

It is my hope that within five years early childhood education teachers are paid at the same rate as the K-12 system they feed into, and there is financial support for all families to help with child care costs. In the same way that all families are supported by the public K-12 system regardless of their income.

Creating a seamless opportunity for each whole child, each student, from birth to graduation. To ensure that all children are successful in school and life.

How Parents, Community Leaders, and Educators Can Work Together

We talked about where education is right now, and where it’s going. We covered choice, and how it’s here to stay. And we reviewed six trends in education: the mental health of students, equity to access and learning, diversity, equity, and inclusion, experiential/ individualized learning, innovative classroom design, and change for early childhood educators.

And that’s a lot. A lot.

But it may have left you wondering, how can I, as a parent, a guardian, a community leader, or an educator work to make this progress, these changes happen?

First of all, good for you for recognizing your role. Because you do have an active role. 

You can continue to evolve your own holistic view of child development and rethink what “mastery” means. An example? A kindergartner. Let’s just say this particular kindergartner, as so many are, is “behind” what kindergarteners of years ago were doing. Instead of thinking, ‘wow, he’s behind’, adapt your thinking to meet him where he is, as a whole student. Accept and welcome her into this next year, slowly. Take time to celebrate what  she knows and can do, what she accomplished over the last year. 

Because there is harm in pushing children to acquire and retain certain knowledge and skills, especially this year. So be gentle. With your expectations, with your understanding, with your mental health and theirs. 

And as you look at the whole student, look at the whole population, too. Acknowledge the disparities, work to understand the public and community’s role in creating them. And in the systems we created. Commit to not just studying them and talking about them, but to do the hard work of ensuring that every child has the opportunity to be successful in a quality early childhood education program and school, so they can be successful in life.

Because all students matter. Each and every life. 

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.”

– Brené Brown


Child Care Consultants, Inc. (CCC) is a nonprofit centered in the heart of Pennsylvania. They are the backbone of the economy, serving childcare providers and low-income families ‒ the ones that have been impacted the most by the pandemic. 

For you and your business, CCC helps keep childcare options open for your employees ‒ saving missed work hours and lowering on-the-job stress levels. They work with early childhood education programs and home-based providers to improve the quality of care, ensuring that all children enter school ready to be successful.

Christy Renjilian serves as its Executive Director.

To learn more and to donate, visit childcareconsultants.org.


Sources:

1 Safety Concerns Over Covid-19 Driving Some Educators Out

2 Early Success Progress Report 2021

3 Eight K-12 Trends to Watch in 2021 


To Continue the Conversation, Check Out These Articles:

A Little Love for Early Childcare Education Workers

A Closer Look at the State of Public Education in 2021

One Leaders Thoughts for a More Inclusive Work Culture