Managing and teaching in a shelter child center

Archive for May, 2012

Grass-An infant’s experience

Okay. Sometimes it really is the simple things that can be the most interesting.sometimes when we go on our picnic days a lot of bigger school kids had the same idea. So I have to keep the infants and younger toddlers on the grass so they won’t get trampled by the older kids. dogs, however, well…. that’s a whole other blog!

Anyway, I’ve written before about the varies ways infants handle their first  (or at least first for a while) grass experiences. Some love it, some hate it, some don’t give it a second thought, and some consider it part of their lunch. But today I’m going to talk about just one child and her grass experience.

Karla(name changed to protect the innocent) has never come out with us before. She is one of the children I worry about. So limp and floppy and unengaged with everything. One of those children that has no light in their eyes at all, and I wonder what horror she might be seeing instead of what is really in front of her. She had to come with usthat day, because the only other care giver she reacts to at all was out sick.

I sat with her flopped in my lap while we watched other kids playing with toys on the blanket we had brought. I saw that she was really watching too. and she was tracking the two other children her age who were rolling balls on the grass. So I got an idea. Maybe she would connect with the grass. I picked a couple of blades and held them for her to look at, explaining grass as best I could. (With infants, you learn to describe all kinds of things you take for granted) I brushed it lightly in her hand,expecting her to scream. She didn’t. She reached for it.

So then I took off her socks and let her brush her feet against it. Not pushing down,or forcing her to stand on it. She put one foot down, pulled it up, looked at me,and did the same thing again. Over and over. If we were having a conversation, it may have been something like this: Karla”I don’t know about this.”

Me”It’s okay. go ahead”

Karla(pulling toes back in)”nope”

Me” go ahead.”

Karla “are you sure about this?”

I think she wanted to make sure that I was there. That I didn’t mind it and that I wasn’t going to let anything happen to her if she changed her mind and wanted off. Eventually she did put both feet down for about three seconds. And she smiled for the first time that I’ve seen in the three months we’ve worked together.

  • Picnick days (

Gradiations! =D

Translation, Graduations!

Yes, 4 of my pre-k students who had the most challenges and would have been the most likely allowed to defer for an extra year have been accepted to kindergarten. For these four children the step into kindergarten is more like a giant leap. Not only are they all homeless, but they all have physical and emotional challenges that they average 5 year old doesn’t have. 3 of the 4 were unable to to do basic personal care when they arrived. And all were unable to socially younger than their ages. But all of them made it!

I’m embarrassed to say we almost missed it. Somewhere along the line we didn’t pay attention to how far they were progressing. It wasn’t until this morning, when I finally sat down and went over every ones progress cards that these 4 children met and even exceeded all the benchmarks to begin K-1. (our district is doing the experimental 2 part kinder)

So now I am about to notify 4 parents that their child will  be entering the “normal” school world, where they will be just like everyone else for a change. =) .It was only two weeks ago that on of the families was expressing their concerns that their child would never make it to non-specialized schools. And yes, I am also sending complete referrals to the schools with the education plans to continue the outstanding progress they are making.

I used to think that those big pre-k and pre-school graduations were silly. But now I am preparing one for my kids.=) I am trying to find four tiny cap and gown sets, and designing little certificates. Because this is what the other pre-k’s in my area are doing. And my pre-k’s are going to be like everyone else. Silly and over done? probably. But for kids who always feel inadequate and are always hearing, “sorry but we can’t afford..” it will mean the world.

Picnick days

For the past week we have had wonderfully sunny days. That means we can get our lunches out doors. I think we all like when those days happen.We get out from the Shelter with its barred doors and windows, horrible yucky water and depressing surroundings. Not only does the building get called the warehouse, it has the personality of it. And at lunch, we have to clear up the whole room, set up tables and wait in what probably seems like an endless line to the youngest ones.

But when it’s sunny, everything is different. First we all line up and clip into the “Crocodiles” so w e can walk the two blocks to the plaza. On the way, we discover trees and twigs and sparkles in the cement and some icky stuff too. After that half hour or so, we make it to the plaza.

The plaza is always fun. The kids get to take off their shoes and experience…GRASS! And some of the infants who have never had that experience are really funny to watch. They make the strangest faces. Some of them want nothing to do with  it ever again. Some try to eat it. Some couldn’t care less. Some look at it and experiment and try to experiment with it to see how soft and bouncy it is. Some are not sure. They put a toe on it from my lap, pull it back,put it out again.They  look at me to see my reaction before making up their minds and scooting off. Hysterical.

Lunch gets served in regular lunch bags like every other child would get on a school picnic. Sometimes there are even treats in the lunch bags. Last Friday, they got bagels with real cream cheese or butter. (and one with ketchup because of allergies.) Then playtime begins. The kids get to choose from two playgrounds, ball games, kite flying, running around, or just taking in the “great outdoors.” Some kids sketch or draw or write stories and poetry.

There are always extra fun things to see at the plaza too. Last year there was a sculpture of the six armed woman (who only had 5 arms.) This year their is a large inflated lotus flower. The kids are really intruged by that. They want to know everything about it. Why is it there? Why is it red? what does it do? What is a lotus?

There are other things to watch, too, of course. Dogs, people doing Ti-chi,pigeons.

I love taking our walks. I hope we can continue to do so for a few more weeks before the fog gets us socked in and it gets too windy for the kids who don’t have jackets.

Would you give your toddler or preschooler water that looked like this?

THe water at my children's center. AFTER being run through a filter three times

Don’t adjust your color settings. this is actually what the water at my center looks like.And that’s AFTER it has been filtered three times. Then we boil it, and filter it two more times before boiling it again and a final filtering.

I seriously wish this was a joke. It’s not. Our water contains copper, lead, and trace amounts of other heavy metal particulates and mineral deposits. That’s a very fancy way of saying our water is basically undrinkable. And yes, licensing saw it.But it was waived, since we only use it for projects,never for meals. It is also taken into account that our building was put up in 1907 and hasn’t been renovated since 1969.

Still I think the kids deserve better than something that looks like a cross between toilet water and a science fair project. How many people take for granted that the water from their tap will be drinkable? shouldn’t my kids get that too. It shouldn’t take two hours to get clean water. And then water that still isn’t drinkable.


The welcome letter of our parent handbook (numbers/most names/contact info changed)

This is a copy of my welcome letter to the parents. I’m working on it still.


We are excited to work with you and your child at the Elk Center. We hope that your child considers this a safe place to learn and grow.

We know how difficult and frightening being in transition can be.  We want to make this time as easy for you as possible. Please let us know what you need to make yourself and your child more comfortable and self-sufficient. If we can’t help, we probably know who can. We provide an on-site Nurse-practitioner, case management, lists of where to get low cost and free food and clothing, a stroller rental program and many other resources.

Many members of our staff are also residents or have been homeless themselves. We are willing to share what we have learned to help you out. We are also CPR and Pediatric First aid Certified and 90% of us hold permits for associate teacher or higher. The other 10% are currently in school, working toward degrees and/or certification.

At the Elk, your children will have a safe place to play and explore and a caring staff that will provide whatever they need to achieve. Hopefully they also will find a sense of stability and feel like part of a community.

Our major goal is to provide stability and safety for your child while giving them a place to learn. Please let us know what we can to help out. Your ideas are always welcome.

Turtle Travers-Brown

Activity Coordinator/family services case manager

Shelter stats,part 2

This is the debate where I live. there is so little funding that everyone’s fighting over slivers of the pie.I am trying to find out if others think we are a legitimate childcare/preschool center, and can therefore try for grants. We are already licensed, so we are recognized on the legal side. It’s the ECE community we seem to have some issues with.

Facts about center-poll style

I teach class in a shelter. Some people say that I’m nuts. Some say that there is no reason today that. Some people think that there are enough regular preschools to take them. The reality is that there aren’t. it is very difficult to find subsidised preschools.And then, there is the instability factor. The kids could be changing schools every few weeks. That can’t be a good thing. So I do what I can to give the kids the best chance they can to have something somewhat stable.

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