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reflections and musings from the School of Education at Mills College

Respect|Rachel Lefkowitz

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rachel-lefkowitz

Rachel Lefkowitz is the Program Coordinator, Educational Leadership and Special Assistant to the Dean at Mills College in the School of Education.

My mother went to college with the woman who has become Miss Manners, and now, whenever my mother travels to Washington, D.C., she and Miss Manners get together for tea. I like to imagine these teas: Miss Manners with her signature chignon and long-sleeved, Victorian-inspired white blouse; my mother in her hiking boots and jeans. They must sit in wing chairs, upholstered in some dark material, with the china teapot on a small table in between them. However, once I have set the scene, my imagination fails. What do they talk about? My mother would be completely bored by a discussion of the virtues of blue-black ink and the correct way to accept an invitation. But that, according to my mother, is not really what Miss Manners teaches. She says that Miss Manners’ message is that manners are about what makes the other person feel comfortable.

It is interesting to think of manners that way. It means that I say “please” and “thank you” not just because it’s polite, but because it’s a way to really acknowledge another person’s efforts on my behalf. Manners, then, are not like traffic signals –that is, a clear set of rules to help you be respectful of others. Manners are variable and cultural. For example, I recently received an email from someone who addressed me as Rachel, but who signed herself as Ms. Smith. I was surprised by this; I thought that if she was being formal, she should write to Ms. Lefkowitz. But I sign my emails Rachel, so maybe she was trying to be respectful of what I like, while showing me that she had a different expectation. Or maybe she wanted me to address her more formally because she is a teacher. It was hard to know, because I wasn’t sure what she was thinking.

This kind of misunderstanding must happen all the time, when expectations are not the same. I know that Mills asks Mannersus to be curious as we work and learn, and manners are another place where we could apply that curiosity. I could have written back to Ms. Smith, and said that at Mills we use first names, but did she prefer a more formal title? That would have alerted her to what makes us comfortable, and given her a chance to explain her convention and let us know if that would be better for her. I didn’t do that in part because I didn’t think of it, but also because it is so uncomfortable to call out a difference in expectations. It really underscores that sometimes what makes one person comfortable is going to take precedence. If Ms. Smith had come to Mills, she would have had to use her first name; our culture would have trumped. But could we be more flexible? Could we call some students, professors, or office workers, Ms, some by their titles, and some by their first names? Could we do this without creating a sense of disrespect for any?

I would like to have tea with Miss Manners someday myself, to ask her how we can better create flexibility between cultural practices and manners’ ultimate goal of comfort for others, especially those whose cultures or practices are different. I suspect that we would have an interesting discussion about it because, as formal as she is, she lets my mother’s hiking boots into her beautifully appointed living room.

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May 6, 2014 at 1:04 pm

An Administrator Reflects on Technology | Susan Christopher

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Susan Christopher-Assistant Dean, Director of Enrollment

Susan Christopher-Assistant Dean, Director of Enrollment

The rainbow wheel of doom was circling at a slow speed on my computer screen. As I waited for an automated report to assemble itself into the format I had requested, I felt increasingly irritated:

“Why is this taking so long? This computer is so slow!”

And even after the rainbow wheel disappeared:

“How come this report doesn’t provide all the data I need in one place?!?”

Then, I glanced at the message on my new coffee mug:

“Breathe in. Breath Out.”

With a deep exhalation, I tried to remember when I was first introduced to the magic of the data report I was now so impatiently awaiting.  I recalled my amazement that in an instant, I was provided with a long list of up-to-date facts about individual applicants that I could filter and sort in endless ways.  I had been delighted that I had easy and timely access to thousands of records, and that I could display an overview of our application process with a few quick strokes of the keyboard.  Breathtaking, impressive, and so efficient!

As I glanced again at my coffee mug, I reflected on the contrast between that initial sense of astonishment and my current sense of annoyance and frustration.  I considered how remarkable it truly is that so many dimensions of empirical knowledge about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni can be entered in and drawn out from a single location in cyberspace.  How had I lost that sense of appreciation?  When did I stop marveling at the wonder of technological efficiency and start grumbling about how slow and inadequate these tools are in living up to my need for data?

I suppose the answer lies in our collective expectations about technological tools.  Given the astounding advancements in computing capabilities that most of us in higher education administration have experienced over the past few decades, we assume that our computers will continue to gain speed and capacity as we create the need for ever-more elaborate data presentations.  We expect quick and reliable answers to endless questions posed by those from inside as well as outside the College.  And I think we have grown to rely on these tools as extensions of ourselves, of our own capabilities: any struggles with technology may be perceived as a weakness in administrative abilities.

Office in India

Office in India

In a final exhalation, I reminded myself that administrators only one generation before me had managed to oversee admissions processes and track student enrollment without the aid of any computers.  Indeed, that is undoubtedly still the case in many places in the world.  I chuckled as a memorable image from a recent trip to India came to mind.

While taking an unofficial walking tour of the University of Rajasthan, our guide, Acharya, led us through a central administrative building.  In office after office, we saw enormous stacks of paper.  There were stacks on shelves and stacks on desks; there were stacks inside cabinets; there were whole rooms that appeared to be devoted to storing stacks of paper.  As a fairly recent college graduate, Acharya explained that if he requested his records, a clerk would have to manually search through stacks of papers like these.  It might take months to get a single copy of a required document.  His explanation revealed no sense of frustration or outrage, just calm acceptance.

So I put a copy of that photograph on my desk, next to my coffee mug.  When the rainbow wheel next appears on my computer screen, I intend to recalibrate my response.  I will imagine that someone is moving from one office to another, combing through innumerable stacks of paper, and assembling an astonishing array of data for my use.  I will remember that others perform similar tasks with much less powerful tools.  I will be grateful for the remarkable technology that allows me to complete complex tasks on a daily basis.

And I will graciously accept the gift of a multicolored reminder to simply breathe while I wait.

 

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April 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm

How Mills Prepared Me for a Career in Early Childhood Education | Jenna Peterson

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Jenna Peterson, MA- Mills Alumni 2012 and Developmental Specialist for Children’s Care Connections at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego
(E) jbpeterson@rchsd.org http://www.howkidsdevelop.com

Six years ago I found myself packing one bag and moving from North Carolina to California to experience the life of the west. I had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina. As I began to search for careers, I quickly realized that I needed more experience and education to pursue my passion of working with children, aged birth-3 years, and their families. I had always had an interest for the developing brain and its fascinating ability to rewire itself based on environmental input. In my undergraduate studies, I had had the opportunity to intern in a hospital with a developmental specialist in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,(NICU), follow-up clinic, helping the specialist conduct developmental assessments on premature infants post-NICU through age 3. I knew then, the hospital population, particularly the premature population, was my passion.

After years of searching and narrowing my focus of study for graduate school, I came into contact with Dr. Kathleen Vandenberg, the west coast Master Trainer of the NIDCAP (Neonatal Individualized Developmental Care Assessment Program  http://www.nidcap.org/). During a 2-hour conversation with her, a light bulb went off and I knew I had tapped into something that would change the course of my life. I once again packed my bags, moved to San Francisco, and began a Master’s program in Early Childhood Special Education at Mills, while simultaneously interning at UCSF Medical Center with Dr. Vandenberg . However, in between my 1st year of grad school and 2nd, the 14 year old west coast NIDCAP program was cut due to lack of funding. But luckily, another door opened up for me, allowing me to intern at Oakland Children’s hospital with a NIDCAP trainer as well. There, I learned developmental interventions along with infant massage techniques to help foster a better developmental outcome for these fragile infants despite the unnatural environmental surroundings of a NICU.

Although my journey began with a narrow focus for the premature population, Mills’ graduate program quickly expanded my knowledge immensely, and gave me opportunities to work with all types of children and families including both those with special needs and those with typically developing children. Mills taught me to look at the child as a whole and meet the family where they are emotionally. Professionally, I am now seeing how the information I attained at Mills through the Children’s School, lectures, and field experiences have prepared me, and my classmates, to be leaders in our field. We learned to manage almost any situation, and to know quickly how to respond sensitively to the family’s needs in that moment. Mills taught us to see the big picture, the whole child, and how every factor –financial burdens, parental stress, behavior concerns, speech delays– of that child’s life is important to consider when working with the family. Mills taught us to see the whole picture and how to support the whole family through the journey.

I have learned more than I could have ever anticipated from this graduate program. The rich amount of hands-on, reflective practice that Mills provided is something that you cannot get anywhere else. I don’t think students realize the richness of the program until they begin their career. You may feel engulfed with so much work that you don’t realize the implication of that 25th reflection paper until you step into the work force. Then you realize that reflection of practice is the gateway to confidence and leadership in any profession.

Currently, I am a Developmental Specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in Oceanside, CA. I provide developmental assessments for children from birth to age 5. I also provide one-on-one consults with parents and children, providing educational play opportunities and information on how to stimulate language/development at home. I teach infant massage classes to families at the hospital and to mothers attending a substance abuse recovery center that are being reunited with their infants. I recently had the opportunity to speak at a local Early Childhood Mental Health Conference in San Diego, CA about the “Fussy Baby,” where I presented NIDCAP’s philosophies on helping the infant self-regulate. In addition, I am currently mentoring undergraduate interns. Following your passion pays off in the end. I credit Mills for where I am today, and will forever be thankful for all the experiences it gave me. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth every lost hour of sleep.

 

 

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March 19, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Reflection of a Child Life Graduate Student| Nnenna Okezie

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Nnenna Okezie

Nnenna Okezie is a recent Child Life Graduate from the Mills College School of Education Child Life Master’s Program. Nnenna participated in pet therapy at the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology infusion clinic

I came to the San Francisco Bay Area to further my education and discovered my passion for working with children and families. After graduating from San Francisco State University with a BA in Child and Adolescent Development, I worked as a full-time Infant/Toddler teacher. I enjoyed my work but wanted to pursue something more and find another way to serve the families in my community. Through volunteering at UCSF’s Benioff Children’s Hospital, I discovered a field called Child Life. The child life philosophy emphasizes play as an integral aspect of decreasing the stress that comes with hospitalization. Child Life was perfect for me because of my degree in Early Childhood Education and interest in science and medicine. Studying Child life and Early Childhood Special Education at Mills College has been a rewarding experience for me. This past summer I was fortunate to intern in the child life program at Kaiser Permanente Oakland.  This internship was intense, but an important part of my journey to become a child life specialist. I was constantly reminded me of why I love the child life philosophy.

Nnenna Okezie 2

A drawing of a dragon Nnenna made for a 3-year old boy who had been recently diagnosed with leukemia.

During my last summer as a graduate student I balanced being a live-in-nanny while interning full time at Kaiser Oakland. On a daily basis I met children and teenagers who were admitted for anything from swallowing a foreign object to scheduled chemotherapy. I ended most of my days by picking up from school two of the children I cared for. I then took them home and sometimes cooking dinner for the family. Many times I told myself that balancing a lot is great practice for the real world. Though stressful, it felt good being busy and always on the move. That being said, throughout my internship I often strangely felt that I was not doing enough. I had many moments when I felt joy in knowing that I had made a child laugh or smile or was able to give them something that would at least briefly take their mind off of their pain or illness. However I also had moments when I did not want to be that other person that a child felt that they had to interact with while dealing with the trauma and stress of hospitalization.

Nnenna Okezie 3

An art activity Nnenna set up at the clinic which involved the use of unconventional items such as, different kinds of Band-aids, gauze, tongue dispensers, and cotton balls.

All this time caring for others often caused me to lose track of caring for myself. I balanced the stress by marathon training and distance running with friends as a way to do something completely selfish yet physically and mentally beneficial. In order to keep running as a way to decrease my stress, I had to balance my time being active while still having time to read and write reflective journals for my internship. This was difficult. These journals allowed me to write down my thoughts, address biases I did not know I had, while absorbing and questioning the new knowledge I was gaining. Reflecting on paper and reflecting while running really caused me to face the choices I was making in life and reflect if I wanted to follow the path I was on. The reflection could be scary because I questioned my worth and wondered if I was making a difference in my community. I also questioned if the time I was putting in was making me selfish –I took out more money to pay for my education while my parents struggled financially. Of course, my parents are my #1 fans and completely support my academic pursuits, but as I struggled to provide for myself, I hated not being able to give them financial support. They are the reason I am here and the reason for the path I chose.

One day I hope to be in a position that would allow me to practice the child life profession in Africa. My roots are in Africa, as are many of my family members. With the high childhood mortality rates in parts of Africa, I see child life as a great profession needed. I know I still have a long way to go but I feel that having a goal or multiple goals are worth the time and energy. Just like marathon training, you get out what you put in.

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February 26, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Perspectives from an ESL student | Zubin Hu

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ImageZubin is a student in Teachers for Tomorrow’s Schools. For two different classes, Zubin was required to select a student (ELD student preferred, but not required) from the classroom where he student-teaches. Zubin wrote the piece below in response to case studies he did in those classes. He chose the topic because he had not seen anyone mention anything on it and wanted others to be aware of the differences between the terms.

 

Some definitions (from www.pps.k12.or.us/files/curriculum/ESL_Terminology.doc):

ELL/ EL- English Language Learners/ English Learners

ELD- English Language Development is a system of instruction focused on teaching ELLs to use English proficiently to communicate for various purposes in four language domains – speaking, listening, reading, and writing. ELD is also a class period that all students placed in the ESL Program are assigned.  It has its own curriculum and state standards.

ELP- English Language Proficiency are levels of English language learners’ fluency based on their stage of language acquisition and characterized by specific student language behaviors in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The levels are determined by State ELPA Test. Level 1 is Beginner.  Level 2 is Early-Intermediate. Level 3 is Intermediate.  Level 4 is Early- Advanced.  Level 5 is Advanced.

ELPA- English Language Proficiency Assessment is the annual state exam for assessing English learners’ growth in English proficiency

ESL- English as a Second Language

To many people, the phrases “ESL”, “EL”, “ELL”, and “ELD” are the same thing. However, to me, they are different. I am an ESL student, and “ESL” is the only one among the four definitions listed above that I’d love to be identified as. Being an ESL student implies that I can speak another language and may have language barrier. On the other hand, being an EL, ELL, or ELD basically means one has language barrier.

For my case studies on language, I found two students whose home languages are not English. However, they both refused to participate. I felt that they both were anxious about English being their second language. One student even lied. He told me that he was born in Berkeley, and he only speaks English at home. I mentioned this to my roommate, who is also an ESL student, and he said that when he was in school, he didn’t want people know that he was in the ELD program because he was worried people would look down on him. When I asked him if he wanted to be identified as an ESL student, he said that would be better for him because he would have the privilege of speaking two languages.

I understand that some other people don’t want to be identified with any of the four terms above. However, we, as educators, should affirm students’ identities and encourage them be proud.

One day while I was talking to my case study student, she reminded me that teachers often tell ELD students to write the definitions in their native languages. I followed this method myself when I was in school and wrote the Chinese translation of the words I didn’t know. I used to read each article at least three times. The first time reading the article, I basically just looked for the words I didn’t understand and wrote down the definition. The second time reading the article, I just tried to make sense of the article. If I found any definition didn’t make sense, I would go back to the dictionary and find an alternative. The third time reading the article, I was trying to understand it. My reading speed was slow. I spent much more time than other students to understand an article. After doing this for a year, I got tired of it and found that it wasn’t very helpful. English is such a complicated language because so many words have more than one meaning. Also, if a word is used in different context, the definition may be different. I then stopped writing the definition for every word that I didn’t know. Instead, I just tried to figure out the meaning through the context. If I still really had no idea what a word meant, then I look it up in the dictionary and choose the one that makes the most sense.

To many ESL students, especially in high school level, math and science are their favorite subjects. Maybe favorite is not very accurate, and I should use easier-to-catch-up-to instead. We come in with some understanding of those subjects. All we need is just to translate them into English and make sense of them.

Math class was very important to me in high school. I built my confidence in speaking and working with native speakers. Even though I didn’t understand much of the language, I did understand the examples or content. When I got home, I just focused on the vocabulary. Eventually, I was able to understand most of the things talked about in class. This approach may be limited to only a small number of individuals, but this definitely works in some cases including my own. I believe that vocabulary instruction is essential to effective math and science instruction. It not only includes teaching math or science specific terms such as “mean” or “percent,” but also includes understanding the difference between the mathematical or scientific definition of a word and other definitions of that word.

How ELL students feel about themselves is directly affected by the education policies put in place for English Language Learners.  Education policy makers set strict English language standards and push for ESL students to acquire English language proficiency at a rapid pace.  This urgent focus on language acquisition creates anxiety for ELL/ESL students.  Are there any influences we, as educators, bring to ELLs?  If teachers are not sensitive to or responsive toward ELLs’ cultural identities, ELL students can be pushed further toward the fringes of the classroom until they ultimately withdraw from the learning process.  If teachers focus so much energy on mainstreaming ESL students, they will place little or no value on students’ ability to speak two languages.  Acknowledging and affirming all students’ cultural identities in the classroom strengthens individuals’ sense of value, and their academic performance in the long run.  Teachers who understand and support the cultural norms of diverse learners help create a nurturing environment for those students, and can then encourage those students to feel more comfortable in taking the risks that can lead to so much learning and development.  By incorporating the wealth of students’ cultural backgrounds into the curriculum educators can advance the learning of all students, meeting the policy makers’ goals and fulfilling our obligations to all of our students.  The question, then remains: how do we build a curriculum that integrates multicultural backgrounds on an ongoing basis, and not just as a one-time multicultural event or activity?

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February 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Remembering Richard “Pete” Mesa| Diane Ketelle

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Richard Peter Mesa, the founding director of the administrative credential program and former Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership.

Richard “Pete” Mesa, the founding director of the administrative credential program and former Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, passed away on January 2 at the age of 84. Pete’s elegant leadership embodied grace and dignity and is seldom found. His many qualities of mind and character magnified his individual virtues. Pete’s courage, energy, high principles and steadfastness; impartial justice and utter trustworthiness; calm in the face of difficulty; thoroughness in deliberation and mastery over his strong passions distinguished him, as all of these qualities harmonized in his character.  Students will remember Pete as a rigorous professor and caring mentor, while colleagues will never forget his keen intellect, capacity to listen, and commitment to maintaining a small high quality program.  –Diane Ketelle

The San Francisco Chronicle obituary for Pete Mesa can be found here.

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January 21, 2014 at 10:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

How to Measure Cost Effectiveness of Child Life Services? | Susan Marchant and Betty Lin

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Susan Marchant

Susan Marchant is a Lecturer and Student Supervisor, in Child Life in the School of Education at Mills College. Her professional interests include genetic disorders, organizational psychology, pediatric chronic illness, pediatric palliative care, cultural implications in pediatrics, autism and related disorders, curriculum development.

In the present day push to make every minute “accountable,” which is synonymous to “billable,” it is becoming increasingly challenging to justify any service that’s considered psychosocial in nature—a service such as Child Life.  Child Life Specialists are unique professionals whose primary role is to respond to the developmental, social, and emotional needs of hospitalized children.  Child Life Specialists are trained in child development, psychology, education, hospital systems and culture, and psychosocial interventions designed to reduce distress and pain and to promote healing.In 2012 a notable pediatric surgeon stated that each visit with a child life specialist could save his surgical team three to five minutes.  “With 10 kids, that’s 50 minutes – that’s another surgery,” he explained.

Betty

Betty Lin is a Lecturer in the School of Education at Mills College. Her professional interests include early childhood education, early childhood special education, child life, infant mental health, early childhood and special needs advocacy, cultural understanding when working with Asian families.

Like all psychosocial cares in the hospitals, the cost effectiveness of child life services has come under scrutiny by the hospital administrators during an era of hospital mergers, affiliations, and rising health care costs.  How do we justify the need for child life services through cost effectiveness?  Anecdotal accounts like the one offered by the pediatric surgeon only helps to a certain degree.  At a time when administrative decision and policy are driven by evidence-based data, child life needs to find a way to quantify and qualify itself as an essential service in the delivery of quality healthcare for children and families.  The discipline of child life, a relatively new profession, needs to continue proving its worth through research.

Research studies translating psychosocial services into saved dollars and cents have been extremely scarce.  Yes, there are a few reliable studies such as those in pediatric radiology departments identifying, for example, the potential costs saved by minimizing the need for anesthesia for school age patients undergoing MRIs when they are adequately prepared by a child life specialist.  Reality is that the value of psychosocial care is difficult to quantify.

Nevertheless, Child Life must engage in research not only to prove its worth but also to better understand itself as a profession.  As a matter of fact, an evidence-based research study is in the planning stages through the National Child Life Council.  This will be a 5-year retrospective data analysis of pediatric patient records for children who have (and have not) received child life services as part of their hospitalization to analyze recovery rates and other outcome measures.  The goal of this study is to provide critically necessary data related to both the effectiveness of the modality of play and the cost effectiveness of child life services because of their use of play techniques.

At Mills, we are actively looking at how we can engage in Child Life research.  We have an obligation to produce quality Child Life Specialists and to contribute to the Child Life field.  Stay tuned!

Written by collegialconnections

January 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

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