What can children gather from the treasured world of childhood that will enrich their adult lives? Educator Betty Peck celebrates the power of Kindergarten to help children find their creativity and imagination, opening the door to a passionate relationship with learning. The result is an essential resource for teachers and parents who want to give their children a meaningful education.
The incomparable Betty Peck is one of the most delightful and wonderfully original kindergarten teachers I have ever met. Like the wise grandmother elder in this little book of GOD, pouring out her cornucopia of abundance and beauty, Betty has graced the world of childhood with her magic stardust of enthusiasm for life, adventure, reverence, and joy.
The Kindergarten Forum is a quarterly gathering for teachers, administrators and parents who are interested in nurturing the young child and their caretakers. For over twenty years in Saratoga, California, this has been a highly successful collaboration between Betty and her daughter, Anna Rainville. A long series of illustrious speakers have addressed a broad range of topics including discipline, learning disabilities, storytelling, gardening, children and nature and many more.
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The Kindergarten Teacher's Creed
I bring the gift of myself
To this celebration of life
We call the Kindergarten.
I come each day
To be refined, smoothed, tempered,
For I hold in my hands,
with wonder and gratitude
Seeds of the future are in the oneness
Of all nature and all people
In tune with the divine to found in our hearts
That I give, through the joy and beauty of love.
The creed speaks in simple language to the deep mysteries of life and learning. Each of us contains within our innermost self the secret of life. In our spirit lives the seed of life, the spark of greatness and grandeur that promises an ever unfolding future of possibility. The children who come into our lives carry in their hearts the innermost secret of themselves, and we truly shape the future in what we do in the garden of young souls, so rightly named the children's garden.
The kindergarten is also a metaphor for the larger life of which we are a part. Life is a garden in which we are always planting seeds. The seeds are the thoughts, actions, hopes and longings which we sow in the fields of our endeavors. Life gives back to us in like measure to the seeds we have planted; we reap what we have sown. In the measure that we give, so life gives to us in return—we take out of our lives what we put into them. In our work with the children, our deeds and our example are living seeds broadcast into the fertile fields of their minds and their hearts. Our gifts to them, like living seeds, will grow and produce rich fruit for their future lives.
The kindergarten is a temple of our own unfolding as well as that of the young ones in our care. We need the high temperature of the flame of love as well as the intense pressure of a high intelligence for our innermost selves to become fashioned into the likeness of the great individualities who have walked this earth before us. Through contact with these young hearts and minds we find ample opportunity to smooth out our own rough edges so that the indwelling splendor of our deeper self may shine forth. Wonder is the beginning of all true learning, and as educators we may draw forth the inner magnificence sleeping in the children by preserving a sense of wonder for the mystery of each child. The origins and destiny of each human soul is immeasurably profound.
We give the children the gift of a life-long love for learning when we plant in their hearts a sense of wonder. This we do through the artfulness of the picture language of the soul. By drawing upon the rich imagination of tales of enchantment and beauty we can sway the child's growing mind so as to love goodness and to embrace beauty. From the child's own inner sense for beauty she chooses to love the best and brightest and to follow the path of light, truth and friendship.
Making joy and happiness the object of our striving, we place before the children the example of kindness and loveliness. This draws out their enthusiasm for living. The teacher opens her heart each day as a vessel to contain gratitude for the gifts and lessons of the day, and for the chance to work among the special young souls who look up to us in spontaneous openness and admiration.
Through our earnest striving to embody the loving potential in our hearts, we become worthy examples for the children. By kindling their enthusiasm for play, and by sparking their imaginations with the gift of heartfelt words and wisdom-filled stories, they grow in strength, grace, skill and enthusiasm for learning. The task before us makes us grateful, and opens the inner portals of inspiration, for gratitude is the secret of finding joy in living.
Walt Whitman wrote a long ecstatic poem about his early years. It begins:
There was a child went forth every day; And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became; And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years...
Walt Whitman' s words are cautionary, for better and for worse, to the whole world of Kindergarten Education. Betty Peck's Kindergarden Creed reminds me of this poem. 'Object relations theorists' take note! Read all of Betty's books, see her CD's, and take notes from Betty's well-documented approach to early impressions, attachment, and all of childhood education! I hope her views and practices will boom and resound throughout the world, even in far away China where inspirational revisions of outmoded educational ideas are now taking root.
Betty dared to know herself to be prime nourishment for the children's future lives. I love to hear how eager former students have been to meet with her again over the years. Even those who are now elders create very determined reunions to celebrate the bounty of life, indoors and out, which they absorbed as they responded with their whole being to her in those early days. They continue to summon her to reawaken intact from within themselves their own visceral memories of their Kindergarten days under her tutelage, and to be inspired.... to go forth... as inspirational figures for their grandchildren and families and colleagues. Betty wanted her every word and deed in the garden and classroom, and beyond, to be worthy of the children, and of everyone who came through her door. She saw herself each moment in the Kindergarten as a role model for life more abundant. Even now in her nineties, she knows herself every day to be a learning environment in collaboration with Mother Nature.
Why are adults today not encouraged to make more of themselves as the most important role models for their children? What parents and teachers wear, how they breathe and speak, the font of poems and stories they hold and share, the gently potent love that can arise between adult and child, all this too often is diminished to serve a different "virtual" goal. Trained to step aside after turning on computers or videos, an adult's unconditionally loving enthusiasm for life falls away. The generously flowing beauty, goodness and truth of life shrinks and hides in both home and classroom, and hesitates at the brink of the natural world. A bored, disempowered, uninspired teacher or parent communicates a distasteful mood to the children. The children will inevitably mirror this mood in their own souls later, if not right away. Walt Whitman's poem attests to this inevitability.
Would that every Kindergarten teacher stood like Betty Peck has countless times with her pupils to behold themselves and to read these words beautifully calligraphed around the frame of a mirror as big as they are: "Thank you for every moment that makes it possible for me to stand here and see how wonderful I am."
Would that every Kindergarten teacher would keep a collection, like Betty Peck does, of beautiful garments, hats, shoes, baskets and more to inspire children to observe more closely the playful splendor of the natural worlds. To this day Betty's cupboards overflow with the shoes, dresses, and leaf and flower crowns she donned, at dawn, to reflect for the children wonderfully from her head to her toes the colors and mood of each different day, month and season.
Would that every Kindergarten teacher kept large golden numbers and letters around the highest rims of the classroom to be brought down at auspicious moments from these heights to participate creatively in the poems and stories and games of the day.
Would that every Kindergarten teacher carried Betty Peck's first book, Kindergarten Education, with them along with her GOD book for their daily bread. These books contain Betty Peck's inspired teachings, to be read, and re-read again and again.
How fortunate Kindergarten children are who go forth to meet teachers who are as insistent as Betty, without fail, that they themselves be full of unconditional love; teachers who seek with passion every day to be beautiful, true and good in themselves first, and then to shine these qualities throughout the Kindergarten classroom and play garden.
For the sake of today's children who are so needy of superb role models, may Betty Peck and her Kindergarten Creed inspire you to find joy and courage within you, even perhaps more wise and creative than you ever knew existed. Then, like Betty Peck, may you too let no one, and nothing, dim that light.
—Nancy Mellon, December 18th, 2012
Happy Birthdays evermore, Betty!
Learning to read is the most important thing that happens to us, and it happens in childhood. My husband, Willys Peck learned to read by "The Pooh Method".
Here are his own words about this amazing event:
THE POOH METHOD OF LEARNING READING
When I was a child my parents would read books to me and my brother.
My favorites were the books Winnie the Pooh, and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne.
Though I didn't make a conscious effort to memorize the stories, I found through hearing them multiple times that I could recite the opening paragraphs from memory.
One day while looking at the book and reciting it from memory, I found myself picking up words beyond those actually memorized. It was at that moment that I realized I was reading!
That is why I call it learning to read by the Pooh Method.
My learning to read was the most important thing that happened to me in first grade; it is what helped me to become who I am.
My grandmother told me all the fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Lucky is the child who contains all these words of ancient wisdom. I, in turn, would become the story-teller for my brothers and sisters.
I remember the day I learned to read. I, too, believe along with John Steinbeck,
'It is perhaps the greatest single effort that the human undertakes, and he must do it as a child'. I remember the day I carried my paperback book home to read my mother when I was in the first grade. I had learned to read! The excitement of this anticipation of being able to read to my mother is still with me.
In my memory, we sat down together not far from front door. I read the entire book to her with great delight and Joy. When I was finished, she said to me, 'Now read it backwards'. With more joy than before, I read the entire book backwards. It was at that moment that I had the feeling of coming into my own. I had become more than I had thought myself to be. Now, I would use the word 'transcended' for this occasion, for now I knew what my mother could not know. I, and I alone, knew this wonderful secret: I had learned to read. I didn't need a celebration; learning to read was celebration enough.
When my grandchild Sarah learned to read, I asked if a picture of her reading to her sister, Merina, could be placed in the children's room at our village library in celebration of her learning to read. The picture was hung celebrating one of the most important steps of life that just happens to fall in childhood.
It was the library in Los Angeles near our house that nourished my love of literature. My mother would read to me. We would read to the last minute that the book was due and then I would rush off to the library on my skates, always alone. But it was Mrs Laverne Perrin, my seventh-grade teacher at Bel Pasi School, who introduced me to the great literature of the world. We had to learn a poem each week. She would read Sir Walter Scott's work, and in a different vein, Uncle Tom's Cabin was one where we hung onto every word. She read us, I am sure, all the things she loved, for I remember her great passion in the love of these books. Each story, was more than its words: It was the whole realm of history, culture, nature, philosophy, religion, and psychology.
Because of this heritage, I now read, and re-read from several books a day, all of which I own in my library, a tribute to these foundation years when I was loved by them and given what these darlings had been given in their youth and now were able to give to me.
Reading is one of the most important events in the life of a human being, and it happens in childhood. Have you ever thought of all the skills that must come together to be able to read? This exciting event that places the human being above all forms of life is a gift of the gods.
What we do with this gift determines who we are, and as a teacher I feel privileged to help parents of the Kindergartners build the foundation for productive citizens who grow up loving to read. I hope that celebrations and ritual can be built up around the event when a child of today learns to read. It has taken us this long to realize that this is a magical moment that needs recognition.
Please let me know how you learned to read. My address is:
14275 Saratoga Ave
Saratoga California 95070
There is no argument that the human skin does a superb job of protecting us, but does the skin have a more understated learning function as well? Haptics, a relatively new field of study, is revealing that touch may be as important as vision in the learning process and the subsequent retention of memory. If educators engage more of the human senses in their classrooms, students not only learn faster, but information is easier to recall by merging unrelated sensory modalities. The ability to "see" in the mind's eye involves more brain regions than previously thought. Our perceptions of sight, sound, touch, smell, balance, etc., are a collaboration of networks in a "simultaneous sensory world."
Please know how important it is to write to all of your new Kindergarten children asking them to bring their mothers to Kindergarten when they come to visit for only 20 minutes on the first day of Kindergarten.
Tell the child: You will be given a map of the room so you can both find everything in the Kindergarten room. I want to know when your birthday is coming. Please find the birthday board and when you find the day when your birthday will be celebrated, please bring it to me so I can write your names so that everyone can see. Choose a plate that has a special number for your own this year. Please bring it to me so I can write your name on the back in case we forget. Then choose a place on the floor where you want the sand man and bring you a treat each day. This is where you will put your blanket each day at rest time. The last thing is to find your cubby where you will put your blanket when you bring it tomorrow. Thank you. I will see you tomorrow in your own room where you know where everything lives.
When the child comes the next day the number plates form a ring on the floor. This is where they will sit each day and also the number they choose will tell the child his place in line when we need to line up.
Do put beautiful golden upper case letters among the stars so that the children learn that every letter starts in the stars and comes down to the earth line. Choose a place where one letter is celebrated each week with the reason that letter was chosen.
I chose "l, L" for learners. The lifeline on the leaf is "l". We make leaves for our bare branch tree that stretches across the back of the room. Please remember the first letter "L" also points the direction where all the other letters will follow. It is our left side where our heart is. When we stand string with our hands at our sides we are the picture of the lower case "l" filled with love.