For me, the past year has given me many different definitions to the answer,
Julie Heil- PHP Outreach Coordinator located in Buffalo
“What is an advocate.” What I found to be most important is that the answer changes depending on who or what you are advocating for. However, the underlying question always remains true, that is, what is the unmet need and how can I help facilitate the solution?
Sometimes advocating for families and children involves an emotional reaction; anger, frustration, discontent, fatigue. I have found disconnecting myself from the emotion the hardest part of being an effective advocate. The counselor in me wants to do just that, counsel, however that is not our role.
I have made a list of what I believe to be the most important skills in being an advocate:
- Be a listener- listen for the details and filter out the emotion
- Take notes and be organized. This will assist you in helping the family you are working with to understand the nuances in the paperwork, plan, and conversation.
- Understand the laws and systems you are dealing with. Don’t speak up until you KNOW that what you are saying is fact. If you misspeak, then you lose the power you have as an advocate.
- Be a strong, assertive communicator.
- Build relationships with the people that work in your system. Knowing who to deal with and who your allies are is worth so much.
- Be respectful of the client and their needs. Don’t pass judgment and remember everyone needs a hand from time to time.
What we are really doing as advocates is demonstrating to our clients the skills they will need to be more effective the next time the encounter a problem. Remembering this is essential! When teaching by example, we are not rescuing or giving the solution.
Ethelyn Sharpe- PEN Parent Educator out of Cheyenne
Hands down, Mrs. Rose, 4th grade, Stonegate Elementary in Bedford, Texas. She went above and beyond the curriculum…I can’t really recall what I learned academically that year (fractions? prepositions?, couldn’t really tell you), but I can recall many life lessons I learned that year. She read us “Where the Red Fern Grows” after lunch every day, and taught us that it’s okay to become emotionally involved in a story and to love books and reading. She made us all coin purses for Christmas that year and kept them in the classroom as our own personal bank account. We could deposit money with her, and she made deposits with her own money for us, and at the end of the year we all had a little spending money to take on our field trip. In doing so, she taught us how to budget and save our money. She taught us all to embroidery, had us all bring a white shirt to school, each of our classmates signed the shirt and we embroidered the signatures, teaching a craft that I still use today. We hosted a “Before School Appreciation Breakfast” for our parents and administrators, teaching us to be gracious hosts/hostesses. She ran a tight ship, but we all learned that having self-control and being organized are both much needed skills in life. In this age of technology, I have found many friends on Facebook from Mrs. Rose’s class. It’s been over 40 years since we were in that class together, and many of us still have that shirt that we embroidered, but I have a feeling that more importantly, many of us still experience the benefits of the life lessons that she taught us.
Julie Heil- PHP Outreach Coordinator located in Buffalo
The best teacher I every had-
That’s an easy one- the best teacher I ever had was my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Ellis. Somehow she knew that I needed a little extra nurturing that year. She invited me to spend a lot of time with her after school, we would clean off the desks, organize the bookshelves, talk about life and friends, movies and books. I had a sick sister, came from a single parent home and really needed the extra attention that Mrs. Ellis gave me.
I’m sure she was a great teacher in many other ways too. Because of the huge Wyoming quilt our class made, I canstill remember all the Wyoming counties and their county seats However, the subjects she taught and how she taught them are not what stayed with me. What stands out the most, is how she made me feel; safe, special and most of all, worthy of her time. I’m sure this experience is what led me want to be a teacher myself. Mrs. Ellis’s influence was one of the greatest gifts. I learned that every child may need a little extra scoop of attention from time to time and that sometimes the smallest kind gesture can make a world of difference.
Deb Allender, F2F Outreach based in Casper
Early Literacy is a tool we can give our children that will help shape their futures in a million ways. It doesnt cost a million dollars, it just takes moments of our time to read to them, to let them read to us, to encourage their imaginations, to hone their guessing skills. Early literacy doesn’t just have to be flashcards and phonetic drills. It can, and should, be encorperated into every aspect of life. Reading is something every family can do together…..even if it is the side of the mac and cheese box while cooking dinner. It is a practical skill that once we give our children, can not be taken away. Once a child learns to read they have worlds opened up for them. They can use reading to learn and grow, they can use it to escape and imagine, they can use it to laugh and question. If we instill in our young children a true passion for literacy we are really giving them the world-any part of it they wish to explore.
Children will learn to love reading if the adults they are around model a love of reading. And I know I am as guilty as the next tired single mom, who just doesn’t have time to sit down and read for fun anymore.
And I will admit I sometimes go for the book with just a few more pictures and a few less words, but you know what? It’s still a book, and we can still look for clues in the illustrations and make predictions before we turn the page and we can read it with silly voices- some of my boys favorties things about how I read. We can find a way to enjoy the moments we do have, build it into the routine, strengthen learning in unconventional ways, and really install that passion in our children.
I often worry that I am not doing enough for my children, but the reality is I am doing the best that I know how to do. And that is really all any of us can do as parents. So don’t beat yourself up for the stories you didnt read last night, just take a breath and read a short one tonight.
Yes, reading should start this early.
My mother used to tell me that reading to children is the most important thing you can do for them as a parent. I have seven siblings, and true to her convictions, she read to all of us until we were old enough to want to read alone. She read nightly for 26 years – 9,490 reading sessions with us all piled into her lumpy old bed.
We lived out in the present ghost town of Table Rock Village. Once a week the bookmobile would make the 45 mile trip from Rock Springs to our village. Once it arrived, the kids would line up outside for their turn to pick books. My siblings and I made up 50% of the line. The driver only let us choose 10 books, and only 2 people could get on the bookmobile at a time. Ultimately, though, our family would end up with 90 books (my mom got 10 also), and we each read every single one.
Fast forward 20 years: We can now see that early literacy sets the foundation for long-term educational success. This week I will be attending the college graduation of my younger sibling, and the 8th college graduation for our family – a milestone that makes my mother’s time and work really show. And when I get home, I will sit down with my kids for our 2,920th reading session.