Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone highlights young learners

College conference for early childhood educators this weekend

By Todd R. Brown, Staff writer.

Friday, October 12, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—Plenty of parents would agree that raising a child is a full-time job that nobody can do alone, even if they sacrifice their everyday lives for their own "Mini-Me."

A legion of childhood development workers help guide young minds through their formative years, and on Saturday, Ohlone College will host its third annual Early Childhood Studies Program conference for nascent pedagogues.

Among the topics to be covered are toddler training and "working with children with challenging behaviors," but the focus isn't solely onhow to handle the kiddies.

At least one workshop will be on "taking care of the personal and professional self," a notion that goes beyond coping with a roomful of rowdy children.

"Educators are givers. It requires a lot of them," said Rosemary O'Neill, coordinator of personal counseling and life coaching services at Ohlone. "They may be better at giving to others than taking care of themselves."

The Pleasanton resident, who also is a private life coach, said children have a lot of energy and can be especially taxing to deal with, making it all the more important for teachers to take time to de-stress.

"It can just be a deep breath sometimes," O'Neill said. "It's having that inner reflection, that moment to slow down."

That may sound obvious, but just give it a try—take a deep breath and exhale.

Ah. Pretty nice, yes?

O'Neill said she has a list of 10 daily habits she will go over that can help "giving" people focus on their own needs, from meditating for a few minutes to talking with a friend about the pressures of work and home.

"I have a slogan, 'It's really a smart thing to do to get help,'" she said, noting that she avoids using "mental health" in her job title because of the stigma attached to seeking emotional support. "We don't have to feel like we have to shoulder everything ourselves."

By emphasizing what teachers need in their own lives—even simple things such as getting enough sleep and eating right—O'Neill said educators can build confidence and get more comfortable laying down the rules of who is in charge in the classroom.

"Children are learning how to be in the world, and we're guiding that as the adults in their life," said Janice Fonteno, professional development coordinator for Ohlone's Early Childhood Studies department. "Primarily it's the families, but teachers weigh into that."

The Union City resident said everyone from beginning students to full-time professionals can benefit from the conference, which has 225 registered participants so far. The Ohlone program has about 300 to 350 enrollees.

"You need to be continually educating yourself because things change through the years," Fonteno said, noting the growing cultural diversity in the Tri-City area. "Everyone needs to be recognized."

To that end, a performance of Sudanese drumming is set for the conference, and Canadian children's songwriter Charlotte Diamond will sing songs in French and Spanish.

"She's very well known among preschool teachers," said Mairi Tsiftsi of Fremont, the AA degree professional development coordinator for the Ohlone program. "Even if the name doesn't sound familiar, most of them know her songs."

The catchy tunes should help buoy the all-day conference—which is good for a half-unit of credit—especially for tired teachers who will surrender a precious weekend day for the experience.

"When you're giving all day to children and families, and you're not taking care of yourself, guess what happens?" Fonteno said. "You burn out. Giving really does take all aspects of who we are … spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally."

Managing those demands is key in both life and work, O'Neill said, whether teaching children or in any field.

"As we take care of ourselves first, we're going to be more able to be there in our jobs and our homes," she said.

The conference is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Kidango Childhood Development Center on Ohlone's Fremont campus. For details, visit the Web site http://www.ohlone.edu/instr/ecs/profdev/earlychildhoodconference.html.

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