Student Teaching at a Public Pre-K in NYC
Hogar de Vida, an orphanage in Costa Rica
I’m Birdy Sahagian (it’s really Roberta, but I don’t use that name). My goal is to bring all of the knowledge and skills I’ve learned and developed over the last 16 years of working with kids to as many families as I can. I’ve had so many amazing experiences, and done so much interesting research, that I’ve amassed what amounts to an expertise in childcare. I also have many skills such as all things related to arts and crafts, teaching math visually, voice coaching, party planning, and face painting. I also have a tendency to surreptitiously teach philosophy while babysitting. Let’s be honest, I have a tendency to teach. Every experience can be a learning experience.
Most importantly, in all of my work, I emphasize empathy, creativity, and self-understanding.
What’s Different about My Approach?
If you can find another babysitter who has done even one of these things with their charges, please tell me so we can team up:
- Taught a group of Kindergartners to count in binary on their fingers up to 1,023.
- Made several stuffed animals by hand and a fully furnished house for them with an 8-year-old.
- Conducted an empirical study of pizza from all over New York City with a group of 6- and 7-year-olds.
- Taught 5-year-olds to knit on a loom (they made their own hats).
- With a group of 5- to 7-year-olds wrote and recorded a song about Evolution.
- Designed a philosophy and practice of behavior management based on the human capacity for empathy.
- Made ridiculous Halloween costumes, like SuperGlue!, a super hero who is a bottle of glue (with glue minions):
When I am working with children, I sense that my cognition and instincts are aligned. I find it extremely rewarding to interact with children, even when they are being difficult, because I learn even more from more challenging experiences. I also find them hilarious, insightful, full of untapped wisdom, and wonderfully imaginative. I understand them very well, which I believe is not something I learned but rather a capacity I have always had. I find the development of their minds and skills and personalities to be completely fascinating and am never bored – unless it’s nap time.
Below is a list of some of the services I offer. Each heading is a link to a page that explains more.
My priorities when babysitting are as follows:
- Safety – I am certified in Advanced Child Care Training by the Red Cross, which includes CPR and First Aid. Safety is always my primary objective.
- Fun – As much as I like to teach, I know that what kids like most about me is that I’m fun. I have a silly sense of humor and I can make a game out of anything!
- Learning – I believe that every experience and event, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an opportunity for learning. By following the children’s attention, I can elaborate on, and ask questions about all the parts of their surroundings that pique their curiosities. Furthermore, every mistake, every success, every conflict can be used to support a lesson. I try to take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible.
My priorities when tutoring are:
- Safety – As stated above, safety is always my top concern when caring for a child, although during tutoring sessions, risk is generally low.
- Learning – I will sacrifice a bit of fun if I think it will help the child focus, but I usually find that the more fun the learning is, the better it sticks.
- Fun – I try to make everything that I can into a game or something silly so we can laugh while we learn. This is seriously helpful with increasing motivation and enthusiasm.
I start by meeting with a family for part of a day, preferably including a meal and/or homework time, to develop an understanding of the interpersonal dynamics at play. I then meet with parents and children separately to discuss perceived issues. Following this initial assessment, I arrange times with the family when we can set up schedules for daily routines, develop discipline models, and discuss strategies for nourishing healthy relationships.
My favorite method of discipline is what I call “Empathic Discipline.” You can read about it in detail here, but the general idea is two-fold. First, we aim to use empathy as often as possible when responding to conflict. Second, we aim to appeal to the child’s innate capacity for empathy as a means of aligning our goals. Children are naturally humanitarian, and desire fairness. We can use these tendencies to motivate children toward pro-social and obliging behavior. I’ve seen it work many times!
Experience & Education:
- 19 years babysitting.
- 16 years teaching.
- 10 years working at summer camps and after school programs.
- Two years assistant teaching at Hunter Elementary.
- Eight years attending Hunter Elementary (foundation for divergent thinking skills).
- Six years attending Hunter High School (foundation for writing skills).
- Studied Education at Barnard College (Columbia University), and at SUNY New Paltz with a concentration in Math.
- Volunteered at Hogar de Vida, an orphanage in Alajuela, Costa Rica
- Link to my full CV