By Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD
Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books are favorites in our household. Willems has a knack for addressing both children and the adults who are reading to them. In I’m a Frog, Piggie teaches her friend Gerald about imaginative play. “You can just go out and pretend to be something you are not!?” Gerald asks in disbelief. Piggie replies, “Sure. Everyone pretends.” “Even grown-up people?” asks Gerald. Piggie’s answer: “All the time.”
Maybe Piggie is referring to imposter syndrome or the pressure that many adults feel to “fake it till we make it.” But given that we’re in a cultural moment where cosplay, live-action role playing (or LARPing), and Dungeons & Dragons are enjoying a surge in popularity, I also wonder about taking Piggie’s statement literally: we “grown-up people” really do enjoy playing pretend.
Maybe you’ve never been to a comic con, and you haven’t put on a costume since you gave up trick-or-treating. But I’d argue that the majority of what adults do for entertainment still engages our imagination. Think about the types of entertainment you enjoy. Do you look forward to a regular game night? Do you like to curl up with a good book? Which are your favorite movies and TV shows? Why do you like these forms of recreation? I asked friends and coworkers what they look for in a book, movie, or TV show. They answered:
- To escape my day-to-day
- To travel and have adventures
- To watch people use skills I don’t have
- To understand other people and why they are the way they are
- To learn about how the world works
- To laugh
Media fire our imagination and tap into humans’ connection to stories. A baking show allows us to try on the idea of being a baker, even if we rarely turn on the oven. A character-driven novel helps us empathize with people who are different from ourselves. A superhero movie gives us the chance to escape the mundane and experience feeling powerful. These are all strikingly similar to the reasons why children play.
Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSed, writes in the journal of the American Association of Pediatrics:
Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.
I think that we adults turn to our favorite forms of entertainment for similar benefits.
The benefits of play
We know a lot about the importance of play in childhood. Fred Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.” I remember reading about the various functions of play in my undergraduate textbook. At the time, I was skeptical; I couldn’t remember engaging in play as a child that specifically addressed social-emotional needs. But as an adult, I’ve often thought back to those functions of play as I watched the children around me. Having fun is certainly part of play. But play offers other important benefits, including:
- Helping children master anxieties and conflicts;
- Allowing children to practice skills like saying “hi” and making friends
- Giving children a chance to be “in charge”; they may pretend to be a parent, a doctor, a teacher, etc.
The psychologist Lev Vygotsky said, “In play a child is always above his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” When my nephew was little, his family’s apartment was near their building’s dumpsters. The noisy weekly process of emptying the dumpsters scared my nephew. His response? Become the garbage collector. My nephew played “garbage truck” exclusively for months, constructing neighborhoods where his toy truck could empty bins over and over, and ultimately, conquering his fears.
An acquaintance described an experience in which she turned to pop culture to allay her fears, just as my nephew turned to imaginative play. Nervous about giving birth to her first child, my acquaintance decided to try and channel one of her favorite cultural icons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to prepare mentally for the experience of labor. A study done here at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development attests to the effectiveness of this strategy. Researchers Rachel E. White, PhD, and Emily O. Prager, PhD, described what they called the “Batman effect”: children persevered at a task longer when they pretended to be a heroic character. My acquaintance, too, took advantage of the “Buffy effect.”
Psychological distance in play
A key aspect of the Batman effect is that pretending to be someone else allows us to psychologically distance ourselves from a situation. Psychological distance means we’re less emotionally involved and more able to use our executive function skills–like working towards a goal or controlling our impulses. Recently, my 2-year-old daughter was playing with her toy puppies. She pretended that the puppies were fighting over which would go into the swimming pool first. My 4-year-old daughter pretended to be the puppies’ mom and said, “Let’s think about a way that we could work this out for both of you.” Would my daughter have taken this calm, logical approach in a real disagreement with her sister? Probably not! Her psychological distance from the puppies’ disagreement opened up the opportunity to practice her conflict resolution skills in a way that was “a head taller” than her typical behavior in her own life.
Similarly, adults may favor content that they can maintain at least some psychological distance from. I’ve heard from a number of parents that since having children, they avoid books and movies whose plots include threats to children. These are too close to home, too emotionally activating. Certainly, narratives are most engrossing when we care about the characters and situations presented, but we don’t want to care too much.
Experiencing mastery through imagination
I’m struck by the fact that two of the most enduring fiction genres are romance and mystery. These stories can be repetitive: the couple always gets together, the detective always catches the bad guy. Maybe these classic genres are so appealing because they address some of the biggest life challenges that adults face in the modern world: creating connection and acceptance, and conquering the threat of living in a society with other people. Yet romances and mysteries explore these challenges in ways that preserve our psychological distance by being very different from our actual situations, and their endings resolve the messiness of interpersonal relationships. While children may want to read the exact same picture book ten times in a day, the adult version of mastery through repetition may look like consistently engaging with familiar genres.
All of us–adults and children alike–are looking for mastery and control over our lives. My spouse has a demanding job as a hospital physical therapist. He is also a parent to two young children with lots of their own opinions. In short, his daily life involves a lot of interactions where he doesn’t have control over the other person’s emotions or reactions. Even after a long week, he likes to relax by playing complex strategy games like Everdell, Wingspan, Pandemic, or Scythe. These games offer the opportunity to make decisions that have a direct and immediate effect on the outcome of the game. Win or lose, you control the imaginary world of the game. Table-top games may also offer escape from unpredictable social interactions, or even the opportunity to practice social skills and process experiences. In a recent Wired article about the therapeutic use of table-top role-playing games, one mental health practitioner touted the “life-magic of narrative social play.”
Play is part of the work of growing up. It helps children practice skills and experience a sense of mastery that builds confidence. Is the same true for adults? I wonder how we might benefit from prioritizing play and imagination in our lives, whether it be at work or at home with our families and friends. How can you use your entertainment and leisure time intentionally to provide fulfilling self-care? What do you do to play? How will you use your imagination today?
We’re excited to introduce a new series of evidence-based Tip Sheets that explore topics of relevance to early childhood professionals. Each topic has an Introducing It Tip Sheet and an Applying It Tip Sheet. The Introducing It Tip Sheet gives background information and current research about the topic. You can think of this as the “why” behind our recommendations. The Applying It Tip Sheet suggests ways to implement your new knowledge. This explores the “how” of each topic.
Our first Tip Sheets are available now! Download these free resources.
This tip sheet introduces what causes unmanageable stress in children, the role the brain plays, and the impact a child’s unmanageable stress may have on caregiving adults. It also describes what children need to remain emotionally regulated.
This tip sheet introduces the steps adult caregivers can take in preventing stress in a child before challenging behaviors occur, and how to respond when a child uses behavior to communicate feelings.
Look for new Tip Sheets rolling out regularly over the coming months on topics such as:
- Reflective Listening
- Authentic Assessment
- Relationship-Based Professional Development
- And more!
What other topics would you like to read about? Feedback is welcome at email@example.com.
A groundbreaking new book by CEED’s Christopher Watson, PhD, Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, and colleagues, is the first guide to using the Reflective Interaction Observation Scale (RIOS) as a framework to plan and shape reflective supervision sessions. Entitled RIOSGuide for Reflective Supervision and Consultation in the Infant and Early Childhood Field, the book is out now from Zero to Three.
The origin of the RIOS
The RIOS was initially developed as a research tool. Its purpose is to help researchers identify and measure the “active ingredients” in a reflective supervision session. Researchers who study reflective supervision may watch video recordings of reflective supervision sessions to determine how and why this practice works. The RIOS organizes the processes involved in reflective supervision into a framework. Within the framework, these processes fall into two categories: Essential Elements and Collaborative Tasks. Using the RIOS, researchers can catalog and assign numerical values to the Essential Elements and Collaborative Tasks that they observe in recorded reflective supervision sessions. This process, called “coding,” is one of the ways in which social scientists collect quantitative data about practices like reflective supervision.
Watson, who retired as director of CEED’s Reflective Practice Center in 2021, led the development of the RIOS. In 2010, he joined a group of researchers and practitioners from the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health who came together to gather data about reflective supervision. Over the course of the following eight years, Watson headed up the effort to turn that raw information into a useful tool.
“A smaller group of us met once a month online to try to further distill the data that we had started with, operationalize it, and fill it out,” he says.
Watson and his colleagues were fascinated to find that the RIOS quickly proved useful not just to researchers, but to practitioners of reflective supervision and others in the field.
“People immediately grabbed onto it as a way to explain reflective supervision when training both supervisors and supervisees,” Watson recalls. “And supervisors began using it both prior to a reflective supervision session, to remind them of what they wanted to address in the session, as well as following a session, to review what occurred and to determine what they wanted to pursue in future sessions. It became a natural outgrowth.”
With this use of the RIOS in mind, Watson and his coauthors included a one-page “Self Check” form in the RIOS Guide, which enables reflective supervisors to quickly document the content and process of the session and to record notes for the next session.
“‘Guide’ is the perfect word for it”
Work continued on developing the RIOS for research purposes, and Watson and colleagues created a RIOS Manual to train researchers in the use of the tool for coding. However, nothing similar existed for those who had adopted the RIOS for use in the field until now. Watson recalls that careful thought was put into choosing a title for the new book.
“Reflective supervision is not a manualized process; it’s the antithesis of that,” he says. “A manual is prescriptive. It trains people to do the same things. The RIOSGuide is the opposite of that approach.”
“’Guide’ is the perfect word for it,” agrees Deborah Ottman, CEED’s professional development coordinator. Along with Meredith Reese, research assistant at CEED, Ottman was instrumental in preparing the RIOSGuide for publication. “It’s a roadmap that offers you a million different paths to the same destination: the child. And you can choose different paths on different days.”
For those who are providing or preparing to provide reflective supervision, CEED offers two online classes on the RIOS: RIOS 1: Using the RIOS Framework for Reflective Supervision and RIOS 2: Advanced Reflective Supervision. We also offer 10 self-study modules exploring different aspects of reflective supervision.
“Without it, I would have to find easier work”: a new report describes reflective supervision in the field
Researchers at the Reflective Practice Center have published a new report, “What Does Reflective Supervision/Consultation Look Like in Practice: Examining Variation in Implementation,” based on findings from a nationwide landscape survey. They conducted the survey in partnership with the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health in 2018. They wanted to find out how reflective supervision is being implemented in different workplaces and what recipients of reflective supervision think of it. Read their earlier report on training for reflective supervisors.
Reflective supervision, also known as reflective supervision/consultation (RSC), is a type of relationship-based professional development. The practice originated in the field of infant and early childhood mental health and has been adopted by related fields because of its ability to help reduce burnout and increase effectiveness among people in helping professions, such as social workers, educators, and health care workers.
The researchers set out to learn how reflective supervision is being implemented in the field. For example, the researchers wanted to find out whether individual or group reflective supervision was more common. The most common format, reported by 49% of respondents, was a combination of the two. Forty percent (40%) said they had group meetings only, and 10% said they had individual meetings only.
The researchers also wondered if people in the field were receiving the minimum recommended “dose” of reflective supervision: an hour every month. A minority of survey respondents (21% of participants in individual RSC and just 7% of group participants) reported receiving reflective supervision less than one hour per month.
|Frequency of RSC||Individual||Group|
|Less than monthly||20.5%||6.7%|
|Length of RSC|
|Less than one hour||10.3%||3.3%|
|One and a half hours||23.1%||41.7%|
The survey also yielded evidence that recipients of reflective supervision found it to be valuable. One common theme that emerged from respondents’ written comments was a sense that reflective supervision helped them process emotions that arose in their work.
“I find myself really valuing reflective supervision to process all the trauma, triggers, and other challenging aspects of the job,” reported one respondent. Another wrote, “Without it, I would have to find easier work.”
Others mentioned that they gained a better sense of how their work mattered, including getting “affirmation of my value.” And many respondents mentioned that reflective supervision, whether in groups or one-on-one, was a helpful way to get new ideas to try out with their client families. Some stated that reflective supervision made them more effective in their work with families and even helped them in their relationships with coworkers.
Because the sample size was limited (n = 67), lead researcher Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, cautions that this paper should not be read as a definitive statement about the implementation and reception of reflective practice nationwide. Rather, it is an important first step in outlining possible avenues of inquiry for future studies, such as:
- How variation in frequency affects the efficacy of reflective supervision
- How group and individual reflective supervision differ
- How common online reflective supervision is and whether it is equally effective
“This preliminary study helped us get a sense of who is getting reflective supervision and what they think of it,” says Meuwissen. “It also taught us a lot about the gaps that remain in our knowledge. We can use the information from this survey to start to fill in those gaps with future studies.”
By Ann Bailey, PhD
One of the most rewarding parts of my job as a program evaluator is interviewing early childhood professionals about their perceptions of the programs in which they work. I love talking with people who are in the field every day, and their observations often make me think differently about the work that we do at CEED.
Recently an educator told me a story about her work that stayed with me. She told me about a young child who was displaying challenging behaviors in his center-based preschool program. This child–let’s call him Ryan–was expelled from the program. Expulsions from preschool and child care, unfortunately, are not news to anyone in the early childhood sector. Walter Gilliam and others have been publishing research on suspension and expulsion in early childhood settings since 2006. As an early childhood researcher, I know that expelling a child because of challenging behavior is often a result of adult intolerance, adults not having the necessary skills to support the child’s needs, and/or implicit and explicit bias.
The educator explained, however, that in this case the reason for Ryan’s expulsion was staff retention. The program director told her that it was more important to retain staff than to work with Ryan to develop more appropriate behavior. The director explained that it is just too difficult to find qualified personnel these days. If a staff member became so frustrated with Ryan’s behavior that they decided to quit, the director would have trouble finding a replacement. Once a replacement was found, they would need to spend countless hours–and dollars–getting that new teacher the training necessary to do the job well.
I’ll be honest: my initial reaction to the story was judgmental. Ryan needed help learning new skills and behaviors through caring relationships with adults. I was incensed that he had been expelled. After a moment, however, my reflective training kicked in, and I realized that the story I had just heard was much more complex than it had originally seemed.
As CEED staff members, we do our best to put the tenets of reflective supervision into practice. In the words of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, reflective supervision can “help professionals develop the capacity to shift perspective, address personal biases, set boundaries, and slow down, observe, and listen.” I thought about the other people who were involved in Ryan’s story. What might they be thinking and feeling? How might their needs and wants have influenced the director’s decision?
First, I thought about Ryan’s teacher. Early childhood professionals expect a certain level of challenging behavior from all children in their care, as it’s often the way young children communicate their needs. We know that some toddlers bite. Maybe it’s for attention; maybe it’s because they’re teething; maybe it’s because they’re frustrated; maybe it’s because they’re dealing with trauma. We can expect some preschoolers to hit, yell, cry, and “act out” for similar reasons.
Early childhood professionals must try to determine the root cause of behaviors like these; it’s their job. They must also help children learn appropriate, alternative communication methods. But as anyone knows who has worked with or parented young children, behavior changes don’t happen overnight. Success requires a lot of time, energy, and practice. And it usually requires all the adults in a child’s life to be coordinated and consistent in their responses to the child.
I pictured myself as the lead teacher in Ryan’s classroom. I’m in charge of 20 preschoolers in a room with one other adult. Let’s say that at least three children regularly display various challenging behaviors. I’m responsible for maintaining all licensing requirements, including the health and safety of all the other children. My job also includes helping all the children meet appropriate learning outcomes. That means I must implement an evidence-based curriculum and collect assessment data to demonstrate developmental changes.
I thought about everything that needs to be accomplished in a classroom like that. If I were Ryan’s teacher, how would I balance maintaining a safe environment where children could learn with addressing a few children’s behaviors? How would I prioritize these different, important tasks? Who would I prioritize?
The parents of Ryan’s classmates
Next, I thought about the parents of other children in Ryan’s classroom. How would I respond if my young child was the target of another child’s challenging behavior? How many times would I be expected to forgive and forget about my child being harmed by a peer before I started looking for a different provider? Even in the absence of physical harm, I would wonder how regularly occurring interruptions impacted my child’s learning and classroom relationships. Perhaps Ryan’s behaviors had been disruptive enough that classmates’ parents had become concerned.
Further complicating matters, many child care programs were forced to close during the pandemic because parents lost jobs or kept children home. This worsened an already critical shortage of providers. Now, as people return to work and demand increases, it may be next to impossible to find another provider if a parent is unhappy with their child’s experience. If I was the parent of one of Ryan’s classmates, I’d be daunted by the process of finding alternative care. Yet I might feel my family was being driven away by Ryan’s behavior.
The program director
Child care directors answer to many different people. On the most basic level, they must ensure that children are safe and that their program meets licensing requirements. If the program is part of a larger organization, they have obligations towards the parent company. They are, of course, responsible for the care and education of the children in their program and are answerable to their families. And they are also responsible for their employees.
I put myself in the director’s shoes. If I was in charge of a child care center, I would be highly attuned to the risk of my staff experiencing burnout. The World Health Organization states that burnout results from “chronic workplace stress” and has three main symptoms: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
Clearly, child care professionals have difficult jobs. They work long hours and are poorly paid; our society also does not give their work the respect it deserves. It should come as no surprise when people who feel unsupported in their work of managing children, including children with challenging behaviors, leave their job for something with less stress and better pay.
Research shows teacher retention is associated with better outcomes for children. As director, I would do my best to keep my staff for the benefit of the children in their care. Furthermore, it isn’t easy to find a replacement when a child care worker quits. Pre-pandemic, turnover rates in child care programs were already between 26-40%. In November 2020, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) reported that of 6,000 survey respondents, 69% stated that recruitment and retention had become even more difficult.
My first instinct had been to blame the director for failing to support Ryan and try multiple solutions to a complex problem. But as I reflected on the sometimes competing pressures on directors, I realized that Ryan’s case presented a genuine dilemma. Ryan desperately needed support and consistency, but the other children in his class also needed their teacher and deserved a calm environment in which to learn and grow. Neither they nor Ryan would be well served if their teacher left. Did Ryan’s needs outweigh those of the other children? Should the director have prioritized supporting Ryan over supporting a staff member?
When a child is expelled from an early childhood program, it is disruptive not just for the child but for their parents. We’ve already seen how difficult it is to find a spot given the severe shortage of providers. I wondered: when Ryan was expelled, how did his parents cope? Were they able to find another high-quality provider, or did they have to settle for a program they didn’t like as much? How long did they have to wait until a spot opened up? Unless they had support from family members, their work schedule might have been disrupted. They might have lost income or even left the workforce altogether.
Then I wondered if the pattern would repeat itself. A child who is expelled from one educational setting often continues their challenging behaviors in the next, risking another expulsion. Would this happen to Ryan? If I were his parent, how would that make me feel? I might be angry or even embarrassed. I might feel powerless to help my child. Or I might come to believe that Ryan was being treated unfairly by the adults who were supposed to help him grow and learn. If that was the case, where would I turn for help?
I spent a lot of time thinking about Ryan. We know that for children, healthy learning and growing occurs in the context of quality relationships with important adults in their lives. Ryan, for example, will likely only succeed in changing his challenging behaviors when he receives specific, consistent, age-appropriate support from those important adults.
What if Ryan ends up going from provider to provider without the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with an educator? Will other adults in his life, such as family members, have the knowledge, skills, and capacity to provide the kind of support he needs? How will disruptions in his early years affect his academic trajectory going forward? Will he learn to dislike school because of his experiences in child care? Will he develop quality friendships with peers? There are just so many unanswered questions.
No easy answers
Although perspective-taking helped me move beyond my knee-jerk reaction to Ryan’s story, I didn’t come up with a solution for this difficult situation. On the contrary, I ended up with more questions and concerns than when I started.
I’m concerned about the crisis in recruiting and retaining early childhood workers. Staff are experiencing intense burnout because the expectations of them are just too high. They can earn more and experience less stress working at the local big box store. Leaving the child care sector is a rational decision under such circumstances.
I worry that there will be generations of children who experience expulsion more regularly than consistent care. I worry that the children who need high-quality care the most will be expelled rather than have access to relationships and settings where they can grow and learn. Will their progress towards developmental milestones be affected? What behaviors should providers expect to see from these children? Will their attachment to adults beyond their parents or guardians suffer in the long term?
I’m concerned about parents, too. They need high-quality care for their children while they work. When problems arise, I worry that parents will be unable to work with providers to solve them. Will they have other child care options? Will they have the knowledge and skills–and the bandwidth–to advocate for their children? Will setbacks like expulsions impact parents’ relationships with their children?
I’m concerned that Americans don’t understand that quality child care is essential to creating a qualified workforce, a thriving economy, and a functioning society. What does it say about our priorities as a nation when retaining staff and keeping a program’s doors open must take precedence over a child’s need to learn social-emotional skills?
I wish I had easy answers to these questions. My heart aches for children like Ryan who need support. But I can take the perspective of the teacher who is charged with caring for a whole classroom of young children. I can also consider the viewpoint of the director whose livelihood, as well as that of her employees’, depends on the program remaining open. And when I think about the work that we do at CEED–asking the questions and doing the research to untangle these complex problems–I feel hope that they are solvable.
A new podcast aims to support professionals who work with young children and their families by providing accessible information about child development and family relationships. The podcast, entitled Building Family Resiliency: Community Voices, Community Perspectives, is the result of a collaborative effort by Deborah Ottman, professional development coordinator at CEED, and Jennifer Hall-Lande, PhD, research associate at the Institute on Community Integration and CDC Act Early Ambassador to Minnesota. The podcast grew out of a desire to address the additional stressors that Minnesota families have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. These stressors, say Ottman and Hall-Lande, may impact the ability of families to build resiliency.
Building Family Resiliency was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of their Learn the Signs Act Early initiative, which encourages families, communities, and organizations to screen children for potential developmental delays early on. Learn the Signs Act Early also offers a wealth of free developmental tools for parents and professionals.
For each episode of the podcast, Ottman interviewed one or more experts or helping professionals from different communities and early childhood fields. Listeners will hear from these guests about different facets of resiliency, from the science of brain development to self-care for child care providers. They will learn about what resiliency can look like across the richly diverse cultures and communities that make up our state. And they will gain information on how adults can best support the healthy development of the children in their lives.
“It was a privilege to sit down with researchers and professionals from different fields, all of whom have children’s wellbeing at heart, and talk about the concept of resiliency,” says Ottman. “My hope is that listeners will find the podcast format to be an easy, enjoyable way to access the information that our experts shared.”
All nine episodes of Building Family Resiliency are available to stream on the Institute on Community Integration’s MN Act Early website and on CEED’s YouTube channel.
Episode 1: “Welcome to the podcast!” with Deb Ottman and Jennifer Hall-Lande, PhD
Episode 2: “What contributes to building resiliency in early childhood?” with Anne Gearity, PhD
Episode 3: “Resiliency and early childhood development” with Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD
Episode 4: “Learn the Signs, Act Early and Help Me Grow: joined links in the resiliency chain” with Jennifer Hall-Lande, PhD, and Anna Paulson
Episode 5: “Filling the resiliency well: childcare providers caring for children, families and themselves” with Priscilla Weigel and Palm Walz
Episode 7: “Community voices, community perspectives: building resiliency in the Hmong community” with Julie Li Yang and Bao Vang
Episode 8: “Community voices, community perspectives: building resiliency in the African-American community” with Andre Dukes and Sierra Leone Williams
“We’re really excited to share this new resource with early childhood practitioners as well as parents,” says Hall-Lande. “I was delighted to be interviewed for Episode 4, which relates to my work on Learn the Signs Act Early. In that episode, we talk about the importance of screening for developmental delays such as signs of autism spectrum disorder. The science shows that the earlier we catch those signs and intervene with kids, the better the outcomes for kids and their families.”
“Both CEED and the Institute on Community Integration have a shared purpose of supporting the helpers who work with children and families,” adds Ann Bailey, PhD, director of CEED. “This podcast is a new way of providing support, and it’s also a way of saying to that community of helpers: we see you, and we value the work you are doing.”