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Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

  • 1.  Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 07-20-2020 10:35 AM
    Dear colleagues--

    We have several virtual book clubs which are currently meeting to discuss Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens.  Each group will be posting summaries of their discussions and other questions they might have to this thread.

    We look forward to hearing about all of the great ideas that are generated!


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    Community Engagement Manager
    Washington DC
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  • 2.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 07-25-2020 04:12 PM
      |   view attached

    Reflections from our group regarding Part One, Nurturing Your Own Empathy and Understanding Behavior are attached.

    We are off to a fantastic start!

    Reflections, Part One –Nurturing Your Own Empathy and Understanding Behavior

    7/22/2020

     Reflections from Trisha:  Here are my reflections from Wednesday's discussion of Part 1:

    - In examining our biases, both implicit and explicit, we can improve our relationships and reactions to those around us. Harvard has developed a series of implicit bias tests to help examine where our own biases may lie.

    - Our conversation about empathy centered around the importance of the caregiver to create an environment where empathy is modeled and encouraged, with both children and adults. The physical environment is important, as well, and families should see reflections of their culture in children's books, art, and communication.

    - A comment was made about 'being transparent and vulnerable' and that really stuck with me. I think in order to grow, we have to put ourselves in situations that can be uncomfortable, so being open to being transparent and vulnerable is my goal for the weeks ahead.

    - Names that came up for further exploration: Becky Bailey (Conscious Discipline), Teaching Tolerance

    Looking forward to continuing our journey next week!


    Reflections from Kathy:  Chapter one reflections on teacher bias.  Bias are everywhere!  As educators, we must be sensitive and reflective to our bias.  I believe mindful reflection is so important when we examine our bias.  Before a teacher can accept and embrace diversity in the classroom, he or she must reflect on the challenges that may interfere with acceptance.  As a novice teacher, I had to take time to open my lens to new diversity and cultures. As I learned and embraced new perceptions, my world opened up to new ideas and so did my classroom with new activities and rituals for my children.  Becoming a reflective ‘educarer’ to my children and families helped me to understand better my explicit and implicit biases.  Using NAEYC’s Ethics for children, families, colleagues, and community was a compass also guided me as a novice teacher.  Teachers’ attitudes also need to be examined.  As the authors described in chapter one, we cannot assume a family’s reason for not coming to conference or missing a meeting.  Each family is on their own journey, and we must be sensitive to bias that could influence the child.  This is a ‘lifelong’ process for teachers.  Our journey as educators is a constant process of self-examination of our bias and also transformation.  We have a responsibility to children and families to work toward recognizing, acknowledging, and eliminating our bias and relearning who we are.

            From chapter two, I embraced the eight strategies.  Many times I would ask myself the hard questions.  By doing this, I was more spiritually open to new ideas and values.  My number one way to build empathy was to model warm and responsive actions.  Our group talked a lot about Becky Bailey’s Conscious Discipline and how important it is to welcome children each morning into the classroom and with a smile.  Being kind, compassion and carefully selecting picture books, games, toys, and songs are also important.  I love building a library for my families with resources and parenting books for different identities …. Sharing cook books, music videos, picture book really make a difference.  It’s important to have an open-door policy to welcome guests of all talents and to introduce new traditions into the classroom.  I believe it is very important to tap into families interests.  I did this when teaching a co-op.  Each family had the opportunity to introduce a family circle with their favorite interests.  From dancing, to football, to cooking, to sewing—our children so enjoyed these family adventures.  I wanted my children to celebrate heroes in their own families.  Finally, it is important to embrace and reflect on the progress you, as a teacher, is doing to deepen your understanding of culture and embracing empathy into the classroom.  To create classrooms with empathy, children need caregivers who are kind, caring, and intentional.  

           Cultural diversity and children: Our group discussed the power of children’s literature and also having mirrors in the classroom, so children can SEE themselves.  I loved this idea!  We discussed the artwork and being child-focused.  Children bring their own culture and funds of knowledge into the classroom, and when they do, the entire class is visible! Everyone participates and contributes to the classroom community.  Our group also shared the difference between difference between ‘equal,’ and ‘equitable.’  When we consider being equal, it’s sharing the same materials and activities with children. To be equitable, it taking the next step to including the children’s abilities, strengths… it’s embracing developmentally appropriate practice!  Culture certainly counts for forming authentic, caring relationships with families and building strong family connections.  We need to honor children’s cultures and their life experiences.  We need to learn from families too.  This chapter reminded me how important it is to embrace, and honor, all children in our classroom culture.

    Reflections from Brigitte:  I was very surprised to learn and confront my prejudices and biases as it related to other people of color, interactions with white children, and people from the LGBTQI+ communities. I have decided to consciously make myself aware of my actions and thoughts before engaging with those communities. I have made a plan of questions to ask, taking breaths for clarity, and acknowledging that my change in behavior will be a work in progress.

    I will be open to approach each interaction with an open mind and continue to find resources that will help me be confident in forging these new relationships. I will extend myself grace as I learn to really treat everyone with respect and being enough no matter what society may say in a subconscious way.

    I am looking forward to the next discussion in our book club!

    Reflections from Denise:  Much of what I have read so far falls in line with our Head Start/Early Head Start standards of family focus, including empathizing and supporting families through difficult family situations, honoring their culture, parenting style, values, and  making sure that we are promoting diversity, inclusion, and broad anti-bias standards. I do feel that we have a lot of room for growth, however, and that I have a lot of room for growth...I am striving to be a better person every day. 

     While I have always felt that each and every person, every child, has so much to offer, if we provide them the opportunity to share their individuality openly, without fear, without resistance, without criticism, but instead with open arms and open hearts for those many facets of diversity that make them wonderfully who they are, I am now recognizing the changes I need to make to ensure that happens with everyone I meet. I look forward to learning more and growing so much more.




  • 3.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 07-25-2020 04:17 PM
      |   view attached
    Hello everyone,
    Our virtual book club meets every Wednesday evening from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).

    Introducing our members... Jenna, Brigitte, Denise, Trisha, Gemma, Jamie, Katie, and Natalie!

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    Kathleen Harris
    Greensburg PA
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    Attachment(s)



  • 4.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 07-25-2020 04:31 PM
      |   view attached
    Updated notes from our meeting together on July 22nd.

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    Kathleen Harris
    Greensburg PA
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  • 5.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 08-01-2020 12:19 PM

    Part II – Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

      Our Wednesday evening book club enjoyed beautiful, and thoughtful, discussions from Part II, Creating an Equitable Classroom:


    Reflections from Gemma:

    During our discussion, I began to think more about definitions. How do we define "play?" how do we define "technology?" How do we define "trauma?" The definition we abide by will dictate how we act and respond to situations. I was deeply moved by the clip we watched on refugee families. As we talked about it, I thought about how we can create programs that welcome all families using universal design...we should be designing our programs with the most traumatised children in mind. Reaching out and creating relationships with families is so important. The book mentions having families come into the classroom and share their talents or jobs. It will be interesting to see how this idea plays out in a COVID-19 world. We are going to have to make even more of an effort to connect. 

    Part 2 has opened my eyes to the variety of issues that fall under the equity umbrella. I expected the book to be focused on color and race. Reading about refugee children and diversity of languages makes me see how large the spectrum of equity issues really is. 

     Reflections from Brigitte:

     I had to take a moment to expand my thinking about intentionally connecting culture and play while in a learning, structured environment. Before I allowed myself to be overwhelmed with the details, I tried to focus on small nuggets to get a maximum impact.

    The author of chapter 4 referenced different fabrics that families would donate to represent something special about their culture. The fabric would be later assembled into a quilt or a flag to be displayed in their classroom or common area of the facility. Different cultures can be explored in art, music, food, clothing, dance, and storytelling. I need to have an open mind about diversity and inclusion and allow families and children to lead the way to learning in untraditional settings.

    I was challenged and intrigued by all of the examples cited in chapter 7 regarding being culturally responsive with STEAM curriculum. The author focused on nine directives to achieve this intentional approach to STEAM. I had to be reminded that everyday jobs and tasks can be beneficial for the children and not just the jobs viewed as "professional ". Always engage families in learning at home and use different materials like books, tools, art, buildings, farms, videos, or in-person events.

    Ireally enjoyed hearing about the different experiences from our group members. I have to remember that the world is bigger than Grovetown, GA!

    Reflections from Denise:

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful Maya Angelou poem. It made my heart so hopeful! You also included the William Ayers autobiographical poem activity template. I thought I would include my poem. :)

    Denise

    Passionate Creative Amiable

    I love family

    I hate haughtiness

    I fear heartlessness

    I wish for joy

    Cobaugh

    There were so many interesting aspects from Part 2 that caught my attention, but it seems the overwhelming theme for all of them lies in this statement.... "Equity is not a one-size-fits-all approach".

    Knowing this, it is crucial that we as ECE providers intentionally and individually differentiate support for all children, and thus all families. This differentiated support is reflected through guided play, when welcoming refugee children and families into the ECE classroom, through storytelling, tinkering, and through the STEAM curriculum. We must provide individualized and differentiated support in order to enable children to make meaningful causal connections through play and experimentation and to enhance their active participation and social interactions; all of which will support their future learning. 

    By welcoming families into our facilities to share their precious children, their skills, their talents, and customs, we have the wonderful opportunity to identify and appreciate the gifts each family and child possesses as well as the fears, trauma, and hardships that may need addressed in order to establish a trustworthy community of acceptance and equity.  

     I look forward to sharing with all of you again next week. Have a happy weekend.

     Reflections from Tricia:

     This week's reading has me seriously reexamining my approach to play and what steps I can take to better facilitate play in the future. In structuring and guiding play, we can work to better target specific learning outcomes. It is important to be mindful not to interrupt authentic discovery, however, so observation is also key. 

    I especially enjoyed our conversations about STEAM and tinkering. These are topics I will continue to explore to better integrate into my own practice. Open ended materials are so wonderful for discovery! I also liked the idea of integrating nature into found objects exploration.

    These chapters were rich with inspiration - I hope I can carry that with me as I return to the classroom next week!

     Reflections from Kathy:

    This week we gathered as a community to investigate and discuss new ways for creating an equitable classroom for all young children.  We embraced new ideas for introducing cultures into our classrooms such as photographs of cultural celebrations, creating a quilt, picture books from various cultures, different types of kitchen tools and sensory materials.  Let us always remember to include the "fabrics" of our families.  Use dual language books, create a collage of cultures with your class this fall, include a variety of materials in the sensory table, explore nature play, and remember to introduce "crystalizing moments" into play as Lisa Murphy advocates, "remember to include best practices for children."

     As a community, we'll learn more about guided play and how this type of play connects to cultures. Our chapter states "play is a wonderful context for active, engaged, meaningful, and socially interactive learning."   Let's take a look at Vivian Paley's books on play too!  Guided play experiences include child-directed play and scaffolding from a teacher or family member. This type of play reminds me of "floor time," as we follow the child's interest.

     After our discussions this evening from chapter 6, I'm going to take another look at the web link from 60 Minutes.  Another reflection I have is how to create a "safe haven" in the classroom for children who are refugees and how important it is to establish one-on-one time with children.  We care about the "whole" family! I want to learn more about trauma-informed practices. The ideas suggested in this chapter would be helpful for children by creating a visual schedule of daily activities to support the child and family.  Refugee families bring unique and rich cultural experiences to our classrooms.  It is so important to establish one-on-one time with children who are refugees; it is so important to be intentional with our conversations and interactions with all children.

    I loved Gemma's idea of giving bags of loose parts to students and giving them time to create and use their imagination.  Wouldn't that be a fun activity for families or for a staff-development workshop? I enjoyed learning more about Gemma's workshop from NAEYC and bringing STEAM and animals together!  We talked about contemplative photography and using iPads to have children take pictures "of the heart" with nature.  After our conversations tonight, I want to include more tinkering into my own life and into the lives of my students.  Tinkering encourages language development, vocabulary, and play.  I want to create more time in my life to play!

     We concluded our evening with storytelling.  Those powerful four words, "Once Upon a Time."  Let's do more storytelling together!  As I continue to read, The Formula: Unlocking the Secrets to Raising Highly Successful Children," I want to explore the eight roles discussed in this chapter.  The authors from this chapter mention the families they researched for this book had one ritual in common-- they inspired a passion for storytelling with their children.  "Helping a child learn to love stories and storytelling is among the most important things early learning partners-including parents, family members, and early childhood educators--can do." (pg. 57)

     This week we embraced culture into play and storytelling.  We recognize and cherish the values and cultures of all families.  "Allowing every family to be important and to share ....."

    Reflections from Jenna:

    Section Two was a very powerful collection of various opportunities that we can offer interactions with not only children, but families in an equitable way. Chapters that spoke strongly to me were those of "Connecting Culture and Play" and "Welcoming Refugee Children into Early Childhood Classrooms." Long behind us are the days of adding culture into our classrooms through purchasing the multi-ethnic food collection for our dramatic play center. As teachers, we must speak to our children's unique cultures in an intentional way. We must get to know our children and families and learn about their specific customs and traditions, so that we can better connect to our children as well as grow as a teacher and an individual. Incorporating small items into our space helps children connect with their classroom and feel safe and secure in their environment while exploring other cultures in a playful way.

    This spoke to me directly as I moved through working with different cultures in my career and learning a great deal along the way. After years of using rice in sensory bins, and apple stamping each September, I began learn about the special significance of food in other cultures and have shifted my perspective. I don't think I would have been able to truly connect to this concept had it not been for the diversity in my children and the time I took to learn about their cultures. By incorporating diversity into play creates a space for authentic interactions between children on their own terms.

    I also feel it is important to connect the family to the classroom in any way that you can, while (as I was reminded during our discussion) as their time and resources allow. While working with a population of children on the backstretch of a racetrack I learned so much from my parents. I believe I am forever shaped as a human being because of it. This population is generalized as Mexican and as I spent time at the center I learned that there are many beautiful cultures represented on the backstretch. This program was a "safe haven" for our children and families and it was our mission to support them in any way we can. Through language barriers, we developed programming to support these families.

    I can remember one specific project I did with families was the tried and true classroom quilt. I provided canvas squares for each parent. On the counter were markers, stickers, and other items they could take home (or stay in the provided section of the classroom) to complete. I learned so much from my families through that project. Many families didn't take anything I provided, rather they used embroidery and designed their square in their own way. I tasked them to represent their family. I still remember one mom, coming to the classroom with glue still drying on her hands, with this beautiful square full of colorful embroidery and dried flowers glued on. I will never forget this family. Mom had a challenging life, not knowing English with a child in preschool and another in elementary school. She soon after had to go back to her home country not being able to be here in the US anymore. She came here for a better life, and I am so grateful to have known her and in some small way to be an exceedingly small part of the happy experience she had here with her children at my center.

    We as early educators are here for not only our children but for our families too. This section of our book and highlighted by wonderful conversation reminded me of that.

     



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    Kathleen Harris
    Greensburg PA
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  • 6.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 08-02-2020 08:50 AM

    I have not made it to any of your meetings, but I am so enjoying reading about the discussions and the understandings that you are all reaching. 

    I was especially touched that the conversations include a consideration of different kinds of trauma and inequity...there are so many different ways that we need to rethink equity and what we are expecting from children and families. 

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Joanie Calem



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    Joanie Calem
    Music and Inclusion Specialist
    Sing Along
    Columbus, OH
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  • 7.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 08-08-2020 11:22 AM
    Reflections from our book club regarding Part Three, Developing a Strengths-Based Approach When Teaching Black Boys  --
    Each & Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens 
    are attached.  Wishing all a joyful day!

    Reflections from Tricia:

    This chapter brought back a lot of memories of my very first teaching experience, fresh and naive, working with three- to five-year-olds at a public school with approximately 80% Black population. Looking back, there are so many interactions I had with children and families that now cause me to cringe. I realize that I was unintentionally asserting my own privilege, cultural norms, and biases into a space without taking time to listen and learn. I found this article - When Will Black Children Be Well - to be a good companion piece examining the barriers placed on Black boys in education.

    In terms of children's literature, I often remind myself that children connect best with stories that have human protagonists rather than animals. Children also need to see themselves reflected in the stories they read. I enjoyed the Today show clip you shared that more fully addressed books as mirrors. I follow Racial Literacy Club on Instagram - they provide a lot of great book lists to get teachers started!

     I hope to be at the meeting next week, but it is our first day back at school, so I may be physically and emotionally exhausted! I will try my very best to be present!

     Best,

    Trisha


    Reflections from Kathy

    "Develop trusting relationships with children and nurture relationships among them while building on their knowledge and skills."  Part III of our book, "Developing a Strengths-Based Approach When Teaching Black Boys," opened my eyes more to the awareness of implicit bias and how important it is for early childhood professionals to create learning environments that are 'heart-centered' for all our children. The importance of focusing on strengths that Black boys bring to our classrooms is so critical for teachers.  It is important for us to realize it is not a "one size fits all" approach.  We need to consider the historical and sociocultural forces that continue to place children at risk for school failure.  How can we refine high quality for all young children?  I believe we need recognize the six considerations presented in chapter 11:  consider the research; pause and reflect; build relationships (the heart of early childhood), look with our binocular eyes for strengths, speak out--be aware -- for equity, and seek allies.  

    We may ask ourselves, how can we do this?  One way is a willingness to take responsibility for the learning of all children. Being proactive to engage in a curriculum and classroom environment that is universal (multiple representations, multiple expressions, and multiple engagements) for all children, recognize that high levels of activity and energy in the arts (verve) especially activities that are rooted in culture, are good for Black boys.  Throughout the day teachers can offer a variety of active games, music, dance, creative movement exercises, and extend extra space to use their imagination and creativity.  The verve can create opportunities for learning and new discoveries!  Teachers also need to give Black boys in their classrooms opportunities to take risks and problem solve. These questions and opportunities for problem solving and asking, "What if," questions and asking, "I wonder, "can be indicators of engagement and crystallizing teaching moments in the classrooms!   It is important to seek activities that will foster Black boys' natural curiosity.  As we discussed Wednesday, it is important for teachers to also carefully observe the child.  By doing careful observation and documentation, teachers can identify strengths.  Teachers need to scaffold children's play, increase challenges, and spark new explorations.

    Our profession needs additional advocacy for the development of programs to recruit African American males into teaching in early childhood settings.  Public awareness, community organizations and parent groups need to come together to help foster Black boys' positive identity development and voice. As mentioned in chapter 11, when we all come together as a community and work hard to collaborate and combat bias, eliminate expulsion, and promote equity, children and families are the superstars and winners!  We need to create opportunities that will empower Black boys to reach their full potential in school.  Teachers who are compassionate, caring, intentional, and teach using a culturally responsive, strengths-based approach can be 'star polishers' who lay the foundation for Black boys to reach for the stars and build new dreams for their future.

    Reflections from Jenna:

    I too was taken by the information presented regarding suspensions. I find it hard to imagine a program having a zero-tolerance policy and have to wonder... How can we truly teach without allowing for mistakes?? Something that also really stuck out to me was the mention of School Readiness in Chapter 13.  It has long bothered me that we base kindergarten readiness on how long a child can sit quietly in a classroom. My son is going into kindergarten this fall and he is being placed in a self-contained classroom, mostly due to this factor. As a parent, and an educator, I found myself second guessing my beliefs that he doesn't belong in that environment, and as a result I was strong-armed into going against my gut. The mention of "verve" in chapter 13 was enlightening. Movement, noise and excitement should have a place in the classroom. How do we instill a joy in learning if we are quieting the "joy"? The story of Hakeem in Chapter 12 was both so sad and hopeful. I am grateful to hear the courage the assistant teacher displayed when she spoke up to offer a different perspective (and maybe reasons behind) Hakeem's behavior. It highlights the need for not only self-reflection in our teaching practices but also for being an advocate for these children. By choosing to make the uncomfortable decision to speak up above the lead teacher in a parent meeting this teacher not only shifted the script, providing an opportunity to discover his superpower.

    Some books I was going to share on Wednesday:

    Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy - This book's illustrator is also the inspiration of the story. This is the story of a young girl traveling through a gray town. She meets a muralist who gives her a paintbrush and together they paint the town. This book highlights the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, CA.

    Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora - This book tells the story of an older woman who feeds her community until she is left with nothing herself. Her community returns her generosity with a feast in return. This is a great illustration of gratitude and the art of giving. (Beautiful college illustrations as well)

    The Family Book - Todd Parr - This is a simple book full of color highlighting all kinds of family, some even fictional. In a straight-forward simple way, Todd Parr offers relatable characters in a simple and playful way.

    Reflections from Gemma:

    I appreciated our conversation surrounding diversity in children's literature. Children need to see themselves reflected, as well as be exposed to those who are different from themselves. So many great titles shared...I am looking forward to reading the Big Umbrella and incorporating that story with my college students when we no longer have to physical distance! 

    The chapter on preschool expulsion really touches my heart. So much damage is done when a child is expelled at a young age, and this happens disproportionately to black boys and children of color. I believe that if teacher preparation programs focused more on examining implicit biases, some of this could be prevented. If we approached children and families with compassion and trauma-informed practices, many children's lives could be set on a different trajectory.  People believe what they are told about themselves and when a child is told that they are bad or that they are jeopardizing others' safety, they may just live up to that and thus begins the self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to pay attention to the messages we send/ and, as one of our group said, "let children be who they are."

    Although I disagree with expulsion of preschoolers, I also acknowledge that there needs to be support for teachers and families. This may come in the form of mental health specialists or other professionals...every child deserves the support and services required to meet their needs. 

    Reflections from Denise:

    Hello everyone! 

    Sure hope you are having a stress free week! I wanted to share a few of my favorite books on celebrating diversity as well as share my reflections on Part 3 of our book.

    Books first: 

    Feast for 10, by Cathryn Falwell: a simple counting book with colorful illustrations of an African American family purchasing, cooking, and sharing a beautiful meal.

    We are all Alike We are All Different by the Cheltenham Elementary Kindergarteners: this book is written and illustrated by kindergarten students about the similarities and differences in their bodies, families, homes, and food, etc... A celebration of differences!

    We'll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuce-Borden: Celebrates learning differences. A young girl learns that her baby brother who has Down syndrome is capable of doing many things with patience and a little help

    This Is the Way We Go to School- A Book About Children Around the World by Edith Baer: discusses the way children travel to schools round the world, including by car, bus, skis, walking, ferry, subway, bicycle, horse & buggy,,,,

    My reflections:

    I so enjoyed our time together this week. I am learning so much from all of your shared experiences.  Thank you all for your insight! 

    Discussing the preschool suspension and expulsion issue takes me back to 2014-15 when I was writing my thesis. My focus was challenging behaviors and the preschool to prison pipeline caused by preschool suspension and expulsion. I learned so much about the plight of young black boys being expelled numerous times as toddlers and preschoolers and it broke my heart. The more I investigated, the more I realized that we, as ECE professionals, need to devote our time and attention on getting to know the concerns and challenges these families and children are facing due to this issue. The more accepting, open, empathetic, compassionate, and trauma informed we become, the less likely we are to give up on these beautiful children.  We need to ensure all teachers are able to gain this insight through training, open discussion, and positive experiences. 

    Enjoy your evening and have a great weekend! 

    Blessings to you! 

    Reflections from Brigitte:

    Chapter 11:  Six things you can do to prevent preschool expulsion: consider the research, pause and reflect, build relationships, look for strengths, speak out for equity, and seek allies.

    In order to make a positive change, we must view everyone as worthy of receiving the best. If we can see the children as valuable, then it wouldn't be a stretch to want the best opportunities for them. We must continue to take a breath and self-reflect in order to move into a new place that may be challenging to our previous thinking. The child is an individual that is waiting for you to get to know them better and develop a mutual trust and respect.

    Chapter 12: We have ideas of what the learning environment should look like, but the children are the ones who will let us know if it works well for them. Many of us have to shift from focusing on below averages instead of continuing to build on strengths. For so long we have learned that strengths are what you are good at with little additional work. The below averages are amplified and constantly addressed for improvement while not even acknowledging the strength at all. I am guilty of minimizing the strengths as it pertains to myself, my son, and to the children in my care. I will intentionally build upon the strengths that I see while providing more practice time for skills to develop in the below average tasks.

    Chapter 13: We spent a lot of time sharing books and videos that would positively present black boys in literature. I can appreciate how the author made an intentional inclusion of history and celebration as we embrace the black boy. For far too long they were identified as "troubled" or "challenged" so more attention needed to be placed on them for discipline purposes and not academic evaluation for help. We must take the time to get to know each child's strengths and likes/dislikes so that we can help them thrive and not just survive. We must convey our expectations but leave room for other paths to get to the common end result. We must be culturally responsive and strengths based in our teaching.

    I made a big investment in the books that I have available at my program. I intentionally chose books in my library that are diverse in content and authors. I wanted each child to find a book that represented them whether it was race, gender, or ability.

    Each week our group is getting more comfortable sharing experiences and ideas to move forward in this unique time that we find ourselves in right now.

    Brigitte Y Willis

     

     



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    Kathleen Harris
    Greensburg PA
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  • 8.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 08-15-2020 05:20 PM

    Reflections from our book club regarding Part Four, Supporting Emergent Bilingual Children.
    8/15/2020

    Each and Every Child:  Part IV: Supporting Emergent Bilingual Children

    Reflections from Jamie:

    As I reflect back on the reading from part 4, I think of all the important ways to make children and families feel welcomed. This has been a passion for me already and so I feel this was an affirmation of why I do what I do. When beginning with having an openness for families to allow for understanding really struck with me! I think that is one strong advantage with family child care is we are able to see the family twice a day either at pick up and drop off, which makes time to get to know each family. It was mentioned in our talk "this is their second home" and I had to laugh as this is a statement I will say to interviewing families.

    We also discussed being willing to learn new things and how this is important with families of other languages and cultures. When we are open and allow families to share with us it shows an understanding and compassion towards their child. It opens the door to a wonderful relationship.  There was also an article that gave an example of inviting families in to share their professions. They spoke of a family with a food truck coming to show the children how they make the food and share it with the children. We had a similar experience as a cement truck came to pour cement and the masonry workers happened to be a father and grandpa to two of the children. It was a very meaningful experience for all children, but especially those two children.
     

    Reflections from Gemma:

    The chapter "Many Languages, One Classroom" was one that I was looking forward to reading. I have spent my whole Early Childhood life in Hawai'i and have always worked in classrooms with multiple languages. We use a lot of Hawaiian language with our children, some of whom speak Hawaiian as their primary language. In addition, many Asian languages are present among our families and our Pacific Islander population is growing. More recently, we have seen an increase in Spanish speaking families. When I worked at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa Children's center, our classroom had as many as 11 different languages. The university receives students and faculty from all over the world, so the diversity of languages was ever present. 

    Our discussion led to us questioning the value of labeling everything in the classroom in any language...what is meaningful and what just becomes wallpaper? I appreciated our conversation about keeping everything personally relevant to the child and the families. Asking families for their input, as suggested in the book, face to face rather than by filling out a questionnaire can help build a strong foundation. With relationships being the central focus, it is important to find ways to connect with families whose home language differs from our own. Ways of doing this include utilizing interpreters, giving families information in their home language, asking families to share their stories, songs and books. I loved Tricia's idea of giving families an anticipated booklist so that they could find upcoming books in their child's home language...or better yet, source those books ourselves and include them in the classroom library. 

    I look forward to next week's discussion as we delve more into engaging diverse families and one of my favorite topics, home visits. 


    Reflections from Kathy:

    "The best gift we can give to any child is to make that child feel wanted, loved, and cared for because that child is the greatest gift of God."  -- Mother Theresa

    Welcoming all children and families into our early childhood programs creates community.  It gives them a feeling that they have presence in your classroom or family child care home. Taking time to visit and talk with families about their routines, rituals, and cultures signals, "I care for you, your child and family." One way to learn more about the interests and culture of the child is to schedule a home visit.  During a home visit, ask families about their child's interests, what the child enjoys learning, and how the child learns best. The Family Languages and Interest Interview template presented in Chapter 15 gave us new ideas for questions to consider when conducting a home visit.  Working together to create a reciprocal relationship with the family is so important.  Together, teachers and families can create developmentally appropriate activities for home and school that celebrate linguistic and culture. Our readings mentioned different ways to communicate with families such as two-way journals, emails, and conversations at pick-up and drop-off.  It's important to develop a relationship and dialogue with families that focus on the importance of both home language and English language development. We did this at our parent co-op nursery school.  Families were invited to participate with our "family meetings" and share their traditions, music, picture books, dance and/or artifacts that represented their culture.  This brought tremendous unity and community to our early childhood program.  I will always have cherished memories of sharing these special moments with families. To them, this was their "second home."

    Another way to support our emergent bilingual children is to use or learn words in their home language.  Patience is also a special disposition teachers should practice.  Many times it takes time for children to feel comfortable when there are language barriers and a new environment.  That's why it is so important to set up a classroom with a variety of materials and resources.  For example, beautiful open-ended art materials, instruments and music, dramatic play centers with dress-up clothes from different cultures, and learning centers.  During our discussions, one idea was going to a thrift shop to find different clothes and materials for the dramatic play area. In the classroom, include photographs of all families and include toys in dramatic play and picture books reflecting all cultures.  It's important to consider visual cues and use intentional messages to support children to understand new vocabulary and learning experience.  All children bring knowledge and experiences into the classroom!

     

    Reflections from Brigitte 

    I was intrigued about the different strategies that could be introduced into your curriculum to support emergent dual language learners. I have not had the opportunity (privilege) to provide support to those children yet, but I am actively pursuing diverse families and cultures with my enrollment. I am a licensed in-home childcare educator so I have more control over the families that I serve. I have become more intentional in my selection process when there is an available slot at my program.

    I will definitely put into practice the strategies of home visits and intentional interactions with the families. Allow the families to actively participate in the learning process through video story reading, print materials, recipes from ethnic foods, and fabrics/special clothing from their home culture. The school environment is the perfect opportunity for all to learn: children, parents, teachers, and communities. Be empowered to make a positive difference in the world!

    Stay safe!

     

    Reflections from Denise:

    Aside from the fact that I wish I had the opportunity to work with families and children from other cultures every day, I found our section on supporting bilingual children so helpful.

    One of the most significant details that stuck with me, was that we, as early childhood educators, must support, appreciate, and respect each child and family's home language while simultaneously supporting promoting English proficiency.

    Through the use of labels, picture schedules, displays of cultural artifacts and treasures, not to mention, clothing, food, toys, books, written language, and music, including culturally common instruments, we build strong partnerships with families. All of these fantastic strategies, along with the utilization of the Family Languages and Interests Interview and family bulletin boards, where all families are able to share important information about their household, their immediate, and often extended family, and their individual, rich, and fascinating cultures, create warm, responsive, and supportive classroom communities. What could be better than that? :)

     

    Reflections from Jenna:

    I connected to these few chapters as much of my recent career has been working with international children. I find it imperative to bring their home culture into the program. Through these few chapters, and our discussions, I was reminded just how important it is to do so with respect and intention. We cannot simply add "multicultural foods" and dramatic play materials purchased through an education catalog, rather we should always be on the lookout for authentic ways to incorporate culture into our classrooms. Visiting thrift stores for materials, consulting with parents, and adding music stories and books in other languages also creates an inclusive environment. 

     The biggest takeaway for me is the parent survey included in Chapter 15. I will absolutely be incorporating this into my program but the larger takeaway here is the idea of verbally going through this survey with a parent during a conversation. I have an intake survey for parents which includes a small home language portion. It is emailed to the parent with the rest of the enrollment documents. It is mostly returned not completed. We should take the time to sit down with parents with the intention to learn about them and their family. (Outside of an enrollment meeting.) We then take that information to create either a slight addition to our environment, new story or ritual to share with the class. This creates a classroom unique to the children and families it encompasses. This is the stuff of a great classroom experience. 

    I have always been very interested in children's environments. This section and our discussion has really made me think about the beautiful connection the family's experience (whether it is culture, profession, or simply passions) can have in the children's environment. When this is taken into account, an entire classroom can shift and the children can have beautiful experiences. This is the type of curriculum I hope to create. During our discussion we had an enlightening chat about "home visits" and the power they can have in understanding our children and using this understanding to create an experiences that will support their unique journey through life.

     "Children are miracles... we must make it our job to create, with reverence and gratitude, a space that is worthy of a miracle."   - Anita Rui Olds (Quote found in "Inspiring Spaces for Young Children" (a Gryphon House Book).  This book has inspired me a great deal in creating children's environments. I will look at this book now with a news lens to create beautiful environments for the specific children inside them.



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    Kathleen Harris
    Greensburg PA
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  • 9.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 30 days ago


    Hello NAEYC Friends:

    Please enjoy our Book Club Reflections from Part V:  Engaging Diverse Families,  Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens.

     Reflections from Tricia:

    I have enjoyed our examinations of home visits and what a great insight they provide into a child and his/her family. This section really stressed the importance of leaving the paperwork for later so that the educator may more fully immerse herself in the visit and better engage with the family. Brigitte shared the idea of bringing a tape recorder along to capture moments to note later. In our current times, we may need to rely on video calls to stage home visits, but they can still provide a good glimpse into what life is like for a family. In the past, I have used Responsive Classroom's Share Time as a way to strengthen oral language development and encourage higher order thinking in young children. This gives children opportunities to talk about their own lives and experiences and also helps foster community within the classroom.

     One of my key takeaways from Chapter 19 centered around the language we use to describe families. A coworker when I first began teaching always used the word "grown ups" to describe a child's primary caregiver. This simple phrase really encompassed all the parents and parent figures (grandparents, aunts) in our community. It is also gender neutral, so can be applied to any family structure. Having family photos in the classroom so that children can see and talk about one another's family is also important for building understanding.


    R
    eflections from Brigitte:

    I really liked the idea of taking a "magic bag" with you during the home visits. You can bring activities to work with the child to create while you find out more about what matters to the family. The author mentioned that the home visit could occur before the child starts your programs so that you have already established a rapport with the child, and the child will be familiar and have confidence about creating the activity again in your classroom.

    We discussed having the children tell stories in their own words that give great insight in their families cultures and special routines or rituals that they celebrate. You will be amazed at the vocabulary that they have learned and many more details about what matters to them as they share with everyone. Also, as the educator, we must allow time for the students to find their words and continue to feel more comfortable talking in front of a group of peers.

    We need to be more sensitive about special events that we host at our programs. The typical Mom's, Dad's, or Grandparents events may not be sensitive to our children. Think outside of the box and plan events that are catered to the adults that are helping in raising the children and not so gender-specific events. As a side note, I was disappointed that the author of chapter 19 only dedicated one page to this very crucial topic of diverse families. The educator needs more language and practice in order to further engage with these families so that the bias and prejudice does not control the interaction.

    We can look for opportunities to share math principles at home while cooking by recipes, setting the dinner table, sorting laundry, and more. We need to allow the child's interest to be explored and not hold the children back from enjoying math because we may believe that it is not our strong suit.

    Reflections from Denise:

    Home visits lie at the root of my reflections for Part 5. Having spent more than 11 years servicing individual families of children with disabilities, using a home based model, I can imagine no better way for an early childhood educator (or any educator) to appreciate and support diverse families than by experiencing such a personalized and intimate view of the families and children in their care. The establishment of a positive rapport and genuine compassion for families cannot be underestimated. The home-based environment allows not only for conversations with children, but with their families and sometimes extended families and other caregivers. This provides insight into a child's temperament, sense of self, and relationship with family members, which can only lead to a better understanding of the "how" and "why" of children's reactions and relations to peers and adults in the early childhood classroom. Diverse families may have some apprehension at first about home visits, but by using our equity lens to guide our heart to acceptance and loving character, families are able to feel comfortable, welcomed, accepted, and appreciated for the gifts they offer to their child and to the relationship built with those educators who care for their precious children.  It is through these strong relationships that we are able to meet parents where they are, to give them the strategies to teach their children at home, and to help them find comfort in the knowledge that their family is part of a supportive community, made richer by its diversity.


    Reflections from Jamie….

    I personally really enjoyed the math component in the section. I personally started including a science family night two years ago to help families have a different outlook on science. Last year my focus was on outdoor play in the winter time. This year with things looking different, I really appreciated a new view on ways to help families with math. I saw the home visit fairly equal to my orientation with families and then adding on conferences.

    Reflections from Kathy …..

    Families have a diverse, array of needs that need to be met to manage their daily role demands.  Before an educator can recognize and cultivate empathy and compassion with creating positive relationships with families, they should reflect on the challenges that can interfere with the capacity of culture care and individual bias.  Early childhood educators recognize that the home is a child's first learning environment (Santos et al., 2012).  Home visits provide exciting opportunities for early childhood education teachers to visit children's homes to discuss school activities, share updates on classroom activities and progress, and increase opportunities for stronger family relationships. For teachers, home visits promote insights into children's home lives, rituals, demeanors, interests, hobbies, and culture.  Home visits can be a great way to become familiar with the family, their goals, hopes, and dreams for their children, and I have a better understanding of their parenting styles.  More importantly, the teacher may become aware an informed of their child's needs which is extremely beneficial as an educator.  Home visits are invaluable and extremely important for teachers to become familiar with the families of their students.

    Conversations with children are so important.  Asking open-ended questions can spark and support language development and also critical thinking skills.  As a preschool and PreK teacher, I loved having family meetings with my children every morning.  Children would share their family stories with each other, and as a result, I became more aware of families funds of knowledge, family strengths, and needs.  Family meetings also created a community for the class.  Another time conversations emerge is during snack and/or mealtimes with children.  During our discussions, we described how to ask questions, give wait time to children, and to later reflect on the answers.  Consider including "sharing time," or "story time" during the day to increase opportunities for high-level questions and conversations.  Consider questions that demonstrate that children understand language, paying attention, and gives children opportunities to answer in his/her own way. 

    Diverse families need to be welcomed in our classrooms!  All of us will be honored to have a variety of diverse families in our classrooms.  It's important they are comfortable, welcomed, and included into your community. Our chapter in Part V gave us a few ways to consider this when planning family events.  Some suggestions included considering language, your early childhood setting forms, consider the language on cards for families, advocate for children in social interactions and listen carefully to "teachable moments" during children's dramatic plan and throughout the day.  It's important to invite children to share about family members throughout the school year.  Consider using appropriate children's literature as a springboard for discussions and conversations. By using a collection of books on topics related to all different types of family dynamics, teacher can extend familiarity with literature about the topic and also feel comfortable with to support the needs of families. In addition, literature serves multiple purposes for educating pre-service teachers about the ecological family systems, roles, strengths, diversity, and challenges involved when raising a child in today's global society. Such books invite readers to look beyond the immediate and relate to others by supporting the development of values like kindness, compassion, and empathy.  As a group, we loved this section of the book but felt more could be discussed about this particular chapter.

    Early childhood education is about relationships!  The heartbeat of early childhood is relationships and working with families.  Today's families have a diverse, array of needs that need to be met to manage their daily role demands.  Teachers can support families with intentional and authentic parent involvement.  Home visits, parent conferences, classroom visits, and family meetings with children, and parent conversations Home visits have the potential to provide educators with insights into the social, cultural, and cognitive functioning of children and families.  Rigorous have the potential to provide educators with insights into the social, cultural, and cognitive functioning of children and families. 



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    Kathleen Harris
    Greensburg PA
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  • 10.  RE: Thinking about Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens

    Posted 23 days ago

    Part VI:  Exploring Identity, Fairness, and Activism

    Our summer journey together has been inspiring, empowering, and informative.
    Thank you for the opportunity to create new friendships and gather as a community to discuss and reflect on "Each and Every Child: Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens"

    Reflections from Denise:

     It goes without saying that being mindful of our biases plays a vital role in advocating for young children. Reminding ourselves that while we do not need to be perfect during this time of growth, we do need to face, rather than ignore our discomfort, in order to share information about sensitive topics during our work. 

    Creating a strong community with other ECE leaders, parents, and others in our personal and professional lives, in addition to celebrating similarities and differences, listening to children's ideas and comments, and responding to misconceptions or inaccuracies regarding identity or stereotypes, will help us to prevent the development of prejudices in the lives of our youngest future leaders.  

    Cultivating the tools for positive decision making, and promoting the development of powerful children's voices against inequity and injustice, must not only be part of our mission as an early childhood educator, but our "spiritual responsibility[y] as a human being" (Megan Pamela Ruth Madison).

     Blessings to all of you!

     

    Reflections from Brigitte:

     The children in our care are not the children of the 1950s or 1960s. They are diverse and willing to challenge the structural norms that we grew up with in previous generations. They are curious about roles, textures, genders, and much more. As adults, we like to believe that we have all of the answers, but the truth is that we don't. We must be active listeners to the conversations of the children and ask questions to gain further clarification about what is being experienced. You can help steer thought-provoking conversations that are children-led. The clarification may be on the surface level so don't get stressed out about having to share an entire journey. You can concede that more information needs to be researched and how they can help in the pursuit of knowledge. Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) should be top of mind as you share information to give context to the topic of discussion.

    I have enjoyed this book study and getting to meet educators across the US. I feel the we formed a bond that can continue to grow and develop as we pursue our goals in early childhood education. I have definitely learned that I need to be more intentional and present with the children and families that I serve.

     

     Reflections from Tricia:

     As I reflect on our journey together as a whole, I note that we (as educators and practitioners) need to continue to be open. My co-teacher and I often say to one another, "When we know better, we must to better." We have read and researched equity and now it is time to put our learning into action. We can enter our school years with new sets of tools to help create a culture of community, to be more inviting to families, to be more mindful of the language we use and how it reflects our own histories and biases, and to be more active in pursuing better understanding. It is important that we continue to grow, and push through discomfort, because we are working to create a better future for the children in our care.

     

    Reflections from Gemma:

     After our last meeting, I felt a strong sense of responsibility towards the young teachers-to-be in my classes. I know that, with inspiration from our discussions, I can help new teachers develop self-reflective practices in which they examine their own biases, and seek to create a classroom culture that is responsive and inclusive of all children and families. 

    This week, our reflections led to a conversation on gender differences. We talked about a family not having a gender specified on their child's birth certificate and them then entering a program with boy/girl bathrooms. I thought this was an interesting concept. When I ran an inclusion preschool, the first thing I did was rip the boy/girl bathroom signs off the doors! We also discussed teachers being aware of the messages that they send when they ask children to separate themselves into the boy/girl dichotomy. It is something that many teachers do, quite honestly, without thinking. "How many girls are here today? How many boys?" I remember doing is myself in my early years as a classroom teacher. I had a child who was outwardly male yet, wore skirts sometimes and preferred traditionally female activities and toys. One day, I asked the group to sit boy/girl/boy/girl as we were doing some patterning activities. This child stood at the edge of the group and did not join in. They were not sure where they fit in this pattern! It was a very eye-opening experience for me. One of our book group members shared a story of a child at a Waldorf program who was transitioning. The family shared their child's experience with the teachers and students via a letter and the child was supported. 

    We also discussed building a classroom culture of equality in the roles that people play in the classroom. In the eyes of a child, a lead and a teacher aide are both older people who are here to take care of them. In some programs, there is a big divide between these roles, and a hierarchy develops that can make collaboration and growth challenging. We discussed Head Start structure and how having a teaching team of co-teachers would create more of a bond between staff. 

    I also enjoyed the phrase "Peace Heroes" for discussing historical figures with children. 

    Overall, I have loved our discussions and will miss our Wednesday meetings! I have learned a lot just form sharing our stories and look forward to participating in another book club soon. 

      

    Reflections from Kathy:

     Teaching is a two-sided human activity: On each side are human beings, whole people with their own unique thoughts, hopes, dreams, inspiration, needs, experiences, and priorities (Ayers, 2001).  Early childhood teachers are advocates and 'educarers' because they continuously study their own teaching practice through reflective teaching and create transformational possibilities that bring light to the darkness for all the children they teach.  Each child a teacher embraces comes into the classroom with a vision and wisdom for learning.  Effective early childhood teachers look to the future and have a vision, responding and listening to the children, families, and communities they teach and serve.  Taking time to exploring our identity and bias gives us the opportunity to focus on ways to work collectively with colleagues who are committed to equity.  It is our professional responsibility to support challenges as opportunities to change policies.  One of the ways we can do this is by voting this November.

     It is also important to talk about identity with children.  It's important to allow time to be fully intentional in their conversations.  Follow their lead and let children know they are safe.  Ask open-ended questions to extend conversations.  At times, if children demonstrate their bias during conversations or interactions with peers, guide and help the child to consider how words or actions can be hurtful to other children.  Take time to really reflect on the goals of anti-bias education as presented in our book, Each and Every Child and with NAEYC.  Keep children's literature close by to introduce and teach children about different cultures and individual differences.  Invite families into your classroom to share their values, rituals, and funds of knowledge.

     One of the chapters that inspired me in Part VI was teaching preschoolers about segregation and "Peace Heroes."  Peace Heroes are all around us!  Discover your children's dreams and hopes. One way I did this when teaching preschoolers was to have each child share their dreams and draw a picture.  We made a collage of our dreams and placed them on the walls of our classroom.  I believe it is important for teachers to take time to discuss with the class who are the "Peace Heroes" in children's families.  Keeping developmentally appropriate practice as our compass, we should always try to create a community of 'peace makers' in our class who respect each other with joy and reverence. Let us all be "Peace Heroes" for our young children.  I will cherish conversations and new friendships with dear colleagues from our book club this summer. 

     



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    Kathleen Harris
    Greensburg PA
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