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
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.
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. :)
Passionate Creative Amiable
I love family
I hate haughtiness
I fear heartlessness
I wish for joy
CobaughThere 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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,,,,
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