By: Donna Kirkwood, Ph.D
As their children’s first teachers, parents have an amazing opportunity to nurture their children’s growth and development and to advocate for their education. And many parents want to be involved in their children’s education. I realized early in my teaching career, however, that families often face obstacles to engaging in the school experience.
During my first year working in a preschool setting, I was dismayed to see how many parents left their parent-teacher conferences upset or even crying. In my own conference with parents, one mother of a delightful, very verbal child was understandably disappointed when I explained that her daughter’s academic and social-emotional skills were not as far along as her verbal skills. She had assumed that because of her daughter’s verbal abilities, she was on track or ahead in other prekindergarten skills. The mother was unsure of what was expected at this age and had missed some opportunities at home to help her daughter develop academically. And I had missed opportunities to help her acquire the tools to do so.
As I moved through my career, I found that many parents were perplexed as they navigated the educational system with their young children. Many had little understanding of child development or developmentally appropriate practices. They wanted to help their child, but they didn't know how. They often arrived at their first parent-teacher conference to find themselves bombarded with unfamiliar educational concepts and terms like phonological awareness and numeracy.
Families with limited resources may experience even greater isolation from their children’s educational community. Many have had negative school experiences themselves, which may make them apprehensive about coming to the school or interacting with teachers. Some may hesitate to speak to educators because of a lack of confidence, out of respect for the teacher’s authority, or because they have been discouraged in such interactions in the past. When meeting with their child’s teacher, they may not know what to expect and may have little prior information about their child’s progress. It can be intimidating for parents, even when teachers have the best of intentions. This may push parents further away from their child's educational setting and discourage their participation in her academic growth and development.
When parents do not feel comfortable in the school setting, they are less likely to support and participate in school events or speak to their child’s teacher or principal about their concerns or goals for their child. Everyone misses out on valuable opportunities to strengthen the home-school connection and support children.
During my career as a preschool teacher and director, I was fully aware of the importance of engaging parents in the program. But for a long time I avoided addressing it, because I hadn't figured out how to do it. I realized that inviting parents into the classroom more was key to meaningfully involving them in their child's education, but that seemed like a difficult process. Working closely with parents was an integral part of teaching preschoolers, but it required a different skill set along with a significant commitment of time.
Twenty years into my career in early childhood education, and still struggling to understand how best to help parents advocate for and support their children’s learning, I encountered HIPPY USA. I fell in love with its approach and joined the staff. HIPPY, or Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, empowers parents as their child's first and most important teacher. Home visitors provide support, education, and mentoring to parents who may lack resources and education or experience isolation.
Through their experiences in our programs, parents gain skills in supporting their child’s learning, learn what to expect from their child’s school, and become comfortable working with teachers.
Twenty years of research have shown that the this model helps to increase parent involvement and improve children’s readiness for school, classroom behavior and attendance, test scores, and academic performance.
In addition, parents who have participated report spending more time with their children and in their children’s school. They provide an environment for literacy in their homes and cut back on their children’s screen time. Parents also report being motivated to help with their children’s homework thanks to their participation in the program. Teachers report better participation from parents who have been in HIPPY than those from who have not.
I’ve learned that many parents want to be involved in their child’s education but may lack the confidence and knowledge to do so effectively. To help them become meaningfully engaged in their child’s education and school experience, we have to help them develop the tools to do so. Programs like HIPPY help parents learn what to expect and how they can contribute to their child’s learning. With guidance and support, parents can confidently take on their role as their child’s first teacher and biggest advocate and become partners with teachers. It’s a powerful connection that can make all the difference for children, parents, and educators.
Cuenca, K. (June, 2003). Findings from the Florida HIPPY Parent Survey. University of South Florida. Department of Child and Family Studies.
Black, M.M. (2010). HIPPY Americorps Evaluation: Parental involvement in literacy activities and volunteer activities in the community in California, Florida and Hawaii. University of South Florida, Department of Child and Family Studies.
Donna Kirkwood has been a nanny, a teacher’s aide, a teacher, a program coordinator, a director of an NAEYC accredited program, a college professor and a NCATE and ECADA program reviewer. She is currently the National Program Director for HIPPY USA.
During a recent trip to spend time with early childhood professionals in China, I worked to master the skill of eating with chopsticks, and I was amazed by how much I had to learn. While I was no stranger to chopsticks—in fact I’m quite proud of my ability to use them when eating sweet and sour chicken in DC—it struck me how, in China, my use of chopsticks took place in an environment in which I worked to finesse this skill at an entirely new level. I learned to grasp the food more precisely as it circled by on the customary rotating round table that supports communal sharing of a meal. This was not just about my practicing the skill, but also about the influence of the place and the culture in which I was immersed—an illustration of the importance of context in learning. Joining my hosts in traditional Chinese meals and enveloped by the sounds of Mandarin, I became assimilated to my environment and worked to meet the expectations of the group. A process not so different from that of young children’s development.
High-quality early learning experiences provide children with opportunities to develop both physically and socially through authentic learning situations, including play. The settings in which children practice new skills work best when the environment reflects the individual child, family, and community. These core considerations, combined with what we know to be true about human development, are what we call developmentally appropriate practice.1 The myriad examples of how these considerations are implemented in early childhood classrooms demonstrate their power to joyfully engage young children in mastering new skills. Whether it be pairs of children engrossed in a game of Shagai (a traditional game using ankle bones) in Central Asia or a group of girls and boys role-playing the process of cooking and serving Arabic coffee in Saudi Arabia, context provides a vital foundation.
During my career, I have had the privilege to observe early childhood professionals in action in more than 30 countries, due most recently to my role directing global initiatives for NAEYC. Grounded in Vygotsky’s theory of social-cultural development—which posits that social interaction and community create meaning in the acquisition of knowledge—I understand the deep effect culture has on learning, and I value individual approaches to learning.2 However, individualized learning requires variances that at first glance might seem contradictory to Western expectations for children’s learning and development. The tension between my culturally based knowledge and expectations about child development and the realities of child rearing and teaching in other cultures are at the crux of what I love about learning. For me, a great example of this is what I learned in Central Asia about the ability of toddlers to successfully use the toilet. Coming from a culture where “potty training” is a significant topic of conversation and much time is devoted to this learning process, I could not fathom the ease with which young children monitor their body’s cues themselves, without a big production being made. And yet, born out of the necessities of a low-resource context, children’s mastery of this skill took place in a developmentally appropriate manner. Such examples remind us of how careful we must be to not create absolutes in judgement.
Sometimes the congruent differences—those things that are different but also the same—between cultures are simple to identify. For example, daily processes such as eating with chopsticks or forks are remarkably alike yet different. The tools vary yet the results are the same. Often, however, these kinds of differences are more subtle. For example, cultures vary in their expectation that preschoolers play outside regardless of weather. In the Baltic States young children joyfully engage in outdoor learning in twilight and freezing temperatures, surrounded by snow—something many in the US might find extreme. While there is a desire for an early learning blueprint that will guarantee certain outcomes across cultures, we can only provide a framework for quality and guidance to support practical application. True high-quality and engaged learning happens when developmentally appropriate learning activities aimed at teaching core skills—fine motor skills, for instance—are implemented through activities (eating with forks or with chopsticks) that make sense within each unique cultural context.
To recognize and value the unique experiences each child brings to the learning community and identify how each experience represents developmental achievement is an art. An art that demands deeply knowledgeable professionals to facilitate the continuing acquisition of higher-order skills while maintaining the nuances of each child’s individual reality. NAEYC’s own definition of developmentally appropriate practice has evolved since first published in 1986. As the world increasingly becomes smaller and opportunities for shared learning grow, I look forward to observing the impact of citizenship in a global community on practice as we adopt new ways to support optimal development for young children.
1Copple, Carol, and Sue Bredekamp. Developmentally appropriate practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children From Birth Through Age 8. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children (2009).
2Berk, Laura E., and Adam Winsler.1995. Scaffolding Children's Learning: Vygotsky and Early Childhood Education. NAEYC Research Into Practice series, vol. 7. National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1509 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1426 (NAEYC catalog #146).
Stephanie Olmore is Senior Director, Global Engagement at NAEYC.
From left, Dr. Cindy Ryan, Dr. Thelma Harms, Linda Craven, at the 2015 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development.
By: Cindy Ryan, PhD and Linda Craven, MEd
You've heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That meal became especially significant when we had the opportunity to share it with someone we had admired for many years. While attending the 2015 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development, the legendary Thelma Harms quietly asked if she could join us for breakfast.
We were eating breakfast at a small table overlooking the Mississippi River at the New Orleans Hilton when Ms. Harms approached looking for a place to sit. We had an opportunity to introduce ourselves to her the day before in the hotel lobby, taking just a few minutes to thank her for all her work in the early childhood profession. So, when Thelma Harms walked towards our breakfast table, we happily made space for her to join us.
As teacher educators, we are aware of the disconnect that often occurs between our students (preservice teachers) and our mentors. The students are, understandably, wrapped up with coursework, standards, and assessments; they focus less on the history of early education. If we didn’t remind our students of the pioneers who came before us, and their early struggles and works, the field might falsely appear as if it didn’t have roots. Thelma Harms is one of the leaders who gave the early childhood field its roots.
By sharing amusing anecdotes at that impromptu meeting , Thelma took us on a journey from UC Berkeley to UNC Chapel Hill. We traveled through her early days of advocacy for children and families, quality environments, and equal opportunities, to the breakfast table in New Orleans where she shared her wisdom and expertise with us. Her stories spoke to a time when women needed to prove themselves in higher education; when a woman with wild California hair moved across the country to North Carolina, where she was greeted by helpful southern ladies who immediately recommended a hair stylist to help her craft a more appropriate look. Thankfully for the field, instead of focusing on her hairstyle Thelma focused on her work in early childhood as she coauthored the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales (ECERS) (Harms, Clifford, & Cryer 2005) and numerous other publications. She humbly explained that though her name may be listed as first author on the ECERS, she really just had an idea and wrote “this little article.” The rest is history.
As we sat captivated by Thelma, we were reminded that those of us in the early childhood field stand on the shoulders of giants, and we must not forget those who came before us. From her recollections of being at Berkeley during the protests in the early 1970s to her move to UNC, Thelma took us through the history of early childhood education, the struggles for equity and inclusion, and the continued need to push the field forward.
Thelma graciously shared her time and spirit with us that early morning. As she prepared for her 90th birthday in July, her excitement for the new ECERS-3 showed how this profession continues to be very important to her. She was delighted to hear the positive feedback we shared about the ECERS-3 and how it would continue to improve quality in the ECE profession.
On the plane ride home we recommitted ourselves to making sure that not only the names, but the ideals and philosophies of these early pioneers in the field are embedded throughout our coursework. As we cultivate early childhood preservice teachers, we now make sure to honor the roots of those who came before us by intentionally creating assignments where students critically engage and reflect upon our history, its impact on our profession, and define themselves as future leaders.
We sat in awe that morning in New Orleans, and we still continue to say to each other and to anyone else who will listen, “We had breakfast with Thelma Harms, and we have the pictures to prove it.”
Spontaneous networking opportunities like these happen all the time at NAEYC's Institute.
Join us this year, June 5-8 in Baltimore, MD for your chance to connect with early childhood thought leaders and hundreds of your peers--maybe even over breakfast!
Harms, T., R.M. Clifford, & D. Cryer. (2005). Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale: Revised Edition. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Cindy Ryan, PhD, is early childhood program coordinator and an assistant professor at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon. She has over 20 years of experience as an early childhood and early childhood special educator in inclusive settings and has taught at the university level for the past five years.
Linda Craven, MEd, is an early childhood instructor at Western Oregon University. Linda has been involved in the early childhood field for over 35 years, teaching at both the community college and university levels.
By: Cate Heroman and Paige Zittrauer
Paige Zittrauer challenged her kindergarten students and their high school art student project partners: Make a contraption that moves on its own across a piece of paper and leaves a mark in its path.
Intrigued by the challenge, the kindergartners looked at a few examples of how “scribbling machines” move and then watched several other videos. The high school students were given an excerpt from an online project guide about scribbling machines.
The kindergarten children and their high school project partners followed an engineering design process to create their scribbling machines: plan; build/create; try it out; improve; and then share.
STEP ONE: PLAN
The kindergarten-high school partners imagined what their scribbling machine might look like. They made a plan and sketched their ideas. Paige invited them to bring something from home or use materials from the classroom as a base.
STEP TWO: BUILD OR CREATE
Teams were given a 1.5 volt hobby motor, a glue stick, and a AA battery. Together, they selected art materials and loose parts. With plans in hand, they created their scribbling machines. Most placed a piece of a glue stick on the tip of the motor like they had seen in the videos. Others tried something different, such as a small section of Mardi Gras beads attached to the motor's tip.
STEP THREE: TRY IT
Would it it work? The kindergartners and high school students were not given step-by-step directions. They were given enough information to get started and were encouraged to tinker. They connected the battery to the motor and watched what happened. Most of the scribbling machines turned on, but they did not move across the paper. What was wrong?
The kindergartners and their high school student partners speculated about why the machines didn’t move:
- My battery was dead.
- Our scribbling machine was too heavy.
- Our motor didn’t work.
STEP FOUR: IMPROVE OR MAKE BETTER
The next time the groups met, they compared the machines that moved across the paper with ones that didn’t. A battery tester was available for those who believed the battery was the problem. Teams noticed that the machines which moved had glue sticks in different positions from those which didn’t move. The teams soon realized was that the motor needed to be off-balance for the machine to move across the paper. They adjusted the glue sticks on the ends of the motors so they weren’t centered. Success! The teams were delighted and many tried to improve or make their machines better. Some added two motors and extra batteries to find out if they could make their machine move faster. A few children made adjustments and tried to race their scribbling machines against other machines.
STEP FIVE: SHARE
All of the scribbling machines were on display at the Baton Rouge Mini Maker Faire at a public library. Over 2,000 people--children and families--participated.Children could select one of the scribbling machines and test it out on a large piece of paper on the floor. Children of all ages squealed with delight as they worked with the machines.
Some teachers might think they don’t have time for STEAM experiences like this one given the strong emphasis on literacy in kindergarten. Not only did children learn science, technology, engineering and math concepts, and vocabulary (e.g., rotate, off-balance, circuit), but Paige integrated literacy throughout the project. The children participated in shared writing during planning, and functional writing as they made lists of materials and wrote directions. After the activity, they wrote thank-you notes to their high school buddies and responded to writing prompts such as:
- Tell one thing new that you learned from building your scribbling machine.
- Tell how you can build your scribbling machine better the next time you build one.
This activity is a wonderful example of how children construct their own understanding of ideas and phenomena as they tinker and build things with their hands. It also demonstrates how teachers can create engaging, developmentally appropriate activities while meeting rigorous learning standards.
Interested in doing this in your classroom? The scribbling machines activity was inspired by this resource from the Exploratorium, an online science and art lab.
What Children Learned
The following is a comprehensive list of the different areas of learning this activity touched on:
- Works cooperatively with others
- Takes turns
- Follows limits and expectations
- Solves social problems
Develops fine motor skills
- hand–eye coordination
- Solves problems
- Thinks logically and reasons
Develops positive approaches to learning
- attention and engagement
- flexible thinking
- curiosity and motivation
- Listens and follows directions
- Expresses self
- Asks questions
- Engages in conversations
- Uses and expands content-based vocabulary
- Interacts during integrated, content-focused read-alouds
- Participates in shared writing experiences
- Uses functional writing
- Writes to convey meaning and communicate
- Explores geometric shapes and ideas
- Explores spatial relationships
Science, Engineering, and Technology
- Observes, asks questions, and investigates
- Follows engineering design process
Engages in physical science discoveries
- how things move
- beginning circuitry (batteries, motors)
- Uses tools and technology to perform tasks
- Expresses self creatively
- Creates 3-D structures
- Uses a variety of art tools and materials
Interested in how this activity integrates with standards for NAEYC Accreditation of Programs for Young Children? Learn more in this short essay on connecting authentic learning to standards.
Cate Heroman is an author, early childhood consultant, and volunteer education chair at Knock Knock Children’s Museum, a museum designed for children birth to age 8.
Paige Zittrauer teaches kindergarten at the University Laboratory School on Louisiana State University’s campus in Baton Rouge. She also volunteers for Knock Knock Children’s Museum.
By: Alberto Barrantes
I learned the importance of doing more than just watching and describing realities while reporting on early childhood education in my home country for La Nación. In Costa Rica, 60 percent of infants through 6-year-olds live in poor or vulnerable households (Ross, 2013). In 2014, we at La Nación found that at least 22,500 children between 5 and 6 years old were out of school, accounting for 16 percent of all children who miss preschool (Barrantes, 2015). The latest report from the State of the Nation Program (2005) notes that most of the children who do not attend preschool live in rural areas and in the slums of the metropolitan areas. The report also notes that fewer than 40 percent of children from the nation’s poorest families attend preschool. For me, reporting about early childhood education in Costa Rica became about generating progressive strategies between public and private institutions to expand access to high-quality education for all children.
Research shows that children from low-income homes can have better outcomes in life if they receive high-quality preschool experiences. Early learning is critical for developing cognitive language skills and for interpersonal and socio-emotional development. That knowledge and our country’s need led me to start LUDO project, a multimedia project that publishes children’s stories through tablets and cellphones to motivate reading skills during early childhood. If children love using technology to watch videos and play games, I don’t believe we should fight it; instead, we must offer them high-quality technological materials that make learning enjoyable. Realizing that Costa Rica was unable to produce such materials for all children, we saw the opportunity to create these tools and expand their access to our most vulnerable populations.
Technology, when used well, can motivate children’s curiosity, sense of exploration, and interest in solving problems. In addition—as affirmed in the NAEYC position statement “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children From Birth Through Age 8” (2012)—technology can empower children by enabling them to design and manage dynamic concepts that in the past were out of reach, promote changes in their learning strategies, and allow for new ways of social interaction. And while we should discourage passive and non-interactive uses, we should also maximize this opportunity to develop new teaching strategies. Reading, for example, can be taught through games, rhymes, and songs—through fun—and digital storytelling is just another avenue of delivery.
Our purpose with LUDO is to expand and support the use of technological materials in schools, especially where children have fewer opportunities at home. Once children have their first contact with books, the transition to school will be less difficult. But the worst mistake is when the child is bored in the classroom; books and stories must be funny. Games and songs—with letters, syllables, and the building blocks of literacy—can facilitate the development of strong communication and literacy skills.
This kind of technology must go to the homes and schools of the poorest families, and it is necessary to involve parents. If we want to get successful outcomes from early childhood education, we must help parents to become active agents in their children’s development. Responsive interactions between adults and children are essential to early brain development and to cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and linguistic development, and technology can be included those interactions. The great challenge we have is to involve children, teachers, parents, the media, universities, and investigators. We must clearly communicate our goals and involve parents and government authorities in a process that’s main purpose is to create better opportunities for all.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” As global perspectives tell us, the field of early childhood education has seen tremendous changes in recent years, but we have to keep going to make our goals possible. Reality can be changed only when we move from paper to actions, and focus on developing better strategies for expanding access to high-quality early learning. It is only through this development that we will be able to reduce poverty and increase opportunities for all children, resulting in a more developed country and a more developed world.
Barrantes, Alberto C. “22.500 Niños Llegan Con Rezago a La Escuela Por Falta De Preescolar.” La Nación, January 19, 2015.
National Association for the Education of Young Children, The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning, and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. 2012. “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children From Birth Through Age 8.” Position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Programa Estado de la Nación. 2005. “Panorama General De La Infancia En Costa Rica: Segregación Residencial Socioeconómica En La Gran Área Metropolitana. San José, Costa Rica: Programa Estado De La Nación.” Serie Aportes al Análisis Del Desarrollo Humano Sostenible, Vol. 10.
Ross, Amy A. “60% De Niños Menores De 6 Años Viven En Hogares Pobres O Vulnerables.” La Nación,September 20, 2013.
[UPDATE: Since submission of this blog post, the Ministry of Culture of Costa Rica has approved funding for LUDO to develop the project and conduct field research with 32 rural and urban schools.]
Alberto Barrantes is the project manager and editor of Ludolibros, a new Costa Rican publishing organization focused on the design and development of digital content to promote reading skills in early childhood, using apps and technology. He worked as journalist for La Nación newspaper during the past four years, reporting on issues related to education, citizen complaints, urban development, minorities, community organizations, and local governments.
This past December I, along with another Texas AEYC board member, joined the Dallas AEYC co-presidents and the senior director of NAEYC Accreditation of Programs for Young Children to honor a program receiving its accreditation notification.
- A program that has been accredited for 30 years but never assumed re-accreditation was automatic. Northaven Co-op Director Trish Carlton after recovering from the shock of all of us trooping into the program, said that they had been a little hesitant about saying yes to our visit as they weren’t expecting to hear about accreditation for a few more weeks.
- Children who were deeply engaged in self-directed activity in every room we visited. Teachers observed and interacted responsively, whether that was preparing food for baking, or making a flower catcher in the Creation Station—a center fully stocked with reusable materials.
- A large motor room with materials primarily made and repurposed by parents. The space included mattress staircases and a clawfoot bathtub that was perfect for a game of pop-up peek-a-boo.
- Program staff who are so committed to children and families that Kathy Delsanter, the original director for the first 30 years of the program, has returned to the classroom as the lead preschool teacher.
- Local and state board members who used volunteer time to recognize quality in action in their community.
- NAEYC staff members were so excited about program quality that the accreditation certificate—as big as a Publishers Clearing House check—was delivered in person.
It was difficult to tell who was more excited, the AEYC volunteers and staff, or the Northaven teachers and director. It was a privilege to be a part of NAEYC’s Strategic Direction in action, supporting high-quality early learning and the profession, and engaging in meaningful member support. It made me proud to be an AEYC volunteer then, and an NAEYC staff member now.
Mary Jamsek is the Director of Quality Assurance and Assessment for the Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation at NAEYC. She was a master teacher and lecturer at the University of Texas and a 25-year NAEYC volunteer.
By: Dawn Braa
During a preconference session at NAEYC’s 2014 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development, Stacie Goffin challenged the attendees to reflect on ideas for moving the profession forward as a field of practice. Goffin charged those in early childhood education to engage in conversations with intent. She believes that collectively we can make a difference. We can step forward as change agents to develop leadership, organize as a profession, and determine the outcomes for our field. As I listened to her speak, I was thinking, “What can I do to move the profession forward? I’m only one person.”
After the session, I approached Stacie about interviewing her for my early childhood blog. She agreed and encouraged me to consider other ways to continue the conversation about promoting our profession as a field of practice. This led me to think about hosting a book study through the blog.
A book study provides an opportunity for professionals to come together and create a community of learners, engage in reflective dialogue, and collaborate. When we take that conversation online, all of those things can happen regardless of time or location. I wasn’t quite sure how to pull it off, but I wanted to encourage conversation about the selected book and foster colleagues’ reflection. I had never facilitated a book study before, much less one online!
The idea of the blog book study filled my thoughts as I sat on the airplane to Louisiana for NAEYC’s 2015 Institute. I thought about ways to structure an online book study. Would people want to hear my reflections? Then it hit me—I would ask experts in the field to share their reflections about the book’s chapters. My colleague and airplane seatmate, Sharon Bergen, and I brainstormed whom I might ask to participate in what she suggested I call “Beyond the Pages.”
First, I needed to choose a book for the premier online book study. I had just finished reading What If Everybody Understood Child Development: Straight Talk About Bettering Education and Children’s Lives, and was meeting author Rae Pica in New Orleans that afternoon for beignets. (They were delicious!) I inquired with Rae about using her book for the inaugural study. She approved and encouraged me to continue. Throughout the conference, I pitched my idea to my colleagues. Although many were supportive and intrigued by the idea of having an online book study, no one knew what the framework would look like—including me. Connecting with everyone at the conference definitely inspired me. I was filled with energy and excitement. Never underestimate the power of inspiration! I developed a model for my vision and began working on the project. I spent numerous hours connecting with people, developing a marketing strategy, and organizing details of the project.
The first blog-based book study was launched through Dakota County Technical College’s Early Childhood and Youth Development blog on August 31, 2015, with 16 guest content experts. I was so honored (and humbled) to have an all-star list of commentators! Angèle Sancho Passe, Gwen Simmons, Mike Huber, Diane Levin, Walter F. Drew, Teacher Tom, Richard Rairigh, Lorie Barnes, Deborah Stewart, Michael Gramling, Scott Wiley, Kelly Pfeiffer, Tamara Kaldor, Blakely Bundy, Laurie Greeninger, Deborah Hirschland, and Stacie Goffin all graciously agreed to write guest commentaries to inspire participating readers. Participants voiced their opinions and reflective thoughts online through intentional dialogue. I marketed the study through social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and my blog) and through local networks. The study lasted 15 weeks.
During week 4 one participant said, “This group has been so valuable for me! It really feels like an early childhood support group. I can log on and get the encouragement I need to keep sharing my ideas and advocating for families. The book’s succinct writing style and conciseness is perfect. Then, when I go online I find resources and even more food for thought.”
My original intention in creating a blog was to provide a 24/7 learning environment accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. I wanted to offer a convenient source for early childhood education resources and relevant information that would benefit my students and the community (e.g.,providers, educators, nannies, specialists, and parents). I thought about those in the field who didn’t have direct access to experts, and those who couldn’t take time off from work or afford to attend conferences. What if offering a book study on a blog could become a platform to unite early care providers and educators across the country or even the world?
I’m excited to announce that the next online book study will center on Stacie Goffin’s book Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era. Current comprehensive members of NAEYC received a copy of the book in fall 2015. This FREE book study will again have guest experts to lead the dialogue and guide our reflective thinking. It will be hosted at http://enhancingyoungminds.com. And you can find all the details and FAQs here. Please consider this your invitation to participate! United together, we can move the profession forward. Why you? Why not you?
Dawn Braa, MAEd, teaches early childhood and youth development at Dakota County Technical College, in Rosemount, Minnesota.
By: Michael Coventry
NAEYC is committed to a future in which the early childhood profession exemplifies excellence and is recognized as vital and performing a critical role in society. Here are 10 ideas and inspirations from our blog, journals, and website to foster your professional renewal in the new year:
1. Your work is powerful! Listen as NAEYC members speak from the heart about the power of the profession in children’s lives in this video recorded at NAEYC’s most recent Annual Conference.
3. See playful learning in action in this video and blog post. Learn how teachers in Louisiana created rich experiences about food by visiting a local food truck in celebration of Taco Tuesday during last year’s Week of the Young Child™.
4. Reveal your inner leader! Read this blog post and learn 10 ways you can lead, every day.
5. Laugh out loud! Here are eight ways to revitalize your classroom with laughter from Teaching Young Children, and don't miss the more in-depth teacher research article on laughter.
6. Be an advocate. Champion developmentally appropriate practice’s academic rigor with principals and primary school colleagues with the ideas in this article from Young Children.
7. American voters strongly support higher wages for early childhood educators. Read and share this new research from NAEYC highlighting widespread support for making investment in the early childhood education profession a national priority.
8. Engage families! The NAEYC For Families website offers tons of ideas to share with families.
9. Renew your commitment to anti-bias education. Consider how one reader used anti-bias ideas as she thought about what it means when we say “Dolls are for girls,” and reflect on these great ideas for honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day with young children.
10. Flex your political muscles! Join the Early Ed for President campaign in support of the profession ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Michael Coventry is director of digital content strategy at NAEYC.
By: Heather Logan
I have been fortunate to work as a curriculum coach and teacher at an early childhood education center in Roatan, Honduras, for the past six months. As NAEYC is “Going Global,” many of the lessons I have learned in Roatan align with the global initiatives. For example, with the help of NAEYC resources I am providing professional development and I conduct observations of children and teachers. I have worked with the owner, teachers, and families in the areas of guidance, physical environment, appropriate materials, play, and curriculum. I believe my most significant accomplishment is building reciprocal relationships with the owner and teachers.
Child care outside the home is a novel idea in Honduras; working parents are beginning to see the value of a childcare center for the children and for their family. There are no regulations covering early care and education on Roatan, which has about 90,000 residents, and only two early childhood education centers on the island. I have learned a lot about Roatan’s culture, and much of what I’ve learned can be transferred to working with staff and children of early childhood education settings in other countries using the following behaviors:
- Communicate—I don’t speak Spanish, so communicating with the teachers is a challenge because they don’t speak English. Affirming all the teachers and children by using rituals, eye contact, and positive body language is essential. We also communicate in a practical way with photographs.
- Observe—Teacher educators can learn from observing teachers and children in their environment. A big life lesson I learned long ago is to never make assumptions; this is certainly true when in a new culture. It’s important not to make assumptions about what children know how to do, about the children’s expectations, or about the teachers’ and families’ philosophies.
- Ask questions—If there is something I don’t understand, I ask questions. There may or may not be a good answer; either way, I have learned from asking the question. It is also important to think about the tone one uses when asking questions, especially if there is a language barrier. Teacher educators cannot allow themselves to sound as if they have all the answers.
- Model—I believe we all learn by seeing and doing, rather than by merely hearing. I cannot expect someone to follow a lesson plan when they have no knowledge of developmentally appropriate activities. Many of the activities we use with the children come from something I make at home. I show the teachers ways to use the materials and explain how the children benefit from the activities. Modeling interactions and guidance techniques is also essential.
If I had not been intentional about following these four behaviors, I’m convinced we would not be making the progress we are at the center. Being intentional about using these behaviors has helped me build strong relationships with the teachers, owner, and families. Each time I share information with these individual, I get a positive reception because we are making connections with one another and building trust.
In addition to progressing in relationships, we are improving in other areas well. We have attained many new toys recently and are making headway in teaching children how to use and respect materials. Because we are now observing children using a developmental checklist, improvements are being made to lesson planning and curriculum implementation. However, focusing on relationships again, the most exciting growth is in the area of teacher education. Each day presents opportunities for teacher education.
Heather Logan is currently living in Roatan, Honduras with her husband. She is serving as a Curriculum Coach and Teacher at Paradise Babies Day Care Center on the island. She has earned a B.S. in Child and Family Studies and a M.A. in Early Childhood Education. Prior to moving to Roatan, she was a 4-H Extension Agent in Cabarrus County, NC and taught Early Childhood Education at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC.
Interview compiled by Caroline Cummings
Nicole MacIntyre graduated from the University of Maryland College Park in May 2015 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. The University of Maryland College Park is one of ten institutions in the state of Maryland with baccalaureate and graduate degree programs that have earned NAEYC National Recognition by providing evidence that they provide students with learning opportunities that align with the NAEYC Early Childhood Professional Preparation Standards.
This fall, Nicole is working as a literacy teacher at a preschool in southern California. Fellow University of Maryland student and NAEYC summer intern Caroline Cummings asked Nicole a few questions about how she got to where she is now, how college prepared her for the profession, and what she hopes her classroom will be like.
What made you interested in a career in early childhood education?
The elementary education major was more content based, while the early childhood program focused more on human development and I found that to be more interesting. A child’s early years are so critical in developing their personality, passions, interests, and skills. When children first enter school, their desire to learn is very prevalent. I believe that I can encourage their love for learning, helping to extend and sustain that passion as they grow older.
Are there specific classes that prepared you for your upcoming position?
I enjoyed a class on how to involve families in the learning process and develop positive relationships with the community and families. I worked on a family involvement project where we tracked student learning in a specific content area for a couple of weeks and got to see the difference in student learning after the lesson was implemented. Getting to see the excitement on my students faces when they came back with the work they completed with their parents was something I'll never forget. The more parents are involved in their child’s learning, the more the children benefit and this also builds trust between parents and teachers.
What was your student teaching like?
I taught full time in a kindergarten and completed multiple takeover weeks when I took over as the head teacher. Many children didn’t speak English as a first language and many were from low-income families. It was an honor to watch these children go from knowing not a word of English to being able to meet reading benchmarks by the end of the year. It also challenged me to be a better teacher. Those takeover weeks made me realize how overwhelming it can be to be responsible for a classroom all on your own. When my mentor teacher would leave, I felt the pressure that the learning and well-being of these children was all on me. I began to develop my own teaching styles and routines and grew more comfortable with the various responsibilities.
What unique experiences do you hope to bring children in classroom?
As a teacher, my number one goal is to make learning fun and engaging. I want to make learning as meaningful and relevant to my students' lives as possible. I hope to teach thematic units where I can pick topics that the children are interested in and center learning around that topic. Many people tell me that because the children I’m teaching are so young, they won't even remember me. For me, that is alright. What I hope to achieve is the personal understanding that I play a crucial role in helping set these children up for successful lives.
What kind of class or training did you have in working with children with a home language other than English?
When I worked with children who spoke English as a second language, we only instructed them in English. I had taken classes on cultural difference and integrating culture into the classroom. Although these classes were helpful in understanding the backgrounds of the students I was working with, I think it would have been beneficial for my program to have required us to take Spanish classes because so many of us work with students who speak Spanish as a primary language. We need more preparation for working with a variety of cultures and populations in the field of education.
In what ways did the mentor teacher help you?
My mentor teacher was a tremendous help during my student teaching experience. She always made a list of what she noticed I did well in and what she thought I could improve on. She maintained a good balance between giving advice and pulling back and allowing me to grow as a teacher by developing my own unique teaching style. My mentor was always open to my feedback and gave me the freedom I needed in order to become more confident in my own abilities. At the end of the year, she also gave me a flash drive with all the activities she's accumulated over the years, a helpful resource for me now that I have my own classroom!