The following is an excerpt from an NAEYC online author Q&A event with NAEYC Student Interest Forum facilitator William H. Strader on the topic "Supporting the Next Generation of Early Childhood Educators." The Q&A took place May 23-26, 2011. To view more highlights from 2011 online Q&As, click here.
How can current early childhood education leaders support up-and-coming professionals and enable a smooth transition from one generation to the next? As a candidate for a master’s in leadership who also works for a statewide CQI system, how can I pay it forward?
One critical task for current early childhood education leaders is to know where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going in the future. To do this, we must know and understand our future leaders. What is important is that college students today are getting the theory, research and best practices; they are building their knowledge, building their skills, and building their dispositions to know and understand that they are part of the “quality improvements” in our field. It is important for students to have the practical experiences: the opportunities to have direct experiential contacts through their pre-practicum work, their student teaching experiences, and in working with a diversity of mentors, cooperating teachers, faculty advisors, community members, and professionals.
On another note, it is the community engagement of the members of the college and university early childhood education organizations both within the campus community and greater local community that provides students with opportunities to see, experience, and learn “in the trenches.” I know one group of students that met with local legislative representatives to learn more about how public policy is supporting young children and their families. I see more early childhood education clubs connecting with their local or state affiliate of NAEYC, building cooperative collaborative relationships! It is exciting to see the kinds of outreach beginning to happen with leaders just like you, who are reaching out to support future leaders in early childhood. You are “paying it forward.”