|YOUNG CHILDREN | September 2013|
|The Gifts of the Stranger: Learning From Others' Differences|
|by Susan Bernheimer and Elizabeth Jones|
The United States is dealing with an unprecedented rate of change, given the increasing ethnic diversity of our population, the one in five American households that relocate every year, the growing number of single-parent families, the increasing number of immigrants and refugees, and the fact that most mothers work outside the home (Steele & Sheppard 2003; Laughlin 2013). Some of these changes mean that families place their trust in strangers—that is, early childhood professionals—instead of relatives or neighbors to care for their children.
By 2010, 64 percent of mothers of children younger than 6 were in the labor force, and 61 percent of mothers of children younger than 3 were working outside the home (USDOL 2011). In 2011, 12.5 million (61 percent) children under 5 and 51 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds were in some type of child care setting (Laughlin 2013). Early childhood programs are creating a new kind of community for families, one that can bridge the gap between their private and public lives (Couldry 2004). Professional training provides students with basic teaching knowledge, but developing the sensitivity needed to build trusting relationships across multiple differences is a more complex process.
Staff might feel confused and overwhelmed when working with children whose families, cultures, religions, and socioeconomic statuses differ from their own. Mary, who has been a preschool teacher for six years, works in a program serving diverse families, including immigrants from several countries. She spoke of her unease during a discussion in her college class....Continue reading
About the Authors
Susan Bernheimer, PhD, is a member of the faculty in human development at Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, California. She is the author of New Possibilities for Early Childhood Education: Stories From Our Nontraditional Students (Peter Lang Publishing 2003). She has presented at national and international conferences. firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Jones, PhD, is faculty emerita in human development at Pacific Oaks College. She is the author of Teaching Adults Revisited: Active Learning for Early Childhood Educators (NAEYC 2007) and other books on play and emergent curriculum.