Lydia Bowers: Candidate Statement
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Although my journey in the early childhood education field began small, as a part-time assistant teacher, I have continually sought to grow. After joining NAEYC, I looked for ways to serve in the organization. I contacted Ohio AEYC, who invited me to take part in their Leadership Council during the National Dialogue process. It was here that I learned about NAEYC’s new Strategic Direction. Later I joined the Cincinnati AEYC Governing Board where I served through the recent NAEYC affiliate restructuring. When I applied for the Affiliate Advisory Council in 2015, I knew I could provide a voice for passionate classroom teachers without the wages or educational support they need and share my perspective as an active part of NAEYC Affiliates.
I am not a typical Governing Board candidate. I am under the age of 40 and have never been a center director or university professor. I earned my bachelor’s degree in 2018 and I teach sex education. I have also been an early childhood educator who struggles to balance work, parenting, and school. I have been a teacher who cares for others’ children while being unable to afford for my own child to attend the same center. I have been a member who wonders if NAEYC is making decisions in my best interest. I am eager to bring my experience, my passion, and my desire for equity to the Governing Board.
Author Robin DiAngelo says “the decisions made at those tables affect those not at the tables. Exclusion by those at the table doesn’t depend on willful intent; we don’t have to intend to exclude for the results of our actions to be exclusion.” Most early childhood educators are under the age of 50, without college degrees, and making less than $15 an hour. About 40% are people of color and 30% speak a language other than English. Throughout NAEYC and its affiliates, leadership often looks much different than that. One of NAEYC’s goals is to be a high-performing, inclusive organization, but inclusion is not possible without making things equitable enough for new, diverse voices to be included.
If we want to meet our goal of doubling membership, if we want to be an association that educators cannot live without, those educators need to be valued for who they are, and be given the tools to learn, develop, and lead. We need to evaluate how the workforce does or does not have access to growth and leadership opportunities. What do we need to change so that those voices are able to be heard? How will we evaluate inequitable systems within our own organization? How will we seek out input from and evaluation by those trained in racial justice work to inform our decisions? How will we respond to difficult feedback and what difficult stances are we willing to take? Our organization is better served when even the most experienced of us recognize we still have much to learn from others.
It is an ongoing journey for me to see my own places of privilege and how they have served me personally and professionally. As someone that is often outspoken and unafraid to voice my opinion, I’ve been learning that there are times for me to stop talking, and simply listen to what someone else has to say, particularly when it is a voice that is often silenced and who has a perspective we need in order to grow. There are also moments to speak up, to use those privileges to deconstruct systems in place that keep us from hearing some voices.
During my time on the Affiliate Advisory Council, I have grown personally and professionally. I have been able to better understand NAEYC’s vision for young children, the profession, and members. I have seen firsthand how respectful dissent can work, how we better ourselves by asking questions and having the courage to say, “I don’t understand why we’re doing it this way…” I have been fortunate to have received both formal and informal mentorship at the local, state, and national levels, strengthening my own leadership abilities.
I know I’ve ended up here, on the Governing Board slate, because of what I’ve already learned and what I can offer the organization and am incredibly grateful for this opportunity. There’s a lot more I’ve yet to do, and even more for me to learn. Whether or not I end up on the Governing Board, I choose to grow further as a leader, bringing my experience with and passion for children and educators, and am dedicated to pushing our organization to remove obstacles in the way of those who ought to be heard. Thank you, sincerely, for hearing me.