Recommendations for Early Childhood Educators
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Create a Caring, Equitable Community of Engaged Learners
- Uphold the unique value and dignity of each child and family. Ensure that all children see themselves and their daily experiences, as well as the daily lives of others within and beyond their community, positively reflected in the design and implementation of pedagogy, curriculum, learning environment, interactions, and materials. Celebrate diversity by acknowledging similarities and differences and provide perspectives that recognize beauty and value across differences.
- Recognize each child’s unique strengths and support the full inclusion of all children—given differences in culture, family structure, language, racial identity, gender, abilities and disabilities, religious beliefs, or economic class. Help children get to know, recognize, and support one another as valued members of the community. Take care that no one feels bullied, invisible, or unnoticed.
- Develop trusting relationships with children and nurture relationships among them while building on their knowledge and skills. Embrace children’s cultural experiences and the languages and customs that shape their learning. Treat each child with respect. Eliminate language or behavior that is stereotypical, demeaning, exclusionary, or judgmental.
- Consider the developmental, cultural, and linguistic appropriateness of the learning environment and your teaching practices for each child. Offer meaningful, relevant, and appropriately challenging activities across all interests and abilities. Children of all genders, with and without disabilities, should see themselves and their families, languages, and cultures regularly and meaningfully reflected in the environment and learning materials. Counter common stereotypes and misinformation. Remember that the learning environment and its materials reflect what you do and do not value by what is present and what is omitted.
- Involve children, families, and the community in the design and implementation of learning activities. Doing this builds on the funds of knowledge that children and families bring as members of their cultures and communities while also sparking children’s interest and engagement. Recognizing the community as a context for learning can model citizen engagement.
- Actively promote children’s agency. Provide each child with opportunities for rich, engaging play and opportunities to make choices in planning and carrying out activities. Use open-ended activities that encourage children to work together and solve problems to support learning across all areas of development and curriculum.
- Scaffold children’s learning to achieve meaningful goals. Set challenging but achievable goals for each child. Build on children’s strengths and interests to affirm their identities and help them gain new skills, understanding, and vocabulary. Provide supports as needed while you communicate—both verbally and nonverbally—your authentic confidence in each child’s ability to achieve these goals.
- Design and implement learning activities using language(s) that the children understand. Support the development of children’s first languages while simultaneously promoting proficiency in English. Similarly, recognize and support dialectal differences as children gain proficiency in the Standard Academic English they are expected to use in school.6
- Recognize and be prepared to provide different levels of support to different children depending on what they need. For example, some children may need more attention at certain times or more support for learning particular concepts or skills. Differentiating support in a strengths-based way is the most equitable approach because it helps to meet each child’s needs.
- Consider how your own biases (implicit and explicit) may be contributing to your interactions and the messages you are sending children. Also reflect on whether biases may contribute to your understanding of a situation. How might they be affecting your judgment of a child’s behavior, especially a behavior you find negative or challenging? What messages do children take from your verbal and nonverbal cues about themselves and other children? Recognize that all relationships are reciprocal, and thus that your behavior impacts that of children.
- Use multi-tiered systems of support. Collaborate with early childhood special educators and other allied education and health professionals as needed. Facilitate each professional establishing a relationship with each child to foster success and maximize potential.
Establish Reciprocal Relationships with Families
- Embrace the primary role of families in children’s development and learning. Recognize and acknowledge family members based on how families define their members and their roles. Seek to learn about and honor each family’s child-rearing values, languages (including dialects), and culture. Gather information about the hopes and expectations families have for their children’s behavior, learning, and development so that you can support their goals.
- Uphold every family’s right to make decisions for and with their children. If a family’s desire appears to conflict with your professional knowledge or presents an ethical dilemma, work with the family to learn more, identify common goals, and strive to establish mutually acceptable strategies.
- Be curious, making time to learn about the families with whom you work. This includes learning about their languages, customs, activities, values, and beliefs so you can provide a culturally and linguistically responsive and sustaining learning environment. It requires intentionally reaching out to families who, for a range of reasons, may not initiate or respond to traditional approaches (e.g., paper and pencil/electronic surveys, invitations to open houses, parent–teacher conferences) to interact with educators.
- Maintain consistently high expectations for family involvement, being open to multiple and varied forms of engagement and providing intentional and responsive supports. Ask families how they would like to be involved and what supports may be helpful. Families may face challenges (e.g., fear due to immigration status, less flexibility during the workday, child care or transportation issues) that may require a variety of approaches to building engagement. Recognize that it is your responsibility as an educator to connect with families successfully so that you can provide the most culturally and linguistically sustaining learning environment for each child.
- Communicate the value of multilingualism to all families. All children benefit from the social and cognitive advantages of multilingualism and multiliteracy. Make sure families of emergent bilinguals understand the academic benefits and the significance of supporting their child’s home language as English is introduced through the early childhood program, to ensure their children develop into fully bilingual and biliterate adults.
Observe, Document, and Assess Children’s Learning and Development
- Recognize the potential of your own culture and background affecting your judgment when observing, documenting, and assessing children’s behavior, learning, or development. Approach a child’s confusing or challenging behavior as an opportunity for inquiry. Consider whether these may be behaviors that work well for the child’s own home or community context but differ or conflict with your family culture and/or the culture of your setting. How can you adapt your own expectations and learning environment to incorporate each child’s cultural way of being? Also, consider the societal and structural perspectives: How might poverty, trauma, inequities, and other adverse conditions affect how children negotiate and respond to their world? How can you help each child build resilience?
- Use authentic assessments that seek to identify children’s strengths and provide a well-rounded picture of development. For children whose first language is not English, conduct assessments in as many of the children’s home languages as possible. If you are required to use an assessment tool that has not been established as reliable or valid for the characteristics of a given child, recognize the limitations of the findings and strive to make sure they are not used as a key factor in high-stakes decisions.
- Focus on strengths. Develop the skill to observe a child’s environment from the child’s perspective. Seek to change what you can about your own behaviors to support that child instead of expecting the child to change first. Recognize that it is often easier to focus on what a child isn’t doing compared with peers than it is to see what that child can do in a given context (or could do with support).
Advocate on Behalf of Young Children, Families, and the Early Childhood Profession
- Speak out against unfair policies or practices and challenge biased perspectives. Work to embed fair and equitable approaches in all aspects of early childhood program delivery, including standards, assessments, curriculum, and personnel practices.
- Look for ways to work collectively with others who are committed to equity. Consider it a professional responsibility to help challenge and change policies, laws, systems, and institutional practices that keep social inequities in place.