Nurturing Equity Leaders: Where We Are and Where We Need to Be
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If “all early childhood educators have a professional obligation to advance equity” (NAEYC 2019), then how do they fulfill this obligation? What does equitable teaching and learning look and sound like? And how do we recognize the equity leaders we work with?
Publishing the NAEYC position statement on advancing equity in 2019 was a watershed moment: it put into words—and “on the record”—the pressing need and responsibility to promote equity in and through early childhood education. Backed by current research, it is inextricably tied to NAEYC’s core values and other central position statements. But efforts cannot stop there.
Alongside other equity initiatives, NAEYC put the power of our publications to work to spur knowledge, reflection, and actions to answer key questions about equity in practice. The book Advancing Equity and Embracing Diversity in Early Childhood Education: Elevating Voices and Actions, publishing this month, is a compilation of work edited and written by more than 40 leaders in the field. This important resource provokes readers to reflect on themselves and the profession and to consider responsive pedagogical practices in moving the field forward.
The content of this book was the inspiration for Young Children’s summer issue. In our first digital-only issue, we have included chapters from the Advancing Equity book to showcase critical concepts, historical and current trends and obstacles, and recommendations for equitable practices. With Young Children readers in mind, we chose chapters that provided opportunities for us to expand on specific topics through additional content found only in this issue. These Young Children-only features include recommended children’s books and professional resources about race and anti-bias education, a profile of an administrator and staff deeply involved in equity work, a sample guide for facilitating staff discussions about anti-bias education, and a glossary of key terms to support these readings.
Beginning this cluster, the eminent Barbara T. Bowman sets the stage with her piece, “Why History? Educating the Early Childhood Workforce for Equity.” Her article emphasizes respecting the perspectives and experiences of the Black community while also providing opportunities for change. Felicia L. DeHaney, Carla Thompson Payton, and Alandra Washington follow with a detailed description of efforts, past and present, to eradicate racial and ethnic biases in “Quality Includes Removing Bias from Early Childhood Education Environments.”
Building on the notion of countering biases, John Nimmo, Debbie LeeKeenan, and Louise Derman-Sparks offer a framework and intentional strategies for “Being an Equity Leader.” They include descriptions of how to engage teachers and staff in conversations and actions that lead to sustained change and that enact a social justice mission.
Examining instructional practices more closely, Brian L. Wright reminds us to consider, “What About the Children? Teachers Cultivating and Nurturing the Voice and Agency of Young Children.” Through two equity-focused activities, early childhood educators can bolster children’s voices and agency in the classroom. Likewise, Isauro M. Escamilla writes from his experiences as a teacher researcher about “Learning Stories: Observation, Reflection, and Narrative in Early Childhood Education.” Learning Stories serve as a means to recognize and showcase children’s cultural and linguistic identities while simultaneously documenting learning and growth with children and families.
With a look toward the future, Jennifer Keys Adair and Shubhi Sachdeva outline “Agency and Power in Young Children’s Lives: Five Ways to Advocate for Social Justice as an Early Childhood Educator.” In addition to sharing school-based examples, they specify how to carry out social justice work. This includes rejecting deficit talk and centering children’s and communities’ knowledge and ways of being within early childhood education. Finally, in a Viewpoint piece, Rosemarie Allen, Dorothy L. Shapland, Jen Neitzel, and Iheoma U. Iruka differentiate approaches—both successful and unsuccessful, intentional and unintentional—to teach about race, bias, and equity. They encourage readers to identify racism when they see it in classrooms and organizations and to dedicate themselves to becoming anti-racist in these settings.
Leading in equity is neither easy nor straightforward, but it is something each of us can be part of in our own way and through continuous focus and energy. We offer this issue and the simultaneously published Advancing Equity book to prompt and assist your own reflections and efforts to advance equity for each child and family and for the field.
A 4-year-old and his family painted peace rocks to leave around their community.
Is your classroom full of children’s artwork? To feature it in Young Children, email [email protected] for details.
Annie Moses, PhD, is director of periodicals at NAEYC and serves as editor in chief of Young Children and Teaching Young Children.
Susan Friedman is Senior Director, Publishing and Professional Learning at NAEYC.
Dana Battaglia is the Books Director at NAEYC.