What is an Early Childhood Education Professional? Are we just considered to be babysitters?

The field of early childhood education professionals is extremely robust, from educators, directors, advocates to researchers and policy makers.  Our job as a community of professionals is to ensure each child has access and availability to all tools required to develop their social, mental, physical and intellectual development; all essentials skills needed to become productive citizens.

According to Berger (2012), a leading expert in childhood and adolescent development, there are three stages of human development: physical development and growth, mental and emotional development.  Most individuals consider early childhood to encompass the years of birth to five, however, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines early childhood years from birth to age eight.   This very organization establishes ideologies, policies and standards based on evidence based research to ensure each child develops and learns based on age appropriate practices (NAEYC, 2016).  It is these years’ ages zero through eight, which children go through a rapid development of learning and using motor skills, communication, thought processing, and learning about themselves, their ethnic backgrounds and their communities.

Let’s look at one specific skill set, communication which requires reading, writing, non-verbal and verbal commands.   We all understand the importance of being able to read and write.  Did you know that more than one-third of our nation’s fourth graders cannot read at the basic level (National Institute for Literacy, 2008)?  With the assistance of researchers, parents and educators we can identify plausible causes for this defect and come up with viable solutions to erase literacy issues among our youth.  The better prepared they are for middle and high school, the better prepared we send them into the world for career or college opportunities.

So the answer to the question, are we babysitters, is that it is plausible we are two percent of the time.  The other ninety eight percent is tasked in ensuring our children have a safe, peaceful environment in which to learn, play and grow.

 

References

Berger, K.S. (2012). The developing person through childhood (6 Ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 2016).  About NAEYC.  Retrieved from http://naeyc.org/content/about-naeyc

National Institute for Literacy (2008).  Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. A scientific synthesis of early literacy development and implication for intervention.  Retrieved from http://familieslearning.org/NELP/pdf/NELP%20Report.pdf

Institute for Children, Poverty and Homeless

The statistics below are directly from a July 2014 report from the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homeless.  Our children deserve so much better than this.  Information is knowledge.  Knowledge has the power to change lives.

Only six states include homeless families in the definition of those with protective-services needs, enabling them to qualify for care without meeting traditional eligibility requirements.

■■Only nine states include homeless children as a priority population.

■■At least 24 states require families applying for child care to provide birth certificates or other documentation that can be challenging for families experiencing homelessness to locate.

■■All but six states provide child care to at least some parents while they search for work, but only seven states do so while parents look for housing.3

■■Thirty states waive copayment fees for homeless families or families with no countable income.

■■Only 11 states have higher reimbursement rates for providers offering child care during nontraditional hours, such as nights and weekends.

■■Twenty-seven states will provide subsidized care for 12 months before reevaluating a family’s eligibility, offering families continuity of care, and 14 states extend eligibility while children are in Head Start.

■■Overall, only 18 plans mention homeless families or services specific to them. No state listed programs serving homeless children as having been consulted in the drafting of the CCDF plan.

Reference

Institute for Children, Poverty and Homeless (2014). Meeting the Child Care Needs of Homeless Families: How Do States Stack Up?  Retrieved from http://www.icphusa.org/PDF/reports/ICPH_policyreport_MeetingtheChildCareNeedsofHomelessFamilies.pdf

Personal Communication Styles

“Individuals who fail to consider other cultural perspectives are said to suffer from cultural myopia, a form of nearsightedness grounded in the belief that one’s own culture is appropriate and relevant in all situations and to all people” (O’Hair & Wiemann, p. 45, 2012).

Along with that thought we were asked this week to examine the The Platinum Rule” (Beebe, Beebe & Redmond, 2011). Basically the rule implies that we should treat others in the manner in which we want to be treated. With those two thoughts in mind for this blog I will examine my own personal communication styles.

Around people I know really well that includes my family and inner circle, my posture is relaxed and animated. I feel comfortable expressing my thoughts and opinions. Because we have an established rapport, shared experiences and beliefs we can talk about anything and work out our differences quickly. At work, I have a professional courtesy that I extend to my colleagues and customers. My demeanor isn’t as relaxed but I display a smile and openness to be willing to exchange ideas without drama or conflict. When conversing with individuals I’m meeting for the first time again my tone is polite but I try to exhibit a body language that promotes a willingness to engage in conversation.

In every setting, I try to be an emphatic listener and look for cues, both verbal and non-verbal communication that helps me understand the message that is being conveyed. Sometimes it talks asking probing questions or paraphrasing the context back to ensure that we both are aligned with the topic being discussed. If I am familiar with the presenter, then I can adjust my response accordingly. On occasions where I’m not familiar with the presenter, I try to obtain as much information as possible to keep the lines of communication open, honest and continuous. I try to take into account that my cultural upbringing and background may be similar, but each of us has walked a different path to get to the same endpoint and there is always a lesson to be learned or shared.

Becoming an effective communicator and listener is a lifelong practice of self-evaluation. As we age and experience new life journeys, the people and events we encounter change how we view ourselves and others. Being aware of our cultural and social differences and making the necessary adjustments to learn and not prejudge others helps to keep conflict to a minimal when communicating, written or verbally with others.

Reference
Beebe, S. A., Beebe, S. J., & Redmond, M. V. (2011). Interpersonal communication: Relating to others (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

O’Hair, D., & Wiemann, M. (2012). Real communication. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Welcoming families from around the world

href=”https://lyharwell.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/kazakhstan.gif”>Kazakhstan

The country I chose is The Republic of Kazakhstan. Located in Central Asia bordering China, Russian and the Middle East, Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world. It gained its independence in 1991 with the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. There are two languages spoken in Kazakhstan, Kazakh and Russian. Despite their economic growth due to exports in wheat and oil, only three percent of the country’s income is spent on education. Although 95 percent of their schools are state-run, many are in need of overhaul, particularly in the rural regions where resources are sparse or unavailable.

To prepare myself as an advocate to assist the family in adapting to their new community, the first place I would begin is to investigate their home country to learn about their culture and what visible similarities we share with them. I would also try to determine what region of they lived in to determine if the family had access to educational services and resources. This would provide me with a baseline of where to begin in knowing what additional resources that the entire family may need, along with their children.

The next part of my preparation would be to enlist services of their local community available in our community. If none are available, I would check within my state or contact a local UNICEF office. I believe this is important to provide the family and me with additional resources to bridge the language, customs and cultural barriers so we can communicate effectively.

I would create a package of information listing meetings and resources that I would attend with the family regarding health, social and educational services to help make their transition easier. Within this package I would provide background information on our community, the schools and local events to make the family feel welcomed.

And she’s black

My first memory of oppression came when I was in the second grade. I knew that I had brown skin, but my parents never discussed what the difference my skin would make. Their emphasis was always on getting good grades and being respectful. The only true difference my father use to say was that I was made to be a girl, and then there boys. We sleep, eat and cry the same but learn life lessons and experiences differently. Whatever you put your heart and mind to, you can achieve.

This particular day in class I learned that I was the only black student in my class. The way the teacher implied it was like she thought I already knew that fact. I can’t even remember what we were talking about in class only that she said “we’re white” while pointing towards me “and she’s black”. As everyone turned to look at me, I turned too and then realized she was pointing at me. My feelings hurt and confused, I thought is this better or worse than whom I was five minutes before this conversation began. I thought did I do something wrong as the entire class turned and stared when she simply stated “and she’s black” and why was being black different or important? I thought I was a pretty shade of brown, when did I become black? This was the first thing I mentioned to my mom when I got home. Both her and my father was livid.

In retrospect the teacher could have said more to make me feel less uncomfortable and discussed what similarities we shared. I don’t believe that her intention was to be malicious or prejudice, but at 7 years old I don’t believe I could make that judgement. The next day in class after a discussion with my parents and the principal, we did have another class discussion specifically about race and an apology was given. As educators of young children it is important to know their background and home life. It provides us with valuable information on what our students know and how to approach them without making them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.

From that moment I learned two valuable lessons. First, I still needed to make good grades, give respect and earn respect. Secondly, the color of my skin had nothing to do with achieving the first.

International Research

As we continue to develop research simulations, this week we were asked to explore international websites and some research being conducted in their countries.  I selected Early Childhood Development Virtual University (ECDVU) Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).  Upon first examination of the research portal I discovered an array of studies ranging from the development and implementation  of childcare programs, to examining the roles of parents and indigenous communities in such countries as Malawi and Gambia.  As I continue to explore the social and cognitive development of children living in poverty face during their early developmental years, I decided to take a closer look at two specific studies.

The first study “Indigenous Knowledge and Practices of Parents and Families Regarding Psychosocial Care for Children in Three Rural Countries in The Gambia: Implications for UNICEF Programming in IECD” (Sagnia, 2004) focused on how they could use their knowledge of Indigenous play and social interaction to further develop UNICEF’s early childcare programs.  For the purpose of the study psychosocial included all aspects of social, moral, cognitive and emotional development of the children (Sagnia, 2004).  

The second study “A Community-driven Rural Early Childhood Development (ECD) Project, with Emphasis on Culturally and Developmentally Appropriate Exploratory Learning Concepts” (Day, 2004) was conducted in Malawi.  The purpose of the study was to provide quality information through interviews and observations with families, children and educational professionals on how to develop early childhood learning centers in rural communities where poverty and other circumstances kept children from receiving critical early childhood development resources.

Although I only briefly reviewed each study, it was interesting to note how similar their contributing factors matched in regards to cultural differences and the communities they targeted.  Sagnia’s (2004) approach centered on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory in which the total environment of the child should be examined as it plays a critical role in their overall development.  Day’s (2004) approach focused the importance of play in learning, social and cultural context during the early developmental years of children.  Both studies participants centered around rural areas where attention is needed to development culturally sound and age appropriate programs for the development of children.  I found their work and interests to be no different from that of our own with the differences between that poverty is more visible in their countries than our own, and how cultural traditions between different tribes also plays a role in the social and emotional development of their children.

References

Day, C. (2004). A Community-driven Rural Early Childhood Development (ECD) Project, with Emphasis on Culturally and Developmentally Appropriate Exploratory Learning Concepts.  Retrieved from http://www.ecdvu.org/ssa/documents/major_projects/Day%20-%20MP%20Final%20-%20UVic%20LP.pdf

Sagnia, J. (2004). Indigenous Knowledge and Practices of Parents and Families Regarding Psychosocial Care for Children in Three Rural Communities in The Gambia: Implications for UNICEF Programming in IECD.  Retrieved from http://www.ecdvu.org/ssa/documents/major_projects/Sagnia%20-%20MP%20Final%20-%20UVic%20LP.pdf