Time Well Spent

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Well, I video recorded my final message to everyone, but was unable to upload it.  Know you are all pretty special for me to attempt to video record myself as it is something I avoid like the plague!  So now you will get my ramblings in print instead of on video.

It is difficult to believe we are now at the end of our journey and ready to graduate with our M.S. in Early Childhood Studies-Teaching and Diversity!  Where has the past 18 months gone?  I know one thing for sure, it was made possible by each of you.  Because of each of you, I was able to take away various important lessons!

As I leave this program, I am coming away from it with three deep felt lessons I have learned.

1. The first lesson I never want to forget is any conversation I have with others is always a dialogue not a monologue (Derman-Sparks and Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 41).

2. The second important lesson I am taking away from this program is young children perceive their families as an extension of themselves and are hurt if the early childhood community does not validate them (Derman-Sparks and Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 114).

3. The third lesson I learned which I find extremely valuable is making sure all the children in my classroom can find themselves in the books, toys, and pictures around them.  I have not only adapted this thinking for my classroom, but for other areas of my life as well.  My husband’s church are big supporters of the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes and this month they are collecting books for the children.  I told my husband I did not like this idea as I doubt these children would find children which look like them in these books and I also doubted these children would be able to read English either.

I find each of these lessons has caused me to put my students and their families first and think about their own needs before my own.  Not only do these lessons help me to put my students first, but so does my long term goal.

The focus of my Capstone Project was sharing the importance of play with adults working with children in one manner or another in their lives.  After completing this project, I believe this is also going to be a long term goal of mine as well.  I plan on making the topic of play for children a top priority and share the importance of it with everyone which works with children.  I want the children of today to enjoy their childhoods.  I want them to learn in their own time, be creative, and use their imaginations.  I want them to share in the wonder I experienced myself as a child and for that I thank all the adults in my life which allow play to be such an important part of my childhood.  Now I want to thank all of the adults in my life which helped me to achieve my goal of completing my degree.

To being, I want to say a huge THANK YOU!!!!!! to Dr. Embree.  Dr. Embree, I began this program with you and I find it extremely fitting I have have completed it with you too.  I cannot thank you enough for all your help and support.  Your newsletters were always a great resource and I am so thankful for your guidance, patience, and encouragement. You certainly pushed me to put forth my best work.  I certainly hope I can encourage my students in the same manner.  You have certainly made a difference in my life and I am forever grateful.  Thank you again and I wish you and your family all the very best!

I now want to thank all of my other instructors and colleagues for their support and guidance during this journey.  All of your support, reflections, and responses have made me an all around better person.  It has been wonderful working with and learning from people from all of the world and with varying viewpoints.  I cannot count the number of times someone pointed me in a new direction of thinking I never even considered on my own.  I always felt safe to share my thoughts, ideas, and opinions with each of you without the fear of being made fun of getting yelled at my someone I had offended. Thank you for being respectful enough to allow me to share my true feelings.

While I am super excited to have completed this great accomplishment, I am saddened to see this chapter of my life to come to an end.  I have enjoyed working with and getting to know each and every one of you and will miss chatting with you each week.  I wish each of you nothing but the best of luck and I hope our paths will cross again one day!

Jennifer

Resource

Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

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Jobs/Roles in the ECE Community: Internationally

ISSA

Website: http://www.issa.nl/

The International Step by Step Association, “ISSA is a membership association which serves as a learning community and champion for quality and equity for all children and their families” (n.d.).  This organization also wants to be sure each child reaches his/her, “unique, full potential and welcomes all organizations and individuals who have the same ambition” (n.d.).  There are members in over 40 countries with over 70 groups with memberships.  “While ISSA offers membership and information-sharing to all interested individuals and organizations, ISSA’s full members are non-governmental organizations, located primarily in Europe and Central Asia (n.d.).  The members work to be sure children have the best quality care and education, especially for the most needy.  “ISSA’s Goals are to: Advocate for and support competent Early Childhood systems for all children, especially the most vulnerable.  Increase awareness of the importance of Early Childhood Development and of a qualified workforce.  Be a leading Early Childhood network and learning community that promotes quality, equitable and integrated services for children, families and practitioners” (n.d.).  “Upon request, ISSA offers online courses or in-person trainings for early childhood education and care professionals, administrators, parents, staff of international organizations and other stakeholders. The training courses can be offered in several languages and will be tailored to the needs of participants” (n.d.).  Courses offered are: Early Childhood Development, Quality in Early Childhood Education, Quality in Home Visiting Services, Embracing Diversity, and Second Language Learning.  This appears to be a wonderful organization which provides a great deal of support.  However, I was unable to find any job posting on this site.

Save the Children

Website: http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6115947/k.B143/Official_USA_Site.htm

According to their website, “Save the Children invests in childhood – every day, in times of crisis and for our future. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. By transforming children’s lives now, we change the course of their future and ours” (n.d.).  It is their goal to change the world one child at a time and also by putting, “children first – giving them what they need to grow up happy and healthy” (n.d.).  They reach out to children in 120 countries (including the United States) around the world and have touched the lives of 185 million children.  There are several ways in which a person can become involved with Save the Children.  One way is to Take Action through Run a Race…Save a Child’s Life, Support At-Risk Kids, or simply by Spreading the Word.  Another way is to become involved in their Campaigns such as Be a Champion for Child Refugees, Investing in Childhood, or Save the Children Action Network.  Finally, one can become a Strategic Partner in the following ways: Corporate Partners, Foundations, and/or Individual Philanthropists.  This organization began in the 1930’s when, “Initial programs provide clothing, school supplies and hot lunches to school children in Harlan County, Kentucky” (n.d.).  In 1938, “The International Save the Children Fund of America becomes Save the Children Federation and Expansion to Europe: Clothing, food, blankets and medicine go to children displaced by World War II in Austria, England, Finland, France, Germany and Italy” (n.d.).

Save the Children does have job listing on their website.  The list is somewhat long, but I did come across one particular job which gained my attention.  It was the position of Education Manager in Greece for 6 months.  “The Education Manager will lead education interventions at a field level, as part of the Greece response.  S/he will lead on programme design and implementation, budget holding, coordination, and support recruitment and procurement and link with other sectors as appropriate. S/he will be expected to mentor and build the capacity of the education team in the assigned field location. The Education Manager will be responsible for the overall quality and effective implementation of the programme” (n.d.).  It is desired one possess, “Greek or Arabic or Farsi language skills. Experience working with children on the move or with refugees in middle or high income countries. Previous first phase emergency response experience.  In order to be qualified for the position though, one must:

  • Minimum of 3 years’ experience working in the field of Education in Emergencies, or significant experience managing large-scale educational programmes for non-profit or development organisations
  • Experience of project management
  • Good team leader, including the ability to manage, support and develop a small team
  • Experience of preparing funding proposals and reports for donors
  • Budget development and financial management skills.
  • Experience of delivering training, and mentoring staff
  • Experience of applying relevant interagency humanitarian frameworks and standards in education in emergencies (for example INEE Minimum Standards)
  • Experience of representation, including on coordination mechanisms (e.g. Education Cluster or working group)
  • Ability to achieve results, including when working alone
  • A high level of written and spoken English
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Politically and culturally sensitive with qualities of patience, tact and diplomacy
  • Strong influencing skills and experience in advocacy
  • Able to manage stress, be flexible and accommodating in difficult and frustrating working circumstances
  • Commitment to the aims and principles of SC. In particular, a good understanding of the SC mandate and child focus and an ability to ensure this continues to underpin our support
  • EU Residents or holders of valid EU work permit preferred (evidence will be requested) (n.d.)

While looking over their lists of what Save the Children wants and requires of one looking at this position, I do not feel I would be qualified in several areas.  I also do not have a desire to work outside of the country.

 

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Website: https://www.unicef.org/

The final organization I came across was UNICEF-United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, but later shortened to United Nations Children’s Fund.  UNICEF works to protect the rights of every child in 190 countries and territories for over the past 70 years.  The programs, “They currently offer are: Child Protection and Inclusion, Child Survival, Education, UNICEF in Emergencies, Gender, Innovation for Children, Supply and Logistics, and Research and Analysis.  UNICEF’s mission is, “The world has changed, but children’s needs have not. See how UNICEF’s commitment to children remains as strong as ever despite the complexities of our world” (n.d.).  UNICEF has an “Executive Board helps make certain that the best path is followed, as efficiently as possible” (n.d.). They also partner with certain organizations and committees on behalf of the world’s children, especially the United Nations.  UNICEF has a variety of jobs open all over the world.  One job which caught my attention is Child Protection Specialist.  “The Child Protection Specialist is responsible for support of the development and preparation of the Child Protection (or a sector of) programs/projects and for managing, implementing, monitoring, evaluating and reporting of progress of child protection programs/projects within the country program” (n.d.).  The qualifications UNICEF is looking for is: “An advanced university degree (Master’s degree or equivalent) in international development, human rights, psychology, sociology, international law and other social science related field is required.  A minimum of five (5) years of professional experience in social development planning and management in the field of child protection and other related areas is required.  Relevant experience in child protection and related areas (i.e. urban violence context), program/project development is considered desirable. Previous relevant work experience in UN system and/or agency is considered an asset. Experience in both development and humanitarian contexts is considered an asset.
Fluency in Portuguese and English is required. Knowledge of an additional UN Language (Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish) is considered an asset” (n.d.).  While this sounds like an exciting job is is again not one I am interested in having.  For starters, I am only fluent in English and another is I do not have experience in child protection and related areas, nor with the UN system.

I found each of these organizations to be fascinating, as well as, quality programs looking out for the best interest for the children of the world.  Who knows where the children of the world might be if these great organizations were not fighting for them.  While people think things are awful for children around the world these days, imagine what it would be like without these organizations fighting for them daily.

References:

International Step By Step Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.issa.nl/index.html

Save the Children. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6115947/k.8D6E/Official_Site.htm

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/.

Jobs/Roles in the ECE Community: National/Federal Level

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It has been difficult to find three national/federal organizations I would like to have in my Community of Practice of promoting the importance of play with the parents of my special education students.  The first organization I found was exciting for me as I had never heard of this particular group.  The National Lekotek Center is a nonprofit organization which provides a variety of services to help improve the lives of special needs children by using toys and play.  They offer therapeutic play-based family sessions for families of children with special needs in order to help these children learn, develop, and thrive in a world which is typically challenging to them.  By using toys and play, these children are given opportunities to understand and relate to the world around them.  The Lekotek is a Swedish concept which came to the United States in 1980 after two women visiting Sweden saw this therapy model and were so excited, they brought it back to share with others.  Lekotek means play library as ‘Lek’ is Swedish for play and ‘tek’ is Swedish for library, as they offer a toy library.  Lekotek helps find the right toy for the learning needs of each child.  In order to help the family be able to use the toys and play at home and not be out a great deal of money, they lend some of the expensive adaptive toys to them.  In addition to sharing their advocacy and educational efforts, they also give families support.  They are also a resource for companies wanting to help children with special needs through their consulting and product evaluation services.  In the past 32 years, Lekotek has overseen over 60 national affiliates and had over 1.5 million play sessions in 22 states.  This organization has several job opportunities currently available and they are all located in Chicago, IL.  I believe the position I am most interested in is the Certified Special Educator at the Anixter Center.  This position requires a BA/BS in education with approval from the State of Illinois to teach special needs students with SED, EMH, or TM-pending receipt of certification or have an Illinois Special Education Teaching certificate.  If I lived in the State of Illinois, I would be able to work in this position.

The second group I found was the Alliance for Childhood.  This group promotes practices and policies which support children’s healthy development and the joy and love of living and learning.  The Alliance for Childhood acts for children themselves in the hope for a positive future.  In the United States, this organization is located in Maryland, but can be found worldwide.  Their work with children includes restoring play, media & children, commercialization, testing, and publications.   They offer a variety of links to websites, articles, and videos to promote play with children.  There certainly is a wealth of information on this site.  However, there were no job opportunities listed at all on this website.

The third sight I found was Right to Play.  This organization has offices all over the world as well, but most specifically helps children in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and North America build life skills.  They offer a play-based program to teach children how to live safe and healthy lives, while providing them with tools to become future leaders in their communities at the same time.  These children use play to help overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease.  This site does have job opportunities and the one I found interesting was the Play for Inclusion Project located in Namacurra District, Zambezia Province, Mozambique.  This position lasted 36 months from June 1st 2014 – May 30th 2017.  The skills and experience needed for this position are an organization or individual with at least 7 – 10 years of experience in the research and/or evaluation field with previous experience in writing final Evaluation Reports for international NGOs/donors.  Strong facilitation skills, particularly working with vulnerable groups including children, strong project management skills, and be able to demonstrate understanding and support of principles of equity and inclusion.  One must be fluent in spoken and written English, as well as, in spoken and written Portuguese, which is mandatory.  The applicant must have a willingness and ability to work in the relatively remote and rural locations of Namacurra district, Zambezia province, Mozambique.  I do not believe I am qualified in any way for this position, nor would I be interested.  It would certainly take a very special person to work in this position and I am not that person.

References:

Alliance for Childhood, (n.d.).  Retrieved

from: http://drupal6.allianceforchildhood.org/home.

Lekotek, (n.d.).  Retrieved from: http://www.lekotek.org/.

Right to Play, (n.d).  Retrieved from: http://www.righttoplay.com/

 

Exploring Roles in the ECE Community: Local and State Levels

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“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do better through interacting with one another” (as cited by Helm, 2007, p. 12).  As we begin the final stretch of our early childhood journey together, it only makes sense I need to begin to find communities of practice closer to me to become involved with after we leave each other and begin our journey into the world.

As I began my research to find three local or state organization or communities of practice that appealed to me, I came across a group I have already experienced.  It is the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community locate on the Indiana University Campus in Bloomington, Indiana.  In addition to having a web site, this group also offers a newsletter,  lending library, and workshops in addition to many other resources.  The  goal of IIDC (Indiana Institute on Disability and Community) is to work, “to put good ideas into everyday practice in schools and community settings to improve choices and quality of life for people with disabilities and their families” (IIDC, 2017).  To accomplish their mission, IIDC’s, “work is conducted through seven Centers that address issues across the lifespan and major life areas” (IIDC, 2017).  The centers which most interest me are Autism, Early Intervention, Education, and Self-Advocates & Family.  I have been to several workshops presented by IIDC and also receive their newsletter.  Bloomington is only 45 minutes away from my home, so I would love to go and visit their lending library soon.  While I do not observe any sort of job opportunities on this site, this is not a place I would necessarily desire to work as this group offers so much information of which I do not feel knowledgeable enough.  This is certainly a group I do not feel qualified enough to work for and feel I would best be benefited by learning from them.

Family School Partners is next organization which I find extremely interesting.  It is a local organization through the local school corporation.  “Family School Partners is the only program in Bartholomew County that is home based, prepares at risk parents for a life long commitment to their child”s education, and builds a foundation for student success in school” (BCSC, 2013).  Family School Partners mission is, “to educate parents to be their child’s first and most important teacher, prepare the child for life-long learning, and provide a link between home and community” (BCSC, 2013).  Family School Partners goes into the home to help the parents become their child’s first teacher.  Reading is highly encouraged, and parents are provided, “with age-appropriate activities they can do with their child”.  Needs for early intervention are identified.  Parents are given connections, “with community agencies and provided information on community events”.  Family School Partners, “assists parents in finding preschool opportunities for their child” and helps to, “create a link between school and home before the child enters school” (BCSC, 2013).   I love the whole concept of this program.  I think it would be wonderful to go into the homes of young children and teach their parents how to work with them.  Children this age are such sponges and it is such a shame when they are not exposed to all the knowledge they desire.  I certainly have the qualifications to work for this program and would love to do so.  However, while I would love to be more involved in this program, it is difficult to do so for various reason.  For starters, positions are often difficult to come by and none of them pay very well.  Right now the director position is open, but is significantly less than what I make now and my husband would not be happy as I took a pay cut to be where I am currently.  The other problem is, any position at Family School Partners will not work with my current position.  However, I can certainly promote Family School Partners to those I come into contact with which may not qualify for our special education early childhood program.

A third organization I would love to be involved with is Family Services, Inc. of Bartholomew County.  Family Services works, “To strengthen and enhance the well-being of families and individuals throughout the life cycle, and to advocate for a community environment that nurtures family life and promotes social responsibility” (Family Services of Bartholomew County, n.d.).  While Family Services offers various services for families with young children.  The service I am most interested in is their Healthy Families of Bartholomew County.  This is a, “voluntary home visit program designed to promote healthy families and healthy children through a variety of services including child development, access to health care, and parent education. We believe that parents are the best authority in determining their family’s needs; that all families have strengths which need to be recognized; that every child should reach his or her potential; and that available services should begin early to support the needs of the family” (Family Services of Bartholomew County, n.d.).  Family Services currently has an opening for a Family Support Specialist for which I am qualified.  However, this position also does not pay a great deal and is always open.  I think it would be another wonderful opportunity to work with families with children ages 0-3 years old to help them learn to be their child’s first teachers as well.  

Working with children and their families is a dream and passion of mine.  I believe by focusing on helping parents understand the importance of play I will be able to begin to achieve this dream.

References

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, (2013).  Retrieved from: http://www.bcsc.k12.in.us/Page/101

Family Services of Bartholomew County, (n.d.).  Retrieved from: http://www.familyservicebc.org/

Helm, J. (2007). Building communities of practice. YC: Young Children, 62(4), 12-16.

Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, (2017).  Retrieved from: https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/explore-iidc

 

Reflecting on Learning

It is difficult to believe our eight weeks is coming to an end.  I have learned a great deal along the way and have each of you to thank for it!  I am truly blessed to work with and learn from such amazing people!  I know the lives of children around the world will benefit because of the love and passion each of you have to share.  It is my most passionate hope for my future as an early childhood professional that I also will be a blessing to the children and families with whom I have contact.  It is my hope that my anti-bias education will help me to dig deeper to help each child realize how we are all unique and wonderful.  I want my students to also realize we each have something special to share with the world and by working together and treating each other fairly, we will make it a better place to live.

Again, I want to thank each of you for your unique talents and outlooks during this course. I have been able to learn a so much more since we each come from different experiences, backgrounds, and places in life.  I would not want to learn in any other manner.  I wish each of you the best of luck!

Jennifer

Impacts on Early Emotional Development

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I decided to learn more about the children living in Central and Eastern Europe and the commonwealth of Independent States.  Ukrainian children needing help has nearly doubled over the past year due to the continued fighting and the steady deterioration of life in eastern Ukraine.  Due to the conflict, people are losing their jobs and therefore, are without healthcare benefits.  In certain areas, some children are severely lacking in immunizations.  As people are out of work, the price of living is going up.  Due to the destruction school are being destroyed and homes are without heat and water.  Due to all the unrest, children’s welfare are suffering physically and psychologically.  “Teachers, psychologists and parents report signs of severe psychosocial distress among children including nightmares, aggression, social withdrawal and panic triggered by loud noises” (UNICEF, 2017).  Due to all the fighting, the largest refuge crisis since World War II, “with millions of families forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution and poverty in countries including Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan” (UNICEF, 2017), is taking place in Europe.  Children are the most helpless in this situation.  Some children are traveling by themselves and are often targets of abuse or exploitation.  If children and their families are lucky enough to make it to their final destination, they often are faced with poverty and discrimination.

By learning these facts, it first helps me to appreciate how lucky my family and I are to live in the country we do.  For my students, it helps me to be more understanding of behaviors I might see happening.  It also helps me to understand where these children are coming from so I am able to find and provide the help and support they require.  Hearing of the difficulties and struggles these children have experienced so far in their young lives makes me want to fight harder for all the children of the world.

References

UNICEF (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/

The Sexualization of Early Childhood

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WOW!!! is my reaction to the topic of sexualization of children at such a young age.  Does it surprise me though?  Sadly I must say, not really.   It certainly saddens me though.  As I reflect over my teaching career, I can see these changes slowly taking place.  When I first began teaching, little girls dressed as little girls.  Slowly over the years the little girls began to dress more and more like their young mothers, sometimes even coming to school in high heals and makeup in kindergarten.  I have even witnessed this since I have become a mother to my own daughter.  My daughter, like myself, is not society’s ideal size so buy clothing is always a chore.  When my daughter was little it was very difficult to find “little” girl style clothing as it all was miniature adult style clothing; short, tight fitting, and inappropriate.  I finally found a clothing store which sold appropriate children clothing and from that time on is the only place where I bought her clothing.  I wanted to keep my daughter a little girl for as long as I could even though the world thought otherwise.  Of course as all of our children grow older, they begin to learn things as their friends tend to influence them much to our dismay.  The school bus is always the best place for children to learn their worldly information and my child was no different.  Going through her phone one day I came across an inappropriate video from YouTube.  (If she knew I was sharing this, she would not be pleased).  When I questioned her about it, she became upset and shared she had heard about this type of thing on the bus and wanted to learn more about it.  I was so devastated.  Of course I blocked everything on her phone and she lost lots of privileges.  Of course we had the discussion this was not an appropriate way to find out information and if she had questions she needed to ask us.  If she did not want to ask us, she needed to ask some other trusted adult.  When my daughter and other children are exposed to such sexualization information, it messes with their understanding of what exactly is appropriate.

“Until recently, the sexualization of childhood and its impact on children has primarily been the focus of the Christian right. This group generally uses moralistic arguments to condemn the current social climate and to insist that abstinence-only sex education will solve the problem. The issue has been largely ignored by the wider society because many adults have become desensitized or feel ill prepared to deal with it” (Levin &  Kilbourne, 2009, p. 5).  I have to say I on board with with this group.  Maybe if society had paid more attention to their message, we would not be in such the mess we have today.  While I think it is best young people are abstinent before being married I also know this is not the reality and children do need to learn how to take care of themselves.  It is my hope though that all children can learn to value themselves for who they are and not how they look of what they can do for others.  By being bombarded by the messages of the day and behaving in the manner they do, children are not bound to have any sort of healthy development.  Instead they will have a great deal of pain and sadness in their lives since they have unrealistic expectations of life.  They will also more than likely never have a lasting relationship since they do not understand what one looks like or how to achieve it.  By being made even more aware of the sexualization of early childhood children it helps me to realize how important my influence is upon my students.  I need to keep my eyes and ears open to things my students say and do in order help them value themselves for who they are and not what they have to give away to others who will not value them for the person they are.  It is time society takes a stand and returns to valuing our children as children and return their youth to them.

Resources

Levin, D. E., & Kilbourne, J. (2009). [Introduction] So sexy so soon. The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids (pp. 1-8). New York: Ballantine Books. Retrieved from: http://dianeelevin.com/sosexysosoon/introduction.pdf

Evaluating Impacts on Professional Practice

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I find life is always on the move no matter if I am or not.  I might be dealing with sadness, but life does not slow down for me to focus solely on it as I still have a family and a job to focus upon.  I find dealing with -isms is much the same.  A stereotype I have dealt with most of my life is my issue with my weight.  I certainly not what society finds to be a healthy or attractive body weight.  Therefore, I have always struggled with low self-esteem which bleeds over into other areas in my life. This can also include my professional life.  I do not feel I have ever been pretty as I have always carried some extra weight and have been compared to my tall, thin, and attractive sister.  I was never the girl everyone thought was great looking or popular.  I have always been a wallflower and blended into the crowd.  As I have grown older, I have learned to accept myself for who I am and recognize my strengths.  However, I still feel insecure around thin and pretty moms or inferior to other teachers.  While this is a personal struggle for me, it is also one which I can use to benefit my students and their families.  I can watch out for those students which are not confident in themselves in order to build them up.  I can do the same for the parents in the same position.  In addition to building up those with little confidence, I can also help them to stand up for themselves, as well as, help them to see and realize they each have something to share with and contribute to the world.  It is my hope I can use my struggles to help others in order that they not have to deal with the same struggles in their lives.

Observing Communication

 

A fun Paper Plate Christmas Tree craft

This past Christmas my three year old Early Childhood students each made a Christmas tree similar to the one in the above picture.  They began by painting a paper plate.  After it dried, I cut it in thirds and we glued the pieces on top of each other to make a tree shape. We glued pom-pom balls onto the tree for ornaments along with a star at the top.  One of my students was sick the day we made the trees, but I did not give it a great deal of thought.  After the trees were all put together, we hung them up in the hall for everyone to enjoy.  The little girl who had been out sick has Down Syndrome and so she uses sign language along with her limited words.  When she was the trees she got all excited and was jabbering on about them, but I had no idea what she was saying.  Later when it was time to go home and she saw the trees again, she did the sign for tree.  I acknowledged she was talking about the trees, but I still did not give it much thought.  Later after school I was walking down the hall reflecting upon my day when I noticed our trees.  That is when it hit me that the little girl had been sick, missed out, and wanted to make a tree of her own.  I certainly felt very bad for not putting it all together.  I was excited though she communicated something to me.  I made sure to ask her the next day if she wanted to make a tree, to which she said yes and so we made her tree to display as well.

I could not agree more with Alison Stephenson as when she said, “Listening to children seems so simple. But when you’re fetching water to clean up the paint area, wondering where the CD has disappeared to, and waving to a mother coming in the door, trying to listen to a child following behind you can become challenging. It is easy for listening to become just one more task that a busy teacher must tend to” (2009, p. 90).  I hate to admit that more often than not I notice this is true of myself.  I want to be a good listener, but teaching in general is such a fast paced job, especially when the students are young. Stephenson goes on to share the remedy to this is to step back.  However, “stepping back meant not only slowing down and really listening, but also consciously shifting my mind from the immediacy of the conversation to consider it from other perspectives” (2009, p. 90).  So what could I have done to have made my communication more affirming and effective with this little girl?  Take Stephenson’s advice and step back and since every child communicates in a different manner,  “I needed to find ways they could communicate that were enjoyable for them” (2009, p. 95).  I was excited that I did realize what the little girl was wanting and I certainly wanted to make it right and let her know I finally understood what she was trying to share with me (even if it was late).  I did not want the little girl to think I did not understand her or was not paying attention.

I am sure it is normal for this little girl to be misunderstood by most people.  While she is able to sign, she has her own version she uses and it can be difficult to know what she is trying to share at times.  So when the tree discussion first began I am sure she was frustrated and felt I was yet another person who did not understand her point.  However, I do believe she was happy I did finally realize what she was wanting and I am hopeful she realized then that I do truly care about her and want to listen to what she has to share.

So I guess I did not follow the directions exactly for this assignment since I am sharing a story about myself.  However, this event was a huge light bulb moment for me.  I has caused me to realize I must slow down and try harder to not only hear my students, but listen to what they are sharing with me.  As we have learned, children communicate in a variety of ways: vocal, sign language, body language, and attitudes to name a few.  So I learned it is also important for me to learn how each child communicates in able to better understand their needs, wants, and desires.  While I have grown in this area of communication, I realize I will always need to work hard to be a good listener.  In order to be a good listener, I have to keep reminding myself to slow down and pay attention to the world around me and not get so hung up upon the demands of teaching.  I am sure this is an area which will always be a work in progress for me.

References

Stephenson, A. (2009). Conversations with a 2-Year-Old. YC: Young Children, 64(2), 90-95.

Creating Affirming Environments

Image result for images of anti bias classroom

It is my belief the most important element of my Family Child Care Home/Classroom is ensuring each and every child and family feels welcome and respected.  As Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards share, “Ensuring that every family feels welcome and comfortable creates a crucial foundation for mutually respectful relationships” (2010, p. 37).  I want to be at the door each morning when my children & their families arrive for the day to greet them.  I also would like to have an information board posted close to where the children enter and hang up their belongings sharing special news, such as: birthdays, new siblings, awards, and so forth.  I would also place announcement there for events in the community my “children” and their families might want to attend, such as: story time at the library, special events at the local children’s museum, park, and/or gymnastic center.  Something else I would keep near this area is a shelf for family photos of the children.  The children enjoy looking at their own families, as well as, the families of their friends.  Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards (2010, p. 43) shared other ideas I think would be great additions to my Family Child Care Home/Classroom.  Asking families to send in their favorite recipes in order to create a recipe book.  While talking about a color each month, asking families to sent in something of the particular color which represents their family to display on a special color table area.  In addition to asking families to send in family pictures, have the children draw family portrait maybe even displaying them with the family photos.  Asking families to share favorite picture books to share with the children at school.  Again, a photo could be taken of the family holding the book and displayed in the book area.  Asking families to send in their child’s favorite snack to share with the others. Inviting families to come in and share whatever they would like with the children, such as: how to make a particular snack, teaching the children phrases or songs in their native language, reading special stories, or even making a special craft or activity.  Finally, I would like to invited the families get together by hosting something like Donuts with Dad or Muffins with Mom.  Maybe even make Christmas cookies together during the holidays.  This might even lead to hosting events for holidays other families celebrate in order to share their cultures with others.  After getting to know my families and making them feel welcome, I will be able to focus more on finding appropriate materials for my students.

The most important question I must continue to ask myself is, “Can all the children in my classroom find themselves” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 46), represented in my Family Care Center/Classroom?  It is also important to remember, “Your materials will need to change over time to reflect each new group of children and families” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 44).  In order to be sure my current children and their families find themselves represented in my Home/Classroom I need to be sure I have the proper materials.  I want to display posters of children representing the children and families in my center/classroom.  I also want to display welcome signs in the languages my students speak.  I want to provide the appropriate picture books, puzzles, dolls, toys, & play food which my students are able to relate.  In order to be sure I am able to find appropriate items, I will be sure to, “Regularly check out local toy and book stores as well as advocacy organizations” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 45).  While I believe I have created a wonderful plan for including everyone, there are sure to be bumps in the road along the way.

It is my goal as an Anti-Bias Educator to find a starting point and to continue to improve each year.  However, I am sure I will make mistakes along the way.  Mistakes are not a bad thing as it creates a positive learning experience and interactions between myself and the families of my children.  “Relationships and interactions with children and families, the visual and materials environment, and the daily curriculum all come together to create the anti-bias learning community.  This does not happen overnight-it takes time and hard work-but every step we take counts” (Derman-Sparks & Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 51).

References

Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and

     ourselves. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children

     (NAEYC).