“We Don’t Say Those Words in Class”

Honestly, I can think of many times that I myself have quieted my own child for commenting on differences, especially comments he makes about those with varying abilities.  I always get after him for staring or asking questions about them, but I do not always address the situation as I should.  I definitely know I could be better in this aspect of my job as an educator.  This recently happened to me with the children in my care and a father that is blind in one eye.  One of the children, who happens to be my niece, spoke up and asked him if he was blind (this was before I knew his situation).   I was embarrassed that she would ask him directly, but just let it go because the dad did not respond, I’m not sure he heard her.  I never addressed the situation and the children stopped asking questions about him.  But now I wonder how they resolved their questions since I just ignored them entirely.  What messages/connections did they resolve to?

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I know I messed up there.  I know I sent the message that we do not communicate about those with disabilities.  I sent a silent message that differences in ability are not okay.  I could have easily found a book that discusses varying abilities and explained to the children that the child’s father is blind.  I also could have asked him to come in and discuss his blindness if he were comfortable doing so.  These experiences definitely highlight where my discomforts lie, but now I have to figure out how to address these discomforts appropriately with children.

Evaluating Impacts on Professional Practice

Just recently, I experienced an “ism” in regards to religion.  I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and or church had released a new policy regarding same-sex couples and their children.  I am sure many of you read about this policy in social media headlines.  One of my close high school friends made a comment that read, “Damn Mormons, they are all a bunch of homophobic idiots”.  The comment was extremely offensive to me, especially since I was dealing with feelings of confusion myself about the new policy.  I was offended that he would assume or state somethings that encompassed “all Mormons”.  The comment made me angry and sad, yet a part of me felt compassion.  I was angry because I don’t like being encompassed into one large group that I know holds much diversity.  I was sad that a personal friend of mine would react this way and say such harmful words when he knows many of his friends are Mormon.  Through all of this, I felt compassion.  Compassion for my gay friend that I knew was hurt by both the church’s policy and by his brother’s comments.  It was a difficult few days as I sorted through my own feelings.

I can say that the children and families in my care during this time did suffer because of these hurtful words.  I did not personally feel anger or confusion toward any of the children or families, but I was not in the best mood and my mind was elsewhere during much of the work day.  You see, I am easily distracted with things such as this.  I slump into a bit of depression and much anxiety.  I was highly irritable; things that wouldn’t normally get me upset, did.  The children were not receiving my undivided attention as they usually would.  I was not as loving toward the infants in my care, which is completely uncharacteristic for me.  I find it hard to leave things at the door when I reach the point of anxiety and depression.

Thinking and writing about my experience gives me a little more perspective of how others might feel when they feel stereotyped or discriminated against.

Gender, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation

I feel that it is important to validate parent’s concerns about not having a transgender or homosexual individual caring for their child. I mean, honestly, I’m not sure I would be comfortable with it either, but as an educator, I know I need to push my biases and discomforts aside and advocate for these individuals and children who may be struggling with the same challenges of fitting in or not feeling like they are who they want to be.  By denying a person a position because they are transgender or homosexual tells any child who may feel like they are transgender or homosexual that they do not belong.  In the optional media recording, the children who were being discussed were six years old.  Children know at a very young age if they are feeling different than others.  We, as educators, need to validate these feelings and let them know that they are not alone and that they are valued.

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I strongly feel that early childhood centers need to include books that depict all variations of families, this includes same-sex couples and their children.  Again, children who come from these families need to feel validated and valued.  And even if there are not any families like this in your community, they should still be presented in the classroom, because there are many of them in the world.  Children need to be introduced to the many forms of diversity that surround us in order for them to be tolerant and kind towards many differences.

Observing Communication

After reading the resources this week, it reminded me of a time when one teacher in my home childcare had realized the importance of communication.  My co-teacher was having a hard time changing an 18-month-old child’s diaper. Every time she picked up the child and placed her on the changing table the child would scream. One day, she placed the child on the changing table and received the same response as always, so she immediately picked her up and held her instead of changing her diaper right away. She looked directly at her and said, “Melanie, I am going to change your diaper now, I know that you do not like it, but it has to be done. I will do it as quickly as I possibly can”. Then my co-worker laid her back on the changing table. Surprised she looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh! It worked! She’s not crying.” I smiled at her and explained to her the importance of communicating routines with infants. I had clarified this to her in the past, but I think sometimes you have to experience it on your own before you can fully understand it. I continued to describe the importance of telling an infant that you are going to pick them up and move them before you do it. This allows the child to know that you are engaging with them prior to touching them. I told her imagine if you were playing with a toy and enjoying yourself and someone just came and picked you up without saying a word and took you to your least favorite place. I imagine you would be frustrated. She was amazed at how much that made sense.

Today, when I observed this same teacher and her interactions with the babies, I was amazed at how much she had adopted this practice.  She would explain to the infants and toddlers what was going to happen next.  I heard her say, “Bennett, it sounds as if you are hungry, I am going to pick you up and put you in the high chair and get you started on some apples while I finish preparing lunch.”  I also heard her explain, “Melanie, it is not okay to bite my friends, do you see how sad Eliza is when you hurt her with your teeth?  How about you bite on this teething ring instead.”  Another example includes, “Presley, I am going to pick you up now and we are going on a walk in the stroller to get kids from school.”  She has just made it a part of her day to vocalize what is happening throughout our routine.  I am impressed considering this is her first job working with children.  My favorite article this week was Communicating with Babies (Kovach & Da Ros-Voseles, 2011).  They clarify the importance of acknowledging each infant by name and talking directly to each baby about what is happening and before touching them.  Kovach and Da Ros-Voseles (2011) state that these practices will allow a baby to feel respected as an individual.  I loved seeing these practices in action with the babies in my care.

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I personally feel that I communicate great with infants and toddlers, where I struggle is with my school age children.  I need to work on slowing down and listening to their ideas.  I have this one boy that is often going on and on about all his great ideas.  I find myself frustrated often, because I am trying to get breakfast on or trying to care for another child.  I think I could work on communicating respectfully with him by slowing down or explaining to him that I am busy at the time, but I would love to hear all of his ideas a little bit later when I am able to focus on his words.  Then, make sure I follow through.

Kovach, B., & Da Ros-Voseles, D. (2011). Communicating with babies. YC: Young Children, 66(2), 48-50. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.

Creating Affirming Environments

When opening up my current family childcare, I wanted the setting to be open and inviting to children.  I wanted the environment to be filled with natural materials and many interest centers.  I wanted hardwood floors with one or two rugs that allowed for sensory activities mainly throughout the childcare.  I wanted space to provide open-ended art and easel painting everyday.  One element that I can include to incorporate diversity and acceptance is a family wall where each child could see a photo of their family everyday.  I also include literature and music that represents the culture of the children in my care as well as others within the community; literature would include race, culture, family structure, and other aspects.  Non-stereotypical baby dolls, clothing, and food in the dramatic play area is important to me; I switch it up in order to incorporate the children’s culture as well as ideas.  I would like to include photographs of the many jobs within the community as well as men and women in non-stereotypical roles.  Including pictures and literature of different abilities is also important to me.  I want children to understand that there are differences out there and I feel incorporating these aspects allows for open communication and exploration.

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In order to ensure that all families feel welcome and respected I will make sure that first and foremost I create a partnership with the families that will allow them opportunities to share their culture with me and the other children in my care.  I enjoyed Adriana’s idea of a “Family culture share” wall, where families are allowed to bring items to display their culture (Laureate Education, 2011).  The other thing that she did was post pictures around the room of the children participating in the classroom.  I feel this is extremely important when wanting children to feel that they are valued within the classroom.  The other strategies I will incorporate are supporting open discussion among the children and myself, encouraging children to express their emotions, promote inclusion among all children, openly discuss stereotypes, handle guidance issues without shaming the child, incorporate traditions from each child’s culture, and customize holidays that show respect for each child’s beliefs and traditions (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

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).

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Welcome to an anti-bias learning community. Baltimore, MD: Author

A Special Thanks – Looking Back

THANK YOU on speech bubble price labels

I would like to thank all of my colleagues for allowing me to be challenged, inspired, and uplifted throughout this course.  I have learned a great deal in regards to communication through your honesty and wisdom.  It has been a pleasure learning with each of you over the past eight weeks.  Good luck in all of your future endeavors.

Professional Hopes and Goals

One of my main hopes when working with young children and their families is that I will always remember that there is so much more to culture than just what is seen on the “surface”.  Understanding that there is diversity even within culture and that I need to understand the “whole child” in order to do what is best for their growth and social development.  I will always remember Janet Gonzalez-Mena’s illustration of culture being just like an iceberg.  90% of culture is considered “deep” culture and is not revealed on the surface.

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Educating teachers in regards to “real” diversity and what it entails is one goal that I have for the early childhood field.  I know there are many educators, especially home childcare providers, that do not understand the importance of promoting social justice within the classroom and those that do know the importance have no idea where to start.  I myself, sometimes struggle with promoting diversity, equity, and social justice, and I am well educated on the matter.  Imagine teachers who have no knowledge of the matter.  Helping teachers understand how to promote and advocate for social justice and equity it critical for children’s optimal development.

I would like to thank all of my colleagues for allowing me to be challenged, inspired, and uplifted throughout the course.  It has been a pleasure learning with each of you over the past eight weeks.  Good luck in all of your future endeavors.

Welcoming Families from Around the World

Botswana

The country of origin that I chose for my family is Botswana, which is located in Africa.  The main language spoken is both English and Setswana.  In order to prepare myself to be culturally responsive towards this family, I could learn more about the music and dancing they deeply value.  One teenage boy described how music means everything to him and that music helps to build him up and get him through challenges (see website below).  Another tradition that is practiced in their culture is respect for their elders.  This respect is highly valued and when working with a child from this culture, I would need to remember that the child may not feel comfortable expressing their feelings; a social skill that we value and promote here in America.  Christianity is mainly practiced, but it is mixed with their indigenous beliefs, so I would want to learn more about what those beliefs entail in order to not step over any boundaries within the family.  I would like to learn more about the challenges they have faced.  Botswana is located in the Kalahari Desert, many of the people still value old traditions that have been practiced for over 20,000 years including hunting and gathering.  These traditions are being threatened today by modernization.  Another challenge that the people in Botswana face is HIV/Aids.  One in three people contract the disease.  I feel that learning a little about the “surface” culture prior to meeting the family may demonstrate to the family that I care about who they are.  This will hopefully build trust in the beginning that will allow a collaborative partnership in the long run.

Botswana1http://www.our-africa.org/botswana/people-culture

Adjourning

I would definitely say that high performing groups are the hardest to leave.  During my community college education, I formed wonderful friendships with three other people that went on to share our educational journey at our four year college.  Unfortunately, we had to say good-bye to our two amazing professors, with whom we had become very close to.  Still, to this day, I hold them dear to my heart.  We had formed a wonderful collaborative community.  We all confided in each other.  The professors would get our opinion on what they could do better in order to enhance the course structure, class, etc.  They inspired my friends and I to be the best advocates for children that we could be.  They provided hands-on learning experiences and were tough graders, but I would not have had it any other way.  They challenged us to be great.  After saying good-bye I felt a piece of me was gone, so I went back and interned for them for two semesters.  I value the friendship I have formed based on our collaborative efforts to becoming great educators for young children.  After interning, I chose to move Utah for an awesome opportunity, but I miss my colleagues deeply and I cried the most when I said good-bye to those who inspire me each day.  I think this group was most successful because we truly collaborated with one another, our professors treated us as capable individuals who could rise to the challenge; we trusted each other because there was mutual respect.

Adjourning is essential to team work, because those individuals need to branch out and spread their knowledge to others.  Most are going to move on to other endeavors and it is important for growth as sad as it is for those groups who had formed close relationships with one another.  Unfortunately, due to the online nature of this program, I have had a hard time forming these strong bonds with my colleagues.  I know many who have inspired me to think deeper and I will be thankful to them for that.  I will take those lessons with me.