By Molly Yost
State leaders in search of some light reading are picking-up Duck on a Bike and putting down the bills as Colorado’s 2013 legislative session comes to a close. This past week more than 70,000 copies of the children’s book made their way into the hands of youngsters across the state as part of One Book 4 Colorado – a collaborative initiative between the Lt. Governor’s Office, Serve Colorado, the Denver Preschool Program, Reach out and Read Colorado, public libraries, and the business and philanthropic community. This is just one of several efforts geared towards raising public awareness about the importance of early literacy and the impact high quality early childhood education has on future academic achievement. In tandem with the week’s events was the release of the Colorado Reads 2013: The Early Literacy Initiative report. This comprehensive blueprint outlines the state’s progress and a path forward to ensure more children are reading at grade level by third grade.
Capping-off the excitement were a number of landmark measures aimed at strengthening the state’s birth to eight policy agenda by increasing access, quality, and coordination of early childhood programs. Here are some of the highlights from the 2013 legislative session:
- SB13-213: Dubbed “the Future School Finance Act,” this bill will modernize Colorado’s education financing system with an unprecedented focus on expanding access to high quality early childhood education, pending the passage of a statewide ballot initiative to approve requisite funding. The legislation would remove the cap of the number of slots available for the Colorado Preschool Program (current cap is 20,160 slots), allowing all at-risk 3- and 4-year olds to participate. In addition, the bill would increase access to full-day Kindergarten for families wishing to attend.
- SB13-260: Funding will be provided to increase enrollment in the Colorado Preschool Program by 3,200 slots through the state’s 2013-2014 School Finance Act. Districts can also choose to use the money for full-day kindergarten. The original version of the bill included the Expanding Quality Incentive Program (EQUIP), which would have created a $5 million grant program to support school districts seeking quality ratings for their preschool programs and also to improve program quality. EQUIP was stripped from the bill on the Senate floor.
- HB13-1117: “The Alignment of Early Childhood and Development Programs” strengthens Colorado’s newly-established Office of Early Childhood by moving additional early childhood programs from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment into the CDHS. Governor Hickenlooper and Executive Director of Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), Reggie Bicha, announced the creation of the Office of Early Childhood last summer. The office seeks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of program delivery and administration by co-locating several early childhood programs within the CDHS. The legislation also reauthorized the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, Colorado’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council.
- HB13-1291: This legislation creates the Colorado Infant and Toddler Quality and Availability Grant Program within CDHS. The $3 million grant program encourages local early childhood councils and county departments of human services to partner to increase the quality and availability of care for programs serving infants and toddlers through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). The grant program offers local communities the flexibility to implement plans by providing quality ratings to non-rated participating classrooms, quality improvement grants, higher reimbursement rates to programs rated in the top two levels of Colorado’s quality rating and improvement system, and fostering parental involvement.
With the support of Governor Hickenlooper and Lt. Governor Garcia, early childhood education emerged as a top priority this session. This year’s budget reflects significant investments not only in ECE, but an increase of $4.5 million in state funding for Early Intervention Colorado and an $800,000 increase in the Nurse Home Visitor Program to expand direct services to six additional counties in northeast Colorado. Spring seems to be blooming with good news for Colorado children and families!
If you are a program or a practitioner working with infants and toddlers, or a parent of a child in this lovely stage of development, you may be interested in the topic of “Continuity of Care”. In fact, I would argue that if you have a stake in the development of a young child in the age range of 0-3, you SHOULD be interested in this topic.
Continuity of care describes a care setting in which children stay with the same caregiver from the time they enter group care as an infant to the time they transition to a preschool classroom at the age of three. This concept is very different than what typically takes place in many centers across the United States, where children transition to a new classroom with new teachers when they reach new milestones like walking and toilet training. Because infants and toddlers are establishing their identities and striving to make sense of their world at this stage of development, they need a close bond with a responsive, primary caregiver to feel secure enough to explore their world. When they stay with the same trusted person and receive consistently loving care, they develop a schema that they are taken care of, therefore they are loveable. The infant or toddler who develops this trust in their world can turn their attention to new discoveries in physical, cognitive, social-emotional, and language and literacy development and really thrive in a learning environment (Howes, 1998; Lally, 1995).
Although this concept has been accumulating positive data in terms of child outcomes since the early 1990s, it is an approach that brings many challenges in implementation. Aside from the special waivers a center must obtain from the state licensing department so toddlers and infants can be in the same space together, there are a myriad of questions to consider: Should we have mixed-ages of 0-3 together or should children be of the same age range (often called “looping”)? In a looping situation, should the room set-up change as the children grow or should the children move with their caregivers to new classrooms as they develop into busy toddlers? What trainings are needed for staff to feel comfortable working with both infants and toddlers? In a mixed-age group, how should the environment be set up to ensure that both infants and toddlers have a space in which they can thrive? How does a center attract and retain teachers who are responsive and in-tune with young children? What does continuity mean for enrollment? What are some of the challenges that may come up for families?
At Clayton Early Learning, we have begun to explore these questions as we embark on providing continuity of care on a new level. This spring, Clayton opened a new classroom that is being enrolled to include up to three infants under the age of 12 months, as well as five toddlers. In addition, two of our current infant classrooms will be exploring looping by retaining their children as they age and changing the environment to meet the growing needs of the children. We are excited about these new learning opportunities and will no doubt share our discoveries as they occur. What is your experience with continuity of care? Is this the type of environment that can most effectively help children develop a healthy identity?
Howes, C. (1998). Continuity of care: The importance of infant, toddler, caregiver relationships. Zero to Three, 18(6), 7-11.
If you were to walk to the Clayton Early Learning building today you would walk along a path of blue and silver pinwheels (given that the children haven't already "plucked" up all the enticing spinning sparkles)! Walk inside and you see a rather large Pinwheel on the wall. Why all the pinwheels you may wonder? Well, April was National Child Abuse Prevention month and the pinwheel is symbolic of the bright futures that ALL children deserve. To learn more about the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign visit their website: http://www.preventchildabusecolorado.org/ Child Abuse is a topic that hits the pit of your stomach. It’s tragic, horrifying, and unthinkable. But it's important that we do talk about its presence in our community, because ignoring the issue isn't going to make it go away. Support for child abuse prevention efforts have expanded due in part to the growing body of evidence that suggests home visitation programs for families with young children can reduce the incidence of maltreatment and improve child and family outcomes. Additional research has shown the impact Six Protective Factors have on strengthening families and as a result reducing the likelihood of child abuse within those families. Programmatically we are working within home visitation programs and these ‘protective factors’ every day. Therefore, it is easy to see how Clayton Early Learning is poised at the front lines to be making giant impacts with this work. We don't need a specific "month" to work within these concepts (because it is what our program is fundamentally about) but it's a great opportunity to align with community efforts to help spread the word. So let me tell you a little bit more about what those ‘protective factors’ are.
6 Protective Factors
- Nurturing and Attachment - It is the basis of all development. Babies are born social creatures and need attachments to survive. This protective factor emphasizes the importance for caregivers to understand and meet their child’s need for love, affection and stimulation.
- Social Connections - Much like the Nurturing and Attachment factor. The social connections protective factor addresses the importance of caregivers to build a network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors.
- Parental Resiliency - All families have inner strengths and skills. This protective factor focuses on the ability of families to tap into these resources, which can help serve as a foundation for building their internal resiliency.
- Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development - Knowing what is the usual course of child development helps provide families with the ability to set realistic and consistent expectations for their children.
- Social Emotional Competency of Children - The more children are able to identify, regulate and communicate their feelings, the more responsive families can be to meet their children’s needs, which leads to decreased stress and frustration.
- Concrete Supports for Parents - This is the tangible supports we can offer to families such as parenting support groups, resources, and educational classes.
To learn more about these Protective Factors and how you can be active in strengthening families visit the websites of The Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Child Welfare Information Gateway [http://www.cssp.org].
Please take a few extra minutes this month to educate yourself on ways Colorado is addressing Child Abuse.
Whatever your role, you can find ways to encourage providers and parents in building these protective factors within their families and communities.
History of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/history.cfm
Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2013. Retrieved from http://www.preventchildabusecolorado.org/
Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment. Retrieved from http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/earlychildhood/evidencebasedhomevisiting.asp
Other ideas for setting a positive environment.
By Megan Bock
Kids say the darnedest things. I am still caught off guard when I hear our preschool students use one of my phrases. Sometimes I hear a student say, “Okey Dokey Artichokey” or “Silly Willy,” two of my common goofy phrases. Other times I hear my students say, “How can I help you?” or “What are we going to do about this?” When I stop and listen, I hear myself in my students. Considering how much my students absorb from their environment, I realize my approach is deeply influential in our classroom culture. After hearing my echo across our classroom, I decided to more intentionally examine how to shape our culture to foster vulnerability, courage, resilience, and security.
The Office of Head Start describes ideal classroom environments as:
…places where children feel well cared for and safe. They are places where children are valued as individuals and where their needs for attention, approval, and affection are supported. They are also places where children can be helped to acquire a strong foundation in the knowledge and skills needed for school success. (“Creating a Learning Environment,” 2002)
In my efforts to move closer to this ideal environment, I began reading books and listening to TED talks http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html by Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Brown researches shame and vulnerability and identifies practices that lead to “wholehearted living.” In her recent book, Daring Greatly: How Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brown discusses how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. While reading Brown’s book, I discovered that vulnerability is a vital part of any culture that inspires innovation and learning.
Brown describes culture as “the way we do things around here” (Brown, 2012, p. 174). She writes about how culture describes who we are and what we believe. When thinking about cultures of organizations, schools, faith communities, and teams, Brown asks these ten questions:
- What behaviors are rewarded? Punished?
- Where and how are people actually spending their resources (time, money, attention)?
- What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, and ignored?
- Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
- What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? Who stands the cows back up?
- What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
- What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?
- How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived?
- How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?
- What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)?
These questions stirred me to consider the culture in my classroom, my workplace, and my family. While all questions provoked my thinking, questions seven and ten most inspired me to think the cultures in my life.
Question #7: What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?
Failing, disappointing, and making mistakes are part of the learning process. Everyone makes mistakes, but we need to fix our errors, clean up our messes, and reconcile injured relationships. When resolving issues in our classroom, we collaboratively problem-solve and identify a solution. We acknowledge the mistake, but we spend most of our time and energy working toward a resolution.
Question #10: What’s the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is the discomfort of learning, trying new things, and giving and receiving feedback normalized, or is there a high premium put on comfort (and how does that look)?
This question caused me to consider how I give feedback and challenge my students. I often tell my students, “I am still learning how to do this.” All of us are still learning something, but we also recognize our strengths so that we can help each other improve. Comfort in our classroom has more to do with our relationships with each other and less to do with the content of our curriculum. When we work on challenging projects that push us out of our comfort zones, each of us is stretched to try new things and do our best.
After reflecting on Brown’s questions, I pay more attention to my echoes. What are my students saying? How are do they respond to each other? Can I see evidence of their sense of security, their willingness to try new things, and their tolerance for the discomfort of learning?
Where do you hear your echo? In your family? In your co-workers? In your students? What do your echoes tell you about your culture? Which question(s) provoke you to try something different in your communities?
Blog by Megan Bock
Brown, B (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gottham Books.
Creating a Learning Environment for Young Children. (2012). Teaching our Youngest. Early Childhood-Head Start Task Force. ED/HHS. Retrieved from http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/teaching/eecd/learning%20environments/planning%20and%20arranging%20spaces/edudev_art_00400_060906.html
By Molly Yost
Policymaking occurs on several different levels – at the federal, state, and local level. What is policy and why does it matter to us? Policy is a course of action, selected from alternatives which guides and determines decisions and practices. Policy may refer to action of governments and of public and/or private organizations. This post will explore a significant piece of early childhood policy and the process by which it makes its way through the Colorado General Assembly.
“There are two things you don’t want to see being made – sausage and legislation.” Attributed to German Chancellor Otto von Bismark (1815-1898), this timeless comparison of sausage making and lawmaking has endured for centuries. John A. Straayer offered this description of our very own state legislature in his book, The Colorado General Assembly: a venue in which “a score of basketball games are progressing, all at one time, on the same floor, with games at different stages, with participants playing on several teams at once, switching at will, opposing each other in some instances and acting as teammates in others.” Casinos, marketplaces, and zoos are also metaphorical favorites when expounding the chaotic and awesome nature of legislatures.
All bills, in accordance with state statute, follow a common format. Bills are assigned a number, a title, and a sponsor. HB13-1117 indicates that the bill was the 117th bill introduced in the House (all House bills are numbered from 1001) in the year 2013. HB13-1117, sponsored by Representative Hamner and Senators Hodge and Newell, was introduced earlier in the session and assigned to the Public Health Care and Human Services Committee (committee of reference) by the Speaker of the House. This introduction is commonly known as the bill’s “first reading.” In Committee, the bill is presented by a sponsor and its details are carefully scrutinized. Research, testimony, and studies on the bills fiscal impact are reviewed and discussed by committee members. From here, committee members can amend the bill, refer it to another committee, postpone indefinitely (also known has “killing” a bill), or lay it over for consideration later in the legislative session.
So what are the ingredients in the bill? HB13-1117 has two major components. The first component of the bill is the transfer of several programs from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to the Department of Human Services in order to promote greater alignment and increase the efficiency of program administration, policies, and procedures to better serve children and families. As you may know, there are several different programs serving children and families spread across several different state agencies. The result is a very fragmented system that is often difficult for families to navigate. The following programs will be relocated from CDPHE to CDHS to enhance coordination and collaboration at the state and local level:
• the Nurse Home Visitation Program;
• the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program including the Colorado Student Dropout Prevention and Intervention Program and the Colorado Before-and-After School Project;
• the Colorado Children's Trust Fund and its board; and
• the Family Resource Center Program.
The second component reauthorizes the Early Childhood Leadership Commission (Colorado’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council) until 2018 and relocates it from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office to the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) Division of Boards and Commissions. This commission, comprised of state agency representatives, business leaders, providers, and parents, will be responsible for making recommendations and advising further alignment of early childhood programs and funding streams.
After discussion and testimony, HB13-1117 was slightly amended (or altered) and successfully “passed out” of the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee. After making its way through the House, the bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services where it passed with bi-partisan support (6-1). Next stop: the Senate Appropriations Committee.
If you would like to read HB13-1117, view voting history, or find other information about the Colorado legislature, visit: http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2013A/cslFrontPages.nsf/HomeSplash?OpenForm
“How Our Laws Are Made” infographic by Mike Wirth and Dr. Suzanne Cooper-Guasco for Sunlight Foundation “Design for America Competition” 2010, sources: “How Our Laws Are Made” by John V. Sullivan (Rev. 6.24.07 thomas.loc.gov) and What is a Lobbyist? - wiseGEEK and Reconciliation in the Senate - Brookings Institution. See full-size image at, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Visualization-of-How-a-Bill-Becomes-a-Law_Mike-WIRTH.jpg. Learn more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedures_of_the_U.S._Congress
Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) is an approach to teaching grounded both in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development. DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals. http://www.naeyc.org/DAP
In my opinion, the planning team for the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program (BECLP) rooted and grounded the program’s framework (for leaders and emerging leaders in the field) with the same Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) concept as listed above. Whether purposed or incidental it is the responsible for the success of the program!
I first learned of BECLP in 2009 and decided to attend an open house. I considered applying for the 2010/2011 cohort, but life presented me with the birth of my 3rd child. The 2011/2012 cohort was the 5th and possibly final cohort and my last opportunity to take advantage of such a uniquely developed and prestigious program. As an administrator with over 15 years experience in Early Childhood, Bachelors in Management and an MBA in Administration, I attended numerous ECE workshops and conferences, but did not have an extensive amount of college credits related directly to ECE. BECLP provided an opportunity for me to advance to a Level V Early Childhood Credential. I was curious and initially unsure how BECLP’s curriculum would strengthen me as a leader in the field, especially since my work role lies in the business sector with a focus outside the classroom.
I was ecstatic when I received the letter stating I was one of the 20 chosen to go through the program. During our summer symposium the BECLP teaching staff brought in Dr. Jill Stamm to present on early brain development: birth to three. Dr. Stamm’s shared knowledge awakened my interest in the neuroscience connected to early brain development. The more I learned through BECLP the more I wanted to know and the more my passion grew for “chocolate” aka children (inside story).
The most rewarding aspects about the program were:
- Learning patience with my passion through the Theory U tool
- The teaching techniques used by the BECLP team accommodated differentiated learning styles
- More than just text books: field trips, presentations, projects, group work, Q&A sessions with a panel of experts, guest speakers (doctors, politicians, business personnel, researchers, experts) all of whom were extremely knowledgeable and who presented content directly related to the field, face-to-face experiences with legislators on the legislative floor, curriculum connected to real work and hands-on activities covering all arenas of ECE from teaching to finance to advocacy
- Assigned a personal BECLP mentor and able to elect our own field mentor
- Being a BFF (Buell Fellow Five) – which generated new relationships. These relationships opened network opportunities and connections to different leaders with diverse roles in ECE representing numerous counties in Colorado.
The BECLP team created the ideal classroom for adults. The classroom modeled how school systems should create learning environments for early learners; taking them out from behind the desk and chairs and adding fun (neuroscience brain note: fun is connected with pleasure, which in turn creates a chemical release in the brain to want more). Creating fun learning environments = the desire to want to learn more (an ingenious concept).
Navigating through Theory U was my biggest struggle, but it helped me unveil an ACT for my critical issue. With this program I was able to identify a need in the field and ACT as a leader to generate a ripple toward a solution. In extension to my capstone project I collaborated with two BECLP fellows (Sena Harjo & Dorothy Shapland) to create The Nest Matters: Advice from egg to flight.
The Nest Matters focuses on early child development from prenatal (the egg phase) through the stages of tweens when children prepare to leave the nest (the flight phase).In partnership with the Denver Urban Spectrum, The Nest Matters features a monthly column and has created its own blog (www.thenestmatters.blogspot.com) sharing the latest research from experts, researchers, and doctors in Early Childhood Education and Child Development. The owner of Denver Urban Spectrum is working with The Nest Matters in building its audience with the goal to launch its own community magazine focused on early child development.
The BECLP helped foster me as a leader and it has been an awesome journey ever since. The BECLP Alumni Network continues to provide an opportunity to remain active and stay connected with other fellows. Learning that BECLP had been extending was the best news and I am looking forward to meeting and possibly working with the next group of fellows.
By Dawn Sweeney
February marked Educare Denver at Clayton Early Learning’s third annual participation in “I Love to Read” month. During the month, a committee of Child and Family Educators and teachers partner together to carefully plan for the event by creating several eye appealing and comfortable areas throughout the Educare building. These reading nooks encourage and entice young children and their families to sit together and read from Clayton’s tremendous selection of developmentally appropriate and interesting books. At our school, we find value in creating a special time for families and children to sit together and share the excitement a good book can bring, but more than that, we know that the bonding and connection between parent and child during those special moments is equally important.
Each year this dedicated committee plans a month-long calendar of events to provide several rich opportunities for families and children around reading books. This year, we offered two days of dialogic reading training for families in both English and Spanish. According to Grover J. (Russ) Whitehurst, Ph.D, “Dialogic reading is just children and adults having a conversation about a book” . In our school, teachers have been trained to use this technique with children in the classroom. They document children’s comments and questions as well as make note of unusual words that they then incorporate into their daily conversations with children. Whitehurst also asserts, “Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading.”
Shauna Scott, Mentor Coach Child and Family Educator is one of the “I love to Read” committee members. She is passionate about reading and the benefits of children and families doing this activity together. “I love to Read month for me is a great way to instill a love of reading. We might look at dialogic reading and think it is so complex, but it’s not. [Families] are already doing it. It’s such a great way for parents and children to feel valued. Parents can take a trip down memory lane and recall what they loved about reading and remember the books they loved as a child.”
As families read or use dialogic reading, they are encouraged to document the books they have explored with children to be displayed in the Atrium of our Educare building. This year the theme used for the display is a giant apple, which is home to a big green book worm. Little apples documenting the book read and the child’s name are attached to the giant apple display. Last year by the end of February, more than 1000 books had been read! Staff and families were encouraged to guess the total number of books read, and the closest to the actual number received a gift card. This year, we will accept documentation of the books read through the end of the day Thursday, February 28, 2013. Another drawing will be announced for those who guess the total amount of books read.
February and “I Love to Read” month is a fantastic opportunity for us to highlight the work we do with children all year long. Every day teachers spend time reading to children during classroom time. Full-day Head Start Teacher, Vivian Sandoval believes reading is an excellent way to make a “real” connection with children. “Reading is great for children because regardless of what situation they may be in they can escape with a book to go anywhere they want to go.” Part-day Head Start classroom Teacher, Megan Bock appreciates the value of “I Love to Read” month as well. “I like I Love to Read month because it accentuates the importance of families and children reading together.”
Please take a few minutes to sit with a child and help them to explore the wonderful world of books. This simple act has long-lasting and profound benefits to the children in our lives. Together, we can make the love of reading last throughout the year!
Working With Young Families: Training That All Early Childhood Providers Should Have, But Rarely Receive
Most early childhood professionals have taken at least one course (if not several) about how to engage families in their child’s education, how to promote cultural diversity in early education programs and the educator’s role in serving families from all socio-economic backgrounds. While these courses are incredibly invaluable to the competent and intentional teacher, they typically fail to provide an adequate focus on one of our country’s most vulnerable populations: the 1,354 children that are born each day to a teenage mother (DeJong, 2003) Having worked in the early childhood realm for over 8 years as a teacher, administrator and family services professional, I have enjoyed the benefit of extremely advantageous access to professional development opportunities; though I have been consistently surprised regarding the lack of formal training or education that is available for early education professionals who will almost certainly serve teen parent families at some point in their careers. As educators, we know that developing effective relationships with our students and their parents will only serve to support a positive education experience. Like all families, serving teen parents and their children requires a professional approach that is culturally competent and individualized according to the needs of the family. In order to provide this, educators require in-depth training that recognizes the unique needs of teen parents.
My experience with teen parents is both professional and personal. At the age of 16, I became a mother for the first time. Like many teen parents, the news that you will be having a baby took me by surprise and stimulated a great deal of stress and fear for myself as well as the father of my unborn child. The most primitive logistics of how I would care for another human being were completely overwhelming to me throughout my pregnancy and even after Kaleb was born, I lacked confidence in my ability to care for my child. For this reason, introducing Kaleb to a group childcare environment was simultaneously a relief and an additional stress. Throughout Kaleb’s earliest years, I experienced both positive and negative interactions with his early education teachers. Some professionals treated me with the same doubt and shame that I already innately felt, while others were nurturing to me as well as my son. In addition to the challenges presented by the educators’ own biases, my own behaviors were as incomprehensible to them as most teenagers’ actions and words are to their own parents. After years of reflection, I continue to wonder how the interactions between me and providers could have been improved had the teachers been trained on how to support teen families. What kind of parent could I have been for Kaleb if I hadn’t been so resistant to the advice of his teachers? Is there a way that Kaleb’s caregivers could have approached me so that I wouldn’t have felt so judged? So inadequate? Ultimately I wonder how Kaleb’s experience could have been more complete and successful if his parents had been more engaged in his preschool community.
This month I will be presenting my personal story with supporting data and research at the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference. I am looking forward to this opportunity to provide guidance for educators and administrators who strive to develop effective relationships and program engagement with the teen parents they serve today or may serve in the future. The sub-topics that I will discuss are intended to guide teachers in understanding what type of individualization may be necessary to effectively communicate with teens, as well as encourage teachers who may not realize the extent of the impact that providers can have on young families. Some of the content areas that will be reviewed include:
- Teen brain development and how we can use Erikson’s 8 Stages to better understand challenging teen behaviors
- How the psychological effects of teen parenthood may present challenges for providers
- Strategies for building effective and trusting relationships with teen parents (including establishing appropriate roles and professional boundaries)
- How effective early educators can positively impact teen families immediately and in the long-term
Though I will not be the first to present this information for educators, I believe that this topic requires far more academic attention than early education professionals receive in traditional degree or certificate programs. As providers see more and more teens bringing their children to early education centers for care, we must take the initiative with our professional development plans to ensure that we can effectively serve families of all kinds. Teachers can have a powerful impact on parenting behaviors and philosophies. While I look forward to hosting a forum where I can support educators’ practice and approach with teens, I am mutually excited to remind teachers of the potential that exists within their relationships with all families; but especially our teen parents. Though the interactions that teachers have with young families may not be without challenges, there is a great reward in knowing that you have been a support for a parent as well as their child. The chance to educate young families is an opportunity that early education programs cannot afford to lose; especially when the greatest barrier to teacher efficacy is simply a lack of training.
Are you ready to learn more about how we can effectively serve teen families? If so, please attend my presentation at the RMECC on March 1, 2013 at 3:30pm in room 503.
DeJong, L. (2003). Using Erikson to Work More Effectively with Teenage Parents. Young Children, v58 n2, 87-95.
Several years ago, I decided that it was time to further my career by enrolling in a Master’s Degree program. I had spent my post-Bachelor years in the human services field; however the focus always was on children and families. As a matter of fact, my lifelong passion had been children and families; however, I had a specific interest for English Language Learners and the importance of maintaining individual home languages. Nonetheless, I was at a complete loss for what type of post graduate degree I should aim for.
I knew that I wanted to help advocate for this particular community, but I had no idea what career paths were available to take. I contemplated getting a Master’s in Bilingual Education but that never seemed to come to fruition. As I continued my work with children and families, I started to notice a large portion of culturally insensitive practices continuing to occur in the preschool classroom. Oftentimes these occurrences led to unnecessary IEPs and/or inappropriate goals placed on IEPs. This led me to consider a Master’s degree in Special Ed, yet I was unaware how this would allow for a specific concentration on ELLs, nor could I imagine what path I would embark on after receiving this degree.
I continued exploring different options for obtaining an MA, that would really allow for individualization for my passion. Eventually the perfect program came along. They were looking for candidates for the 1st year of the Buell Early Childhood Education Leadership Program. I was encouraged to apply. Again, I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure that I could embark on my desired career path from the resulting degree.
After tons of discussion with multiple mentors, I decided to go for it. I applied, was called in for an interview and waited excruciatingly long for a response. Unfortunately I was not accepted. The following year, I was personally contacted with a request to reapply. I did so begrudgingly, expecting another rejection. Luckily this wasn’t the case.
I recall the first day, sitting in the familiar classroom setups that are so often trademarked by interactive classrooms to facilitate discussion and collaboration. I was completely intimidated as we went round robin “telling about ourselves”. By comparison, the breadth of knowledge all my fellow fellows (pun intended) seemed expansive.
As the year passed, and we discussed, debated and informed ourselves about the issues in the Early Childhood Field, I became more confident. I found my voice. I spent my year researching my passion which was centered on English Language Learners with Special Needs. All the research culminated in a grant to develop a Toolkit for Families going through the IFSP/IEP process. In short, I built a strong foundation that would propel me for the next stages in my career.
In the years since then, my tie to the Buell community has served me well. Since the first year that I applied, 97 Buell Fellows from all around Colorado have completed the program. The beauty of the program is that your learning doesn’t stop the day you end the program. You continue participating and advocating in a variety of ways in the ECE community. You continue growing, discovering and evolving. You find a new sense of purpose and passion.
I signed up for the Buell ECE Leadership Program with the sole intention of getting a MA. I got that and so, so much more.
(…and now you can too. Buell is currently accepting applications. The deadline is February 22, 2013. Apply here)
You can follow Jennifer's blog at, http://jennieloveslanguage.wordpress.com/
By Brenda Hoge
Think back to when you were in school. Was there something teachers insisted that you learn that you never used and you wouldn't even know when or why you should use it? For me, it was logarithmic functions. When I was in high school, my math teacher insisted that I must learn how to do logarithmic functions and tried to assure me that I couldn't possibly have a career without knowing this. Well, as it turns out, other than the math modules I had to take in college, I have never had to do a logarithmic function and I’m pretty sure I wouldn't even know when to use one. I’m sure it’s useful, maybe even essential knowledge for some professions. But the one thing my teacher neglected to tell me was, “what is it that I need to know and why do I need to know this?” In other words, what was the objective behind logarithmic functions and how is it relevant to my life?
The lack of clarifying the learning objective also happens in preschool. Right now, we are observing classrooms across Denver using the CLASS™ Pre-K tool and one of the indicators that classrooms score low on is Clarity of Learning Objectives. Most teachers have a plan for what children are going to learn each and every day they are in school and most lesson plans have objectives stated. But do we take the time to verbally explain to the children “what is it they are learning and why they are learning this?” Often times we don’t. So what does clarifying the learning objective look like?
According to the CLASS™ Pre-K manual, clarifying the learning objective means that “children should be aware of the point of the lessons or how they should be focusing their attention during activities.” The teacher can do this in a variety of ways:
The first thing you can do is use what is called an Advanced Organizer. Basically what an advanced organizer means is that you state what the objective of the lesson is or what children should be focusing on prior to starting the activity. For example, if your classroom is doing a unit on sea animals and last week you talked about whales and this week you are introducing dolphins, you can use an advanced organizer by saying “We are going to read a story about whales and then a story about dolphins. Think about things that are the same between whales and dolphins and things that are different about them. And as we find the things that are similar and different, we will write them down on our chart.”
The second thing that you could use are Summaries. Summaries are stating what the objective was or what they just learned after the activity. For instance, using the same whales vs. dolphins example, you could use a summary statement by saying, “We just learned that whales and dolphins both live in the ocean and that they are both mammals. They also both have a blowhole at the top of their head. They are different in that whales are bigger, they swim slower than dolphins, and they swim by themselves while dolphins swim in groups.”
The third thing you can use is called a Reorientation statement. This is one of my favorites because there is always one child in your classroom that gets the conversation “off-track.” Now whether that child is really getting the conversation “off-track” or whether they are making some connection you aren't aware of is something that you don’t know. So you want to make sure that you acknowledge what they are saying but then you want to re-orient back to the planned objective. For example, if you are talking about whales vs. dolphins and you said that you could see whales and dolphins at aquariums, one child starts talking about their visit to zoo, and how they saw monkeys, and then another child talks about the elephants, and someone mentions the lions, and before you know it, you are talking about zoo and zoo animals. A reorientation statement is a statement you use to bring it all back around to the whales and dolphins while still acknowledging what the child said. For instance, you could say, “Sometimes the zoo has sea animals in it including dolphins. An aquarium is similar to a zoo except that you can see all types of sea animals there, including whales. So let’s think about what size tank you would need to hold a whale.”
Clarifying the learning objective can be used anytime-during group, free time, and even in routines, like meals and snack time. The important thing is to practice because it’s not something that comes naturally to most of us. Put up little reminder statements in your centers, write the objective on your board so you remember to tell the children what and why they are learning this, and practice with your co-teachers. You know that you have achieved success when your children can tell you what it was that they were learning.