Teacher Attitudes Toward Immigrant Students and Families

Hooray!!! It’s Real World Wednesday again! This week we have the pleasure of learning from and with Molly McManus.Slide1

Molly is a doctoral student studying educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on early school experiences of young children from immigrant and/or marginalized families and immigrant and/or marginalized parents’ experiences supporting the development, education, and well-being of their young children. Molly also holds a BS and teaching credential from California Polytechnic State University and an MA in Human Development, Culture, and Learning Sciences from UT Austin.

Before her graduate studies, Molly worked as a Spanish-English bilingual second grade teacher in Oakland, California. One of her favorite parts of teaching was working with the families of her students and learning about their hopes and dreams for their children. It was in Oakland that she witnessed and began to understand the challenges that immigrant and other marginalized families face early on in the US education system.

In the current political climate, Molly is particularly concerned about potential negative effects of anti-immigrant and deficit attitudes towards immigrants on young children and their families. We asked her, “How do school and teacher attitudes towards immigrant students and their families affect the well-being and academic performance of young children?”

Here’s her answer:

Experiences in early education programs are foundational for all children, and young children of immigrants are no exception. In these programs, children begin to develop beliefs about themselves as learners and as members of their new community. When their formative early years are influenced by experiences of discrimination and/or negative, unwelcoming attitudes from teachers and schools, children’s academic, emotional, and developmental well-being can be compromised.

The degree to which young children of immigrants are welcomed, or not welcomed, into their new schools and programs is also known as their context of reception. Negative contexts of reception have been shown to result in lower motivation and lower academic achievement among immigrant students. Unwelcoming environments can also keep immigrant parents of young children from engaging with teachers and schools and hinders their ability to make the educational decisions that they believe are best for their children.

Alternatively, when young immigrant children enter positive environments they benefit from positive outcomes across multiple domains. These positive contexts of reception include valuing children’s contributions, offering them intellectual, creative, and culturally responsive learning opportunities, and authentically caring about their and their family’s well-being. In these welcoming environments, children are more likely to create positive connections to their surroundings, are more engaged with curriculum, and are more likely to achieve academic success later in their educational careers.

In our current political climate, there seems to be more concern about the damage immigrants can inflict on our schools rather than the ways that schools are capable of harming immigrant students. But the truth is, research shows that immigrant students and young children of immigrants do not have negative affects on our schools systems.

Unfortunately, the opposite is not true. Teachers and schools have the power to create negative, restrictive environments that limit children’s learning and future opportunities. But they also have the power to welcome young children of immigrants into creative and caring environments that value them for the beautiful diversity they bring to our classrooms, schools, and communities.

Thank you so much, Molly!  Such important information!

Gender, it’s more complicated than we think

It’s Real World Wednesday again, and this week we get to learn from and with the awesome Meg Thomas!Slide1

Meg has an undergraduate degree in early childhood education and a masters in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College. She is a research geek who loves unearthing the stories that research has to tell us about our work with young children.  Based on this research and more than 30 years in the field, she feels passionately about providing the support that children need to learn how to live, learn and work in a diverse world where they are exposed to bias and stereotypes every day.  She has worked to teach adults how to do this in a variety of settings.  She is  the early childhood program manager for AMAZE and the lead author for the “Everyone Matters” and “We All Matter”  early childhood anti bias programs and the AMAZE persona doll guide.

This week, we asked Meg, “What do we know about gender in the lives of young children?

Here’s her insightful response:

Gender in early childhood.  It’s complicated.  Too complicated for a short blog post in fact.  But here’s a few things you should know.

Gender happens in lots of parts of us, in our genes, our hormones, our brains, who we know ourselves to be and how we want others to see us.  Even though many of us were taught that gender is a simple matter of boys and girls, human experience and increasingly, medical science, shows us much bigger and more complex picture.

Much like many of you, I was taught in biology that humans have either XX genes (female) or XY genes (male).  No-one ever mentioned any of the other possible gene combinations for gender like XXX or XXY, nor did they tell me that hormones have an enormous influence on how those genes express themselves.  In fact, hormones, rather than genes, determine so much of our gender that the International Olympic committee has found they can’t use genes to determine who gets to compete as a man or woman in Olympic events.  And when it comes to genes, xx and xy don’t tell the whole story.  New research shows that there are at least 50 different genetic strands that shape gender in mouse brains, probably more in human brains.

Science has shown us that gender impacts our brains, and as early childhood educators, we know this to be absolutely true.  Observations and research show us that boys tend to devote more brain power to spatial processing and girls tend to devote more brain power to verbal and emotional process.  The key here is the word tends. Recent research using brain scanning techniques found that while there are many traits which are more common in men or women, very few of us have brains with all female or all male traits.  More than 90% of us have some of both. On top of that, physical sex characteristics develop in baby’s bodies very early on – 6-12 weeks prenatally, while gender in the brain develops relatively late -somewhere between 20 and 40 weeks.  In that development, with gender and physical sex characteristics are impacted by hormones in the mother’s body and the prenatal environment, which means that the gender in our bodies may or may not match the gendered part of our brains. And that’s just the brain and biology part of all this. When you add in the way hormones impact our brains and bodies, cultural and social ideas about what gender is supposed to look like and all the other parts of how gender plays out in human societies –it’s no wonder that children spend a lot of time “playing” with gender to try and figure it all out.

Given the importance of gender in a person’s identity, we need to make sure that our early childhood classrooms are welcoming places for gender diversity.  We need learning environments that work well for all the ways of learning and being across a gender spectrum, and we need teaching practices that don’t label students according to what a boy or a girl should or shouldn’t do.   As educators, we have the freedom and the responsibility to interrupt assumptions about who a child is and who they are going to grow up to be based on gender, and we can let all children know that the gendered expectations they are picking up from the world around them do not control their future.  More than anything, we need to make sure – every day- that no child is ever bullied or left for the way they express their gender.

What I’ve shared here is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we’ve been learning about gender.  If you’d like to know more – come to “Gender- it’s more complicated than we think” which we’ll be presenting at the National Head Start conference, California AEYC, Minnesota AEYC, and hopefully at NAEYC PDI this year.

If you are wishing for concrete tools for discussing the complexities of gender with young children – AMAZE has spent the last year working with a broad coalition of people who understand gender to develop tools for doing this – feel free to e-mail me at megthomas@amazeworks.org if you’d like to know more.

Fantastic!  Thank you so much, Meg!

Ijumaa, why is play an equity issue?

Happy Real World Wednesday! This week we have the pleasure of introducing Ijumaa Jordan! Slide1

Ijumaa is an early education consultant, who focuses on reflective practice, culturally relevant teaching, and developing anti-bias curriculum for young children and adults. Being a part of Harvest Resources Associates, means much of her work with teachers and administrators happens by facilitating professional development in a “community of practice” model that promotes reflective teaching practices and leadership.

Ijumaa has more than twenty years of teaching in early education and directing and also serves as an Adjunct Instructor. She received her Basic Core Certificate in Early Childhood Education from UCLA Extension followed by a BA in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College with a concentration in Early Childhood Education, Emergent Curriculum, and Anti-bias Education. She also received her MA in Human Development from Pacific Oaks with a concentration in Leadership in Education and Human Services with sub-specializations in College Teaching/Teaching Adults.

At the 2016 NAEYC Annual Conference, Ijumaa is hoping to lead a session titled, Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free: Ensuring children from all socio-economic and racial groups have access to free and complex play. Given her interests and expertise, we decided to ask her: “Ijumaa, why is play an equity issue?”

Here’s her incredibly thoughtful response:

Play is a right for all children and they deserve an early education experience that supports this right. As more research and opinion pieces are written about how play is disappearing in early education, the “elephant in the room” is that this worrisome trend is not impacting all young children equally. The reality is that early education is segregated by race and class in the same way K-12 is. We can no longer live in a fantasy that we can advocate for play-centered early care and education without dismantling the oppressive educational system that denies access play based on race and class.

As a consultant I get invited to visit programs across the country. What I began to notice is that access to play differed depending the racial and socio-economic status of children being served with a few exceptions. I observed different environments, the quality of play materials, and teachers’ interactions with children. I recently visited a program in an affluent community where four out of eighty children are Korean American, two children are Chinese American, one child is African American, one child is bi-racial (African American and Latina from Puerto Rico). The rest of the children are white. Children have lush outdoor environments to explore where they can roll down a hill, climb up the tree house and slide down, there is paint on easels that cover a wall. There is a wire construction that you can add more wire and beads to. There are two water tables one with plastic sea animals and the other with different kinds of cups. Inside the classrooms there are areas for dressing up to save the world from monsters, building a farm and a rocket ship with unit blocks, there are drums and a basket of scarves for interpretive dance. I hear children laughing, talking, whispering, and crying while being held because they fell down. I see a teacher with a small group of children discussing their plan to build a rolling river in the sand pit outside and drawing their plans. The teacher who is giving me the tour shows me the children’s developmental portfolios that are filled with work samples of drawing and writing, pictures with captions, anecdotal notes, comments from parents, and in the back a developmental checklist.

In contrast, I also recently visited a publicly-funded preschool program located in a working class neighborhood. The racial make up is 50 percent Latino/Latina from Mexico and El Salvador and 50 percent African American. 40 percent of the children speak Spanish as their first language. Spanish and English are spoken in the classroom but most of the written material is in English. Four classrooms encircle a large yard with most of the space taken up by a huge play structure. I find out later that the families helped fundraise for it. I was told that because they share the yard with other classrooms, outside playtime is twenty minutes. Most children run around the play structure and the children tell me that sometimes their teacher brings out balls. When they laugh loud or yell they are asked to lower their voices. Once inside they sit on the carpet on top of their own carpet piece. The teacher waits about five minutes for everyone to sit with their legs crossed and hands in their laps. She reads a book from the reading curriculum on the letter M then has children repeat preselected M words that she shows with cards. After group time the children go to their assigned seats at their group desk with their either the teacher or assistant teacher and trace the letter M. Then (finally) it’s indoor play time. The choices are puzzles, a set of Legos, a craft project of pasting a pre-cut monkey (for the letter M) on a paper bag to make a puppet, and the dramatic play that is set up as a kitchen with babies on a bed. The director showed me the assessment books, which had the child’s picture on the front and a print out of the assessment tool marked.

Reading these descriptions of two different programs you might think well it’s just because the teachers in the second program are less educated and don’t know the value and importance of play. In both programs the teachers have at least BA degrees and the assistant teachers are either in college or have associate degrees. The teachers in both programs know that play is valuable and learned about that in their formal and informal education opportunities. The problem is more systematic.

In an early education environment where more assessments and regulations are administered the unintentional consequence has been the lack of play and more teacher directed activities to “teach” children the skills that will make them “school ready” and “close the achievement gap”. Teachers are pressured to raise assessment scores so they “teach to the assessment”. These educational reforms applied to low-income children, children of color, and native children are restricting their access to self-initiated, complex play.

It’s time we discuss and analyze how systematic classism and racism privileges play for some children, while devaluing it for others. With the goal of moving play back to the center of childhood experiences for all.

I would love to have more conversations about this topic you can find me on Facebook on my professional page Ijumaa Jordan – ECE Consultant or on twitter @ijumaaj.

Thank you, Ijumaa!

#DearScholastic

Childrens Books Infographic 2015

It’s Real World Wednesday and this week we are absolutely overjoyed to feature the 3rd graders in class 301 at the Hamilton Heights School in New York City!

In the fall these students learned about the diversity gap in children’s literature. So, when the December Scholastic Book Club catalog arrived, they decided to count the number of books featuring characters of color. Out of more than 100 books, they counted about 7 that had people of color.

12321232_1673602469596147_1558964926701491010_nThey decided to write letters to Scholastic to tell them how they felt about this, which can be found in the comments below and also on their classroom Blog: http://www.wereaddiversebooks.com/

You can support them by reading, commenting on, and sharing their letters using social media with the hashtag ‪#‎DearScholastic‬

 

Here are a few of their powerful letters:

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that it is terrible that there is fewer than ten books with people of color. My opinion is correct because how come there are more books about white people and less books about people of color? For example, like what is a person of color wants to read a book that is a mirror book but there is no book about them?

Another reason I feel my opinion is correct is because what if a white person wants to read a diverse book and there is not even a single diverse book. For example like you can’t just read about white people. Also that diverse books can become a mirror book and a window book.

Now I am restating my opinion with enthusiasm! As a mixed kid I would like to read more Asian story books and people of color and white people. And I am saying in my words that pretty pretty please make more books about people of color.

Sincerely,
Maguette

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My name is Julian. I think that the low people of color books are a problem with your company. By what I mean by that is your company may not like people of color books or something. But I was quite shocked because when I looked in the catalog for a book fair there were less than ten people of color books.

Here is one reason dedicated to people of color books. What if I am in a library only with your books and I want to read a book with Dominican characters but you made NONE. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! Because white people including me read people of color books to learn about people of color and so on and so forth. But please make diverse books with color.

Sincerely,
Julian

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that DIVERSE books are important . I feel that my opinion is correct because DIVERSE books are awesome. If we have DIVERSE books we can learn different things. I feel that my opinion is correct because its good to read DIVERSE books. Its good to read DIVERSE books because they have different adventures.

Diverse books are important to me, because one book that I read that really has significance to me is Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Springs into Action. Freddie Ramos Springs into Action is important to me because Freddie Ramos teaches me to be good and it also teaches me to help my mom and help anyone in need. Freddie Ramos is a Latino character and that matters to me because I’m Latino too! And there’s not really a lot of Latino catalog books which makes me a little bit sad.

Every time I go to the library, in my mind I’m like “Is there going to be some new Latino books?” But I don’t see any. So I just buy Star Wars books. And there’s one Latino book about Lego Star Wars. And I want to learn more about my country than Star Wars. As you can see DIVERSE books are important.

Sincerely yours,

Kelvin

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

We need diverse books because if we don’t other people won’t be featured. We need diverse books because people would feel bad. People want to buy books with people of color. I want more diverse books because I feel bad for the people and that is why we want more diverse books.

Sincerely,
Jeremy

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I think that we should have more diverse character books! When I looked at the Scholastic Book Fair catalog I only saw about 7 books with diverse characters, and that is a problem we have to fix! One reason why I want more diverse character books is because I am a very caring person and I don’t want the black people to be sad and disrespected! One way we can fix it is to ask Lee and Low books to write and publish more diverse character books, and this is for a good cause!

One reason is that let’s say you are black you would want a mirror book like when you are reading a book and someone has almost the same life as you! Another reason is because you can make people feel like their life matters in this world. It can also be a good thing and it can be a very good solution because kids and adults too want to feel like they are appreciated! And that’s why you need to step up and be a change maker and give us more diverse books!!!

Sincerely,
Jada

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

In my opinion I believe that we need to change the problem and the problem is that there is more books about white people than diverse characters and it is so not good. We can fix it by stop making books about white people and make more books about different color people and we will catch up so it will be fair for other.

Diverse characters matter because if you were black and you just saw books with white people it is going to be boring! You will want mirror books and also window books at the same time. Mirror books are the same and window books are not the same.

Look there are more than 100 books in your catalog and there is only 10% of the books that have diverse characters. Do you think this is fair? Well for me it’s not fair because there are many kinds of people who are diverse and there is not so many people who are diverse in the books. As you can see I think diverse characters matter!

Sincerely,
Heidi

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

Diverse books are important because people are from different cultures and they want to read of diverse people. It does not matter if they are from diverse cultures, because diverse books matter. What about if people like diverse books just like I do? I like diverse books because they are fun and funny and because I get to know more of diverse books.

Sincerely,
Franchesca

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

We want to have more diverse books because I read Allie’s Basketball Dream and Allie is a Black person and I am a different color. Also we need more diverse books because there is only a lot of [books for] white people and not that many [books for] Black people and we want a lot of [books for] Black people like the white people. That’s why we want to have more diverse books.

Sincerely,
Erik

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that we need more than 10 books about people of color. Diverse books matter to me because they’re special to me and it’s like a gift to the people. They are a gift because you learn about diverse characters. For example, I read a book that has diverse people. The book is called Big Bushy Mustache. For example, this kid likes mustaches because he wants to look like his dad. The kid looks brown. I felt happy when I read a book about somebody that had brown skin. Another thing that I like about Big Bushy Mustache is it has the same culture as mine, because the characters speak Spanish like my parents and me.  My opinion is that we want more diverse books, so please bring more diverse  books.

Sincerely,

Edwin

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I personally think that you should make more people people of color books. You should put more people of color like me. I’m Latino and I do see like less than 10 books of people of color and for me that’s not fair because you’re showing that you only support white people and Black people and Asians, Latino people need attention. For example, if there’s any Black, Asian, Latino people in your workplace I bet they’re waiting for that moment to make a book with their nationality character book so please make that change NOW! please.

Sincerely,
Antonys

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

I think that in Scholastic Books there are only a little bit of diverse books. This is a problem because black people want to see mirror books and mirror books are like if your life is like the book. So please fix this.

Sincerely,
Amethyst

 

Dear Scholastic Books,

My opinion is that diverse books matter. I feel that my opinion is correct because in some countries people want to read diverse books but the countries don’t have diverse books. For example some people of color want to read a mirror book. I feel my opinion is correct because if me as a Black person wants to read a diverse book and they don’t have diverse books I’ll feel bad. At first I didn’t think diverse books were important, but now I think diverse books are important. I think characters of color matter!

Sincerely,
Amber

If you’ve been inspired by this week’s Real World Wednesday to become a change maker around diversity in children’s literature yourself, here are some tips from Wade Hudson.