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!

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.

 


 

From fear, shame, and silence to courage, love, and voice

This week on our Facebook page we shared links to a number of videos and resources to inspire us to shift from fear, shame, and silence to courage, love, and voice.  Enjoy!

Sunday

“Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, ‘Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh.’ That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, ‘You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ That’s our job.”

Monday

“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t”

Tuesday

“the moment I realized something was different about me was the exact same moment that I began conforming and hiding.”

Wednesday

For the full talk, click here.

Thursday

“The most important thing that you’ve got to do is remember the difference between the ‘what they did’ conversation and the ‘what they are’ conversation.”

Friday

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect.”

from The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action (excerpt) by Audre Lorde

Saturday

“Each day, my Black skin feels a bit thicker and even more beautiful. I am growing more confident in using my words as a weapon to fight the fear that used to steal my voice on dark days. I am sharpening my tongue, as Black women have done for generations before me, because I refuse to be rendered voiceless in the face of state apparatuses that seek to destroy Black bodies and lives.”

from For Black Girls Who Are Trying To Find Their Voices by Maya S. Zeigler

So I’ve got all these diverse children’s books, now what?

Improving the diversity in children’s literature has been getting a lot of attention over the course of the last few years–and for good reason!  We’ve got a long way to go.  Big shout out to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and everyone else who’s doing this important work!

diversity_tinakugler

At the same time, there’s a lot more to the conversation about diversity & equity in children’s literature than simply making bookshelves more diverse.  As exemplified by the recent release and then swift recall of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, just because a book features a non-white character doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an anti-bias book.  On this topic, Louise Derman-Sparks has done some fantastic work putting together An Updated Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books, which we’ve turned into the handy tip-sheet below:

Slide04

This webinar, Using an Anti-Bias Lens to Examine Early Childhood Childrens Books in Your Program, hosted by Linda Santora and Cheryl Kilodavis is also a great resource.  And so is this post by Dr. Cathy Gutierrez-Gomez on Tips for Choosing Culturally Appropriate Books & Resources About Native Americans.

2013-11-06 14.00 Using an Anti-Bias Lens to Examine Early Childhood Childrens Books in Your Program by Linda Santora and Cheryl from Engagement Strategies, LLC on Vimeo.

And secondly, we’ve gotta think carefully and critically about what happens when we take our high-quality, diverse, anti-bias children’s literature off the shelf and actually use them in our homes and classrooms.  How do we use these books to create meaningful experiences for young children that open up and support ongoing conversations about diversity and equity?  At the end of the day, we have to remember that while books are amazing resources (we LOVE books!), they do not do the work of anti-bias education for us.  That’s still up to us.  We’ve put together some Dos and Dont’s below.  What would you add to the list?

Slide06

The blog Raising Race Conscious Children also has some great tips and strategies.

And finally, while you might have created your own personal library full of diverse, anti-bias children’s literature, there is still a larger systemic problem that you can (and should!) play a role in addressing.  Check out this fantastic post: Ten Steps to Promote Diversity in Children‘s Literature by Wade Hudson.

Let’s talk about the preschool-to-prison pipeline…

It’s Real World Wednesday again and did you know that black students are suspended or expelled from school at three times the rate of white students?!  And this startling disparity in school discipline starts early.  As you can see below, while Black children comprise only 18% of all preschoolers, they make up almost half of all out-of-school suspensions.

What’s driving this inequity?  According to many researchers, implicit bias is heavily implicated. As stated in this Issue Brief on the implications of implicit bias in early childhood care and education: “Black boys are often viewed by teachers as unruly and aggressive, which biases, often unconsciously, how they are supported academically or disciplined.”

Researchers have also cited the disparate impact of zero-tolerance policies that “criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school” (ACLU, 2015).

Weighing in on this important topic, this Real World Wednesday we’re hearing from Tommy Micah and Trilce Marquez.

Trilce is a 4th grade teacher in New York City. She has been teaching for nine years and has taught grades 1-4 in both district and charter schools. And she loves kid jokes almost more than the kids do. And Tommy is dean of students at Achievement First Endeavor Elementary School where he says his job is to, “make school fun, keep kids safe, and keep parents happy”. In his work, Tommy coaches teachers in taxonomy and school culture while also behaviorally supporting scholars in need. Tommy works closely with parents and teachers to ensure scholars have the best academic experience while also learning what it takes to be the future leaders of our world.

We asked them, in your work, what do you see driving the preschool-to-prison pipeline?

Here are their incredibly insightful responses:

Trilce

I’ve worked in several different educational settings–from a zero tolerance, no excuses school to a classroom without any structured disciple system set up. No matter what classroom or school I’ve been in, one thing has always been true: students are going to have great days and moments, and days or moments when they struggle. So will I. But, something that has been different depending on the setting has been the trauma that individual students have experienced because of the way the discipline systems in place are implemented. When students are penalized for minor infractions like having their eyes off their books during a 20 minute independent reading block, or not being able to repeat an answer that another student has given, students are often only left with the disappointment of being unable to get it (their behavior) right. That hard line is very difficult for students to maintain and the feeling that things don’t feel fair can often cause students to push back. These students, the ones who are often asking us to become better educators by broadening our ideas of what it looks like, sounds like and feels like to pay attention, learn, work and play in school are then often suspended or expelled.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen a lack of any consistent discipline confuse students about what behavior is “allowed” in what contexts. Students and teachers feel surprised when there is an explosion of emotion– from either the student or the teacher–about behaviors that are happening that haven’t been addressed before. Calling out in class often makes me think of how easy it is to not hold students to the same standard, and then feel frustrated when they do exactly what we’ve shown it’s okay to do. When I find myself feeling frustrated and getting ready to give a student consequence for calling out, it’s on me to calm down and think back through the day (or even the mini-lesson) to see how often I’ve actually reminded students of the expectation that they shouldn’t call out. If I haven’t been consistent in making sure students aren’t calling out and all of a sudden the noise level begins to drive me crazy, it isn’t fair to start giving consequences to the next few students calling out. When I’m not having honest conversations with students about the behaviors (and being honest about my role in those behaviors), it can feel hard on both ends to know and follow any set of expectations.

But therein lies the real culprit that I’ve seen driving the preschool-to-prison pipeline. In both kinds of school, teachers aren’t talking about race and racism. Teachers, administrators, staff–there isn’t a dialogue about how we are seeing, talking to and disciplining our students of color in comparison to our white students. We aren’t looking at our assumptions, examining data about white and non-white student discipline, and acknowledging that no matter who we are, we always bring something to our interactions with others. Without these conversations, there can be no change in how we respond to students.

Tommy

We have all seen and know the mounds of statistics as it relates to the school-to-prison pipeline. We know that Black and Brown students are four times more likely to be suspended than their white peers. We know that 70% of “in-school” arrests are of Black and Brown students. We also know that over 68% of the male prison population lacks a high school diploma. Where did our schools and communities fail these students? From my experience, I believe one cause is the one size fits all and zero tolerance discipline systems.

As any teacher can tell you, no two students are alike. We differentiate our teaching to meet the needs of all our students. For some, through IEPs, we are legally required to provide systematic and differentiated support. But when it comes to discipline and behavior, it’s frequently different. If we know this, and do it to teach, why do our behavior systems not reflect this?

So, now what? In focusing on solutions, we must empower teachers to change a key mindset. Students don’t act out to be bad, stop your lesson, or otherwise raise our blood pressure! First our students are not simply a statistic, grade, headache, or number on a roster. They are people. People with names, emotions, interests, joys, and worries. We must see, know, and believe that the misaligned behavior is due to a student’s lagging skills. We must show empathy and work with the student and family to replace the misbehavior with a more appropriate classroom behavior. What will this take? Lots.

First, teachers must collaborate in deciding what the misaligned behavior is and its cause. Teachers must share best practices in working with the individual child. Before that, teachers must listen. Empathize with a student having a difficult time. Be their hero who’s there to support them and believes that they can and will fix it. And, teachers must believe that the best place for the student to fix the behavior is in the classroom. However, the school is not a silo. Most importantly, this is not just the teachers. This is the school community. From principal, to dean, to art teacher, to family. The entire village must know and believe we can change behavior by taking the time to differentiate and explicitly teach to our vision for excellence in class and life.

Yes, it’s a lot. We are people. We don’t change behavior in a day. But, school communities can work to dry the faucet in the school-to-prison pipeline by refocusing on the cause of misbehavior and supportively teaching the agreed upon correct behavior.

It may be easy in the moment to have the student out of our class, out of our school, so our other students can learn. But, as educators and a community, we must always remember. Remember that, not just that child, but our whole society will feel the consequences. As teachers, we come to teach all kids. But, we fail when not all kids can come to school.

In the spirit of the critical reflection that Tommy and Trilce have modeled for us, we invite you to take a few moments to take the Implicit Association Test, reflect on the results, and start a conversation with a colleague or friend about them.  Dismantling the preschool-to-prison pipeline starts with us.  Happy Real World Wednesday and a big thanks to Trilce and Tommy for inviting us into such an important conversation!


Additional resources

 

Resource on “Talking to Muslim Children about Acts of Violent Extremism”

Dr. Aliya Saeed in partnership with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently released this important resource:

Talking to Muslim Children about Acts of Violent Extremism

Additional resources include:

As the report states so eloquently:

Schools exist to educate, empower, and prepare students to navigate the world. However, when students are discriminated against, bullied, and/ or marginalized, they suffer academically and miss out on developing the skills and confidence needed to succeed. As minority students, American Muslim youth are more susceptible to the long term effects of these types of behaviors. As such, a dedicated effort must be made to report and expunge Islamophobia and Islamophobic rhetoric from schools.

We couldn’t agree more!  Thank you CAIR and Dr. Saeed!