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!
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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!

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!

2016 NAEYC Annual Conference: Call for Proposals!

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 1.50.00 PMDear Diversity & Equity Education for Adults (DEEA) Interest Forum Members and friends,

Proposals for the 2016 NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles are due this Friday (1/15) and we’d love to see a robust offering of sessions related to diversity & equity issues in early childhood care and education.  Information about how to submit a proposal can be found here.
Let us know what you’re submitting, and we’ll do our best to promote your work!

What is Christian hegemony?

It’s Real World Wednesday and this week we get to learn from both Talia Cooper & Hadar Harris!!

Talia has been working as a Jewish youth educator and organizer for the past nine years, first as the executive director of Jewish Youth for Community Action, and now as the program director for Ma’yan and a youth trainer for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. 1929869_1659933880963006_4840128724977366613_nShe is currently reading Paul Kivel’s book “Living in the Shadow of the Cross” and is excited to share some of her learnings about Christian hegemony and how it connects to our work with youth.

Hadar currently works as the Executive Director of the Northern California Innocence Project where she works to to create a fair, effective and compassionate criminal justice system and to protect the rights of the innocent. From 2002 – 2015, she was the Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. She is also the mom of two young boys.

This week, we asked them: What is Christian hegemony? How does it show up in schools? How does it impact kids? And what can teachers do about it?

Here are their incredibly thoughtful and thought-provoking responses:

Hello awesome people. My name is Talia Cooper.

So what is Christian hegemony? It’s a fancy sounding term that basically means Christianity is considered the norm while all other religions and peoples are, well, other. Christian hegemony is also the larger term that encompasses anti-Semitism, islamaphobia, and the oppression of other religious minorities. Note that a person doesn’t have to be a practicing Christian to still benefit from the bigger system.

Christian hegemony says things like, “Christmas is a normal, American holiday.” (Christian hegemony is also intertwined with white supremacy, which would say, “normal Americans are white.” Paul Kivel goes into more detail about the connections between Christianity and whiteness). I brought up Christmas because it’s often easiest for people to notice Christian hegemony during this time of year. But the reality is that Christian hegemony runs much deeper, affecting each and every one of us year-round, both institutionally and interpersonally, all the way down to our core psyches.

So how is Christian hegemony showing up in schools & affecting kids? Some examples include: requiring kids to make Christmas ornaments and sing Christmas songs, having no school on Christian holidays, giving tests and quizzes on other peoples’ religious holidays, and having SATs on Saturdays.

But it’s even more complex than that. Here’s one way Christian hegemonic thinking shows up in schools:

It is a Christian ethic that hard work is good and will be rewarded (and conversely that laziness is bad and will be punished). This ethic in Christianity often refers to the afterlife, but in a secular Christian culture the concept shows up as reward and punishment in this life (we see this in political rhetoric all the time, like with the notion of “welfare queens” being lazy good-for-nothings). In my Jewish culture, for example, we believe that there is inherent goodness in all people and no one needs to work hard to prove this. I should say that I know plenty of Christians who also believe this, but what I’m talking about now is the dominant Christian narrative that has invaded all of our institutions and thoughts—not individual Christians. (I’m really not trying to get down on Christians here, and neither is Paul Kivel).

Paul Kivel always used to say to me, “Hard work is just hard work. It’s not inherently good.” Dictators work hard. Donald Trump works hard (sometimes). Oil companies work hard. So are they doing good things for the world? No.

And yet we continue to teach kids the virtue of hard work.

Does that mean that we should instead teach them to do hard work that is actually good for people and the planet?

I suppose that would be an okay next step.

But for me, I believe that people inherently want to work hard and contribute to their communities. This is because doing nothing is boring. Being connected to people, deepening those connections, and finding our strengths and passions—now that’s a fun life!

I don’t think we have to drill it into our kids that they have to work hard, because most people are capable of figuring out on their own how to lead an engaged life. My friend, Megan Madison, reminds me that she has never seen a lazy baby; young ones are constantly squirming around, making eye contact and engaging with their environment.

But we don’t foster this. Instead we latch on to the dominant Christian ideology that hard work is good and should be rewarded. Then we administer rewards and punishments as needed. Kids who don’t fit the education system are told it is their fault and are punished. Kids who do succeed work themselves tirelessly. This is a disservice to everyone.

Here’s an example of how “hard work” plays out in our education system: a kid who does lots of community service and volunteering is rewarded in the college admission process. A kid who really focuses on taking care of their health and on building amazing friendships will not be rewarded in this process (and likely punished for not having extra-curriculars).

So what can we do about it? Well, big picture, I think we need to reshape the entire education system, from pre-K through graduate school so that we’re not simply producing hard workers, but instead fostering connected, curious, loving, liberation-minded beings. Let’s work together towards that!

whiteness7

And in the meantime, here are two other things we can try:

  1. Take out the morality and talk about logical consequences. There are different outcomes for different choices we make. For example, if we don’t brush our teeth in the morning, this does not make us a bad person worthy of punishment. Instead, not brushing teeth has the possible short-term outcome of stinky breath, and dental health issues in the long-term. The outcome of being mean to a kid in a classroom is that that person will feel hurt and it might take away from your own learning too. The outcome of having unprotected sex is that you could get very sick and/or pregnant (again, these are not punishments for being a sinner, they are just outcomes). Does that make sense? Take out the moralistic thinking. Just assume that people are inherently good and awesome, and that they might need help thinking through possible outcomes.
  2. Encourage rest and play. In addition to the regular subjects, be sure to include games and creativity as well! Teach kids to notice when their bodies need rest. Teach that playing games, making friends, creating art, and taking care of our bodies are things we get to do the rest of our lives. Teach these as highly important topics.

Start or keep doing these two things and you’ll be on the team of liberation and ending Christian hegemony.

Wow!  Thank you, Talia!  Here’s Hadar’s take:

It’s Not a War on Christmas – It’s a Campaign for Diversity!

My children were born in Washington, DC and they grew up in a “very Jewish” community for their first 7 and 8 years, respectively. Jewish day school.  Kosher markets.  Shabbat dinner with friends and family every Friday night. Even “Sunday Little League” so as not to interfere with Saturday synagogue time.   That said, they had non-Jewish friends and lived in the larger world, but life was definitely on a Jewish schedule.

This past August, we moved to the Bay Area.  I moved back to the Bay Area (I grew up here) but the boys moved here.  And while Leo started second grade at a Jewish day school, Adam started third grade in a small school for bright kids with learning differences.

It is a great school that has been transformative for his learning, but it has also been transformative in other, unexpected ways.  Mostly, his awakening recognition that he is a Jew, living as a minority in broader American culture.

Adam easily found good friends in his class of twelve boys and the transition was remarkably easy for him, but as winter break approached, we had a tearful bedtime discussion (when most important conversations seem to take place).  He was agitated about the school “Holiday Extravaganza” concert and oddly, asked me if he could stay out of school “for a week or so after break.” I asked him what he meant since Christmas would be over by then, and he launched into an apparently long pent-up monologue.  I posted on Facebook that night as my heart broke for him.

Here we go: Nine year old boy experiencing his minority religious status for the first time. Painful, heartfelt weeping about feeling excluded and judged because he does not celebrate Christmas (he is the only Jew in the class). Significant fear of being ridiculed because he will not receive Christmas presents (and everyone is already comparing notes about what they will receive – apparently some nasty comments have already been made). Frustration and annoyance of feeling invisible at a time where everything is focused on a set of traditions he does not observe (I offered to go into the class to talk about Hanukkah but the teacher never scheduled it). That said, no request to actually celebrate Christmas (good, since we don’t). No begging for a Christmas tree (unlike some family members who shall remain nameless…) There were real tears in this conversation. Another hard moment when childhood confronts reality and the world becomes a little bit harsher and more complicated…

That night I also emailed his teacher and the top school administrators, describing Adam’s reaction and concerns.  The response was swift but somewhat unsatisfying, particularly in light of the fact that I had already asked the teacher if I could come in and share our Hanukah traditions with the class (to which I had had no response). His teacher (who is wonderful in so many ways), assured me of her efforts “to remain “holiday neutral” in the classroom.”  She told me that the “Holiday Extravaganza” concert “will not be simply a celebration of Christmas. The class numbers are all about the “winter season” (lots of snow stuff)…”

And yet when I walked into the school the next day, I saw the overwhelming evidence of Adam’s feeling of “otherness.” The teacher had put “The 12 Days of Room 3” on their classroom door.  Against a red backdrop, she had made twelve windows, like an Advent Calendar, representing each of the 12 boys in the class.  Each day, they opened another window as they counted down to winter break with a short poem about each boy (they were all boys) and a picture of the kid with his favorite Star Wars or Minecraft or other figure.  At the bottom of the door it said “Happy Holidays” and there was a picture of a Christmas tree – and a menorah. It was cute – but it was clearly Christmas.  In addition, the school’s main office was decorated with snowmen dressed in red and green, poinsettas, and a banner saying “Merry Holiday.”  All week before the break, teachers were dressed up with reindeer headbands and ugly Christmas sweaters. It may have been cloaked in snowflakes and the non-denominational classic “Jiggle Bells” but it was 100% Christmas.  Let’s be honest: we don’t have snowmen or reindeer in Palo Alto – even in the era of climate change…

Further explaining her curricular efforts at “holiday neutrality”, Adam’s teacher wrote: “All of our morning journal entries have been on topics like “tell us about a holiday tradition you enjoy with your family”, “what are you looking forward to doing over the break”, and “if you could give your parent(s) any gift what would it be”.”  I realized then, that while she felt that she had truly tried to be sensitive, the pull of “Christmas hegemony” (if not Christian hegemony), and the lack of understanding of other traditions was too strong.  She didn’t “get it” that her “neutral” questions were loaded and still marginalized or excluded some of the kids in the class – maybe most especially, mine.

That said, the same week as the Holiday Extravaganza, Adam and his classmates presented their reports on the California Missions (a rite of passage for California students). The hegemony of Christmas may have been in full force, but at least the presentations and posters acknowledged the egregious abuses against the Native Peoples by the missionaries.  That certainly wasn’t part of the reporting and research when I was growing up in California.  It gave me some hope.  I guess as much as some things stay the same (Christmas), there is hope for the recognition of diverse experiences and maybe even diverse traditions someday.

Three Quick Tips for Educators/Parents:

  1. Fried latkes do not smell the same as pine needles.  Hanukah is not the Jewish Christmas.  Neither are Diwali or Eid.  None of “us” have Christmas-substitutes.  They are different holidays with different traditions and different stories underlying their creation
  2. “Holiday Neutral” Doesn’t Mean Adding Menorah Clip Art. To truly be “holiday neutral,” the central holidays of all students’ religious (or non-religious) traditions should be equally observed, discussed and respected.  These may not all occur in December (indeed, they don’t).  For the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah (usually at the start of the school year) or Passover (in the spring) are much more important holidays than Chanukah. Purim (with hamentaschen and costumes) is much more fun! Other religions have holidays like Diwali and Eid which are wonderful, tradition-rich holidays enabling true sharing of values, beliefs and traditions (not to mention (more) great food!) Valuing the key holidays of all religions enables more neutrality than simply creating Christmas add-ons to make the non-Christian kids feel a little better. Also, by highlighting other traditions before Christmas, that may sensitize the Christian children to a broader diversity of traditions (and might inspire them to be more tolerant) before the overwhelming Christmas-Is-Everywhere month of December begins.
  3. Schedule the “Winter Concert” for Actual Winter.  There is no reason that the Winter Concert needs to take place before winter break.  Indeed, winter doesn’t technically start until after the December 21 solstice – and by that time schools are usually on holiday (they were this year!)  By scheduling the concert before Christmas, there is pressure (perceived or real) to perform “holiday” (i.e. Christmas) music which will inevitably exclude – or essentialize – someone.  It’s still winter in January. Schedule the damn concert after break!

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU, Talia and Hadar!

Getting Involved in Social Change

Slide1Happy Real World Wednesday! This week we have the pleasure of featuring Susan Ochshorn!!!

Susan is the founder of the consulting firm ECE PolicyWorks and the author of Squandering America’s Future: Why ECE Policy Matters for Equality, Our Economy, and Our Children.  She has served in a number of advisory positions, including on the council of the Early Learning Initiative at the Education Commission of the States. A former journalist, Ochshorn has written for CNN Opinion, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, and other publications. She blogs at the Huffington Post and ECE Policy Matters, the go-to place for early childhood teachers, those who train them, and the decision makers who determine their professional course.

Given her background, we couldn’t wait to ask her: What are some ways that early childhood professionals can get involved in social change?

Here’s her inspirational response:

Hello! Thank you for hosting me. This is an awesome space. I’m talking not only about this interest forum, which has incredible potential. I’m thinking of all you early childhood professionals. You’re part of a renaissance of social activism.

Recent research by NAEYC has found that society’s perceptions are changing—more people have a positive image of those who work with young children and families. Hallelujah! But I don’t have to tell you that the workforce is struggling in real time. The vast majority of early childhood teachers are women, many of them under-educated and living on the margins. The pressures under current education reform policies, rooted in standards-based accountability, are unprecedented, and support, inadequate.

For early educators of color, the lift is heavier still. These teachers NAEYC discovered, were more likely than their white peers to perceive a range of obstacles in pursuing their careers. The litany is long, and familiar: finding a job with adequate pay and benefits; affording the cost and navigating the process of getting a college degree; and understanding the requirements for credentialing and certification. Add lack of training and mentoring, low compensation and herculean work schedules, and limited opportunities for climbing the ladder, and you’ve got a workforce on the short end of equity and social justice.

This profile mirrors that of families and children. Toxic stress and violence are proliferating, along with the growing number of homeless and hungry children. Parents live in a time when the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness butts up against a gap in income on part with that of El Salvador. Our child poverty levels—above 50 percent in Louisiana post-Katrina—put us to shame on the world’s social justice index.

The good news is that growing numbers of caregivers and educators across the nation are raising their voices in unison with other activists within and beyond the early childhood community. The issues of economic, racial, and social inequality, as well as educational inequity have gone main stream. Some of the seeds for collaboration are already taking root on this page (Child Care Fightfor15). Many more organizations, initiatives, and movements are sprouting like mushrooms all over the country, some with state affiliates. Here’s just a handful: EduColor, ColorofChange, Badass Teachers Association, Network for Public Education, Caring Economy Campaign, Economic Justice, United Opt Out, Outdoor Afro, Progressive Education Network.

But don’t for a minute underestimate the power of local advocacy and activism. You need to get into the policy and political weeds, working at the grassroots in your own particular ecosystems. Otherwise, those who know little about children, and are woefully inadequate to the task, end up making big decisions with dangerous repercussions.

Onward!

Posted by ECE PolicyWorks on Friday, December 18, 2015