23 Mar

Beyond The Pages ECE Book Study: Chapter 4 (Week 8)

By Susan Zoll

Susan Zoll

Welcome to the final week of study and conversation on Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era by Stacie G. Goffin. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn from each of you over the past eight weeks and I look forward to future opportunities Dawn will create, providing intentional space for our beloved early childhood community.

From your responses it’s clear you own your professional responsibilities towards children, their families, and your colleagues. So many of you serve in multiple roles: educators, mentors, coaches, administrators, instructors in higher education – in addition to nurturing your own families!

Professionalism in early childhood education exists and you’ve given voice to current issues and policies that impact your work: compensation, credentials, organizational climate, standards, a “disparity crisis” in learning opportunities for children…and the list goes on.

Take a few moments and look through the comments and the wealth of shared information provided by members of this virtual community. Which topic resonates for you, feels personal, stirs up something you can stand behind? If after this book study your goal is to be an active policy agent, rather than a passive policy target (Heineke 2015) you’ll need just one topic to begin your intentional conversation in a way that feels authentic and comfortable to you.

Last week, Betsy Carlin highlighted key aspects of an intentional dialogue focusing on the role of the “facilitator.” Chapter 4 also reminds us, we must consider the environment where our conversations will take place. As early childhood educators, this is imagery we understand. Just as we ready our classroom environments to meet the needs of children each day, we must think about the welcoming and respectful settings we create to begin our early childhood dialogues.

If your objective is to invite others into your classroom or school to host an intentional conversation regarding early childhood education, does your environment make visible your belief about the importance of young children? Stacy suggests, “pictures of children propped on easels or taped to a wall remind us that these conversations are about something larger than our individual roles or ambitions” (p. 66).  Or perhaps you prefer more personal settings and plan to begin an intentional conversation when you’re visiting a family in their home. Ultimately, your goal is to be inclusive; and whether hosting a group or only one other individual, we must come together to exchange in a spirit of mutual learning and exploration.

Earlier this month, NAEYC created such an inclusive environment for early childhood educators. The 2016 Public Policy Forum in Washington, DC provided participants with the opportunity to expand their understanding of federal policy and it’s impact locally. Truthfully, this was a new area for me and I felt a bit out of my comfort zone. But NAEYC had created a safe environment for it’s AEYC affiliates and we had the opportunity to meet our local delegates (R.I. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse).

Challenging, but productive conversations were had and I believe our field moved a little bit forward on the professional continuum – I know I did! Professionalism at the individual-level always falls along a continuum, with no visible endpoint. So, maybe it stands to reason that professionalism for the early childhood field is also about continuous improvement, always moving forward together.

So how will you help to move the field forward? Remember, to begin you need just one topic that you’re passionate about. For this week’s response, please share your topic and your plans for initiating the dialogue. Will you invite a small group or will you speak to a co-worker or a family member? And how will you prepare the setting for this conversation? How will you ensure a trusting and welcoming environment?

I’ll continue to monitor your responses and look forward to our collective conversation.

P.S.  If you’d like to research additional early childhood policy topics, NAEYC provides relevant policy and action resources you can review.

Heineke, A.J., Ryan, A.M., Tocci, C. (2015). Teaching, learning, and leading: Preparing teachers as educational policy actors. Journal of Teacher Education, v 66(4), 382-394.

Susan Zoll, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education
Director, Institute for Early Childhood Teaching and Learning
Rhode Island College
Email: szoll@ric.edu

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30 thoughts on “Beyond The Pages ECE Book Study: Chapter 4 (Week 8)

  1. Hands down I would have to say my topic would be the importance of learning through play. I want to be an advocate for play in classrooms where teachers have an extensive understanding of early childhood learning standards and can embed those standards in children’s play. Following their interests leads to learning. I want to challenge teachers in the programs I supervise to teach without worksheets and respect children’s individual interests.

    1. Robin, great point. In fact, as we professionalize the field, how do we inform the greater community about the value of play?

      Certainly working with your teachers is the perfect place to begin. Should we also “inform” parents so they become advocates beyond the classroom?

      In RI there is actually legislation to keep recess as part of the curriculum

      How else might we professionalize this topic?


  2. Thank you Susan for your thought provoking post.

    First I am very sorry I missed this year’s NAEYC Public Policy Forum. I heard it was terrific!

    For me the topic is Leadership Development at all levels of the field of early childhood. I believe for us to move this work forward by advocating both internally and externally we must all see ourselves as the leaders we are. I always say as soon as you enter a classroom or open your doors to children you are committing to be a leader because you lead those children.

    The focus of my ongoing work is to help individuals see their leadership abilities and to grow them. I will commit to facilitating more conversations to help individuals to move forward in their leadership journey.

    1. Hi Betsy, thanks so much for joining in the conversation. And yes, I highly recommend the NAEYC Policy Forum. A great platform and learning experience for those who want to expand their understanding of advocacy in our field at the local and national level.

      Leadership development is a foundational piece of our work, isn’t it? And by “at all levels of the field of early childhood” do you mean: at the classroom and program level, within higher education, across early learning settings, such as Head Start, community and faith-based programs, and family child care programs?

      If so, your point makes me wonder how we can better address the diverse needs of each of these groups – how do we advocate for each other to solidify our field and empower each other? As an example: how do I in higher education support the professionalism of family child care providers? How does a Head Start program advocate for community-based programs?

      Your post makes me wonder if you’re a program administrator? I greatly appreciate your supporting others in recognizing their own leadership abilities. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to self-assess our own actions or assign a professional term to our everyday actions in the classroom. But, the language we intentionally select can be very empowering. Thank you for your efforts to “help individuals to move forward in their leadership journey.”


  3. Susan – I was a hospital affiliated child care director for 20 years before I decided to pursue my masters in early childhood studies so I could better articulate what I had been doing for so many years…. sometimes by the seat of my pants. Now I am an early childhood consultant specializing in leadership development.

    You are correct when I said at all levels I was including the classroom and program level, within higher education, across early learning settings, such as Head Start, community and faith-based programs, and family child care programs.

    I think the first step for all of us supporting the diverse needs of early childhood is recognizing we all have the same goal – doing what is best for children and families. Each piece is necessary and vital. Finding ways to cross pollenate through conversations with intent is a great way to start. Then we can begin to understand how we are more the same then different and use each role’s strengths to move this work forward.


  4. I agree with Robin. Play is learning. Especially in the infant room. The children need to feel connected to caregiver and at same time feel independent to explore alone. I think the best way to inform is by example. documentation of how play is learning.

    1. Hi Mitzi – thanks so much for taking the time to join the conversation! I’m so glad you also raised “play” as an advocacy topic. This seemingly simple word has many definitions. If you’re an early childhood educator, you certainly are able to see the way “play” facilitates children’s learning. But, someone outside the field, with little (or no) professional ECE experience, may see play as a way for a child to pass time – your documentation that explicitly connects the learning experience to learning and development, is an opportunity to inform others of the great value of play.

      Also, thanks for also pointing out the importance of the caregiver who is an integral part of how a child learns through the play experience. How you and the child interact with the environment matters!

  5. Every child is valuable and could be an provided an opportunity to help them grow, develop, and discover the world around them. As we focus on the whole child including: emotional, social, intellectual, physical and personality development we are able to inspire a desire to learn. When we create experiences that simulate each child we can increase their self confidence. As we do we help build a foundation of enhanced self worth.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that every child deserves an opportunity to help them grow. However, a child would benefit from having an early childhood center for them to be curious and involved in the world around them. In this field I believe advocating on a public level and expressing the importance of early childhood is extremely beneficial for the success of the next generation. I think if communities understood the importance of early childhood, more programs would be available across numerous communities.

      1. Rachelle, we can hear your advocacy stance! Greatly appreciate your wanting to discuss the importance of early childhood education – and there’s so much great literature and research to support your dialogue.

        Is your plan to work with individual families in a child care program? I’m curious about your vision of advocating on a “public level” – what might this look like?

        Thanks so much for your comments!

    2. Jane, thanks for your rich comment! What you’ve stated makes a great advocacy statement and models for others how we can discuss our work with parents or with individuals who work outside the ECE field.

      Especially appreciated your connection to children’s development and learning across all domains, with a particular focus on their social-emotional development.

  6. Hi Susan,

    If I am to help make a change as the role of an early childhood educator , I would want to take courses that teach me about the common issues educators experience. In addition, I want to come to Know the things that are commonly ignored that negatively impact educators and their students. for example, I would want to read about why teachers are not payed well- Such as A scientist. without a doubt , scientists discover New things. However, educators discover what works in raising our future generation to be the best of the best. If I were to make a difference, I would study how children learn in China- the people there are very intelligent; for that reason- they are our allies. We can rely on their ability to help us because of their intelligence. Therefore, we should find a way to help educators get the benefits they deserve to make the American Dream a reality.

    1. Hi Ariel – you’ve raised a point that many in early childhood want to discuss – compensation! If current science is demonstrating how valuable and influential a high-quality early childhood education is on young children’s development, why would we not provide a living wage to early childhood educators?

      Certainly you can learn about current trends that are important to ECE through a course, but what might be some other avenues to learn about what is important to the field? Are there organizations that can support your understanding of these issues, as well as guide you in advocating for them? You may want to check out the NAEYC Position Statements http://www.naeyc.org/positionstatements – they’re a great resource for understanding relevant issues and how to support them in your classroom and program.

  7. I believe individuals and child care agencies should create and maintain portfolios showing parents and others how and what they are teaching and the children are learning. when caregivers get together to discuss ECE as a field of practice it is also a resource to see what people are seeing differently and in the same way which would help guide people in the same direction.

    1. Hi Mitzi – documentation is a great way to “make visible” relevant aspects of your work with children. Where do you typically showcase this documentation? Are there ways you might make your portfolios more public to share with individuals outside of your program?

      And you’ve listed a viable practice of using children’s work to organize teachers’ professional development. Is this something you’ve done in your own practice? How were the portfolios used to generate collective thinking?

  8. I completely agree with Mitzi on promoting the idea of student portfolios. I currently work part time at a Nursery School/Daycare center and have been there for over four years. We have been using the portfolio system for each child and I think its a great system. I think this is beneficial not only to the students, to see their improvement and be proud of their work, but an excellent way for teachers to monitor progress and for parents to see what their children are learning. A parent once told me, ” But come on you Early childhood people have the easiest jobs ever, you just play with children all day! You are just an expensive babysitter!” In order for this field to continue to grow and expand, its stigmas such as this “babysitter” idea that really needs to be dropped. I feel like these portfolios, really serve as a window for parents to be able to see tangible evidence, how hard we as Early Childhood Educators work to provide the best education possible.

    1. Samantha, you raise an important point regarding the conversations that we must begin with families. Your suggestion is manageable for most educators, but also helps a program to build trust and support with a family through documentation (and conversation) of their child’s learning/development.

      Especially agree that your documentation: when it’s complete, aligned to standards, rich in detail (images, work samples, etc.) provides a strong image of what we believe children are capable of knowing and being able to do.

      This is a useful strategy to encourage advocacy specific to our work with children – thanks so much!

  9. As I stated before I am a in home daycare provider. I send daily emails to families and let them know the basics for the day, once a week I focus on what we are studying the next week so if parents have anything that will aid in that study they are welcome to bring or present it. I also explain how we will be using play to learn. I use the Teaching Strategies Gold Assessments quarterly and have a conference with the families twice a year. I use the assessment summery form, pictures, art work of the children and observations. All the information is kept in the individual child’s portfolio. I like this system because everything is handy when I need it. I also give my parents tips to work with at home so they can see how the children learn thru play. One of my favorite handouts is the poem “Just Playing” by Anita Wadley, it gives a great view of what play can start.

    1. Cindy, what I appreciate MOST from your post is how you’ve highlighted where we are in the field. You share your organization of data collection and assessment of young children’s learning and developing using TS GOLD. And then you tell us that you share the poem about “play” with your families. Yes, I really think this juxtaposition really points out where we are!
      Even more impressive is how much you manage as a family child care provider. I have the greatest respect for your work. In fact, when my own children were very young I also was a home care provider (The Children’s Garden). So, I understand what it means to manage your work, build relationships with families, as well as stay current in all that is happening in early childhood.
      Thank you for taking the time to respond. And let me thank you for all you do for young children and their families!
      Best, Susan

  10. In Minnesota there is current legislation to support making early childhood teaching a recognized profession on the same level as other professional teachers, giving them the same legal rights and benefits as other teachers. Although it does not address compensation at this time, it is a beginning step in helping others recognize that Early Childhood is a valid teaching area, such as math, language arts or science would be. I had the opportunity to attend the hearings on this bill and was fascinated, encouraged and dismayed all at the same time, at the level of knowledge and support or lack of, given this issue. It is interesting that this is even an issue given the current push for quality preschool for all children. Why wouldn’t EC teachers be seen as equal and essential to this effort?

    1. Diana- forgive my delay in responding. When I read your response I was stunned. THRILLED, but stunned!
      Would love to learn more about this. Is there a link you could share? Perhaps this might make a great collective advocacy action. What is every state initiated such legislation?
      Please tell us more!

  11. National interest in early childhood education appears to be strong, but I don’t think the complexity of caring for preschool children is well understood. It takes more than money, education, and buildings to have remarkable results from early childhood dollars spent. The ability of teachers connecting with the children they serve is a crucial issue. Many adults did not have adequate early childhood educations, and too often lack the empathy, patience, thinking skills, and even social skills that are needed for the task. Education may need to deal with these issues of adult personality if we are to keep demonstrating that early childhood education is a valuable investment.

  12. Thanks for such great comments and insights throughout the book study everybody! I think the topic I will want to stand behind the most (as others have already mentioned) is the importance of play based learning. Even though my work place just recently implemented ideas and programs to move it in that direction, I would still like to facilitate more discussion and generate more support from the staff (some are still very resistant to the change) and more importantly, the parents of the children (again, some are concerned about the impact on their child’s kindergarten readiness) so that everybody is on the same page with the same information. It’s all about the DAP for me!

  13. My conversation topic, as a teacher in a corporate setting, who would most likely be discussing issues with other people like me, would be to ask ” how do you measure what you/we do?” I feel like policy makers and people outside our field need measurements, standards, and quantitative analysis to justify the importance and value in early childhood education.

    So how do I measure the value of what I do? Authentic, ongoing assessment is important to the parents and policy makers. They want to see evidence of what they are paying for . We use Teaching Strategies Gold and can provide evidence of growth and learning. It also gives us a planning tool which can be used as a group or individualized.

    What is important to me is seeing happy children, growing and learning and ~playing~. “Play” is difficult to quantify, but when images of playing children are captioned with words describing cognitive, social/emotional and STEM skill development, parents and policy makers start to see how much is learned through “play”.

    This tool may help to change the perception of care givers bring glorified babysitters, just ” playing” with children all day.

    The setting for my conversation would change with regard to my audience. For peers and close administrators, it would informal, over lunch or coffee, discussing Stacie’s questions with people who most likely share my hopes and frustrations.

    A conversation with teachers from different settings (home, center, church) might be set up in a neutral space, with each teacher bringing ideas and evidence of their successes and hopes for the future of our field.

    A conversation with policy makers, I think, would be most effective on my own turf. Not sure if it would be a conversation or a presentation. Showing them what I do, offering assessment charts & graphs and letting them see my children learn through play. I am reluctant to say I am “just a teacher”, but when trying to facilitate a conversation in this setting, I’m afraid that’s how I would be be perceived in a setting outside my comfort zone.

    As I reflect on all that must happen for professionalizing the field to become a reality I see the importance of starting these conversations early and often in whatever setting we find ourselves. Remembering Stacie’s advice on listening and learning without clouding the conversation with our own preconceived ideas or prejudices.

  14. My topic would probably be compensation or credentials. The amount daycare providers are paid for children receiving daycare assistance has not increased in many, many years. It is very difficult to invest in equipment and materials with such stagnant rates, and even staying in the field is difficult for many. In addition, our credentialing requirements are much more burdensome. I am not saying a change was not needed, but I do not think providers were heard with regard to how to transition to these new requirements. I plan to begin establishing more of a relationship with my local association to find a way to facilitate conversations on these two topics.

  15. As a childcare provider we already do a ton through play based learning. As a parent with one of my own nearing preschool age I just felt it wasn’t enough. I recently had a conversation with the other preschool aged parents and I decided to purchase a preschool curriculum just to be sure I am covering all of the bases. I have never had a parent show any concern with what I teach but I am new at this. I want to feel like I am teaching quality education to these deserving little minds. I have been working hard to professionalize ECE as I became a member of our states star rated program and had put in countless hours of education in the last year to do so.

  16. My topic would have to be respecting children as people. I always talk about respect in my program and try to actively teach and model it. I think people don’t always have a good grasp on what respecting a child looks like. Too often children receive the message that they are unimportant and not worth listening to when a parent or caregiver commands, talks over them or drags them along without talking to them at all. I think I could use my program’s Facebook page to start a conversation with intent about this topic.

  17. To move the field forward, you have to have buy in from the staff if you have any hope of being recognized as a professional from someone “outside” the field. That being said I think my topic would be centered around the importance of continued training in regards to seeing ourselves as professionals. Ideas like being intentional in choosing training opportunities and communicating to colleagues and parents about those choices would be included.
    This is built in for me as it is a topic being covered at our annual professional development days conference in a matter of weeks.

  18. Remind families and future clients that children learn best through play, not let them change my thoughts or make me question myself on this issue. I am looking into different curriculum for my program as my own son is turning 4 this year and going to be heading to school or preschool soon. As a parent and a provider I want to make sure he is ready for school. I became a provider when he was 8 months old and he has been home with me since then. I am his everyday go to his educator and his parent. This book gave me a new look into how things are working within the Early Childhood Education.

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