By 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
*New here? You can find all the book study details HERE. Happy reading!
Book Study Timeline!
(click on chapter or name below to access that content)
This book study is sponsored by Redleaf Press