Well, dear friends and colleagues, we have taken another step closer to our Master’s degree by (nearly) accomplishing yet another course! We have learned so much independently and together about diversity, equity and social justice. As we reflect and review these past several weeks, we have the opportunities to share our professional hopes and goals for early childhood education. Below are just some of mine …
Children and families from diverse backgrounds may experience something called cultural discontinuity, which occurs when “other practices differ between the home and the program” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, p. 59). Basically put, the family’s culture that constitutes of their values, their traditions, their beliefs, and so many other things simply don’t fit into the dominant culture that they have entered into. When this does happen, a child may take the brunt of it all, feeling trapped between the culture at home and the dominant culture that fills the school or early learning environment. Louise Derman-Sparks supports this thought by stating that “children… (are) kind of forced to give up their family culture” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011b) when there is an incongruence between the two cultures. Furthermore, this can produce damage within the family, as Nadiyah Taylor stated that “children feel separated in some way from their family … they feel like they’re not whole” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011b). Based upon all of this information, it is very evident how much damage cultural discontinuity can be inflicted upon both children and families.
Therefore, it is my hope when working with children and families from diverse backgrounds that they experience a sense of cultural continuity, rather than the negative implications from cultural discontinuity. When children feel open and welcomed between both their home environment and the early learning one, then their development and growth will hopefully be enriched and optimized. Now, I must insert a side note here to those who may be wondering “well, how does an early learning environment welcome ALL children from different backgrounds?” The simple answer is a diverse environment, however it takes a lot of effort and energy to create this. Furthermore, the staff needs to be collaborative and cooperative, working together to incorporate all of these family cultures into the learning environment. Some of the steps that may be included are learning about the family, ensuring the family is reflected both in the center and the child’s classroom, and arranging for appropriate communication between families and staff. (For more tips about how I would be culturally welcoming to a new family, please see my post from last week.) Nonetheless, “children thrive when an early childhood program respects and integrates their home languages and cultures into all its aspects” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, p. 59). Therefore, it is my hope that as I work with children and families from diverse backgrounds that I will continuously work with both the professionals and the families to ensure that there is a sense of cultural continuity emitted to the children and families, so the children may feel that they will “always be able to go home again and belong” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011a).
One of the things that struck me this week were the words of Julie Benavides: “I think that this diversity work and anti-bias work, it’s also having to do with working with other adults in our institutions” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011c). Although this sentence was quickly shifted to focus on finding a voice in early childhood education, I really pondering my interaction with other adults within early childhood education. I realized how little I enjoyed working with (usually) other women. Imagine being cramped into a small building with dozens of children and 10-12 women. I cringe at the thought of all the drama that just we, the women (usually), create that keeps us from truly working together to best benefit the children. So often in early childhood education (and even in public education where I currently work), we as educators get caught up in our own work and working independently “to avoid that drama.” We need to look past the drama and work collaboratively together to create a better learning environment for the children. Therefore, my goal for early childhood education in relation to diversity, equity, and social justice is for the professionals and educators to collaborate and WORK TOGETHER to create equal and just learning opportunities for the children. As early childhood professionals, we need to move away from the drama and move together towards “co-constructing knowledge” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011c) together.
Before I sign off for a final time, I’d like to take this part of my blog to personally thank all of my colleagues and Professor Tuthill too! While I learned a lot about diversity and equity in relation to me, I was able to take my learning to a deeper (and higher) level due to the input, questions, and wisdom you all shared with me. I couldn’t have reached this point of where I am today without your help. Thank you to all of those in my blog group that left such amazing comments. I really loved all of the interaction in regards to the American-Spanish boy. Thank you to all of the colleagues in my discussion group and for their thoughtful comments and questions. Thanks to Dr. Tuthill for her feedback that challenged me to think and apply myself even more. Thank you in general to everyone for all of your support you extended these past eight weeks. I may not have said thank you often, but every kind word, comment, remark, or question was recognized and appreciated deeply. So, I stand here, applauding YOU.
For one final time for Perspectives in Diversity and Equity course, I am signing off.
Best of wishes to everyone.