Ok, I’ll admit, I live in such a tiny bubble within my community. Honestly, the biggest city from my hometown is about 45 minutes away. Sure, we enjoy shopping and hitting the big city once in a while, but within my area, we are very small. So small, in fact, that the idea of early childhood organizations or communities of practice never really dawned on me. I have heard, of course, of National Association for the Education of Young Children; however, that is a nationally recognized organization for early childhood. Could it be that there are in fact local and state organizations for early childhood education? Should I take a daring further step and ask, “Would they even appeal to me?” Within the course of one evening, my mind was overwhelmed by how much support the local and state levels have to offer early childhood education. Not only are there organizations and communities of practice, but they actually appeal to me – sweet, hometown ol’ me! Allow me to introduce you to a few of them:
I was SO excited to discover this organization, which focuses on current issues related to inclusion and diversity. This organization truly adopts a community of practice attitude by offering regular meetings and including a diverse amount of people, like businesses, educational representatives, health care representatives, and even those who represent the law. To me, this is a true picture of a diverse community of practice. I was drawn to this organization primarily because it fosters a community of practice that focuses on my professional passion of inclusion. Not only would I be able to meet countless individuals who share my passion, I would also be able to gain a wealth of resources of how to become an even bigger advocate for inclusion, as well as so many other topics. In addition, I really liked this organization because it discusses controversial topics, like LGBT in the work place. I would absolutely love to engage in this type of organization to expand my own knowledge about these issues. Does this group appeal to you? If so, please feel free to visit their website at: http://diversityinclusionpcp.org/.
So, how about a raise of hands for those who did not know that NAEYC has state-affiliated organizations, like the PennAEYC? Well, if you raised your hand, it’s ok. I’m in the same boat. With just a bit of research, my awareness about state early childhood organizations raised significantly! The PennAEYC is indeed the state affiliation of NAEYC. I adore the NAEYC and the various stances they take about countless topics within early childhood education. Therefore, this group appealed to me with just the simple letters of NAEYC, however I was drawn more so to this group because it is within my own state. Rather than just networking with professionals nationwide (which is still a great practice), I will be able to join forces with professionals within my own state! Through this resource, I hope to gain additional resources and networking leads for my own community of practice, as well as join additional communities of practice to enhance my professional knowledge and understanding. Interested in this state- affiliated NAEYC group? Visit their website at: http://www.pennaeyc.com. (Or maybe your state has its own affiliation – a simple google search is so helpful!)
I love, love, love the Pennsylvania KeyStone Stars program, which is an accreditation program to produce high quality early childhood centers. This is a state-wide organization, however the state is broken down into different regions, like the Northeast region (which is where I am from). I am interested in this specific organization (as in the Northeast region), because it will definitely allow me to build a broader network of professional support within my own area. In addition, I will hopefully be able to work with local centers on achieving the next star in the accreditation program. At the state wide level, the Keystone Stars is a great program that works well to advocate for high quality early learning environments. I’ve had the honor of working for two different centers who were enrolled in this program, and the difference between stars is outstanding! In addition, there are grants and awards provided for each star earned. Currently, there is only one 4-star center within my community (which is one of the highest levels, if not the highest, a center can go). I’m excited to partner with the Northeast Region to advocate for more 4-star centers in my community. Read more about this organization at: http://www.cscinc.org/northeast-regional-key
Alright, so the Lauren’s Hope Foundation may not be a professional organization, however I felt it was an important foundation to mention, as it works to provide support for children with brain injuries and their families. Since this aligns smack dab with my professional passion, I adore this foundation. Perhaps I should mention that I am actually apart of this foundation, as a parent since my son suffered from a brain injury at birth. This foundation offers seasonal activities, like a Mother’s Day massage and breakfast with Santa. It may not sound like much, but hosting these activities offers parents and families additional support from other families and professionals. It is a tremendous help! In addition, this foundation is a part of a community of practice that works to provide hyperthermia treatment for newborns with brain injuries. Amazing, right? Read more at http://www.laurenshopefoundation.com.
A Shift in Thinking …
Here’s another confessions: I enrolled in this Master’s degree program with the intentions of becoming a director at an early childhood program. It was a simple ambition, and I thought for sure that role would be enough to make a difference within my community. While I am not saying that it is not enough, after completing all of these courses, I realized that my ambition has changed. I am inspired, motivated perhaps, to take on a professional role that would involve working within a community and perhaps with multiple centers, not just one. I desire for my advocacy and professionalism to impact as many people as possible. Therefore, I shifted my thinking from being a director to becoming something more in early childhood education. However, my question remained: what more is out there for early childhood education? Alas … there is more … so much more. Here are just a few of the job opportunities I came across that really interest me:
Child Development Partner
Doesn’t this sound super awesome? This job opportunity would allow me to work with a variety of families by “providing comprehensive child development and family development services” (Community Services for Children, 2010a). Being a mommy-to-be or a brand-new mommy, you are faced with so many changes that thinking about child development seems like a foreign idea. However, with this role, I would be able to become an advocate and provide these new families with this information, enabling them to become better advocate themselves. This aligns directly with my vision of being a professional, hence, it’s truly an ideal job. While I have most of the skills and experience needed to fulfill this job, I would probably need additional experience working with infants and toddlers (as my little boy is nearly 5!), and working on my rusty Spanish is a must! However, other than that, I believe I am prepared to meet the majority of these job qualifications.
Professional Development Specialist
This role really grabbed at my professional core, at it deals with training other professionals to “increase educator proficiency in the teaching of STEM education” (Pittsburgh Technology Center, 2009). While I adore working with children and their families, one of my secret passions is training other professionals to increase their competency and ability to provide high quality care. This job opportunity sounds like a dream to me, as I would be able to design and create professional development sessions and instill in others my passion for high quality early childhood education. Furthermore, I’d get to present at “regional, state, and national conferences” (Pittsburgh Technology Center, 2009), which would allow me to truly impact a LOT of people. While this job opportunity sounds great, I would need to become a PQAS Instructor (or be willing to be trained.) Since I’m not quite sure what those letters entail, this would definitely be something I would need to investigate. In addition, I would need to gain more classroom teaching experience and deepen my awareness about research-based methods. It seems like a bit to accomplish, but if I put my mind into it, then there’s nothing I can’t do.
Workforce Developmental Specialist (with the PA Keys Northeast Region)
This job is similar to the professional development specialist, as it focuses on “program planning and development” (Berks County Intermediate Unit, 2012). However, within this job opportunity, I would be working the the PA Keys program to develop “alternate pathways for the Career Lattice, develop and implement infant/toddler framework and credential, and Peer Mentor Certification” (Berks County Intermediate Unit, 2012). I love to research and design new curriculum methods, including those highlighting the needs for infants and toddlers. I am passionate about advocating for a more developmentally appropriate curriculum, and this job would definitely provide that opportunity. I’m excited about this job, as I currently meet all of the above skills and experiences needed. However, I should probably review and strengthen my understanding about the Keystone Stars program, including the career lattice and the infant/toddler framework.
So far, I am blown away by the amount of information I have gained just by doing research on local and state organizations. I am now even more excited to begin my career with a Master’s degree by looking at some of the job opportunities. Stay tuned, as I discover some exciting national and international opportunities in the coming weeks.
Until then, your colleague-in-crime, Erin