Sunday, June 28 2020
I have not kept up with my blog over the past few years. I could give excuses and find reasons, but let's put it this way.
I got distracted.
I was not keeping my eye on the prize.
The prize here is high-quality early childhood programs, high-quality teacher professional development, and just overall awareness and advocacy for the importance of the early years.
It's been 6 years since I first wrote a blog post on cultural awareness in the early childhood classroom. And in all honesty, nothing has changed. SIX YEARS! I still see the same stereotypical images in classrooms. I still see teachers who mean well but are not authentically incorporating diversity into their programs. I still see entire programs that do not get what it means to be culturally responsive.
How can it be that in six years' time we've made NO progress in advancing early childhood education? How can it be that one of the only reasons a program attempts to be more culturally responsive is when they are going through some kind of review, e.g. state or national accreditation?
Unfortunately, the benchmarks and guideposts that are offered in any kind of review are cursory at best. Even with the NAEYC "Advancing Equity" position statement, we still have children who attend programs that do not reflect authentic diversity. The very first line of the position statement reads:
With everything going on in the world right now, it becomes even more critical for adults to create environments that support and celebrate diversity in all its forms. We are doing our children a disservice if we are not showing them - every day- how they are part of a global society.
There are so many good children's books available, yet most programs order the easy to find books or the ones with familiar characters. That doesn't help children feel a sense of belonging. If children do not see images of people who physically look like them, or families that look like theirs, or houses and food that looks like what they have, they will quickly become disenfranchised. How can you feel like you belong when no one else looks like you or has two dads, or eats foods from a cultural grocery store?
The words we use matter. The images we share make a difference. The way we embrace and celebrate our uniqueness matters. If we want children and families to know that we see them, we have to support them. We have to rethink the materials we choose. We have to be better about creating early learning environments that reflect who we are and the children and families we serve. We have to rethink what we teach and how we teach.
If we're really going to make a difference in the lives of children, if we really want to create equitable learning opportunities for all children, then the adults are the ones who need to change. WE are the only ones who can make that happen.
What are you doing to create equitable learning opportunities for the children and families you serve?