Saturday, November 28, 2015

Communication is Key

When inspiring social change, it is imperative that the message utilizes strong communication skills.  First, the message must be clear and coherent for people to understand.  Without understanding, people cannot rally behind the cause.  Second, a message needs to be concise.  Without focus, an idea can get lost in the noise.

I have had a lot of public speaking experience.  When I am prepared, I feel have strong communication skills as it relates to being clear and coherent.  I tend to get too wordy, because I like providing details.  I need to remind myself at times to stay focused.  I have seen my audiences pay more attention and not become distracted on the occasions when I was more concise and focused.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Creating a Social Media Plan to Train Teachers on Social-Emotional Skills

Teachers focus so much on teaching their preschool students letters and numbers, while simultaneously neglecting to provide instruction on emotions, self-regulation, and friendship making skills.  Yet, teachers are quick to view a child’s negative social behaviors more as an aspect of that child’s personality rather than a skill deficiency that can be rectified.  We know that the degree of quality in early childhood learning environments is largely controlled by the extent of the teacher’s knowledge and expertise in the field.  There is definitely a need for greater professional development for teachers on how to support students’ social and emotional development. 
Unfortunately, teachers in my region are not adequately trained to offer social-emotional learning (SEL) instruction to students.  Instead of proactively preventing challenging behaviors through supporting students’ emotional understanding, teachers without sufficient professional development are merely reacting to children’s behaviors through classroom management strategies.  As I have seen in my school, the end result is often frustrated teachers, students socially unprepared for kindergarten, and parents clueless as how to help their child.
Alternatively, the use of a social-emotional curriculum when combined with teacher professional development has been associated with increased student social competence.  Also, teachers who are more understanding of students’ developing emotions are more likely to show greater support to students’ negative feelings.  Through targeted SEL professional development teachers will be able to better reinforce students’ social skills, prevent classroom behavioral issues before they happen, and offer guidance to parents on how to support their child’s social and emotional development.
To overcome this gap in teacher training, in the Spring of 2016 I plan to host a professional development day that focuses on SEL instruction for all the teachers within my company’s eight area schools.  To ensure the event’s success, it is imperative that I effectively communicate the importance and particulars of the event to area teachers and administrators.
Facebook would be an obvious choice as a social media outlet.  Most teachers and parents of my school have liked our school’s Facebook page.  I could post an event there and it would reach most of our families.  Teachers could RSVP to the event through Facebook.  It would then advertise their anticipated attendance at the event to their contacts, which will help spread the word to other groups outside of my school.  Teachers that have RSVP’d to the event through Facebook would receive a reminder the day prior.  Event planners could post updates for the event regularly in the weeks leading up to the date to create additional interest.  One of the benefits to using Facebook would be its universal subscription by most of our families and teachers.  While the RSVP option is helpful, it does not have a registration feature to help us have more information on attendees, which could present challenges for planning the event.

A website for the event would also be a wise choice for social media advertising.  Its major benefit is that the site could be tailor-suited to the event’s needs.  We could create a registration page for participants to submit any necessary information.  It could potentially reach teachers, parents, and administrators.  The potential challenges would be the time and cost needed to create a quality website.  Another challenge would be getting people to know about the website.  We would have to post it elsewhere (such as Facebook) so that interested persons know where to find out more information about the professional development day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Although I have been a NC licensed child care administrator for over 15 years, I am still learning new things all the time.  I try to regularly evaluate my knowledge base and skill set to look for growth opportunities.  Recently, I identified three goals for myself.

First, I interact with licensing regulations and standards on a daily basis.  Currently, my state is in the process of changing its Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).  I would like to better understand how licensing regulations are made and updated.  By knowing this process, I could begin to advocate for the needs of children and parents in my school.

Second, I want to explore strategies on how to best support dual-language learners.  I have a large bilingual population in my school.  None of my teachers speak the families' native language.  By learning new techniques, I can better connect my teachers with the students and parents in their classrooms.

Finally, I would like to learn more about the Head Start program.  As a national, well-established program with a reputation of comprehensive, family-oriented programming, there is a lot I could learn from Head Start.  Hopefully, I will be able to identify components that I could incorporate at my school to help enhance our school-to-home partnership.

I would love to hear my readers' recommendations as they relate to these goals.  Any advise is welcome!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I have learned a lot this semester.  A child’s culture and family background greatly impacts his experience and learning.  I strongly connected to the story of Lia Lee, a Hmong child with epilepsy, who suffered under the cultural dissonance between her family and the medical doctors in Merced, California (Fadiman, 2012).  There are multiple perspectives on each situation—none are inherently right or wrong.  Educators need to consider the family and cultural beliefs present.  Teachers should focus on developing relationships with families based on mutual respect and consideration.  Then and only then can a true reciprocal partnership be achieved.  Ultimately, as in the case of Lia, it is the child who suffers when parents and teachers are unable to come together on goals and practices.


Fadiman, A. (2012). The spirit catches you and you fall down: A Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Over the course of the past several weeks, I have engaged in open dialogue with two colleagues that work with dual language learners and their families.  My colleagues have shared the same frustrations as myself.  We all want to create partnerships with the parents to support the students’ development, but it is very challenging to do so when there is often an even greater language barrier with the parents than with the children.  It is also difficult to respect cultural beliefs expressed by the families that may be contrary to early childhood best practices within Western culture.

I have reviewed a number of current research studies that have shared some common threads.  Dual language learners thrive in a bilingual environment that values both the majority language as well as the minority language.  Parental beliefs can greatly influence the degree to which a child maintains his or her heritage language.  The acquisition of language is a social enterprise that exist in the context of a community of practice.  Bilingual children gain a sense of identity through this community.

If bilingual learning environments are so beneficial to dual language learners, how do you find and/or train bilingual teachers in strategies to create those environments?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Challenges Facing Dual Language Learners

In my community, there is a growing population of immigrants from India.  Often, parents enroll their children in preschool with minimal to no understanding of the English language.  This can be challenging and even scary for young children to be dropped off in an entirely new environment, one in which they do not understand the communications spoken by the caregivers or other children around them.  Children who are dual language learners—especially those that experience a divide between the home language and school language—can develop a delay in their acquisition of language, as these children are taking in twice the amount of language input and vocabulary as single language learners. 

Some of the Indian parents in my community may have a working understanding of the English language, but rarely have fluency themselves.  I find that many of the families live in small communities made up of other Indian families and English is usually not spoken at home or within their neighborhood.  Among the families that I interact with, there seems to be little apparent interest of the mothers in learning English, as they are non-working and rely on the father to speak with the school.  This can hinder vital communications between school and home. 

I am curious as to how schools can improve communications between home and school and how they can increase parent participation.  I would also like to learn how schools can better provide for the dual language students’ developing language skills and emotional security.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Experts in the early childhood field point towards the value in outdoor play and open-ended dramatic play.  One growing trend that combines both pillars is the incorporation of loose parts into early childhood environments.  Loose parts can be anything from spare tires to wood pieces.  The benefits of including loose parts on playgrounds are:

§  Children become the creative masterminds of their own environment, allowing for a degree of independence and initiative.

§  Students are encouraged to work together to innovate and problem solve.

§  The materials give children age-appropriate challenge, as each age group uses the loose parts in different fashions.

§  The play expression is unique each day as students explore and pretend new adventures.

Check out these great resources on loose parts:

§  Let the Children Play blog post on the Theory of Loose Parts

§  Pinterest Page on ECE Loose Parts Play

§  Museum Notes blog post on Playing With…Loose Parts

What do you think about the inclusion of loose parts on preschool playgrounds?  How do you think children and parents would respond to loose parts?  What are some ideas and/or best practices you have to share regarding best practices?