Observing Communication

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This week, there was a book fair taking place at the school where I teach. After school one day, I volunteered to cashier during the after-school hours. In observing a mother with her two elementary-aged children (approximately ages four and six), I took note of the mother walking around with her children, pointing out various titles or characters she knew her children would appreciate or relate to. The other volunteer I was working with, Paula, is handicapped and suffers from a severe speech impediment. Upon interacting with this family for the first time by affirming one of their book choices, the little girl exclaims, “you talk funny!” Her mother instantly blushes, becomes visibly embarrassed, and tells her daughter that she is being rude and unkind. She profusely apologizes to Paula for her daughter’s behavior. Paula volunteers often at our elementary school and handles situations like this on a regular basis. Rather than becoming offended, she asks the little girl if she would like to know why. The little girl nods her head, whereupon Paula gently explains that she was in an accident when she was a little girl and was hit by a car. The mother is still very apologetic and quickly pays for her purchases and ushers her children out of the room.

Through this observation, I realized how quickly interactions like these can occur and how we need to be proactive and prepared in communicating through them. The mother reacted in a way that was based on how she was feeling in regards to her daughter’s comment, rather than responding in a way that treated the situation as a “teachable moment.” In order to make this communication more effective and affirming, this mother could have responded by telling her daughter that everyone speaks differently, just like people from different countries, who speak different languages, but that this is part of what makes us unique and beautiful as individuals: no two of us are the same.

The way this interaction was handled by her mother could have made the little girl to feel badly or as though she could not communicate her feelings based on her innocent observations. When we handle situations as such, rather than to take advantage of these opportunities to teach anti-bias perspectives, we punish and silence children’s communication and learning process. Instead, we need to cultivate a space in which children feel safe to express and communicate their feelings (Laureate Education, 2011).

Through this interaction, I realized that while I often strive to take advantage of “teachable moments” in my classroom, I have plenty of room for improvement. Often, in the context of a classroom full of five and six year olds, it is easy to ignore seemingly small interactions between students. However, I need to become even more intentional about immediately responding to these interactions in order to help build an anti-bias framework and understanding with my students. The perspective then becomes one of “consciously shifting my mind from the immediacy of the conversation to consider it from other perspectives” (Stephenson, 2009, p. 90).

References

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Communicating with young children. Baltimore, MD: Author

Stephenson, A. (2009). Conversations with a 2-year-old. YC: Young Children, 64(2), 90-95. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database. http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=37131016&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Creating Affirming Environments

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In opening my own Family Child Care Home, I would want the center to evoke a “homey,” comfortable feel, similar to Adriana Castillo’s center (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). I would fill the space with soft, calming colors and would want different areas designated around the center to parallel areas in Castillo’s child care home, such as a welcome or greeting area, living room, calming room (“nap room”), and dramatic play area (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). I envision having a library or reading nook area with a basket of persona dolls to help infuse anti-bias education into reading and discussions (Derman-Sparks and Edwards, 2010). This is an area I would like to incorporate a multitude of books emphasizing various cultures and ethnicities and that emphasize anti-bias perspectives (Derman-Sparks and Edwards, 2010). In the dramatic play area, I would want to include dress-up clothes reflective of the children’s ethnicities as well as a play kitchen with utensils, containers, and food indicative of children’s cultures and home life.

I love Castillo’s idea of having a note section in which parents can record how their child is doing, any major changes they are experiencing, how they slept the night prior, and anything else the parent feels comfortable sharing in order to better meet the child’s needs for that particular day or week (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). In the living room area, I envision photographs of the children’s families, framed with colorful child-created frames. I would love this to be an area with soft pillows and blankets with baskets of books and toys, similar to many children’s living rooms at their homes. I think this would help cultivate a sense of safety and welcoming atmosphere. In the calm room or area, I would play soft instrumental music from various cultures in order to help soothe children who are distressed or trying to rest. Similar to my current classroom, I would want this kind of music playing upon the children entering the center, to help cultivate a soothing atmosphere.

To ensure that every child and family feels welcomed and accepted, I would want to meet with them regularly in order to facilitate conversations in which parents are able to communicate their goals for their children and provide insight into how child care workers can provide optimal support for their children. I would also like to provide opportunities in which families can visit the center and bring elements from their family culture to share with the children at the center.

References

Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Welcome to an anti-bias learning community. [DVD]. Strategies for working with diverse children. Baltimore, MD: Author