Reflecting on Learning

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My most passionate hope in regards to my career in early childhood education is that I would eagerly seek to develop deep connections and relationships with children and families in order to maximize my effectiveness as a teacher and build on the strengths of each of my children and families. I want to inspire a community of learners that seeks to be compassionate, empathetic, welcoming, and eager to learn and try new things. This passion stems from my original passion of becoming a teacher. As Julie Olsen Edwards states, our job “requires adults who speak up and make a part of every day in the classroom, in the school, in the community, a statement building on the strengths of children” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).

I would like to thank my colleagues who have taken part in this journey alongside of me. Thank you for your transparency, for you shared experiences, for your honesty, for your encouragement, and for your love to reach children and families and invest in their lives on a daily basis.

Reference

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Your commitment to anti-bias work. Baltimore, MD: Author

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Impacts on Early Emotional Development

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I chose the region of Latin America and the Caribbean for the reason that I have traveled here, will most likely travel here in the future, and am interested in the culture of this region. I studied Spanish during my high school and undergraduate work and would love to utilize and refine my use of this language personally. Children in this region are effected by poverty, HIV and aids, among other diseases, unhealthy development and high death rate, chronic malnutrition, low enrollment and completion of primary education programs, violence and abuse, and gender inequalities (UNICEF, 2011).

These experiences could have a profound impact on children’s development and wellbeing in that children experiencing poverty are more likely to have developmental delays (Trustees of Columbia University, 2010). Violence and abuse take an emotional toll on children during their early years of development as well. For children with emotional abuse “negative early experiences can impair children’s mental health and effect their cognitive, behavioral, social-emotional development” (Trustees of Columbia University, 2010). “The infant is embedded in relationships with others who provide the nutrition for both physical and psychological growth” (Trustees of Columbia University, 2010). Negative effects like the ones experienced by so many children of Latin America and the Caribbean can seriously affect healthy growth and development. Children experience both emotional and mental disorders due to this kind of trauma (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). These traumas can also effect children’s trust, emotional stability, and ability to learn and retain information at a normal rate.

Personally, the more I read about the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, the more my desire grew to return to this region and help in making a positive impact on children there. It also humbled me because so often, teaching in impoverished areas, I feel overwhelmed by the effects of poverty. However, so many children in this region experience poverty as a side effect of the multiple other issues they deal with on a daily basis. Professionally, I want to continue learning about poverty and how to counteract the negative effects it so often has on my children in order to become a more effective, empathetic anti-bias educator.

Reference

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

Trustees of Columbia University, The. (2010). National Center Center for Children Children in PovertyPoverty (NCCP). Retrieved from:http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_882.html

UNICEF (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/

The Sexualization of Early Childhood

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This topic of sexualization in early childhood is extremely heartbreaking. Children in the world today are exposed to so many negative influences and it is devastating to think that these images and perspectives are so destructive to their healthy growth and development. “Ideally, children have direct personal experience being in and witnessing caring and affectionate relationships with family and friends. Ideally, they are nurtured by supportive and trusted adults” (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009, p. 4).  While this ideal scenario does exist, so often I observe the inverse. Families that I work with are dealing with the effects and demands of poverty, therefore, are often less actively engaged in what their children are exposed to. Video games and television have become new babysitters and substitutes for creative play and adults seem to be becoming less and less aware of what their children are being exposed to.

Unfortunately, I have observed this sexualization in early childhood in my own classroom. My classroom experience is in Kindergarten and First Grade, so I have seen four to seven year old girls singing and gyrating to songs like “I’m Too Sexy,” along with a plethora of other songs with suggestive, demoralizing lyrics. I have watched the same little girls tote lipgloss or other makeup products around because they “need it to be beautiful.” There have been precious souls in my classroom that tug on clothes (that already look more appropriate for young adults than they do for children) in order to expose bare shoulders or plunging necklines. Girls are not the only ones effected by this sexualization, however. Boys feel pressured to desperately hold back tears and “tough it out” when they are hurt. I’ve watched five year old boys on playgrounds violently take swings at each other and act out of pure aggression because of what has been modeled to them in movies and video games as “macho” or “tough.” These same precious boys pine for “girlfriends” based on “who is the prettiest.”

Implications of this on children’s healthy development are profound. “Gender role expectations and limitations are still amount the strongest messages children receive” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, p. 90). Because children are keen observers, constantly watching what is modeled to them, and forming perceptions based on these observations, they are quickly developing ideas of what their bodies “should” look like, what their clothes “need” to have in order to make them beautiful, and how they “have” to act in order to successfully fulfill their gender roles. This is scary, as many of these standards and expectations placed on our children are unrealistic and will never completely satisfy them, as the demand will only increase for more. I believe that as educators, our best approach is a proactive one. We need to provide an alternative perspective to children through our actions, our words, what we wear, etc. We need to emphasize beauty in diversity, in personality, in character. We need to counteract violence and aggression with love and kindness. We need to accentuate the traits and characteristics that truly make each child special and unique and constantly affirm these things.

Through studying this topic more, I have come to realize that how much this topic truly tugs at my heartstrings. Listing examples of sexualization in my classroom brought me to tears. This has truly become an epidemic in our society and we need to be light for truth and for change in our children’s lives.

References

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

Levin, D. E., & Kilbourne, J. (2009). [Introduction] So sexy so soonThe new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids (pp. 1-8). New York: Ballantine Books. Retrieved from: http://dianeelevin.com/sosexysosoon/introduction.pdf

Evaluating Impacts on Professional Practice

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“-Isms” are forms of prejudice that can affect children and families, but can also have a profound influence on educators. I have been incredibly humbled throughout this program to realize how privileged and devoid of prejudice I have been throughout the majority of my life. I have become much more attune to microaggressions faced by others and how to positively affect the reversal of these prejudiced behaviors.

When I began my teaching career, however, I had just turned 23 years old and apparently looked and sounded about 16. This is when I experienced ageism. I remember several parents referring to me as “honey” or “dear” and on numerous occasions and was directly asked my age. During my second summer of teaching first grade, I eagerly headed out to Walmart to heap my cart with “back to school” supplies for my classroom. Upon filling the checkout belt with my supplies, the cashier looked quizzically at me and said, “Well, what fun project are you planning to do with all of this, dear?” Excitedly I replied that I was restocking my classroom supply bins and closets with these necessary supplies that my inner city students could not afford. The cashier’s facial expression changed quickly from curiosity to sheer shock. “You cannot be old enough to be a teacher!” I smiled and told her that my University seemed to think so and my hard work and ambition allowed me to graduate my education program a year early. Still puzzled, she continued to stare at me in disbelief. While this situation was somewhat comical, there have been other times that I remember being faced with parents who scoffed at my age or did not take me as seriously as veteran teachers. These were parents that didn’t “expect [me] to understand” being that I was young, single, and had no children of my own.

If I had chosen to allow remarks and interactions such as these to negatively affect my teaching, it would have been easy to project them onto my students. This can quickly begin to give someone an inferiority complex. Children could begin to feel a sense of similar inferiority and lack of worth due to their age. This type of influence can lead to children developing a negative perception of themselves as well as low self-esteem. Children and families might also lose respect for my authority if my age was so negatively portrayed. Families need to feel confident that regardless of my age, I am highly qualified and capable of meeting the needs of their children, as well as others in my classroom. If families were to see my age as debilitating in some way, I could not effectively cultivate effective and successful partnerships with them. As anti-bias educators, we need to establish a welcoming environment that fosters holistic acceptance in our classrooms (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

Reference

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