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Impacts on Early Emotional Development for Children with Varied Abilities: Eastern & Southern Africa

I chose to study Eastern and Southern Africa because to me there is such a high need for light still to be shed in Africa.  Many parents that participate in language programs in my community are from Kenya and Uganda. Equal and quality education is a huge area of opportunity that young children in these regions need.  In one particular region, Uganda, schools are rarely equipped to teach students with varied abilities. There are no schools that provide ramps and physical access to children with wheelchairs or physical impairments. I addition, many schools Rwanda and in the region of eastern and southern Africa do not have inclusive education (Houser, 2018).

Veronica Houser (2018), shares and reports about Ntawimenya family in Rwanda, whose child, Olivier, was bullied and discriminated against because of his disability. Olivier had physical delays and weak motor skills and was not being treated fairly or being included in many school activities. Worst, no one knew how to teach Olivier or strengthen his physical abilities with therapy. Innocent, Olivier’s dad, learned about a UNICEF supported school called G.S. Ruhango Catholique.  This school was equipped with ramps, wider door frames, and hallways. The school integrated all children with varied abilities and engaged children in a “student-centered approach to learning where children learn through hands-on activities and group work, and through self-discovery. This way of teaching empowers children like Olivier to learn from and with other children, as well as their teachers” (p.1).

The school also engaged and empowered parents by conducting workshops that helped them created learning activities and learning aids for families to use at home making the home to school connections. After a year in this school where Olivier received therapy and a warm inclusive learning environment, he has flourished. Olivier has been able to learn how to count to 1000, can hold a 5 liter can with his own hands, and most importantly learned the skills to connect with his friends through sports and other physical activities (Houser, 2018).

There are limited resources and knowledge about children with varied abilities in Rwanda and if the Unicef supported school had not been there for Olivier, he would have been disregarded, cast aside, bullied, and rendered unteachable. According to Ray, Pewitt-Kinder & George (2009) family engagement and frequent communication helps children with varied abilities be successful in their child’s development physically and emotionally. Working with parents and children who have varied abilities sends a message to the family and child that there is a community who cares and who is willing to partner to help their child succeed. When children and families are equitably nurtured and given resources to make their child’s learning and emotional well-being supported then they are successful and more willing to share their knowledge and experiences with the learning community. The stories from families with children who have varied abilities not only enhance our knowledge of people with varied abilities, but it also helps children and families feel empowered and unashamed. Without these kinds of schools in Rwanda, children with varied abilities would feel emotionally helpless, forgotten, and invisible. When children feel invisible they tend to develop low self-esteem.

I have learned that the problems children with varied abilities face around the world are far greater than in the United States. I was under the misconception that families and children with varied abilities had the same educational rights as children in the United States. There is still a lot of work to do when it comes to supporting children with varied abilities around the world. I hope that as schools like G.S. Ruhango Catholique continue to teach their communities, this is supported and passed along to other cities and regions in Africa.

Reference:

Houser, V. 2018. How inclusive education works for children with disabilities

https://www.unicef.org/esaro/media-centre_21515.html

Ray, J. A., Pewitt-Kinder, J., & George, S. (2009). Partnering with families of children with special needs. YC: Young Children, 64(5), 16-22.

 

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Jobs/Roles in the ECE Community: Internationally

In Bhutan, Save the Children is helping to iimprove the quality of education in more than 200 preschools, training teachers to incorporate play-based math and reading activities that help increase school readiness and the potential for success in elementary school. Save the Children is working with preschool teachers throughout the country to introduce play-based learning activities. Photo Credit: Susan Warner/Save the Children 3/15/2016

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Save the Children is an organization with a goal to promote global education and the rights of children around the world. “It was founded in 1919 to help children receive a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm” (Save the Children, 2019). Save the Children’s (2019) mission is to increase the quality of instruction and help ensure lasting education. The organization provides aid to 120 countries, working to reach children through international programs that focus on health, education, protection and disaster relief.  Through their educational efforts the Save the Children organization teaches effective teaching strategies to instructors globally in the regions of Africa, Asia, Middle East Eurasia, Latin American, and the Caribbean and trains them to engage students, helps establish schools, and aids issues and trends in early childhood (Save the Children, 2019). The organization also coaches parents and caregivers to help foster learning early on in children’s development and offer ways for parents to encourage schoolwork and continued learning outside of the classroom. In their early childhood initiative, their focus is to provide education access to children and families who may have not have the opportunity to do so. “Children who participate in Early Childhood Development programs, when compared with children who don’t, are more likely to enroll in school, plan their families, become productive adults, and educate their own children” (Save the Children, 2019). They also are less likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, or engage in criminal activities. Through interventions that engage young children, as well as their parents, caregivers, and communities, Save the Children’s Early Childhood Development programs ensure that young children survive and thrive by being physically and emotionally healthy and intellectually curious.  The early childhood program also promotes school readiness programs that prepare them for school success (Save the Children, 2019).

 

Image result for unicef logoThree boys hug and kiss a younger boy, Guatemala

UNICEF was established in 1946, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund strives to create a world that fights for the rights of every child in the world. UNICEF inspires everyone to get involved in creating protective environments for children. One of their goals to be present to relieve suffering during emergencies, and wherever children are threatened because UNICEF’s belief is that no child should be exposed to violence, abuse or exploitation. UNICEF also strives to include reducing inequities and discrimination, fulfilling global education goals such as the 2 Millennium. These goals focus on education, achieving gender equality and equity in education, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn and continuing education during and after a crisis (UNICEF, 2018). UNICEF also has an early childhood initiative which encourages and urges countries and people to act urgently in investing in early childhood development which is a priority in every country to achieve the 2030 goals. Investing in early childhood development is a cost-effective way to boost shared prosperity, promote inclusive economic growth, expand equal opportunity, and end extreme poverty. UNICEF is working to increase investment in family-friendly policies, including paid parental leave and access to quality, affordable childcare; it benefits governments because it helps economies and businesses, as well as parents and children (UNICEF, 2018).

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The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization began in 1945 and is “committed to a holistic and humanistic vision of quality education worldwide, the realization of everyone’s right to education and the belief that education plays a fundamental role in human, social, and economic development” (n.d.). Their mission is to aid in the building of peace, eradication of poverty and lasting development. They seek to achieve these goals and create an intercultural dialogue through global education. Their membership includes 204 countries, 9 of which are associate members. Their early childhood initiative was inspired in 2007, when “UNESCO reminded the international community that half of the countries in the world did not have ECCE policies for children under three years old” (n.d.). Progress has been made on pre-school enrollment in many countries but more work is needed to make ECCE central to education systems and realize its tremendous societal benefits. To encourage more early childhood initiatives globally, UNESCO created the UNESCO-Hamdan Prize that will create sponsorship and support the design of additional professional development packages at intermediate and advanced levels for early childhood learning and instruction Teachers are eager for further training, which will continue and deepen the pilot’s practical approaches in Indonesa as well as other parts of the global community.  “The UNESCO-Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers is awarded every two years to projects that have made outstanding contributions to improving the quality of teaching and learning, especially in developing countries or within marginalized or disadvantaged communities” (n.d.).

One job opportunity that enticed my interest for employment was the position that Save the Children has posted in early childhood. The job title is Educational manager and the skills associated with this job entails providing effective implementation of a research-based curriculum, while incorporating recognized “best practices” in the fields of Early Childhood and Special Education; as well as providing educational resources for staff and parents. Under the supervision of the Program Director, and working as the supervisor of education staff, the Education Manager oversees the implementation of the education services at all sites and works with all local educational institutions and other STC Head Start partners. The Educational manager also must also oversee Coordinates the Education and Early Childhood Development content area of the Head Start program. Works closely with the program director and other admin/management staff to ensure adequate supplies and equipment are available in classrooms and centers and that schedules and activities are age- and developmentally-appropriate. Attends home visits, parent conferences, and IEP meetings when requested or as needed. Visit each site and all classrooms routinely to conduct observations, provide training and technical assistance, coaching and mentoring. I believe I would be a great fit for since it is part of my duties of a head teacher here at my Head Start school.

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Jobs/Roles in the ECE Community: National/Federal Level

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The National Education for Young Children (NAEYC) was also a major contributor to the idea of culturally responsive pedagogy, equity pedagogy, and anti-bias education. In 1991, NAECY published their position statement on cultural and linguistical diversity for effective early childhood education (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1995). In their position statement NAECY recommended that all high-quality early childhood programs move to change their educational approach and theories regarding children and families of diverse cultures. NAECY (1995), stated that when early childhood children of diverse cultures and languages are reflected in the classroom environment, shown respect for their culture and home language the relationship and partnership between families and school are strengthened. They also stated that an atmosphere that choses to celebrate and respect cultural diversity, the atmosphere “provides increased opportunity for learning because young children feel supported, nurtured, and connected not only to their home communities and families but also to teachers and the educational setting” (p.2).  NAECY also recommended that early childhood educators be trained through professional workshops/trainings culturally responsive practices and equity pedagogy so that children in early childhood settings can have a better chance of developing strong cognitive and social-emotional development (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1995).

Head Start has contributed to anti-bias education, equity pedagogy, and culturally responsive teaching and the war on paverty. Head Start is dear to my heart in many ways.  Not only am I a teacher in a New Jersey Head Start school, I am also a former child of the Head Start schools initiative of the 1970’s. The goal of Head Start was to fight poverty in America by providing minority and poor community children and their families a broad range of educational, social, medical and family services equity.  Head Start provides these services in one program and the specific services differ widely depending on the need of a particular community.  Head Start has even expanded to serve younger populations of children such as infant and toddlers.  According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), 80 percent of funding for Head Start comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2017).  It is evident that Head Start’s goal was and still is to look at the whole child and family by supporting them through social programs that benefit the growth of both the families and the child. Head Start has also later in their history moved to ensuring that Head Start programs provided families with culturally responsive practices, culturally relevant materials, and anti-bias education. “A key tenet of the program established that it be culturally responsive to the communities served, and that the communities have an investment in its success through the contribution of volunteer hours and other donations as nonfederal share” (Office of Head Start, n.d.).

Since 1908, the National Association of Advancement for Colored People has been a pillar in the American society for equal rights for all. The NAACP is the pillar of serving the communities of all people of color so that civil and human rights prevail over racism, prejudice, and hate (NAACP, n.d.). They also work to ensure that the youth of marginalized groups are given education that is equitable and culturally responsive. “The NAACP works to ensure that all disadvantaged students and students of color are on the path to college or a successful career by ensuring access to great teaching, equitable resources, and a challenging curriculum. We are dedicated to eliminating the severe racial inequities that continue to plague our education system. Our ultimate goal is that every student of color receives a quality public education that prepares him or her to be a contributing member of a democracy” (NAACP, n.d.).  The NAACP focus on different educational areas: Increasing Resource Equity: Which means that they will target funds to the neediest communities and children. In addition, they are focusing on improving teaching by growing more teachers of color to represent the growing American population of children who are more diverse than the dominant culture. They would like to place more teachers of color in in underserved communities (NAACP, n.d.).

One job available that interest me was one offered for the NAAP that was titled, Education Specialist for Culturally Responsive Teaching. This job entailed knowing anti-bias principles and goals. Culturally responsive pedgogy and practices and the ability to conduct workshops, trainings and professional developments for teachers of color in Baltimore, Maryland. The qualifications were that the perspective employee had a bachelors in education, or teaching and a background in social justice as well. I believe that although I don’t have a background in social justice the master’s I will hold in Early childhood studies with a concentration in Teaching & Diversity would give me enough educational background to qualify for the position.

 

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Exploring Roles in the ECE Community: Local and State Levels

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I would like to partner with Greater Bergen Community Action Head Start who could partially fund speakers and workshop professionals for my challenge of training teachers in my Head Start school on anti-bias education and culturally responsive pedagogy. Greater Community Action has served my community of Bergen County, NJ. They have provided my community with ESL classes, Citizenship classes, and assistance, GED programs, Energy Assistance, a place for WIC to distribute services to women and children in the community. They also engage families in parent workshops on parenting, academic resources, and of course Head Start schools in the community.  In addition, the Office of Administration of Children and families at Head Start would help me gather resources and teaching practices from their online professional development workshops regarding diverse cultures and culturally responsive teaching. Including representatives from Bergen County’s Department of Human Services, Office of Children have a special division for professional development in early childhood which could provide additional funding or resources for the anti-bias education project.

I would also invite key early childhood organizations that would help create resources for teachers and the families and children of my Head Start community. The first organization I would like to partner with is the NJ National Association for the Education of Young Children (NJAECY) who along with NAECY has advocated for high quality early childhood programs to provide culturally and linguistically diverse children and families education that promotes that all children “deserve an early childhood education that is responsive to their families, communities, and racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds” (NAECY, 1995).

Another organization that I would like to partner with National Organization for Multicultural Education whose mission and organizational goals mirror the goals of my challenge which is to “promote the understanding of unique cultural and ethnic heritage, to promote the development of culturally responsible and responsive curricula, to facilitate acquisition of the attitudes, skills, and knowledge to function in various cultures, to eliminate racism and discrimination in society, and to achieve social, political, economic, and educational equity” (National Organization for Multiple Education, 2019).

An additional, key organization that I would like to engage in my community of practice is the National Latino Children’s Institute which advocates for the positive development of young Latino children, their families and communities in order to ensure that public policies and initiatives address the complex set of interconnected issues facing young Latinos; which include the impact of poverty, language barriers, education, health, safety, and immigration that affect families, children and their economic status are not jeopardized. Since about 85% of the school population and community are children from families of Ecuador, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico it is important that their cultural perspectives be included when creating a culturally responsive training for teachers.

 

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What I have Learned

Related imageBecoming an anti-bias early childhood teacher is a journey wrought with self-reflection, inner-perspective on our personal beliefs, knowledge about the injustices that diverse groups face, and ways that we could build our communities, families, and children with pride about who they are and how to stand up for themselves. I agree that this journey to ensuring that the children and communities we work in are treated with equitable justice.

In my lifetime I have grown up poor living on governmental programs, in governmental facilities just to survive.  My parents faced many prejudices based on the color of their skin and economic status, therefore, I can identify the hurt children feel when their whole identity is personified by society in a way that makes them feel ashamed of who they are. As I have grown to overcome that, I find myself in in a community whose biggest population is under fire for trying to leave their homelands in search of a better future for their children. In the media, they are being personified and stereotyped negatively. These families feel fearful, anxious, depressed, and discriminated against every single day. This people of my school community are not alone around the world people of diverse groups face gross injustices every day.  It is because of the plight of these diverse groups in our society that I chose this journey.

At the beginning of this course, my goal was to learn how to create an accepting environment where all children and families feel that they belong, where individual identities are celebrated, and children feel visible, where language and culture can be shared, and most importantly where children can learn about other cultures & groups similarities and differences (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). I would like to add to that specific goal by ensuring that children can see themselves in their learning environment, that their families and diverse cultures are represented with photos, books, authentic curriculum, and activities that teach about how to be accepting, aware and proud of their cultural identities. In order to do this, I will work to find out more of the families before they enter my classrooms with surveys in their home languages as well as one on one home visits prior to school starting.

In addition, I think it is important to continue to learn as much as I can about implementing anti-bias curriculums, strategies, and activities through learning more learning resources, national organizational memberships, and research-based practices. I hope to become a life-long learner and advocate for diverse families in order to provide them with the most effective resources available in order to help them grow, become confident, and successful.

I would like to thank all my colleagues, early childhood professionals, and master teacher Dr. Kien for creating a safe platform and learning environment for me to grow professionally. I have learned so much from all of the early childhood professionals in our classroom through their shared related stories, experiences, and knowledge. I appreciate every personal story shared because in essence sharing them made each one of us grasp a deeper comprehension of the concepts learned. Thank you for hard work and dedication Dr. Kien and thank you, colleagues, for your continued support and professional knowledge.

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Start Seeing Diversity

Image result for images of diverse familiesImage result for images of diverse familiesImage result for images of diverse familiesImage result for images of diverse families

We are all uniquely beautiful,

Like a fingerprint, no two of us are exactly alike,

We are connected by our race of humanity,

Connected by similar experiences of

Love,

Happiness,

Family,

Faith,

Means,

Foods,

Traditions,

And Cultures.

Our children are the hope of our future society,

Taking the times to help them develop

like

unique flowers in a world garden.

Tend to these unique blossoms of life,

Water them,

Show the warm and loving light,

Feed their souls with positivity,

Awareness,

Insight,

Compassion,

Empathy,

And knowledge

Of others

who are diversely unique,

Just

Like

Them.

Below this song Originally this song was used to raise money for children in African during the 1980’s. We are the world seems to encompass my message of helping children.

 

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“We Don’t Say Those Words in Class!”

Related imageMy nephew, he was born with congenital amputation which means he was born without his lower arm and for him, grade school has been difficult at times. Many of the children in his class have not had many interactions with a person who has this body type difference.  Many of the comments my nephew describes to his mother entail children asking or assuming that he had an accident. When he tells the children in his class he was born this way, they ask the hardest questions that even my nephew grapples with personally/internally, why was he born this way? His mother (my sister-in-law) has complained to me that many children in his class have made inappropriate and hurtful comments. She also stated that my nephew’s teacher does not know how to address this issue in the classroom. Despite my sister-in-law stepping in to provide his teacher with educational stories and books to help children have positive conversations about varying abilities in the class, my nephew continued to come home on many occasions hurt over the words that his classmates expressed about his partial arm.

The teacher has admitted to my sister-in-law that she has talked to the children who have been having making my nephew feel hurt or sad and has told them that their comments are “hurtful”. However, nothing else was being taught to address this issue in my nephews class. After speaking to my nephew, he actually professes that he is tired of being asked what happened to his arm and also he sometimes doesn’t really have an answer for some of the questions that his classmates have about his arm.

One misconception people make about children with varies abilities is that they have the tools and words to be able to explain and talk to others about it without reservation and without difficulty (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). Children with varied abilities need to be able to learn how to talk about their disability as well as deal with the emotional feelings they feel when asked about their varied ability. Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), states that many children with varied abilities are in need of informational words and social-emotional support when addressing questions from their peers. In addition, children with varied abilities need to know what to say when children ask them about their disability. In the case of my nephew, he was only taught to tell his peers that he was born that way. However, once those words are said by him, the conversational questions that follow overwhelm him and he begins to get frustrated or visibly upset. For educators, it is important to speak to parents of a child with varying abilities to find out what they prefer for you to discuss with the class and the child about it (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

People with varying abilities experience stereotypes such as they are weaker than others, they can be a liability, or even that their disability is not part of societal norms (Titchkosky, 2009). Many times, when children who have varying abilities are treated inequitably and with much prejudice, they begin to reject their self-identity and begin to live a suppressed identity that causes psycho-emotional stress that leads to self-hate (Schwarts, 2009).

According to Regina Chavez (Laureate Education, 2011), if educators ignore the stereotypes and prejudice issues that arise in the classroom, they are doing their children a disservice. Educators must immediately respond to these situations in a calm manner ensuring that the child who has been hurt is consoled and given the message that they have not done anything wrong to hear such hurtful words (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). On the other hand, the child who just expressed these stereotypes and hurtful words should also be given care and warmth, not scolded. Instead, explain to the rejecting child that their behavior is the problem, not them. Asking them questions about the child with varied abilities can help educators figure out what the motivation is behind the child’s thought process which can guide them to a better way to thinking (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).