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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).

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Gender, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation

Related imageRelated imageRelated imageThere are many ways that homophobia and heterosexism permeate the world of young children. If we examine the cycle of socialization it is evident that no one is born with a set of preconceived notions or prejudice attitudes towards any one group (Harro, 2010). All of this is learned through the next two phases of our social development which Harro explains are called the first socialization and the institutional/cultural socialization (2010). Through the first socialization, we learn what is acceptable behavior, attitudes, and thoughts about ourselves and other groups. In this phase, there are learned attitudes that could lead to misinformed thoughts (stereotypes) and even different “isms” like racism, genderism, homophobia, ageism, etc. Sometimes the messages that children learn at home whether overt or covert are then reinforced by other institutional/cultural experiences and interconnections. This is the phase that Harro explains as Institutional/Cultural socialization where children are then given additional messages about isms, stereotypes, or prejudice attitudes about diverse groups and cultures.

In the case of Bradley and Jonah, two boys who had begun to identify their genders as the opposite of the one they were born with, the professional therapy and family intervention they received consisted of two different approaches. Bradley was sort of given an intervention which consisted of more of a reform. Bradley’s parents and therapist sought to change his behavior and this type of approach involved taking Bradley’s ability to choose his own identity and in turn take away things that he preferred to play with or wear which were dolls and dresses (Speigel, 2008). Although in the end both the therapist and the parents felt better about how Bradley’s social development was headed, Bradley’s mother stated that she knew he was not as happy, he developed an obsession with pink and repeatedly ask to not be around things that color because he loved the color and all the feminine ideals that were associated with it.  She also noted that he had emotional fits and it was hard for him to transition into boy clothes and boy toys. Bradley did not want to go to school anymore. Although she feels that he has now begun to play more with boys and do boy things, she fears he is leading a double life and behaves one way in school and another at home (Speigel, 2008). To me, it seems as though they had committed a disservice to Bradley by limiting and reforming his personal identity. In the case of Jonah, Jonah’s family and therapist allowed Jonah to develop his identity on his own, uninterrupted by their own perceptions of sexual orientation, and so, in the end, Jonah was a lot happier as a child and chose to be a girl instead of the gender he was born with. According to Derman-Sparks & Edwards (2010), institutionalized and individual prejudice and discrimination exist against gay, lesbian, and transgender people and families. I wonder if Bradley’s parents had grown and developed in a more accepting environment regarding sexual identity as children, would they have thought that Bradley needed fixing?

I believe that like any other “ism” children should be taught anti-bias approaches to homophobia. Creating an environment that exposes children to the gay, lesbian, and transgender cultures through books, posters, dolls, and toys so that children are presented with the many opportunities to explore this cultural group and their own identities (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). The more that children are comfortable with different family structures including gay parents (two moms or two dads) the more that children will develop into accepting adults in a society which could be less homophobic.

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My Hopes for Early Learners & Their Families

Image result for families with disabilities

I have learned a substantial amount of information and lessons regarding how to create an anti-bias learning environment and how to implement strategies for working with diverse families. The deepened lessons learned had more to do with how to best communicate, intervene, teach, and create a warm diverse anti-bias learning setting. From respectfully making diverse families visible in the classroom, to supporting all children’s families in a positive manner, it is important that we convey the message that all are welcome, all are appreciated, all are accepted, and are all valued in our safe learning environments.

Image result for lgbt familiesMy Hopes for early learners, their families, and their learning experiences.

Image result for multiracial familiesI hope that educators, help children build self-awareness, positive identities, and family pride. I  wish that educators are able to broaden children’s knowledge of diversity by ensuring that they learn how they are similar to other children and how they are different from others as well as how to respect those differences. I hope that educators can teach children to recognize what is unfair and have the skills to stand up for others and themselves. I hope to see early learners dispell stereotypes learned by messages in the media and society through acts of kindness, knowledge of self-identity, acceptance of diversity, and skills to stand up to injustice (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

 

Image result for multiracial familiesMy biggest hope is that ALL early childhood educators and professionals have the opportunity to gain knowledge of how to implement an anti-bias curriculum and how to create an anti-bias environment.  I would like to thank my colleagues and Dr. Maria Meyers for allowing great discussions to develop and evolve, for their great ideas, and for sharing their valuable perspectives, experiences, and insights. I believe each colleague shed light on different aspects of the topics studied. Thank you.

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The Sexualization of Early Childhood

Image result for sexualization of toysMessages about sex are everywhere, in music, animation, fashion, magazines, movies, video games, and television. Children in our popular culture are inundated with inappropriate images and messages of sex Levin & Kilbourne (2009). Through these messages, children learn the wrong messages about body image, beauty, and gender roles. Children are inundated with so many messages and images of sex that they associate sex with relationships and miss the most important parts that make-up a good relationship like compromise, trust, love, and communication. These values are not learned as primary elements of romantic relationships. According to Levin & Kilbourne (2009), girls more than boys are affected by these sexualized messages. In general, “the exploitation of our children’s sexuality is in many ways designed to promote consumerism. (p.5).

Related imageFor decades, Disney princesses have been sexualized. They are portrayed with very small waists, big busts, and make-up. The princess movies and story-lines have been exclusively themed around romance, marriage, and finding the perfect man even though the princesses are very young, some in their teens. Just as disturbing are the look-alike toys that also promote a warped send of beauty and body image for girls.

In my experience music is very influential and contributes to the sexualization in children.  My niece was singing this Spanish song which is well known in pop culture called “Despacito”. Her idol Justin Bieber is in the remix (newest) version of this song. She was watching the music video and was moving her body very sensual manner emulating dance moves she saw on the video (although she is only just 6 years old). After asking mom (who does not speak Spanish) if she knew what this song meant and mom replied “no”.  I translated the lyrics for mom and she realized how detrimentally sexual the song was. Here are some of the lyrics in English:

Despacito: Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr_GAJZviR0

Nice and slow
I want to undress by extra slow kisses
Sign on the walls of your labyrinth
And make your whole body a manuscript (get up, get up, get up)

Let me surpass your danger zones
Until bringing on your screams
And that you forget your last name.

Mom then sat down and explain to her daughter that this song was conveying a message that was meant for adults and not appropriate for young children. She didn’t really go into details but did say that she was not allowed to listen to the song again. Mom then understood the awakening of sexuality that her daughter could be internalizing.

I agree with Levin & Kilbourne (2009), that we must protect our children from a sexualized childhood. Although I was aware of sexualization in children, I never knew how many layers and different outlets convey the same messages. As early childhood educators, we must also be aware and able to deal with children who have been exposed to sexualization and expressing these messages. Educators should be equipped to help children and families.

 

 

 

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Evaluating Impacts on Professional Practice

In order to do anti-bias work, we must first look within ourselves and reflect on our experiences and attitudes toward diverse groups (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). As children many of the view we have of people and diverse cultures are the ones that have influenced us. As a child who lived in poverty experienced racism and classism it seems that in my past I have carried scars that will always stay with me. However, as an adult and early childhood educator, it is important for me to reflect and acknowledge them taking pains to accept what has happened to me and to vow to fight so that others do not have to live those experiences.

Experiencing “isms” like ablism can really impact an educator’s professional practice. I currently have one nephew who was born without a lower arm. As an educator, I am driven to read many books on ableism, physical differences, differences in general so make others aware. I also am passionate about ensuring that children are exposed to ablism so that they are able to accept and not point out with someone is different because of varied abilities. On a negative viewpoint, I can be very sensitive when children are singling out other children with varied abilities but I have learned to address it in a matter-of-fact approach and be for informative than reactionary. Hopefully, this will continue to evolve and change so as to help others learn about children with varied abilities.