The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
Children Develop Consciousness at an Early Age
In addition to the milestones they reach in the major domains of development, young children are also developing a consciousness of who they are in society. In fact, babies as young as 6 months old notice race - and may already internalize racial bias. Whether the adults in their life are explicit and intentional in teaching about diversity, children are learning it all the same. That’s why experts such as Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, suggest that adults need to be proactive in helping children build a positive awareness of diversity, rather than waiting for children to bring it up.
The good news is that teaching on this topic is not an add-on. It’s simply part of good teaching. That’s why Teachstone has put together this resource, which pairs information about how CLASS relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion with clear, CLASS-aligned strategies for bringing these concepts to your classroom.
As with any topic, not all families will be in complete agreement about how and whether topics of race, equity, and social justice belong in a preschool classroom. But educators and families alike share the same underlying desire: to make sure their children are cared for, safe, encouraged, included, and supported. Understanding that shared foundation can help educators foster with families many of the same elements that are important in having hard conversations with their students - Positive Climate, Teacher Sensitivity, and Regard for [Adults’] Perspectives chief among them.
We hope that with a little more knowledge and a few more tools, educators will take steps forward in their anti-racist teaching. And, as I would share with my preschool students, deciding to try is sometimes the hardest part.
Ready to get this conversation started? Download our resource on Supporting Current Events, hear from and share with other educators in our CLASS Learning Community, or dive deeply into CLASS-aligned learning on this and related topics, including antiracist education, in Interactions at the Heart of Healing.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
I was a kindergarten teacher for eight years at a public school. I loved my job, but somewhere along the road I started to become crotchety. I was often annoyed with my colleagues and frustrated with the demands of the district, and I was sure I knew better than any training or professional development session I would ever be forced to attend.
Shared physical presence is a large part of how we’re used to connecting with each other. Strong connections and relationships are important for children who may have recently experienced loss, high stress, or trauma. As teachers connect with children in a virtual setting, it can be more challenging to think about how to create a safe space for learning, sharing experiences, and taking risks.