I embarked on my longest trip to date to provide a pre-conference presentation and keynote address at the Early Childhood Care and Education International Rendezvous in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. During my three days at the conference, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend over 15 research presentations by early childhood educators from around the world including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Austria.
As a former teacher, teacher leader, and teacher educator, I understand at my core the tremendous impact that a high-quality teacher can have on the lives of children and their families. But, I also know the deep feelings of frustration we often feel as teachers and leaders when we just cannot figure out to connect with, how to motivate, how to engage with those children within our classrooms that we are desperately trying to reach but just fail to figure out.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: AN INVESTMENT IN OUR TEACHERS
As a former teacher and teacher educator, I deeply understand the tremendous impact that a high-quality teacher can have on the lives of children and their families. But I also understand how difficult the job of teaching can be every hour of every day of every week of every year. So many teachers enter and stay in the classroom without the ongoing professional development they need to stay current with research and strategies that can help them perform their craft to its fullest potential. Even those who are provided professional development by their school district or program often experience stale, “one and done” workshops that are not integrated into a larger learning curriculum and that are, at best, dry and uninspiring.
As I sit on my flight from the BUILD Initiative's QRIS National Meeting in New Orleans, I cannot help but reflect on the presentations focused on improving the quality of early childhood education in our nation. One of the key factors that emerged in many of the discussions was the need to support the professionalization of the workforce through better compensation and professional development supports.
I grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, and the first day of school was always the Tuesday after Labor Day. As I moved south, I was surprised that the first day of school could range from August 1 to September 7. My children started eighth (gasp!) and fourth grade last week, and I must admit that I am struggling with the end of summer! I am sure many of you are going through a similar transition, but one thing I have learned about transitions is that they are a perfect time to reflect and plan for what is to come. Therefore, I am dedicating today’s blog to school administers—principals, center directors, Head Start directors—the leaders who pull everything together and make the buses run, the clocks tick, and the copy machines whirl.
In my March blog, The Access vs. Quality Debate in Early Childhood Education, I discussed the ongoing debate in early childhood education systems building about increasing access or increasing quality. One thing I failed to do was provide a definition for “quality” early childhood education. I am not alone in this omission. If you were to review most federal, state, and local legislation on early childhood education, you would see a void in defining the word quality. I would argue that this lack of clarity around a central word severely impacts our ability within the nation, state, or locality to move forward in early childhood education systems building. Without a central definition to strive for, to drive for, and to focus upon, it is nearly impossible to build the infrastructure needed to build a quality system.
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One cold evening, as January passed into February, I sat down to review over 20 different sources that summarized President Obama’s budget and the probability for the multitude of initiatives to be funded in the budget’s final version. What follows is a consolidated overview of the points I think will be most relevant for our readers. Remember, these are just budget proposals that have been outlined and are not guaranteed until the final budget has been passed. I have ordered the items based on my belief (and only my belief) of their probability for being included in the final budget.