The rapid pace of human development in the first three years of life requires teachers and caregivers to be nimble. Whether a family member or teacher, you must be on your toes to effectively support a baby’s development, constantly gauging the child’s needs and changing your approach to meet those needs. With all this change occurring, how do we ensure that consistent, high quality care is provided during this critical time period, in which brain development profoundly impacts success later in life? Thankfully, we now have a plethora of brain science to understand the implications of the quality of experiences, like this excellent report from the Institute for Child Success.
I have sat down to write a Happy New Year blog post from Teachstone on numerous occasions during the past three weeks, but it seems that every time I begin to write I am pulled away for another exciting conversation with a research partner, a higher education partner, a community partner, or a state partner. If the last three weeks are any indication of what 2015 will bring for the birth to five community, it is going to be one exciting and productive year. It will also be a wild ride! So I am going to take a deep breath as I relax on my fourth flight in 36 hours and share a bit of what I have been thinking about but unable to put down on paper (well actually on my laptop) for the past 20 days.
When DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, along with DOE Secretary Arne Duncan, announced the Preschool Development Grants competition as part of the Preschool for All in early February 2014, she asked for help. Her request? That all of us in the early childhood community find our roles in the grant process and assist applicants to ensure the best possible quality programs are developed and expanded for preschoolers. She called on those able to step up if able to provide “wraparound help”—and Teachstone is heeding that call.
Whether we work directly with children, support teachers, create regional or state policy, or build professional development programs, it can be easy to let our day-to-day responsibilities trump the significance of our work. As Teachstone’s Product Marketing Director, I spend time each week observing and talking with our market—teachers, T/TAs, center directors, program directors, policymakers—and trying to understand their challenges. Without fail, I am always moved by these colleagues’ hard work and commitment to supporting young children; these conversations are what make my job rewarding. But during these interviews, I often notice that these individuals aren’t quite as moved by their grit as I am. They are worn down by bureaucracy or funding challenges, in a routine, or just tired from years of demanding and often thankless work.
Summer is in full swing in Charlottesville. The kids are in camp and the grant writing season has officially arrived. Like many of you, I have been searching the Internet, talking to colleagues, and using any fortune telling powers I have at my fingertips to determine when the Preschool Development Grants will—as we say in grant land—"drop."
With mixed emotions, I just put my children on the bus for the last time for this school year. Part of me is happy to have a brief reprieve from the 7 a.m. walk to the bus stop and to begin the extended evenings of swimming, bike riding, and neighborhood walks. The other side of me is sad to see another year ending and to realize I know have a third grader and a seventh grader(!). I think to myself—like every mother does this time of year—where has the time gone?