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julie learns ECE

"Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back." – Chinese Proverb

Time Well Spent

Reflecting upon all that has been covered throughout the two years I have spent at Walden working on my Master’s Degree, I would certainly say it was been time well spent. One of the most significant things I am taking away from this program is that advocacy in the early childhood field can begin on a small, local scale and ripple to provide a greater impact. Prior to my classes at Walden, when I thought of advocacy, I imagined people with megaphones chanting with signs outside of legislative buildings. I never thought I had a voice loud enough to be heard, or time to commit to participate in such activity, so I just did nothing. However, I have since learned that we can become advocates for what we believe even if within our teams or schools, and our messages can be carried on. We can get a group behind us, and grow stronger as well. Advocacy can be carried out in many ways using different voices. Another important message I am taking away is the significance of Developmentally Appropriate Practice in the early childhood classroom. I am embarrassed to say, but prior to my courses, I did not really know what this meant. The term was thrown around my Head Start program, we were expected to tell parents our classrooms were based on DAP, yet we received no training or PD in this area. When I asked for support, I was handed a packet of papers to read through independently. Developmentally Appropriate Practice should be the basis of everything single thing we do in the classroom. We need to develop deep relationships with our students so we understand them, their interests, their learning styles, and how we can best assist them as they learn, develop, and grow. When we follow the principles laid out by NAEYC for DAP all things will fall into place. The third important piece of information I am taking away is the role of communication and collaboration in the group setting.  This was a particular growth of mine, as I learned that conflict, when managed efficiently can be beneficial in collaborative settings.  I was also someone who tiptoed around or typically avoided conflict by keeping quiet because I was afraid of it.  It was interesting to learn that it can be beneficial, and, “If Your Team Agrees on Everything, Working Together is Pointless”. (https://hbr.org/2017/01/if-your-team-agrees-on-everything-working-together-is-pointless)

 

A long-term goal I am establishing for myself is to never stop learning. At the top of my blog reads a quote, “Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back” (Chinese proverb). I feel it is extremely important as a professional to continue to learn and grow, because in the field of early childhood education, information is always changing. I take this responsibility very seriously. After taking some time to breathe and focus on my family, I ideally hope to return back to school for another Master’s degree or the ultimate goal, a Doctorate.

 

To my fellow colleagues, congratulations on completing your final course at Walden! We have all worked long and hard to get to this moment and it is certainly something to celebrate! Thank you for all of your support and assistance along the way. This course particularly has required a significant amount of group input and I sincerely appreciate all you have done to help me with my Capstone Project. All of our wonderful instructors have been phenomenal facilitators in this process as well.  Their feedback has been positive, beneficial, and supported my learning in a meaningful way.

I wish you all the best of luck in your future endeavors and thank you again for all of your support.

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Exploring Roles in the ECE Community: International Level

Although I am familiar with organizations including UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Kids Rights Foundation, this week I decided to look deeper at these organizations advocating for young children and families around the world. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) currently works in 190 countries and territories to protect the rights of children. UNICEF believes that “all children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential – to the benefit of a better world” (https://www.unicef.org/about-us). The organization works with the United Nations as well as other UN agencies to ensure children are present on the global agenda. UNICEF attempts to achieve a balance thorough research and practical solutions for young children. Specifically they run programs targeting aid and assistance in the areas of . There are many available jobs on the UNICEF website in various locations although Africa appeared to be in particular need with an array of jobs offered in areas such as Nigeria, Sudan, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Zambia. There are many other positions worldwide as well. I wish I would be able to pick up and move to an area in need a take a job with a respectable organization such as UNICEF. However, at the moment, current jobs and contracts, language barriers, and family prevent me from doing so. There are several jobs offered in the United States, however, I am not sure I am qualified for any of them at them moment. Many of the positions are for senior consultants in specific areas such as graphic design, finance, and strategic data planning. Although I may not currently have the experience for these positions, UNICEF does have various volunteer opportunities such as fundraising, event planning, and advocating for UNICEF.

 

UNICEF also has a wonderful Halloween project in which you can request a small orange box for your children to take trick-or-treating. As they trick-or-treat for candy they can also request donations for their orange box, which will be sent back to UNICEF and used to assist children who have been affected by recent emergencies. I have requested one for my daughter, and if you are interested here is the link:

https://www.unicefusa.org/form/trick-or-treat/box-order

Here is another link to get your school involved on the UNICEF educator page:

https://unicefkidpower.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115004562743-Trick-or-Treat-for-UNICEF-Elementary-Mission

 

“Save the Children is the leading independent organization for children in need, with a staff of more than 1,500 people working around the globe. We are on the cutting edge, inspiring breakthroughs, achieving immediate and lasting change in children’s lives by improving their health, education and economic opportunities to sustain and support those improvements” (http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6226565/k.BFEA/Working_at_Save_the_Children.htm). Specifically, Save the Children work with young children and families in the United States and abroad, providing support through programs in areas including quality early childhood education, emergency response, health (not limited to but including hunger prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs), and abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation protection. Save the Children currently have open job positions internationally in cities including Somalia, Zambia, and Bangladesh, as well as a concentration of jobs in the southern United States in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. If money and location were not limitations or deterrents, I would be interested in the Refugee and Migration Intern position. It would be a part-time position that would require college enrollment in related field, but I think tracking and profiling children and families that come through the Save the Children program would be an interesting job and an opportunity to work one’s way up the organization. Other requirements include ability to collaborate and work well with team members, strong writing skills, interest in refugee, migration and advocacy efforts, and strong computer skills, all of which I would say I have obtained much through my Masters program at Walden!

 

Of all three organizations I researched, the Kids Rights Foundation was the one about which I knew the least. Kids Rights is an international children’s rights action and advocacy organization in themes including education, child abuse/neglect/labor, HIV and AIDS. What makes this organization unique is that they include children in their advocacy work and empower them to become aware of decisions and policies affecting their lives and promote those in which they believe. “Children have the right to participate in decisions affecting them. This is agreed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We empower children to speak up about their local realities, and share their solutions to today’s burning issues. We focus on personal stories, experiences, and ideals of children. We empower children to co-decide on matters affecting them at home and in their communities, stimulate governments to improve relevant policies and law, and engage other children to act as well. We inspire and mobilize an unstoppable global movement for children’s rights” (https://kidsrights.org/advocacy). The Kids Rights Foundation is truly one of a kind as they are not only fighting for children but teaching children how to give themselves a voice.

 

Exploring roles in the ECE community: National Level

While investigating national early childhood organizations, the first in which I found was the Association for Early Learning Leaders (http://www.earlylearningleaders.org/). This nonprofit organization works with childcare directors, owners, and administrators with the goal of strengthening “the knowledge, skills, and abilities of early care directors, owners, emerging leaders, and other learning professionals to ensure quality child care programs for young children” (http://www.earlylearningleaders.org/). The organization provides resources, tool kits and annual conferences for members all to serve its identified purposes of networking and collaborating, training and education, program quality and accreditation, and resources access. The organization further has a childcare accreditation program using the National Accreditation Commission process involving an intensive 6-month self-study, a validation visit, and unannounced visits. This was an accreditation of which I had not previously heard, and it was interesting to read about this process!

The second organization I researched is MCEC, or the Military Child Education Coalition (http://www.militarychild.org/). The overarching vision of this organization is to ensure every military child is workforce, college and life-ready. Specifically, they provide an array of courses, programs, and resources for children and families dealing with military transitions. Some of these supports include webinars to ease transitions before moving abroad, parent advocacy workshops, the ability to schedule time to meet with a military student transition consultant, and an abundance of scholarships. It is heartwarming to see these resources available to children and families, especially in the area of school transitions. One move on a child is extremely difficult, let alone several, and/or moves abroad. The MCEC also had several jobs posted including that of a parent-to-parent educator. This job entails leading workshops for parents as part of the parent-to-parent community based team. The MCEC provides a curriculum to follow, although parents choose from selected topics, as well as time and location. Requirements I feel vital to this position include a collaborative attitude, comfort in public speaking, leadership/management skills, and being that this is a position working with military families, the MCEC would prefer the individual be a military parent or spouse.

The Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (http://www.dec-sped.org/), supports evidence-based practices and policies assisting families and enhancing the optimal development of children ages 0-8, with, or at risk for disabilities or developmental delays. The DEC is not just a nationwide, but an international organization working with or on behalf of children with special needs and their families. This is a membership-based organization, with benefits including access to two scholarly journals, workshops, conferences, and webinars, as well as advocacy opportunities. I also liked that that this organization provides chances to connect with colleagues and resources on a local/state level, a national level, as well as an international level!

Exploring Roles in the ECE Community: Local and State Levels

While researching early childhood organizations in my home state of Arizona, the first I stumbled upon that piqued my interest was Valley of the Sun AEYC, the local affiliate of NAEYC (https://vseca.org). I have always desired to be part of an organization as prestigious as NAEYC and beginning at the local level seems like a logical place to begin. As a local branch, the Valley of the Sun AEYC provides leadership and professional development, support in locating and obtaining NAEYC accreditation, educator and parent resources, and influence among public policy and advocacy efforts.

The second organization I found is the Early Childhood Music and Movement Association (ECMMA). “The non-profit Early Childhood Music & Movement Association (ECMMA) believes appropriate, purposeful music and movement experiences enhance early childhood development and seeks to support early childhood music and movement practitioners by providing resources, advocacy, professional development, and collaboration opportunities” (http://www.ecmma.org). One of my favorite things about early childhood is the music and movement component so I was very excited to see this organization existed and had a chapter in my area. Although it not just a simple ‘sign up and go’ organization (classes/trainings/workshops are required) I really believe in the message they are promoting and their identified goals and values which include advocacy, collaboration, empowerment, and professionalism.

The third organization locally I feel worthy of joining is the Children’s Action Alliance (http://azchildren.org). This is an organization purely focused on advocacy on behalf of children in several areas including early childhood education, juvenile justice, and child abuse and neglect. The website provides an advocacy tool kit online so new members can start right away, as well as an area that locates legislators by zip code so one knows exactly who to contact. We have talked so much about advocacy in this program and I never knew how or where to start. This is the perfect place to begin!

Within the Phoenix area, Southwest Human Development is a well-known, respectable non-profit organization offering a range of services to at-risk families in the area, such as the Crisis Nursery, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, Early Intervention Mental Health Care, an Easterseals Program for young children with special needs, and many trainings and workshops for parents and educators. While reading through their website (https://www.swhd.org), I found several job opportunities that I found interesting. I like to challenge myself and although they would require more leadership than my current position in the classroom I think they would push me out of my comfort zone which is good every once and a while. The first position is a Child Development Specialist for the center based Early Head Start program on site. The position includes developing and implementing a responsive infant and toddler curriculum, and providing support to teachers as needed. I am a big supporter of Head Start, and having worked in the program for four years, I think this would be an advantage. Having a master’s in early childhood would also be a plus, as an AA is only required for the position. A second position that I found intriguing is that of a Quality First assessor/coach. Quality First is a rating tool used in Arizona for early childhood centers. I think I would enjoy going out to see various centers and once identifying areas in which to improve, strategizing a plan of action. I feel that this position would require early childhood knowledge, a depth of knowledge within the Quality First program and assessments, problem solving skills, and effective communication skills to appropriately share the areas of improvement and plan of action.

The Adjourning Stage

I have been part of several groups, both in personal and professional contexts that have been difficult to part from. These colleagues/work groups, and social groups held deep, meaningful relationships as well as clearly established goals, norms, two-way communication, and commitment. The relationships contributed to the difficulty in parting ways, as did the positive feelings obtained through our work together. I do not think there is anything like being part of a highly functioning, positive team; the team works together, problem solves together, and stands by one another. It can be rare to find a group of people you truly mesh with, and once you find it, it can be incredibly sad to leave. A common closing ritual among the personal and professional groups I have had to depart from has been a potluck meal. We come together out of our usual contexts, sit and eat together, laugh and talk. We try to avoid talking about simply the work we have come together for, and talk about our families, memories, and anything else on our mind. I hope that at the end of our master’s program, we will be able to have time to wind down together and share contact information for future support. We usually do take the last week of each class to say our thank-you’s and well wishes to those in our group, but hopefully we can come together as a class to congratulate one another and share in the happiness of this magnificent achievement. I think the adjourning stage is important and frequently skipped over. I have worked in several groups with my colleagues and when the task is complete, we go our separate ways, only to see each other on rare occasions. I think this process is important because it brings closure and an opportunity to celebrate success and identify things that maybe did not work so well and ways to change them. After spending time getting to know those in a group, and building close relationships while working towards a common goal, it only seems natural that the group would take time to say “thank you”, “congratulations” and “good luck”!

Conflict Resolution in Real Life

October 23 marked the day I gave birth to my first child, my wonderful baby girl, Morgan. Despite the fact that I have been working with young children for over ten years, I quickly learned that caring for a newborn was a whole new ballgame, even one that blogs, friends, doctors, and parenting books can only mildly prepare you for. Although the stress, chaos and (hopefully!) sleepless nights of the newborn phase are slowly winding down, the dynamics of going from a couple of two, to a family of three is still something my husband and I are working on. I think we have adjusted and are fairing well, but there are situations, circumstances, and miscommunications, which pop up frequently that cause escalated emotions and at times, arguments. Some of these situations include dealing with family input regarding how we parent our daughter, tackling household chores, and most frequently, finding time, energy and patience for one another. Reviewing the information presented on the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) website, I was able to identify two concepts/strategies that I feel would be valuable to my situation: clearly expressing needs/desires/wishes, and empathetic listening. I have a hard time asking for help, and when I do, it is not always purely expressed. I can certainly admit to asking for things in a roundabout way, and when they are not done to my liking, getting frustrated and turning requests for help into demands. NVC advocates that individuals clearly express their needs in order to get them met through acts of compassion. Asking for things according to NVC could save substantial frustration, loss of patience and energy when communicating with my husband. Also, deep, empathetic listening without judgments, evaluations, and assumptions can eliminate communication disconnects, and allows needs to be met. “Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC fosters respect, attentiveness and empathy, and engenders a mutual desire to give from the heart. The form is simple, yet powerfully trans formative” (The Center for Nonviolent Communication, n.d.). This clearly has huge potential to strengthen my relationships with my husband. I am also willing and open to hear any input or advice you, my fellow group members may have on this subject, so please feel free to share away!

 

References

The Center for Nonviolent Communication. (n.d.). The center for nonviolent communication. Retrieved from http://www.cnvc.org/

Communication Insights

Completing the assessments to measure myself as a communicator, and further, having my husband and co-worker fill them out, was an experience that surprisingly generated a bit of anxiety. I know the ways in which I feel I am a good communicator and areas I may need some improvements, and REALLY hoped that was evident to my assessors; there is nothing like having confidence in something you feel you are good at, only to have someone inform you this is not the case! My anxiety was quelled, however, when reviewing each test after completed by my husband and co-teacher. The scores were all relatively similar – give a take a few points. One thing that surprised me from this activity was the ability of my husband and co-worker to rate my communication styles rather efficiently in the contexts with which they are familiar, and those they are not. For example, my husband does not see the ways in which I communicate and engage with co-workers and teams in meetings, which is obviously different than the ways I communicate with him at home. I wanted to use assessors from two different environments to see if this would be the case, and in fact it was. I think this surprise led to an insight this week regarding communication, which is, even though we communicate differently depending on contexts, settings, and audiences, I think there still is a predictability in our communication methods. Although I do communicate differently with my husband as opposed to my students and co-workers, he was still able to accurately predict how I might communicate with them, and, the same for my co-worker.

Communicating Across Cultures

My teaching experiences, and marrying into a culturally diverse family have provided me with many wonderful experiences to learn about culture in the world around us. I grew up in a white, Christian, middle class suburban neighborhood with little to no diversity among the population, so I can say I had, a still have, a lot of learning to do! I do not know if I communicate differently among different cultural groups, but I will say that I tend to step back often, observe, and take on the perspective of a learner. I guess I can become fearful of doing or saying something that would offend an individual of another culture, which is why, as I mentioned I tend to do a lot of observing. Another aspect of communication with others of another culture I have learned is the significance and appropriateness of asking questions. Again, this was something I dreaded doing, out of fear of being aggressive or offensive, but have learned this is not always the case. My husband has many Filipino members of his family and I have taken the time and energy to learn about their culture. My mother-in-law always encouraged me to ask questions if I was unsure of something they were doing or saying, because as she pointed out, it opens up the dialogue for meaningful conversation and is the only true way to find out something of which I was unsure. This has given me confidence to ask young children and their family members, as well as community members or colleagues to ask questions when I do not understand something.

Three strategies I recognize as important in communicating with a variety of individuals I am actually ‘stealing’ from one of this week’s resources, 50 strategies for communicating and working with diverse families (Gonzalez-Mena, 2010, p. 81:

  1. “Become consciously aware of nonverbal behaviors. Although you may be used to reading messages that come from posture, movement, facial expressions, eye movements, gestures, and relative distance, realize that across cultures, these behaviors don’t necessarily mean the same thing”.
  2. “Recognize that learning unwritten cultural rules of nonverbal communication takes time and patience. The best approach is to be aware of differences and to read the feedback from the parent of family member exhibiting them. Try different approaches if you are picking up discomfort in your attempts to communicate.”
  3. “Don’t expect that just because you know a person’s culture you can predict his or her behavior. Few cultural patterns are rigid or apply to all members of a culture. Furthermore, cultural patterns change when they come in contact with new patterns.”

 

Although these suggestions are related to nonverbal behaviors, and written for teacher implementation, I believe they are relatable and helpful for any type of communication with any individual.

 

References:

 

Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2010). 50 strategies for communicating and working with diverse families. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Interpreting Communication in Television

For the purpose of this assignment, I attempted to find a television show I knew little to nothing about (a difficult task!), and landed on “Nashville”, which I learned is a show about the converging lives of two country music singers, Rayna (an established singer) and Juliette (a young, up and coming singer). While watching the show initially without sound, I assumed many things, in particular the personalities of the two main characters, which I based solely on nonverbal behaviors including eye contact, facial expressions, body positions and movements, gestures, and physical contact with others. I also assumed displays of an array of feelings and emotions based on these nonverbal behaviors, and in fact came up with a list of over 15 emotions I believed were being conveyed. Watching the show again with the sound, I believed my assumptions to be fairly accurate as I learned about the lives and relationships of Rayna, a genuine performer struggling with a somewhat diminishing career and family relationships, and Juliette, a young, flirtatious, and at times condescending artist who is struggling with family relationships of her own. I was also able to pick up on the competitiveness between the two as their lives become increasingly intertwined. From this assignment I have learned several things, including the reliance on nonverbal behaviors I used while initially trying to navigate the show without sound. I had to pay close attention to the show without being able to hear it and felt like a carefully detailed observer and detective at the same time. I also recognized the role of assumption in attempting to determine relationships, plots, and personalities. In this case my assumptions were fairly accurate but I think in many real-life situations, these perception-based assumptions can be inaccurate and can severely impact the relationships, communications, and exchanges we have with others.

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