Since developing this website and speaking on behalf of it, I periodically hear variations of: “This is not as simple as you make it sound. Make me a believer and I will be totally on board.” I get it, and all the more reason for the slogan of this website: “Listen, Speak Up, Engage and Unite.” I can’t promise this blog post will make you a believer, but it should give you a better idea of how we have been working to raise socially conscious children. Continue reading
About a week ago, I was supervising my daughters as they played on a playground. This was a new playground for us. It was pretty typical. A ground cover of wood chips, slides, bars to climb across, walls to climb up, etc. They also had six swings, two for babies and toddlers, two traditional and, less common two adaptive swings. These swings are typically blue or red, look like an upright reclining chair, and have four chains connecting them to the cross bar; two in the front and two in the back. They are designed to support children who do not have the size, core strength or muscle tone to sit on the other swings. Also rare for playgrounds were the rubber walkway/ramps that wove through the wood chips. Each ramp lead to a piece of playground equipment. I took brief notice of these features, but I didn’t consider them something worth pointing out to the children. I was wrong.
Recently, students in my Introduction to Early Childhood Education course and I were discussing the topic of communication in early childhood programs. I began the class by showing the students the picture below. I asked them, “What thoughts come to mind when you look at this picture?”
Samantha, a White woman in her 30s said, “I feel like the spoken language is just people trying to be politically correct with their words. Everyone is so concerned about saying the right thing and not hurting anyone’s feelings and no one can really tell the truth…what’s really on their mind.”
“Politically correct…can you tell us more about what you mean by that?” I asked.
Suspension and expulsion in early childhood education is troubling. Most troubling is the fact that, while Black boys account for less than 20% of the students enrolled in programs, they account for more than 50% of the children suspended and expelled. This is only the beginning of the issue.
The questions I like to ask in my classes and trainings are “Why…?” In this case, why would any early childhood professional feel it is appropriate to suspend or expel young children from an early childhood program? Why are Black boys disproportionately overrepresented? Why is the disproportionality a national trend? The short answer…that only leads to more “why” questions is implicit bias against Black boys.
A few months back, after reading the book Separate is Never Equal, my daughter, Addi asked me:
“Daddy, why are the white people so rude to Sylvia’s family?”
My initial thought was, “that’s an easy one. We’ve talked about racism and discrimination so many times. I can reference back to many of our previous conversations.” However, the answer that came out of my mouth was a little more nuanced than usual. “Because Sylvia’s family does not like what is normal for their school district.”
As I moved throughout the rest of my evening, and for several months to follow, I asked myself, “what is normal?” My goal was to advance Addi and my conversations about prejudice, discrimination and inclusion as well as develop a better understanding of the social world she/we live in?
What unfolded over time was the creation of the Cycle of Normal…and a daughter who is more aware of prejudice and discrimination.
In 2009, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) published a joint position statement on inclusion in Early Care and Education (ECE). The statement focused on the inclusion of children with disabilities.
The joint position statement said:
“Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society.”
For many years I welcomed and promoted the position statement with both appreciation and skepticism. On the one hand, I thought it was a unified step forward towards effectively serving children with delays and disabilities in ECE programs. On the other hand, I was concerned that the statement seemed to disregard the influence of other forms of diversity on inclusion.
As a teacher, father, and advocate, early childhood care and education has been central to who I am since 2003. Over the years, a handful of experiences have helped me understand what it truly means to be a man in the lives of young children. Some have been funny, others worth a casual nod. But far too many have been disconcerting. They lead me to feel like men don’t belong in early childhood care education (ECCE).
I was at my favorite bookstore a couple weeks back when I was introduced to the book, “I have the right to be a child.” This book is an amazing conversation starter…and awesome to reference right before a tantrum. I now reference it more often than “Have you filled a bucket.” It became particularly handy this afternoon when the children were begging to eat dinner at Chipotle. Continue reading
The term “stay woke” was originally coined by musician Erykah Badu in her 2008 song Master Teacher. In the song, Badu sings, “Baby sleepy time, to put her down and I’ll be standin’ round until sun down…I stay woke.” I was introduced to this song last March on an episode of the highly recommended podcast, Code Switch.
At the time, I was sitting on a bus riding through downtown Denver. My destination was a regional conference where I was scheduled to deliver a presentation titled: Facilitating a Developmentally Appropriate Conversation on Social Justice and Equity with Young Children. The presentation was built around my personal experiences growing up, talking with my daughter, Addi, and reflections from my twelve years as an early childhood educator. At the core of the conversation was how Addi and I work to stay woke. This second of the three blog series outlines three lessons I have learned. We must Engage! Because #OurKidsAreListening.
First in a three part blog series on social justice by Dr. Andrew Goff…because #OurKidsAreListening.
Last January, my six-year-old daughter Addi and I were driving home from the grocery store when I encountered a new phase of my life as a father. I was busy thinking about dinner with public radio quietly playing in the background. Suddenly, she asked, “Why would they want to build a wall? Will we still be able to see Vito (great grandfather in Juarez, Mexico)?”
Pause five seconds…boarder? Wait, what?…I didn’t turn off the radio when the news came on!…deep breath in… “That’s a very good question sweetie, let’s talk about that as soon as we get home.”