Nine ways to confront bullying in the early grades.

It was a Wednesday. The afternoon was moving along as it typically does. My daughters and I sat down to eat a snack. I asked both of them, “Who did you each lunch with today, sweetie?” My older daughter looked at me and began to cry. Tears and a hug later were followed up by a question I had asked myself growing up. But the context was different and I had no one to answer. I asked the question because I was pushed and tripped. Hers was because she was told nobody likes her.

“Why am I bullied?”

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The Misconceptions We Reinforce When Talking to Children about Disability, and Solutions

Itzel and Javi Last school year my youngest daughter befriended a young boy, Jonathan in her class with Down Syndrome. A few months into the school year she and my older daughter were having regular conversation about playing with Jonathan. Throughout that stretch of time I was met by periodic questions and comments about why Jonathan. Why doesn’t Jonathan say words? Why does Jonathan have different rules than other children? Why does Jonathan have his own teacher? Many times the questions came across as rhetorical. It sounded like the came out of a conversation that the teachers had with the students. The questions were more about receiving confirmation from me, a former early childhood special educator and researcher of high-quality inclusive education. But I wasn’t confirming what other adults were telling them. Most often, I was clarifying misconceptions.

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Is Your Classroom a White Space?

decentering whitenessA few months ago I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed when I came across a post from an ECE colleague of color. The post gave me a jolt like none other in recent memory. The article was titled Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People. One passage of the article states:

Merely inviting more people of color into a space does not in and of itself make that space inclusive. Patterns of white dominance suffuse the space just like other spaces we occupy, only this time, we’re calling it “inclusive.” That’s more painful and frustrating than being in spaces that are [color] blind. Continue reading

Why Don’t We Ever See Children With Disabilities at the Playground?

Don't call me specialAbout 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.

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Dear Inclusion, It’s Time To Evolve!

Redefining-inclusion-PD-blogIn 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.

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How Patriarchy Has a Grip on Early Childhood Care and Education

Cape Town, South Africa, teacher and kids at playschool
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).

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Inclusion for One is Inclusion for All: Unite!

Third in a three part blog series on social justice by Dr. Andrew Goff…because #OurKidsAreListening.

On paper, the classrooms I taught in were labeled “inclusive”…meaning children with group identities of disabled and non-disabled. But, the classes were more than simply inclusive to children of diverse abilities, they were also inclusive to children of diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, family unit, economic status, and more. During those years, and more so in the years since, I have come to realize that the practices I used were more than practices for the inclusion of children with disabilities. The strategies used in the classrooms I taught in were inclusive for all, regardless of group, cultural, or self-identities.

In this blog, I provide three resources, that when unified, can help support programs and classrooms that are inclusive to all children and families. I wrote the blog with early childhood professionals and advocates for social justice and equity in early childhood education in mind. I conclude with a call for early childhood professionals to unite and address injustice and inequity! Because #OurKidsAreListening…not just at home.

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Supporting a Child Who Wants to Become Woke: Engage!

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.

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