by Su White, Teaching Director, Quarry Hill School, Middlebury
Co-leader, Addison County Directors Network
2018 Early Childhood Leadership Institute, Snelling Center
In considering equity so many things come to mind- and as ideas bubble up and recede, what remains through my sifted thoughts is: “being heard”, “being seen”, “being respected”. In short- BELONGING.
In the world of early childhood, in our classrooms and childcare settings, equity can be found everywhere and also be quite elusive. As early educators, we support every child to find his or her voice, to notice questions and empower children to find answers through discovery and investigation. The environment and culture we create and cultivate for young children and their families influences the community and true sense of belonging that everyone experiences in our settings. Everyone includes teachers, support staff, administrative staff, as well as parents, guardians and the children we work and play with every day.
I believe equity is a big part of an individual’s sense of comfort in belonging. Equity acknowledges and celebrates differences—between individuals, between programs and approaches. It acknowledges the objectives and priorities that always keep our children, their families, and our teachers at the front and center of everything. There should be a place for everyone!
Programs that are inclusive, rich in diversity as well as created with predictable rhythms and routines are places where we find and experience equity for young children, their families, caregivers and teachers. Experiences that are offered with scaffolded supports allow every child to explore with personal curiosity and to develop greater understanding of their world. When discovery and new learning is celebrated and shared with peers and colleagues everyone is invited to become a welcomed and engaged participant. Engagement and interest are building blocks for a rooted and self-perpetuating culture of BELONGING.
When teachers, educators and support staff are honored and respected for their gifts and talents, when they are heard, acknowledged, and supported in their work and commitment to children, families and to their program and colleagues, when they are meaningfully compensated and scheduled with adequate planning and collaboration time- only then can we begin to consider professional equity in our field. Our teachers’ voices must be heard and carefully considered for successful and vibrant culture to emerge and grow in our childcare settings. And successful and vibrant childcare centers are places where community, children, families and teachers can grow and thrive.
Collectively we can create equity. We can provide opportunities not only for professional growth but also chances for individuals to impact our programs with personal interests, passions, and questions. Curriculum, culture, and community can all be positively impacted with this input. Willing and meaningful participation (with supportive, authentic and dedicated leadership) offers fertile ground for collaborative teamwork. We notice and encourage when this happens among children and when we encourage similar efforts in teachers and families, exciting joyful growth and connections result! Intentionally creating this type of engagement for children, families and professionals supports community that becomes steeped in compassion and commitment- with strong underpinnings of equity prevailing.
Collectively, no matter our role or our place in the whole, when we notice, acknowledge and appreciate others in our classrooms, our community, and in our larger systems, we have the opportunity to participate in and perpetuate a culture of equity that can ripple beyond the outstretched arms of our personal impact. Moving beyond equity to also include justice in our educational settings and communities is a broader and more far reaching personal aspiration. I hope our systems will join me.