Teaching and Modeling Self-Advocacy
Consider…Expressing one’s needs is self-advocacy that manifests in different ways for different children.
Avoid…Assuming that children will have the language, disposition, and opportunity to advocate for themselves in a specific manner.
Embrace…Knowing the variety of ways in which pre-school aged children communicate needs and wants.
Exploring Messaging and Communication
Consider… Social messages can be covert and overt; including “written” and “unwritten” expectations for children, families, and staff.
Avoid… Assuming that information is received as intended, what is clear to the person sharing may not resonate with or be clear to the audience.
Embrace…Knowing the audience to the extent possible and utilizing Universal Design and accessibility tools.
Educator Scenario: Referring to a classroom or school as a “community” instead of as a “family”
Helpful: Acknowledge that this may be a new way of thinking about classroom and school environments and cultures.
Consider: Communities typically have common expectations, and equity-minded communities create opportunities for input from all within the community. Families have unique and personal expectations and ways of interacting within the familial unit that may not always manifest in ways that are understood by those outside the family. Often these misunderstandings can be perceived through a deficit framework, leading to undesired outcomes and result in exclusion.
Internal growth framework: “I have an opportunity to co-create a shared space and expectations of the space with all who occupy it.”
Comment: “Our classroom is a community space for all to learn and grow. I want to learn more about your ideas about how to make that happen for everyone who enters this space, creating affirmations and expectations that inspire safety, learning, and joy for all. Please assist me with co-creating classroom community affirmations and expectations.”
Educator Scenario: a child shares that they went deer hunting and helped skin and eat a deer.
Helpful: Acknowledge the child’s comment and express interest in learning about them and their family.
Consider: The child and family’s cultural identities and practices, any recent examples of food sources that have been introduced in the classroom, and note to yourself your internal reactions (consider how they may manifest – for example, frowning at the child’s statement because of your own beliefs).
Internal growth framework: “I have an opportunity to acknowledge something relevant to this child and their family through conversation.”
Comment: “Thank you for sharing that with me/us, I like learning new things about you and your family.”
Educator Scenario: A child comments about another child’s skin color being different.
Helpful: Acknowledge the difference in skin color among all children and adults in the classroom – do not single out the child that was referenced. Instead answer in a developmentally appropriate way.
Consider: Your ability to navigate conversations about identity and the ability of pre-school aged children to understand adult concepts. Develop an ongoing proactive approach that inspires self-worth and value in all children while encouraging inquiry and discussion.
Growth framework: “I have an opportunity to encourage developmentally appropriate conversations about differences among people and create opportunities to have authentic and supportive conversations about things children notice.”
Comment: “Everyone in our classroom has individual skin, hair, and eye colors. If we were all them same, it sure would be tough to know who is who. I am glad that each of you is just the way you are!”
Educator Experience: “Its Konner with a K”
“Konner with a K” entered my life mid-school year by showing up as an unregistered student without an adult or paperwork, getting off the bus and announcing, “I am Konner with a K” – a phrase he would repeat every time he said his name. After repeatedly saying this to me, I eventually responded in frustration, “I got it. Konner with a K!”
Upon further investigation, I found out that he arrived in our city due to the family traveling through it from another state and their car broke down so they stayed, with only the possessions they had in the car. I then learned that he saw a school bus that morning and knew that kids belonged in school so he hopped on it and entered my life. As he shared, I realized that this was something he was used to doing and had done it numerous times in his young life.
My frustration at his repeatedly saying, “I am Konner with a K” was immediately replaced with guilt, I initially focused on what his unexpectedly showing up meant to me (more work), and not what it meant to him. I learned from him an important and meaningful lesson about names and identity. For Konner with a K, his name was his only possession that he knew he would always have with him, no matter where the car broke down or school he attended. He was acutely aware that adults may have difficulty locating his records so he had practiced being helpful with the spelling of his name.
So thank you dear Konner with a K for teaching this educator an important lesson: to always gently use another’s name.