A Moment with Dr. Moore: Bonding and Building at the EELC

October 27, 2022

1969 Head Start Graduation Ceremony

Why should you come to a conference? People often pose that question in our digital age. After all, there’s a wealth of free information that’s available on the web. New podcasts come out every day. And time is at a high premium for many folks, including those of us in the early childhood profession—all valid excuses for staying home. Still, there are compelling reasons why live events, like our recent Early Educators Leadership Conference, count in building the future of a field.

A big reason for going to conferences is to meet with likeminded people and industry peers. You have the chance to get together with people from a wide range of backgrounds who you probably wouldn’t encounter in the normal course of your daily work. And as you build your professional network, conferences can be a good place for reuniting with colleagues after not connecting for a while.

It’s also a place to expand your knowledge and explore solutions to problems. You’ll hear about new techniques, new research and data. You’ll learn from thought leaders who you might not have heard of before. You can chat with them one-on-one, and they might give you some tips for improving your professional practice. You can also get feedback from people who do similar work and may offer you fresh insights.

You might even meet someone—whether at a meal, exhibit hall, session or break—and make a bond that could change your professional life. These connections matter because they’re what community is all about. And community counts because it makes us feel we are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

This feeling of belonging leads to a wide range of benefits as we join forces with our peers. The members of a community have a sense of commitment to the group and believe they matter to one another. Being part of a community encourages us to share the struggles we’ve faced, the ways we’ve overcome them and how our peers can, too.

Sharing trials and triumphs stimulates growth and innovation, leading to new ideas. And one of the most conducive venues for this type of productive exchange is a conference, where attendees explore common goals, concerns and solutions. The chats that take place there can spark creative thinking and serious questioning of the status quo. So, conferences build the community’s greater good by being catalysts for change.

And change was on my mind as my turn came to address the crowd at our EELC. It’s been a running theme in my life as I made my way from a low-income home in Birmingham, AL, to my current position in Washington, DC, where I empower members of our profession. Yet at the start, I didn’t try to change anyone but myself. That seemed ambitious enough when I was a young man, a time when one in three Black men wound up in prison.

My early years were filled with constant reminders that I just wasn’t good enough and couldn’t fulfill my dreams. “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” as the poet Langston Hughes once recalled in his poem Mother to Son. She declares, “It’s had tacks in it/And splinters/And boards torn up/And places with no carpet on the floor.” Still, Hughes “kept a’climbin’ on/And reachin’ landins’/And turnin’ corners/And sometimes goin’ in the dark/Where there ain’t been no light.” In Hughes’ poem, the mother says to her son, “Don’t you set down on the steps/ ‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard,” and so I got up and moved forward!

I also was driven to climb my way to success, and one of the things that lit my way was earning a Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™. It happened almost by chance after my aunt encouraged me to serve in Head Start before finishing college, and the center I worked at gave me the support to earn a CDA®. This unforeseen turn of events led me to catch fire and build a career in ECE. The CDA helped me cast off the stigma that often surrounds men who want to teach our youngest children. It showed parents I knew what I was doing and helped me stay in the classroom for five years before mounting the career ladder to reach my current role.

Despite how far I’ve come, I remain a teacher at my core. Sometimes, I wish I were still sitting on the floor singing with a bunch of 4-year-olds. But my unexpected journey from CDA holder to Council CEO has emboldened me to be a changemaker for our profession. I’ve been able to have an impact on my fellow CDAs, many of whom converged at the EELC.

I’ve been beside them during the trials of COVID-19 in recent years. Now I’m eager to shepherd them to new triumphs, and I know that our CDAs are up to the challenge. They, too, make up a community of people who care about each other and care about what they share—the commitment to give all young children the best possible care and give our early childhood teachers the support they need, too.

But that won’t happen unless we’re all driven to fulfill our common purpose, and conferences like the one we just had are catalysts to ignite a spark that drives us to bond and build. They’re a reminder that every one of us can be a changemaker who empowers others to strive. As a community, we can use our shared sense of passion and purpose to create a better ECE system for all. Sure, we’ve had our dark days and sometimes stumbled to find our way. Still, we have turned a corner and our mission is crystal clear. As a community, we must all refuse to sit on the steps. Together, let’s climb the steps to reach success.


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