Fighting for Our Field
Teachers have the power to transform the world by starting when children are small. The early childhood setting is a forum where we can instill the value of social justice in young learners. Granted, children bring their own backgrounds and baggage to the classroom since “parents possess the original key to their offspring’s experience,” explained child psychologist and acclaimed author Haim Ginott. Still, “teachers have a spare key. They can open or close the hearts and minds of children.” We can make history by changing the future of our children.
And in this issue, we mark Black History Month by talking about the long line of Black teachers whose impact is still felt today. Check out Dr. Calvin Moore’s blog to learn about Charlotte Forten Grimké, who taught newly freed Black children during the Civil War, and Fannie Williams, who set up the first preschool for Black children in New Orleans. Read about Evangeline Ward, who served as the first executive director of the Child Development Associate® credentialing program, along with more of Dr. Moore’s personal heroes. They include his mom, aunt and the many Black teachers who give young Black children the confidence to succeed.
The way we engage with young children speaks volumes about the kind of society we want to live in, as you’ll see in our blog, A Big Dream that Begins Small. Schools are microcosms of the world beyond their walls. Factors like race, culture, class and gender set the stage for what ensues in our schools as learners from diverse groups interact. The conflicts that can arise make it harder to build a sense of community in classrooms. So, we need to take steps to build empathy in children when their minds are most open. The life lessons that early childhood teachers pass on in the microcosm of the classroom can have a macro impact by leading to a kinder, more caring world.
That’s the mission of Flance Early Learning Center in St. Louis, Missouri, says its executive director, Tami Timmer. See how her work goes beyond teaching children to also embrace the community and its families. “We’re working for change and doing everything we can to break the poverty cycle in this part of the city,” she says. So, Flance runs after-school programs for grade-school kids, connects parents with resources they need and provides locals with tons of free veggies from its garden. All these efforts vastly enhance the neighborhood’s well-being and health, though Timmer downplays them as “baby steps” toward a big goal.
Our field can get closer to reaching its own dream of equity in early learning with input from folks like Brionnea Williams-McClary, the new director of public policy at the Council. Brionnea has a background working in low-income communities and shelters for homeless moms, experience in federal policy and expertise in women’s studies, along with years working as an early childhood teacher. “Everything I’ve done,” she says, “has convinced me that you have to look at early care and learning through a multifocal lens that encompasses economics and equity, workforce and women’s issues.”
This broad sense of vision will steer Brionnea’s advocacy work at the Council, including our Virtual Capitol Hill Day the week of March 28. It’s just one of the ways we are supporting our field all year long. And so can you. We urge you to speak out in the community you serve, write letters to news outlets and contact your state officials. People need to know that equity in early learning is essential to advance social justice for all. Do your part to open more hearts and minds.
Keep up the fight for what’s right,
The Council for Professional Recognition