Margo Ford Crosby| Being the Change We Seek

February 21, 2024

“I’ve always loved mirrors. As a child I would stand in front of a mirror and rehearse what I was going to say to someone at school,” Margo recalls. She liked what she saw, unlike some of the young Black children she served as a pre-K teacher in North Carolina. “I taught a little Black girl and a little Black boy who had lovely dark skin and used to think they were ugly,” she says. “So, I would put them in front a of a mirror and say, ‘Tell yourself that you’re beautiful. Look at your eyes and the features that make you unique.’ I would encourage the children to embrace those things and eventually they would smile.”

Helping all children to love themselves has long been Margo’s goal. She has championed equity and inclusion as an early educator, pre-K director, adjunct community college professor, fellow at Bank Street College of Education in New York and most recently an ECE high school teacher. She also shows other early childhood professionals how to embrace equity and inclusion in the training she provides through her business, TLC Consulting. “Educators need to ask themselves whether they’re doing what’s needed to be relevant and culturally responsive in the classroom,” she says. “Are they making connections with children and families?”

These connections are important, Margo explains, because teachers can provide a strong foundation for children’s lives. She speaks from life experience as she remembers the teachers who sparked her commitment to equity in early learning. Three of them were her aunts, all educators who exposed her to books and firsthand experiences that sparked her interest in subjects ranging from history to biology and science. “My aunts made me want to become an educator, so I could make the same impact on children that they had made on me.”

Another source of inspiration for Margo’s career was her high school teacher, Ms. Glover. “I took education classes with her in Guilford County, the same rural county where I’m teaching high school classes now. Ms. Glover and I connected as she engaged me, nurtured my interest in early childhood education and showed me the career paths I could pursue. She inspired me, and we connected. Now I’m trying to make the same impact at Southwest Guilford High School, where I give courses on child development and teaching as a profession. In class, I encourage the students to think back to their early years and reflect on teachers with whom they connected.”

Those distant memories matter as Maya Angelou put it in Margo’s favorite quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And that’s one of the messages Margo works to pass on in the consulting side of her career. “I do a lot of training for Head Start and private child care programs to keep educators up on the latest research and theories in the early learning field,” she says. “As educators we never stop learning, and part of that is to self-reflect on our biases and be aware of norms that may hold us back from supporting all children.”

That’s crucial for building equity in early learning, a passion that Margo had the chance to focus on as a Bank Street early childhood policy fellow for 10 months. “The program I was part of brought together early childhood champions from across the country. We had guest speakers come in and share their research with us, as we looked at our field through an equity lens. Our goal was to see how the early childhood profession could achieve justice for children and families.”

One of the issues the Bank Street fellows discussed is that “quite often social policies were created at a time when we weren’t an equitable country,” as Margo explains. “My ancestors were still property when some policies were passed. So, we must dismantle some of our norms to build a system that nurtures each and every person. That was the point of the Bank Street fellowship program, and we each chose a personal project on how we can change society to be inclusive for all children.”

Margo’s project focused on equitable literacy for children, as she explains. “Children make connections through books, but many children from marginalized communities have never seen books with people who look like them. There are fewer books with Black, Hispanic and Asian children than white children, I learned while doing my project. So, I became eager for children to have a learning environment filled with pictures and books of people with hair, skin and clothes that resemble theirs,” she says. And the research shows the importance of books like this for children to learn to accept and love themselves. But there aren’t enough books like this, and they are especially scarce in rural areas like the one where Margo works, so she’s doing book drives to make them more available to children in Guilford County.

Her commitment to equity in early learning also extends beyond the county since she’s a leader of the Equity in ECE Circle at the North Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children. “It provides teachers with a safe space to discuss crucial issues, like the excessive expulsions of Black boys, that they might be reluctant to bring up at school staff meetings,” she says. “We have discussions about how to grow educators who can build a strong foundation for all children. And we’re soon going to study a book: We Are the Change We Seek: Advancing Racial Justice in Early Education. One of the authors, Iheoma Iruka, will speak to us this year when we mark the one-year anniversary of the ECE Circle and I’m excited about that,” Margo says.

Her passion for equity and justice springs from experiences of her own. “As an educator and a professional, I have experienced microaggressions about my appearance,” she says. “My hair is natural and big. I wear big earrings, bright clothes and a lot of bangles, which has led some people to tell me I don’t look like the professional I am—and even hindered my career growth. But I still embrace my authentic self, like I told those two little children to do when I was a preschool teacher.”

Margo didn’t want any child to feel ugly when they looked in the mirror, so she decided to do a morning pep talk with her preschool class. “I brought a mirror into the class for every child, and we did morning affirmations,” she recalls. And a few years ago, she went on to turn the affirmations into a book, Mirrors Up, for adults to read to children. The cover of Margo’s book shows two little kids with natural hair and dark skin. “Inside are pictures of children that my daughter helped me choose,” Margo explains. “I wanted my daughter to see herself in the book and feel proud of who she was.”

Margo’s book also urges all children to hold their heads high, look people in the eye and smile. “My belief,” she says “is that children need to affirm themselves at an early age. Then they will be on solid ground even if they face challenges later in life.” Helping children to love themselves is a step in lifting all children up, the goal of equity in early education and Margo’s ongoing passion. She’s determined to be a part of the change that she seeks for children.


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