Early Childhood Studies – a Global Perspective

Exploring the concepts on early childhood studies through the lens of people across the globe


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Professional Hopes and Goals

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The issues of diversity, equity and social justice permeate in our societies as remnants of the historical experiences of racism, classism, religionism and genderism among many others are deeply rooted in traditions, practices, and systems in our society. These have formed personal, familial and community cultures that come in harmony or conflict with each other. The awareness about these issues comes in different levels – with some cognizant than the others, partially un/conscious, or completely unmindful. Not being able to address these could negatively impact both the advantaged and the disadvantaged. By dwelling mainly on the majority and power cultures strips those who are perceived weak the right to assert their beliefs and practices and become visible in the society. On the other hand, those in the dominant end lose the opportunity to see wider perspectives, and learn from the strengths that others have.

As an early childhood educator, it is my hope that the foundation of injustice, bias and prejudice be uprooted from the system through the hope-718703_1280education of the young children. Educating them encompasses a culturally relevant and critical pedagogy that would not only respect their cultures, but also sustain the desire to preserve their cultures while incorporating those of others. As well, a curriculum that would help the young child understand the whole picture of diversity as they relate to equity and social justice is liberation from potential oppression. Working with children and their families is a step forward to raise consciousness that could impact their thinking and precepts. These children who would develop an awareness of diversity and equity would be the future adults who could re-shape the systems that are now embedded in our society.

The early childhood field must continue to be vigilant in guarding the signs of bias, prejudice, and injustice in any setting. Anyone involved inforward-476100_1280 the early childhood education must have a self-awareness of ethical practices that would enable them to work effectively with children and families coming from diverse abilities, classes, cultures, and backgrounds. Systems must be in place so that every individual who works for and with children have the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to educate a whole child within his or her context.

Personal stories and insights shared by colleagues have expanded my awareness of diversity, equity, and injustice. The lens shared by many chalkboard-620316_1280provided a bigger picture of these issues. I was able to see beyond the narrow scope of my perspective. Realizing that although individuals including myself have suffered from different forms of indignities continue to rise from adversity and persist in changing the system that hurts many brings hope that one day, fairness, justice and equity will be fully achieved.

Reference:

Hyland, N. E. (2010). Social justice in early childhood classrooms: What the research tells us. YC: Young Children65(1), 82–87. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/docview/197637742/fulltextPDF?accountid=14872


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Welcoming Families from Around the World

Being familiar with a place usually stems from what you hear in the news, people’s conversations about their travels, people you meet at work, as castle-861015_1280well as tourism advertisement. By far, Estonia is a country that does not seem to be commonly mentioned within the range of news that I hear and read about as well as the stories from travellers with whom I come across. Having the opportunity to work with families from different places, I have not met one from this place. Thus, I choose Estonia to feature in this blog as a family to know and work with.

Estonia is located in Northern Europe. It is South of Finland, facing the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland. It is composed of 1,500 islands and populated by 1.325 million residents as of 2013. The country gained independence from Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Russia in 1918 and again regained its impendence from Russia in 1991. Reading more about the country’s GDP, fertility rate and government system still would not enable me to uncover the surface of who the family I am working with. To know an individual or a family requires a depth of knowledge about the family culture – their beliefs, practices, attitudes and experiences they come with. As well, the family culture is not a whole representation of the presence-904565_1280child’s identity. Thus, the child’s unique personal identity must also be learned. To effectively work with the child and the family, there are certain factors that need to be considered and looked into.

  1. Get to know the child and his/her family not only through a piece of paper.

Although it is a good start to find pertinent information about the new family through a questionnaire to gain surface insight about them, I have to conscientiously be aware of my conversations and other forms of interaction to build upon my knowledge about them. I have to see, feel, and hear the child.

  1. Establish an effective means of communication.

From the start, I will consult the family how best we can exchange communication. Through this approach, there will be bilateral means of exchanging information in order to avoid assumptions and judgments. Having a platform to express themselves also assures that they have a voice in the program.

  1. Establish trust and respect through transparency.

By inviting the family to be a part of the program, allowing them to participate in ways that would empower them as collaborators in the education of their child, the family learns more about the program and the new environment with which their child is a part. This provides opportunities to become aware of their similarities and differences with all the other families. Recognizing these is a start to build trust and respect for others who may be different from them.

  1. Create an environment where the child and the family would feel that they belong.

community-909149_1280Displaying the work of the child, as well as other symbols that represent the child and the family’s personal and social identities make them feel that they are part of the group. It affirms and validates the culture that they bring with them.

  1. Establish and maintain a relationship.

Welcoming a new family does not end with provisions of materials and handouts that would acquaint the family about the program. Neither it is limited to scheduled parent and child conferences only. As Diffily and Morrison (1996) write, “a strong home-school connection is essential when building a good environment for young children.”

Through the approaches mentioned earlier, I am hoping that I am able to scratch the surface to know and understand the new child and the family that I work with. The symbiotic relationships between the child, his or herplanning-620299_1280 family and the program staff would help in recognising the differences between the two environments – home and school, so that differences can be tolerated, and have the flexibility to compromise when necessary in order to serve the best interest of the child.

References:

Diffily D. & Morrison, K. eds. (1996). Family-Friendly Communications for Early Childhood Programs. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Washington, D.C.

“Estonia.” Cities of the World. 2002. Retrieved December 11, 2015 from Encyclopedia.com:http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700124.html


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The Personal Side of Bias, Prejudice and Oppression

When I think of bias, prejudice and oppression, I tend to look back at the historical beginnings of stratification and dominance, when slavery chains-19176_1280and colonialism are at their peak. Was it a case of not having a choice or choosing to follow to escape the consequence of counter action? Turner (2005) differentiates the standard view of power and the three-process theory of power where the former delves into the control of resources and interdependence; whereas the three-process theory denotes that “power is an emergent property of specific social and psychological relations between people and these relations shape the form it takes” (Turner, 2005). The latter perspective gives us hope in redefining the norms, beliefs, and practices that have been established over time as power can influence “people to act in line with one’s desires by persuading them that the desired judgment, decision, belief or action is correct, right, moral, appropriate” (Turner, 2005). Thus, the norms, beliefs and practices formed from long ago, can be shaped by the change in circumstances to ensure that it would be for the benefit of the people and not of those leading.

I say this in the hope that all the prejudices and biases that fabricated my poor self-image and those of others would eventually put to a stop. From economic to racial and gender slurs, I had them all. However, I will only focus now on the classism on poverty that I experienced in life. Being young, I hated to admit that my family belonged to the low-income group. This would mean that my friends at school would look down on me, would not treat me the same as they treat those who are in the high-income bracket. People who did not have money were judged with the way they dressed, talked and conducted themselves in public. There was such as a thing as “cheap talk” because people who are poor do not know any better. Thus, I vowed to myself that I would never admit that we did not have money as the economic status automatically comes with respect/disrespect from others. To get away from judgments, as soon as I walked out of school, I disassociated myself from peers and ventured into my safe world at home. As I moved to university, there was a thing called,“sub-urbanism”. I coined this word to describe a person like me who came from the city, but not the metropolis – a city that has its accent that stop-863665_1280was described as “provincial”. Interest and social groups in university were formed based on geographical locations, how smart you are based on the perception of others and one’s religious affiliation. Dormitories were tagged as “classy”, those occupied by the rich; “oldies”, those who are quite ‘old’ pursuing their masters and doctorates and “provincial”, those who come from outside the metropolis. Of course, I stayed at the one dubbed as “provincial” and only socialized with my kind as I seemed to be invisible when I walked past the “rich kids”. I came to pass the hallways pretending that I was walking through an empty space. As a young adult, I continued to face invisibility in social settings when my sister married a man who came from a well-off family. Each time I visited my sister, I would greet her in-laws and they would just walk past me as if nothing was heard. I cringe upon the memory of those moments when I felt invisible. Thus, I vowed to myself after graduation that I would never be poor. At 20, I worked for my independence. I worked at least 15 hours a day to do extra change-20272_1280teaching for more income. I had my child at 24 and worked even harder. By then, I was able to establish myself at work and was already being honed for a leadership role. I was relieved that I was no longer being scrutinized with how much or less money I have, but with the abilities that I have.

To this date, recounting all those experiences and realizing my feats at this time in my life, I am proud to be where I am. I knew I could not change these people by questioning their behavior towards me. However, showing them that I have gone miles apart from my beginnings, that I chess-316657_1280have gained more than what they had then, their perspectives have changed. As well, those others who have seen beyond what they see on the surface, my color, gender, and race have lifted me up from the invisible context. My abilities were honed and appreciated. I have become a respected individual. In this regard, I changed my predicament with the support of those who have “the power to influence people to act in line to what are correct and moral” (Turner, 2005). This is the power that we need to promote equity.

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Reference:

Turner, J. (2005). Explaining the nature of power: A three-process theory. European Journal of Social Psychology. 35 (1). Retrieved from         http://www.researchgate.net/publication/227724259_Explaining_the_Nature_of_Power_A_Three-Process_Theory


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Practicing Awareness of Micro-aggressions

 

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Micro-aggressions are direct and indirect forms of indignities conveyed through verbal, personal or environmental mediums usually racial-segregation-67788_640targeted towards the minority – women, children, gay/lesbian and peopleof color. It could be presented through micro assault, when a person blatantly insults a person; micro insult, when a person knowingly or unknowingly degrades another; or, micro invalidation, when a person diminishes the feelings of another on issues such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status.

Tracing the roots of micro-aggression dates back from colonial period where exploitation, violence, and denial of human rights and resources were reinforced by a hierarchical and patriarchal society. It is a discrimination-60512_1280learned behavior that has penetrated into the systems at different levels – institutional, interpersonal and internalized. Exposure to micro-aggression at different levels has permeated into the beliefs and practices of individuals, families and the larger community.
At different levels and forms, micro-aggression can be witnessed in our daily lives. In the adult world, being a Southeast Asian and a woman, I have always been a target of derogatory remarks that even my Western friends would unconsciously mention. I remember a male American colleague who married a Lao woman. Most often, even in front of the wife, he would complain about how ‘typical’ Southeast Asian women would choose to marry Westerners for financial comfort. I would remind him right away that I am a Southeast Asian woman who is independent and had never depended on anybody to raise west-923075_1280my child. As well, I would remind him how insulting and hurting his remarks could be for his wife. He thought his wife does not understand a lot of what he says, so he could make any comments he wants. There have been numerous conversations trying to understand why he thinks the way he does and constant explanations as well about stereotyping and insulting women of color. Many times, I would give him examples of a counter practice to make him see that people are different and whatever predicaments they are in, cannot be judged by the naked eye. Another instance was a friend who went on holiday with me to an island in my home country. She observed how many older Western men go for a holiday with very young local women. So she would tease me, “Do you want to find a partner? You could be a mail order bride?” For her, it was a comment to inject an element fun in our conversation, but it was an insult for me as well. Without being upset, I started a conversation about the different reasons why these women could be in the situation they are in as well as questioning why these Western men go after the young girls from Asia. Scrutinizing the issues behind these people make people like my friend become thoughtful of what they say.
In the world of children, they adopt the perceptions that they witness in their environment, from the people around them, from the relationships of which they are a part. One instance was witnessed in a playground when children aged four to six years old were playing together. An East Asian girl came up to me in tears and said, “The girls didn’t want to play with me because they said, “their game is only for blonde girls”. chess-145184_1280Another recent experience that I witnessed was a five-year old girl remarked, “I don’t want to sit next to a boy” after the seating position on the carpet was rearranged. Both these situations were teaching moments to capture the children’s thinking and help them reflect on the message conveyed in their words and how it could affect others. It took and will take many opportunities to help the children relearn the acquired biases and prejudices and becoming aware of these is the starting point.
Micro-aggressions take place anytime, anywhere. It is when we do not let these moments slip by and continue to be vigilant so that people will become aware of the indignities that they commit can we slowly combat the long standing culture of oppression. If there could be anythingstop-1001080_1280 early childhood educators can contribute to this battle is to be the frontrunners of advocating for a bias, prejudice and stereotype free society in different and creative ways they could affect the children in their programs.


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Perspectives on Diversity and Culture

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Interviewing individuals about diversity and culture is by itself an exploration of diversity and culture. Curious if the people around me share the same perspectives that I have, I chosen to interview three people with whom I have very close relationships.

Andy is my partner. Also a teacher, we met at a school where we both worked. Although Canadian, he has spent two-thirds of his life outside his home country. He has lived in five continents, lived and worked in 18 countries, and visited 39 countries.continents-975927_1280

On Culture:

“It includes beliefs, values, and mores encompassing religion, and education of a specific group. It reflects they way people grew up, and how they were taught. Culture can change when one picks up different pieces of culture depending on what you come across with and what you are exposed to. We have our own culture as young children, but we add to it as we expand, explore our experience and environment.”

On Diversity:

“It is being able to accept other cultures – race, literature, music, arts, and food. It is being empathetic and accepting. The more you are exposed to different cultures, the more diverse you become. It is also being able to assimilate different cultures, being able to show that you can follow the belief system of another and not just your own. Diversity is about open-mindedness and being a global citizen.”

Maria is my daughter. From age five, she started attending international schools in and outside our home country. She now goes to a university in Canada. She intends to continue traveling and to find work that would allow her to do this. She has lived in three countries and visited seven countries.

On culture:

“It is a system of signals and behaviors that help us understand ourselves and the environment of which we navigate through. Signals are gestures, customs, traditions, as well as how the community functions and communicates. Tradition can be part of a family culture, but it does not mean there is a presence of one culture only. Every individual within a family takes on a different interpretation and aspect of a culture.“

On Diversity:

“It is home – it is where everyone belongs. There is a variety of nationality, ethnicity, history, and culture. Privilege, as manifested in biases and prejudices, destroys the essence of diversity in its attempt to create a monoculture. Where there is a presence of a dominant culture, one assimilates to blend in.”

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Same but also different

As her mother, I was curious to dig into her thoughts so I asked, “Could you keep your culture as you assimilate the culture of others? She replied I keep my culture as I practice in private. Then, I preserve it within myself.”

I raised the question, “Would you say you are not in a diverse community?” Her response was “My school? No. But I compromise so I won’t struggle.”

Beckie is a colleague, neighbor and also a friend. She worked in an international school in her home country her whole life and after retirement, has decided to work outside the country. She has visited more than 30 countries.

On Culture:

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A culture in a sea of cultures

“It is all that pertains to traditions, language and way of life. There is family culture, a school culture, a town culture and a country culture. The people involved in a group; their way of life; and the geographical contexts including the resources where they live form their culture. Thus, even the nutrition and diet of the people depending on the places they live depict their culture.”

On Diversity:

“It is multi-cultural. Language is diverse. Although there are differences in the cultures of different groups, they look at commonalities and assimilate and modify ways if necessary. Where there are differences in religions, languages, and thinking, diversity is when there is an absence of cliques, clans, and instead there is openness, tolerance, and acceptance.”

Gleaning from the lens of these people from different generations, they all present what culture is all about – that it is not restricted to race, language, and food, but all the many ways of life. Beckie made an interesting point on how the physical environment shapes one’s culture while Andy and Maria both mentioned about the diversity of experiences and how they expand one’s culture.

If I were to analyze the identity of each based on the perspectives presented, Andy and Beckie seem to have established who they are already. They have formed a solid definition of what they are and what they choose to practice. Maria, who is quite young is still exploring how to make her culture visible in a context where the dominant culture is different from hers. In an attempt to tolerate the dominant culture while preserving hers, she finds a way to “compromise” – the third way. Maria thinks that diversity is ‘home’ because everybody is comfortable in what they do, say, feel and think. It is the very essence of what Derman-Sparks (2010) among many others claim about diversity.

Reference:

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Culture and diversity [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Family cultures: Dynamic interactions [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu


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My Family Cullture

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Coming from a family that is almost transient – we moved houses every two to three years between the two cities from where my parents originated. Thus, the artifacts that tell the story of our family seem to decline in number through the years. More than a decade ago, our house that belonged to my parents was broken into. It has left a lot of bad memories that there were many things that we left behind. As an adult, I have been travelling with my daughter and have only brought with us mementos in a box that we want to take with us through the years. Now that my daughter is an adult, we are miles apart, and still uncertain where she will choose to live.

If I will have to shrink the culture of my family from a small box to three pieces of artifacts, I will keep my daughters’ memory book, a photo album of my family, and the books that my daughter gave me.

Memory book – It is a collection of anecdotes and photos from the time my daughter was born. Written on it is the history of
photoour family, her milestones, and the memories that we shared together. This book has a collection of stories that my daughter and I talk about repeatedly. It brings us back together no matter how much distance separates us. It also includes letters that my daughter wrote to me since she was six. Being a teacher, I have always managed to help my daughter develop life skills in a fun way. Her appreciation for writing has developed as we used it as a medium to tell messages to each other. Through time, this has become a part of our mother-daughter tradition. We write to each other to share our pains, excitement, boredom, anger and most especially, our joys.

Family Album – Although it does not show all the years of my childhood, it includes all the many memories of our families. It shows the changes we have gone through all these years – all the additions to our family including the moments when a few members have gone. It brings back the places we visited, our celebrations, the things my siblings fought about and the moments of victory when one was able to assert herself, the clothes we shared as hand me downs, and all the many stories we now share with each other as adults.

Picture books from my daughter – We both love reading picture books even now that she is an adult. Although far from eachphoto1 other, we would have times that we read pages of our favourite stories to each other. From the time my daughter has learned that she can actually make money from baby-sitting, she always bought picture books about mother and daughter whenever there is an occasion or when she knows she would be in ‘trouble’.

Parting with the things that I have already narrowed down to keep would be very difficult for me. These are not only material possessions, but they are a representation of my relationships, experiences and stories that explain who I am. They are pieces of a puzzle that encompass how philippines-652971_1280my identity has been shaped by my family culture and the years of connections and experiences from assimilated culture that have reshaped my identity. The reasons why I am a survivor being a middle child, a single mother and an Asian woman living and leading at work in the world where the dominant culture comes from the West. I maintain the culture of my roots while I partly assimilate the different culture in my environment. I have remained grounded on who I am because there have been people who see beyond my skin colour, and my English accent. People accept me “with whatever resources and richness that I come with” (Laureate Education, 2011).

Reference:

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Family cultures: Dynamic interactions [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu


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A New Outlook on Research

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Prior to taking the course, Building Research Competencies, my lens on research is purely in the finding out aspect about things that personally interest me – to be able to understand and find the explanation for the causation and interrelation of issues, events, and contexts. Little did I know that there are ramifications involved in research that would account for its feasibility, reliability, validity, and equity. Browsing through the chapters of Doing Early Childhood Research (Naughton, et.al., 2010) provided explanations to the components of research – from topic choice, method design, ethical considerations, to analyzing and presenting of information.

The research process is not a simplistic way of choosing a topic or framing a hypothesis, but being able to break the broad topic into sub-areas (Mac Naughton and Rolfe, 2010). Upon narrowing a topic, one has to consider the financial, timepuzzle-961800_1280 and human resources required to gather information. A big part of this is the consideration of ethical issues especially in seeking consent from potential participants. The researcher must be transparent in presenting the objectives, how the participants will take part, and how they will be given access to the findings of the research. The ethical issue of being able to communicate in a language the participants will understand the whole process of research is a primary consideration. Also, part of the process is studying carefully the equity issue of power relations when participants are given opportunities to negotiate and agree to the process on how their voice will be reflected (Grieshaber, 2010).

The method of study in relation to the objectives of the research and the nature of chosen participants can be quantitative, qualitative or a mix of both. Triangulation is an effective way of validating the data collected in a qualitative approach whether it is a method, data, theoretical or investigator. Thus, replicating a research is a viable way to validate its findings. Contrary to the common perception, where quantitative results that present statistical analysis is the only way to justify a research, it occurred to me that depending on the nature of the study, quantitative, qualitative or both can be applied.

Learning a new dimension about research, each week presented challenges although it has helped in refining and fine-tuning the research planning. The biggest realization that made me turn back to review the research plan thoroughly is the equity issue in research. It enabled me to reflect on my role as a researcher. How will I approach the process of data collection without overpowering and domineering the participants? One of the initial limitations that I considered was the capability of the participants. I then realized that if a researcher is cognizant of the social, economic, cultural, gender and age orientation, then the approaches planned for must match their predicaments. The early childhood researcher must, then, be an equal partner with participants – adults or children to co-construct the knowledge that will help in understanding or explaining the issues affecting the development of young children.

Scrutinizing the elements of the chosen research topic provides a solid foundation allowing for adjustments in time, resources and ways of collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. The results of the study whether it is a confirmation of the direction-255294_1280understanding, explanation of the cause of the phenomenon or otherwise, it is a reflective tool from which a sound decision can be made.

Discovering the complexity of research is, therefore, not a drawback in conducting research. Rather, it ensures that having a deep understanding of the process including the challenges and issues all contribute to a reliable and valid study that is equitable, relevant and an effective agent for change.

Reference

Naughton, Glenda Mac. & MacNaughton, Glenda. & Rolfe, Sharne A. & Siraj-Blatchford, Iram.  (2010).  Doing early childhood research : international perspectives on theory & practice.