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Connecting Your Professional Oxygen Mask


You spend your days working hard to support others, meeting the needs of staff, children, and families.   You chose this work and find joy and meaning in the results of your efforts.  As much as you look forward to going to work (most days!), it can be a very challenging job.  So, let’s take time out to think about your professional self:  where do you find support and how are your needs met?

You know the airplane rule—secure your oxygen mask before helping those around you.  If you can’t breathe, you won’t be able to continue supporting others.  One way to find that professional oxygen is by connecting with other directors.  Scheduling time to nurture relationships with your peers allows you to share the load, hear new ideas and solutions, and renew your inspiration and courage.  As you share laughter, you open your brain to learning, reduce stress, and see your problems in perspective.

Since 2000, the Arkansas Children’s Program Administrator Certificate and Credential (ACPAC) has brought together directors from diverse programs for specialized professional development.  In addition to the 129 clock hours of seminar time and the individual projects, participants are eligible to join the ACPAC Google group that makes connections as close as their keyboards.

Jill Gunderman participated in ACPAC while an assistant director.  She discusses community, leadership, and connections below.

The community built during the ACPAC experience is different from joining a professional organization (which is also important!).  Through intentionally crafted learning experiences, participants connect with each other around the content in each two-day seminar.  I got to share my ideas and thoughts and hear others’ ideas and thoughts, all surrounding the passion that we share.  I developed relationships with colleagues through this experience that I still enjoy today.  Even though ideologically I may disagree with fellow participants, there was true respect for the community that was built.  The community building occurred within the context of learning and examining best practices in leadership for young children.

 “The ACPAC experience allowed me to consider who I was as a leader.  I explored my communication style, my philosophy, and my abilities, enabling me to define my individual leader style. 

 “A big takeaway from the ACPAC experience for me, was the realization that I am not alone in this work.  Leadership can be a little lonely, even in large organizations.  But through the support of my fellow participants, some who had been doing this longer than I and others who had different life experiences that brought them to this place in their careers, I learned that although we may face different challenges, we face many more similarities.  Having the opportunity to learn from them and having the opportunity to articulate my thoughts helped shape me into the leader I am today.”

To sustain a vital professional life, you need the professional oxygen that comes from the relationships you find in a network of directors.  We encourage you to decide to join or create director networking opportunities in your area.   


Let Us Hear From You:  Post a comment and share with your colleagues.

  • How could SECA enhance your networking and sharing opportunities on a broader, regional scale? We sponsor a Directors Seminar at the annual conference each year that is designed to promote networking and sharing but we reach only a small number of SECA members who are in attendance at the conference.  What ideas and suggestions do you have about how we might increase support for you through other strategies….technology, sharing forums, dedicated website resources?
  • Have you developed local opportunities for networking and support?  Tell us about them and share your ideas with your colleagues throughout the South.
  • What do you see as the biggest challenges facing administrators of early childhood programs today?

 

 Diana Courson, Associate Director for Arkansas State University Childhood Services, worked with Geania Dickey to design the ACPAC curriculum in 2000 and continues to serve as a seminar facilitator.

 

 

 Jill Gunderman, Program Coordinator for Arkansas State University Childhood Services, ACPAC participant. 

 

 

 

For another model of Directors’ networking, check out the August 2016 blog post, Director to Director:  Supporting Each Other, by Laura Newman.

Are You Asking Questions that Engage?


Jan 2017

By Beth Smith, B.S., M.Ed.

It’s a beautiful Monday afternoon. Jose, Charmin, Terrance and Maria are playing together in the sand. Jose busily uses a shovel to fill a bucket. Terrance drives a toy car back and forth and Charmin and Maria fill plastic bowls and call it, “soup.” As you watch the children play, you obviously observe many skills…problem-solving, fine motor control, social interactions…and the list goes on. So, how could you use this opportunity to engage the children even more? How could you challenge them to think and then share those creative ideas with you? The answer is easy…by asking open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with one word but instead require explanation and thought. These questions most often begin with words like how, why and what. Research has shown that asking these types of questions makes teaching and learning more effective. In fact, in the well-known book Classroom Instruction That Works (Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock 2001), questioning is listed as one of the nine research-based teaching strategies that is extremely effective. Unfortunately, many teachers rely heavily on closed-ended questions that can only be answered with one word as they interact with children. According to a recent research abstract, Teachers Asking Questions in Preschool, 86-92% of questions asked by preschool children were closed-ended (Bay & Hartman 2015). These types of questions do not challenge children to think creatively nor share their ideas verbally.

So, what should you keep in mind when interacting with children? Ask questions that cannot be answered with one word. For instance, in the example given above, you might ask Charmin and Maria something like, “What do you like best about making ‘soup’?” or you could ask Jose, “Why did you choose to use the shovel to fill your bucket?” These types of questions challenge the children to think and express those ideas verbally. This process then opens the door for you to have meaningful back-and-forth conversations with children as they engage in play.

Here’s another example. Let’s say some of the children playing in the sand notice a bee. Here are some open-ended questions you could ask:

  • Why do you think the bee is flying near the flowers?
  • What do you think it would be like to be a bee?
  • How is a bee like a butterfly? How is it different?

These types of questions challenge children to think creatively. With open-ended questions, there are often no “right” or “wrong” answers. In fact, you could say that the thought process involved in forming the answers to these types of questions is much more important than the answers themselves.

When open-ended questions are a natural part of your daily interactions with children, thinking skills, creativity, social interactions, language and so much more grow stronger. As a side benefit, many environmental rating systems look for back-and-forth engagement between teachers and children as part of the evaluation process. Adding more open-ended questions into your daily routine is truly a “win-win” for everyone. So…here is an open-ended question for you…

“What open-ended questions are you going to ask children today?”

Want more information about asking open-ended questions? Check out these links:

http://www2.ed.gov/teachers/how/early/teachingouryoungest/page_pg6.html https://www.naeyc.org/files/tyc/file/TYC_V4N1_Powerful_Interactions.pdf http://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/conversations.pdf

Let Us Hear from You

  • What is the most challenging part of adding open-ended questions to your daily routine?
  • Which activities tend to lend themselves to open-ended questioning?
  • What happens when you ask children open-ended questions?
  • What do you learn about each child’s development when you ask more open-ended questions?
  • How could open-ended questions be helpful when interacting with parents/caregivers?

 

bethheadshotsmallestBeth Smith, B.S., M.Ed. is a Partner with Gee Whiz Education (www.geewhizeducation.com)…a curriculum company that produces a digital curriculum that is designed to be used in a home setting. She has over 25 years of experience working with children in a variety of settings including child care and public school. She’s conducted training over the years at Head Start, NAEYC and NAFCC conferences. She currently resides in northern Virginia with her family…including two teenagers which she says are more challenging than toddlers!

Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing – One State’s Campaign


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As early childhood educators, we understand the value of talking, reading and singing to young children to develop their vocabularies, a precursor to future success in school.  SECA strives to share information from states that may serve as models for your state in developing programs for young children.  Our thanks go to the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for submitting the following article about their new statewide campaign.

 About the Campaign
 The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (AR-GLR), AETN and local partners recently launched a new campaign to boost the early brain development and language skills of children in Little Rock from birth through age five.

The campaign, titled “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing,” is working with two Little Rock School District pre-K programs, the Arkansas Home Visiting Network and Arkansas Department of Health, WIC to share resources and tools to help parents and caregivers boost young children’s vocabulary, improve school readiness and put more Arkansas kids on the path to reading on grade-level by the end of third grade.

Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing aims to motivate parents and caregivers to talknov-resource-kit,  read and sing more frequently with their young children from birth. More than half of Arkansas children start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language, math and social-emotional skills. Research shows that simple, everyday interactions with young children – like describing objects seen during a walk or bus ride, singing songs or telling stories – can build their vocabularies, prepare them for school and lay a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

“We’re empowering parents with the tools they need for their kids to succeed,” Kara Dukakis, the director of Too Small to Fail, said at a launch event at Little Rock’s Bale Elementary School Tuesday, November 16, 2016.   “Our goal is to integrate the campaign into the local early childhood infrastructure,” Dukakis said.

The Talking is Teaching campaign is partnering with trusted messengers, like pre-school teachers, child care providers, home visitors, and WIC nutritionists to share information with parents and caregivers about the critical role they play in their child’s early brain development. These community partners will distribute Talking is Teaching materials—including books, clothing, magnets and bags with prompts that encourage parents to talk, read and sing with their children—directly to families. The partners will also provide subscriptions for parents to ReadyRosie, an educational tool that has hundreds of brief videos in English and Spanish that model everyday interactions in familiar environments with real parents.

nov-youtube-chnTalking is Teaching also aims to transform everyday places where families spend time together into language-rich environments. Laundromats, grocery store chains and churches around the community will display Talking is Teaching posters that encourage families to talk, read and sing while they engage in everyday activities. A community-wide multimedia campaign, including billboards, bus signs and an AETN public service announcement, will reinforce these messages.
“Our goal is that every child in Arkansas can read on grade level by the end of third grade,” Angela Duran, AR-GLR campaign director, said. “This is the foundation for success in middle and high school and further in college and in careers.”   Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing is funded by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

For more information on the campaign contact Angela Duran, Campaign Director, Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, aduran@ar-glr.net  ?  870-692-3176

Many of the resources mentioned in the article are available for download at www.ar-glr.net or http://talkingisteaching.org/resources.  The parent bags of materials will only be available in Arkansas.

Let Us Hear From You/Post a Comment

  • Has your state or organization developed a similar campaign? If so, tell us how it works.
  • What strategies have you implemented in your program to promote vocabulary development?
  • Can you identify other open source resources that caregivers and parents could access?

Absenteeism in Pre-K and Kindergarten: Long Term Effects?

blog-header-10-16Photo courtesy of Nancy Alexander, LA.

Chronic absenteeism has been seen as something that primarily affects schools.  During the last couple of years, however, researchers have begun looking at the effects that a history of chronic absenteeism beginning in pre-K may have on the future academic success of a young child, particularly in regard to reading proficiency. 

Two reports, Absenteeism in DC Public Schools Early Childhood Program:  An Update for School Year 2013-2014 by Lisa Dubay and Nikhil Holla and  Insights into Absenteeism in DCPS Early  Childhood Program:  Contributing Factors and Promising Strategies by Michael Katz, Gina Adams and Martha Johnson, highlighted the importance of combating chronic absenteeism in the early years and the complex nature of the challenges in addressing the underlying causes.

The reports provided these key findings:

  • About 20% of Head Start students in the DC school programs were chronically absent, with another 7 % severely chronically absent, meaning they missed 20% or more of school days.
  • Children who came from families with significant needs were the most chronically absent.  The report found that 46% of children from homeless families, 36% of children from families participating in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and 34% of children with developmental delays missed 10% or more of the school days.
  • A variety of factors contributed to this chronic absenteeism, including things such as lack of transportation, a school culture that was not welcoming or accepting, neighborhood safety, health status or parental attitudes toward school.

A report just released by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading found that more than 12 percent of Arkansas students in kindergarten through third grade missed 18 or more days of school.  The report, Make Every Day Count:  Reducing Chronic Absence in Arkansas Schools, found that children in kindergarten were more likely to be chronically absent than third graders and that third graders who are economically disadvantaged or have special needs were more likely to be chronically absent.

As early childhood educators, we’ve dedicated our lives to supporting and assisting these children who face challenges, either through family circumstances or developmental problems.  Obviously, if a child is absent, the effect of our efforts will be diminished considerably.  It’s very clear that this is a problem that can develop before a child enters a public or private school…Pre-K programs are not immune.   Children miss those critical days when the building blocks for future learning are being put in place.

Let Us Hear From You

  • Have you experienced a problem with chronic absenteeism within your program or with specific children with whom you work?
  • If absenteeism is a problem, have there been adverse effects on your program or staff? How are  the day to day operations of your class or program affected?
  • Are there strategies that you have employed to educate and empower parents to ensure they are knowledgeable of the benefits of ensuring good attendance?
  • Have you founds ways to connect families in need with services and supports that may help to reduce the potential for chronic absenteeism?

Director to Director: Supporting Each Other


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Post submitted by Laura Newman, Quality Care for Children, Atlanta, GA

“Quality Care for Children, headquartered in Atlanta, recently celebrated its first anniversary delivering monthly cohort support groups. Appropriately named, Director to Director (D2D), two hour sessions provide camaraderie, carefully selected print resources with coffee, conversation and light refreshment for a balance of companionship and best practice support as facilitated by a state approved trainer.

Quality Improvement in Program Administration through Directors’ Support Cohorts (McCormick Center Research Notes Winter 2015) illustrated the benefits of proven administrative practices to industry providers based on external support for directors. When ECE directors and owners participated in cohorts, the results suggested moderate positive outcomes. Even more useful were effects that supported more specific areas like performance appraisal, internal communication, and community outreach.

This model takes into account the diverse needs of the three regions it serves across 47 Georgia counties with providers from all types of programs.  For-profit, faith-based and non-profit alike, the group is open as well to half day exempt programs in search of support not otherwise readily available.

The in-depth subject matter relevant to outcomes for a quality program delivery, the resources, dialogue and mutually respectful setting have far reaching implications for desired and realized change over time. With topics such as:

  • Collaboration Between Staff, Parent, Enrolled Children and the Community
  • Tools for Evaluation and Review of Your Program
  • Assessing Your Leadership Style
  • Managing the Work-Life Balance
  • Marketing Your Program

Leaders clamor for and welcome a safe environment of support and sharing.  The D2D meeting place, carefully designed, provides leadership, tools, resources and a comfortable yet professional place to share needs, successes and ideas that go well beyond the initial focus of each theme for a return on invested time away from centers.

Openly voiced by participants is gratification and revelation that they no longer feel alone or isolated with the challenges it takes to manage and lead a child care program.  As though the flood gates open, the directors, owners and occasional management team members discover new ways to implement change.  When peers provide fresh ideas in the absence of neither judgment nor perceived competition, the beauty of such camaraderie takes full effect. This very collaboration, in conjunction with resources used in a deeper peer-to-peer support and self-reflection, serve the participant and the industry needs well.

By supporting decision makers, the confidence to make change and strengthen best practice empowers leaders for a greater sense of value, responsibility and passion to succeed.  The teachers, by way of supervisors who manage and direct, sustain growth and continued achievement in a positive climate and a path towards excellence.  This cohort provides the unique opportunity to establish a network of support one meeting at a time. To say that we anticipate professional growth and involvement from the top down with its ability to reach and inspire the teaching staff cannot be understated.”

Post a comment and share with your colleagues.

  • SECA sponsors a Directors Seminar at the annual conference each year that is designed to promote networking and sharing.   Are there other ways that we could support directors and program leaders?
  • How have you developed opportunities for networking and support?
  • Have you discovered another model that works?

Headshot- SECA Laura NewmanLaura is the director of a state-wide program operating out of Quality Care for Children, the Georgia Resource and Referral Agency. She delivers the D2D state-approved training for directors and owners so they are armed with tools and resources to complement the online web platform her project, The Georgia Alliance for Quality Child Care, offers its members. The face to face training is part of a monthly series of support groups with significant topics otherwise not widely available to our audience.  Laura can be contacted at Laura.Newman@qualitycareforchildren.org.

Want to Know More?  Other Resources from SECA 

Dim 44-2 thumbnailDIMENSIONS, Fall 2010 Nurturing Early Childhood Teachers as Leaders: Long-term Professional Development

Meditation for Teacher Stress. Dimensions. Nov 2015

These articles are available in the members-only section of the SECA website.  You’ll need your member number to enter the site.  For non-members, contact the SECA office at info@southernearlychildhood.org or 1-800-305-SECA (7322).

Bullying: Should We Be Concerned Before Kindergarten?


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Although much of the attention on a growing problem, bullying, has been focused on elementary and older children, there’s a growing consensus that some behavior that can lay the foundation for “bullying” is appearing in very young children.   According to the High Scope Foundation, when “intimidation of certain children has become a pattern because adults have not intervened to set limits or to problem solve”, we have a case of bullying.   “Bullying is a set of actions that happen when a child who is, or who wants to feel, more powerful targets a weaker and/or smaller person by hurting or frightening that person and does so repeatedly.” Actions that can result in bullying are:

· Name-calling
· Exclusion
· Putdowns
· Teasing
· Hitting
· Ignoring
· Breaking possessions · Hurting feelings
· Scaring
· Threatening
· Kicking
· Lying
· Acting superior
· Laughing at others
· Being bossy
· Pushing
· Taking people’s things
· Making fun of people’s appearance or disabilities

Source:   Bullying:  Can It Begin in Preschool?, HighScope Extensions Newsletter, Vol 25, #3  This list of actions that can result in bullying looks much like a list you would see in a discussion of developmental stages.  Questions we’d like ask:

  • Is this behavior just the normal developmental process for young children or can this behavior sometimes be construed as more than that?
  • Who is responsible when developmentally predictable preschool behavior becomes bullying?
  • Can you share instances when you were concerned that children were beginning to exhibit the characteristics of a bully?
  • What actions did you take as an early childhood professional to assist a child in modifying behavior that might lead to bullying?

Share your stories….post a comment

 Helpful Resources from SECA These articles are available in the members-only section of the SECA website.  You’ll need your member number to enter the site.  For non-members, contact the SECA office at info@southernearlychildhood.org or 1-800-305-SECA (7322).

43-3 thumbnailDimensions of Early Childhood, Vol 43, #3

Emergency Relief for Teachers of Children Who Challenge Authors:  René Crow, Mark Cooper, & Jamie Dallas ? Pages 4-10
I Just Want to Know:   Helping Children Express Their Curiosity About Others with Disabilities Authors:  Anarella Cellitti and Rascheel Hastings  ? Pages 11-16.

 

Mommy Talks, Daddy Talks—Does It Make a Difference?


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What’s one of the best predictor’s of school success?—-A child’s vocabulary when they enter kindergarten.  So how does a child gain the vocabulary needed to be successful?  What factors encourage the development of vocabulary and is it as simple as talking to a child?

Many studies have been completed on the effect of mothers talking to children, but the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in North Carolina has just completed a study that demonstrates that a Dad who talks to his child can be just as important.  “The findings (of the study) highlight the unique contribution of fathers to children’s early academic achievement.”

The study used wordless books for shared reading and measured the predictive nature of both mother’s and father’s language on the child’s vocabulary and pre-literacy skills.  The study looked at mostly poor, rural families and included both Caucasian and African American families.  The study concluded that “paternal language input predicted child outcomes.”

Engaging dads in early childhood programs is one key to supporting their participation in language development and their later involvement in a child’s education as they begin kindergarten.   Patrick Mitchell, The Down to Earth Dad, was a keynoter at the SECA 2016 conference and has made it his mission to teach educators about involving (and keeping involved) the dads of young children.  He talks about things such as Family Storytelling Nights and an Evening with Dads as strategies to involve males in the school life of their children.

How do the dads of the children in your program interact with those children?  Is your program designed to support moms more than dads in this early learning process?  What could you do in your program to ensure that moms and dads play an equal part in ensuring the language development of their children?

Share your thoughts and ideas…..post a comment.

Want to Know More?  Parent Engagement Resources from SECA

 42-2 thumbnailDimensions of Early Childhood, Vol. 42:2 (2014)
Getting to Know You:  Sharing Time as Culturally Relevant Teaching

 

 

 

 

41-2 thumbnailDimensions of Early Childhood, Vol 41:2 (2013)
Home and School Connections

 

 

 

 

39-3 Cover ThumbnailDimensions of Early Childhood, Vol 39:3 (2011)
Accessible Family Involvement in Early Childhood Programs

Outdoor Classrooms and Licensing Regulations: Can They Go Together?


Spring is here and we’re all thinking about how wonderful it is to spend time in the outdoors.  For early childhood programs, utilizing the outdoor environment is the perfect time to bring something different to your curriculum and learning activities.  Have you thought about outdoor activities that could promote math, science and literacy learning?  Using outdoor activities can bring new life to your curriculum and promote a child’s love of learning.

During the last several years, SECA has promoted creating exemplary outdoor learning environments that include natural elements and creative uses of materials.  We’ve highlighted programs that have developed these outdoor classrooms and given you examples of how a little creativity and sweat equity can produce an outdoor area that’s optimal for young children.

In a recent conversation among some of your colleagues, the discussion moved from creating those spaces to the barriers that may exist in states, particularly in regard to licensing regulations.  These colleagues mentioned that one program in their state had created a natural, creative environment for infants and toddlers and a licensing regulator had required them to modify and essentially dismantle that space because the use of those natural materials might pose a risk.

  • Do your state licensing regulations prohibit you from creating these spaces?   If so, are there strategies that you have employed that met both the developmental needs of children and the licensing regulations under which you must operate?
  • What should be considered acceptable risks for children?  Do we eliminate all risks or should we promote a learning environment that provides an opportunity for children to take risks safely?
  • Have you found accommodations that will allow you to meet licensing regulations and still provide those exemplary outdoor spaces?

Post a comment and let us know what you’ve discovered as you move through the development of an outdoor classroom.  We’ll share your comments and let your thoughts and ideas inform SECA resources as we continue to promote outdoor experiences for young children.

Want to Know More?  Outdoor Classroom Resources from SECA

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Dimensions of Early Childhood, Vol. 41, # 1, #2,# 3 (2013)
The 2013 SECA Exemplary Early Childhood Classroom:  Our Overall Winner  

 

vol 42 setDimensions of Early Childhood, Vol 42, # 1, #2, #3 (2014)
The 2014 Exemplary Early Childhood Classroom: Creating a Nature-Inspired Outdoor Learning Environment on a Shoestring Budget   

 

 

44-1 thumbnailDimensions of Early Childhood, Vol. 44, # 1 (2016)
The Exemplary Early Childhood Classroom:  Creating a Nature-Inspired Outdoor Learning Environment for Urban Spaces  

 

 

We look forward to hearing from you!