A week ago, I suggested using #CulivateOptimism to share positive or uplifting stories about working with children and families. Since I’m not the best at waiting or wallowing in negativity, the impatient/action-oriented part of me activated, and I started searching for stories that would inspire and motivate me. As I was looking, I noticed that many of my colleagues were attending the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) 2018 annual conference. I decided to follow the hashtag #naeycAC to learn topics and dialogue that were trending at the conference.
Initially, I noticed people were sharing their excitement and anticipation for a session. As time passed, people and organizations began to post strategies and takeaways they were learning and provoking statements they heard from speakers. These posts began to feed my education and research soul, reminding me of reasons for studying early childhood and pursuing a doctoral degree.
From #naeycAC, some sessions that resonated with me and helped me #CulivateOptimism are:
- Organizations Wakanyeja Early Childhood Education Initiative & First Light Education Project affiliated with the American Indian College Fund are designing early learning programs that support and preserve children’s Native culture in authentic and meaningful ways using a diverse range of tools. In their conference sessions, educators and administrators associated with the initiative and project described the importance of using children’s Native language in early learning settings, collaborating with members of the community, centering indigenous knowledge in STEM education, and strengthening teacher education programs.
- My alma mater Erikson Insitute continues to do intentional work with STEM and early childhood. The Early Math Collaborative presented educators strategies and resources for integrating math learning in diverse classrooms, for instance, connecting math concepts to children’s literature. The Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center provided hands-on opportunities for educators to explore a variety of technology tools for their classrooms, insights on using technology meaningfully to support family engagement, and recommendations of how to integrate media literacy into early learning experiences.
- Keep learning from Fred Rogers. As someone whose professional career has been connected to the Fred Rogers Center and has seen the Fred Rogers movie Won’t You Be My Neighbor twice, I have been influenced by his work. I found myself glued to social media even more when I realized the conference’s opening keynote presentation was about the legacy of Fred Rogers. I was moved by Junlei Li‘s statement, “When we talk about inclusion and diversity, it is not about what we can do for children, but what they can teach us.” I got a little teary when Joanne Rogers told the attendees Mr. Rogers who would have sung “I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you. I hope you’re proud of you too”. Even though I wasn’t in the room, I felt a part to the conversation and that those statements applied to me.
- At the age of 90, early childhood pioneer Barbara T. Bowman is fierce and an active advocate of early childhood education. During one her sessions, she told educators “We can’t wait for someone to give us the power, we must take the power.” This quote caused me to reflect on my experiences with her at Erikson. In her classes, I felt I had something valuable to offer, and at the same time, I couldn’t make a statement without some sort of backing for my argument. She was intent on helping me and the other students become more confident, knowledgeable, and stronger early childhood educators and advocates. Reading her statement about power reminded me that being sedentary is not an option. There is work to be done.
I am grateful NAEYC’s 2018 annual conference brought educators, researchers, policymakers, administrators, social service workers, and media designers together to share their knowledge and learn from each other in order to create educational experiences and environments that support children’s learning and growth. I appreciate all the colleagues and other conference attendees who shared glimpses of their experiences at the conference. It was through their sharing on social media that I was able to reconnect with projects that I’ve been involved with, become more aware of meaningful work being done in different communities, and renewed about the purpose of my work.