We are experiencing a shining a light on the issue of Early Education and it gives those of us in the field a true platform. We need to begin to talk about the importance of developmentally appropriate practices and the needs of young children. Over the years we have grown however, the general public and even our fellows in Elementary Education have no real idea of the differences in our two fields.
We are professional educators with a unique set of standards. There is a real change being made in Elementary Education with changes in testing beyond Grade 3. This may be a chance for us to begin to express the changes we see need to be made in Kindergarten-Grade 3. These grades in Elementary School use much more Elementary standards rather than Early Childhood ones. I think this maybe one reason why we have such issues with reading. The standard is not totally appropriate for the age of the children.
Often we as educators use jargon, acronyms and other speech that separate us from our objectives of getting the average parent, politician, and business person from getting exactly what we do and why. It is time for us to begin to use plan speaking to help others get it. These folks once they understand will be our allies in ensuring that whatever changes are made in early education is both appropriate and supportive of young children and their families. Here are four things I think we could do to help folks get it.
Write to politicians-Each of us live in an area that has a variety of political influencers. Write to your mayor, city council, school board, congressman and senator. In plain English tell them about DAP and what it looks like.
Get involved in your states Ready Nation Project-Each state is beginning to involve businesses in supporting Early Childhood Education. Find out who is in charge in your state and invite them to your centers and speak to them about the differences between Elementary and Early Education. Again use plain English and help them understand why Early Education works.
Write an editorial letter to those publication in your town-We all have local newspapers, magazines, and various other local publications that cater to our local areas. Write a letter to the editor explain the difference between Early and Elementary education in the classroom, in the lesson planning, and in what people should be looking for and seeing. Help the public see what we do and how it benefits the children.
Educate those in your sphere of influence-We often overlook those in our everyday lives as folks that need to get our message. Do not assume because the people around you know you and what you do for a living understand the importance of what we do. Be sure not to preach but use open ended questions to find out what they know and fill-in the gaps.
Talk about the Ages and Stages Questionnaire
The ASQ is the most important part of our field. It is the standardized tool we use to get a yearly snapshot of who children are developing in our care. The general public needs to understand what it is and how it is used. This is the basis of all high-quality programs. The information here provides a detailed baseline for each child’s developmental progress and allows educators to specifically tailor the envirionment to meet the needs of each child.
Let this article be your encouragement to get out there and talk about why what we do is important to us, the children and the families we serve. It is up to us to help everyone understand our field and the true work we do everyday.