Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin's Big Words, Our Big Questions

A few years ago, when I was planning anti-bias curriculum for my preschool classroom and working at the Eliot-Pearson Children's School at Tufts University, I was introduced to the book, Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Wonderful in its simplicity and complexity teachers and parents can read the full text or just the "big words" which stand alone as powerful reminders of what we must focus on to ensure equity and fairness for all. The Somerville Early Education Pinterest site now has some ideas related to this book and Anti-Bias Education.

Approaching topics related to injustice, prejudice, race, class, gender, and differences in ability is all part of Anti-Bias Education.  "Anti-bias work is essentially optimistic work about the future of our children" (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). It involves helping children to learn about how they are different from and similar to others. While not easy topics, children are uniquely attuned to equity issues - they know what is fair and what is not.  When approached thoughtfully, Anti-Bias Education has many possible entry points.   Why focus on Anti-Bias Education?  Because: 
  • Parents want their children to have every opportunity to succeed.  
  • Teachers want to meet every child's needs.  
  • People charged with stewardship of education initiatives want to support children and families. 

Towards these ends we have to ask ourselves some big questions.  And we have to come up with some big answers.  Here are some of the big questions Somerville will be grappling with this year and an introduction to some groups you may or may not be familiar with.  

In the coming months this blog will take some time to focus on anti-bias curriculum, culturally responsive teaching, and how various groups are working to create access, equity, and quality programming for families and children in our city. 

Some big questions:

The Kindergarten Readiness Group:  What do children need to know and be able to do to be ready for school and how can we promote play-based curriculum to support readiness in the face of academic pressures?
(This professional learning community is a group of teachers from Somerville Public Schools, Head Start, and community center-based early childhood programs.)

The Early Childhood Advisory Council:  How can we build resilience and support families dealing with stress? 
(This group of critical stakeholders in Somerville is hosted by the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative, SomerPromise, & Somerville Public Schools and meets monthly to talk about supporting children and families. It includes representation from organizations that provide services related to education, health, the arts, housing, early intervention, community-based early childhood programs, mental health, physical well-being, food security, out of school programming, home visiting, playgroups, homelessness, dual language learners, etc.)

The Early Education Steering Committee:  What does it mean to provide a universal kindergarten readiness system that prepares children and families for success in school and beyond?
(This steering committee oversees the Early Learning Challenge Grant and meets monthly to engage in critical long-term and short-term strategic planning with a focus on universal kindergarten readiness, quality programming, quality teaching, and family engagement. It includes representatives from Somerville Public Schools, the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative, Center-Based Programs, Head Start, Tufts University, and SomerPromise.)

Martin Luther King Day reminds us of some tremendous achievements and how much work we still have left to do. Take some time this day to think about what you stand for, how you might move forward, and who your partners will be in creating change.

Anti-Bias Resources:

Download of the first chapter of Anti-Bias Education for Young Children & Ourselves

Teaching Tolerance

Teaching for Change