Communication Skills to Enact Change

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We live in a world where everyone talks at the same time.  We all have an opinion, an answer, and can do it better that he can.  In order to effectively communicate one must have something to say.  Have you ever spoken with someone who goes on and on and never gets to the point?  Someone who writes and writes and never manages to relay the message of what they are trying to convey?  In order to effectively lead policy change, one must be passionate about what they believe and utilize the proper communication techniques in order to get their message across to the audience.  They must also learn how to engage their audience by first assessing who is listening, and what their expectations are. 

 

My goal when communicating with individuals changes from group to group, and person to person.  I always want to inspire, impart, equip and empower.  These have always been my goals however, when speaking to my staff I am challenged with preconceived ideas, biases, and the fact that I am the boss.  It is not always easy to empower and inspire when you are trying to effectively communicate budgetary issues, licensing problems, and policies and procedure.  However, a gifted communicator would strive to convey a message that staff would align themselves to, back-up, and support.  This could be done by creating a synergistic environment where everyone feels as if they are a member of the community, where everyone has a voice, and where everyone is valued. 

 

I feel as though I am an effective communicator as I make eye-contact, take opportunities to listen, and offer feedback if needed.  I haven’t always felt this way as there were times when I came across as combative and defensive.  I believe that as I matured I realized that I do not always have to share my opinion, I am not always right, and not everything is an attack.  Communication is reciprocal, you take a little and you give a little understanding that everyone has a story to tell, and sometimes, just need someone to listen.

Social Media’s Influence on Policy Issues

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Social Media has seemed to have taken over the world, and in thirty seconds we have access to all of your favorite memories, wedding pictures, vacations, graduations, and the now infamous “Selfie”.  With social media the doors of self-promotion have swung open to a plethora of new and innovative opportunities.  I have seen Facebook be used to replace the good old-fashioned invitation, obituary, and yard sale.  I would use both Facebook and Instagram as a vehicle to shine a light on the very real epidemic of childhood hunger.  My hope would be to create enough discussion on social media that would allow for contributors to come forward and participate in the fight against this issue.  Pictures and testimonials of the project could be shared so that members of the community would be motivated and inspired to assist the program by donating monies, volunteer services, and share with others the great need for providing children with opportunities to eat healthy and nutritious meals on weekends and holidays. 

The challenges of social media are always going to be that whatever is placed on the Web is there forever.  Some parents would not want pictures of their children or them participating in these kinds of projects on social media and therefore could be a challenge to our overall goal.  I would overcome this obstacle by only allowing children to be photographed from the back in order to keep their participation in this project as confidential as possible.  Social media is viewed by millions of individuals all over the world who have the potential to lend their voices, names, and power to create a platform where anything is possible.  I would like to use this specific media to draw attention to this critical issue especially by those of influence directly related to this program.  By adding the Board of Trustees, the college President and her council, as well as well as the City Council to our Facebook and Instagram account would be beneficial in soliciting their support as well as providing them with a political stage in which to garner support from their constituents as well as those in the surrounding communities. 

Policies and Systems: Where do I go from here?

I have to admit that I was very excited when I saw the title of this class as it has been a passion and pursuit of mine to create programs for children and families which are safe, healthy and appropriate to their age and stage of development.  I have spent twenty-five years creating and implementing policies and procedures that have been established to increase efficiency and productivity as well as bring a sense of structure to the child development programs I have administered.  I have most recently began participating on a “Child-Care Planning Council” which meets once a month to bring together early learning professionals to collaborate, inform and exchange ideas associated with the Inland Empire’s child development programs. 

In order to change a culture and mindset, one has to become a product of that change, consistently advocating for an increased sphere of influence and the broadening of boarders.  In order to do this there has to be a change to the vernacular, the perception of what we as professionals provide children and families.  The goal is to move away from the use of the term “child-care” as we are not over paid, over educated “baby-sitters.”  We provide quality early education programs which are age appropriate and developmentally appropriate in new and innovative environments. 

I have not purposed to take all these classes, type all night and read until my eyes want to fall out of the socket just to be able to place a Dr. in front of my name or an Ed.D. behind it.  I have a goal to reach into a place where education allows for not only credibility, but for validity of what we do as a community of educators.  My goal is to empower and equip a generation of young people to dream big dreams without limitations. 

As a member of a collegial institution it is my goal to always be the advocate for the children, families and staff.  It is my experience that in order to enact policy, one needs to be present through the political process.  I am constantly being called upon by the “powers that be” to articulate the processes of the program in order to justify request, participation in events and purchases.  Sometimes it seems as if my role is to be the “voice” in the wilderness in the midst of the unknowing.  I am called upon to educate, re-educate and provide guidance when faced with interacting with the Child Development Division of the State Department of Education, Community Care Licensing, and the NAEYC.  In order to properly provide leadership I must be able to effectively articulate the policies and procedures of the program, of the college, of the state and any other entity requiring information.    

 

Final Thoughts!

I am astounded that this class is coming to an end so quickly, you never realize how time flies! I have learned from this class the importance of celebrating the individuality of each child and the culture and uniqueness of the family unit.  I am saddened that the topic I chose for my culminating paper, “The Effects on Children of Incarcerated Parents” has left me with little hope for a generation of young children who are affected by the imprisonment of one or more of their parents.  Although resiliency is an important factor to consider in the overcoming power of a child to move past the adversity of life and become an effective and productive member of society, little is known if this indeed occurs. 

I really appreciated the synergy that was created amongst the class and how positive and encouraging the feedback was.  I will never forget Shuan-Adrian’s story of resiliency and how he used poetry to overcome thoughts of suicide.  I have always believed that what a man thinks and believes will ultimately manifest in his behavior, so to hear this story of self-expression as a tool for survival reminded me of all that I had been through.  This story and the idea of resilience have affected what I do and how I see the world around me.  Next semester I will be teaching a diversity class and will use many of the concepts I learned in this class to empower and equip the next generation of educators.

 

The Interview Process

This process has been extremely emotional for me as I am discussing the challenges and difficulties for children of incarcerated parents.  Audrey Davis an advocate in the field has story upon story of the “brokenhearted”.  Because of her busy schedule meeting with her has been an exercise in patience, flexibility and lots of driving.  She is smart, cool and collected and shares things about the children and their families that make you feel grateful for what you have been through.  She told the story of a child we will call “Lucas” whose father and mother had been in and out of prison his whole life.  Lucas is raised by his great grandmother who has also been imprisoned many times.  Lucas told Ms. Davis when he was four that he wished his mommy and daddy would just stay in jail so that he could have a new mommy and daddy.  There were many times during these interviews that I wanted to cry, become angry, but had to stay impartial and unbiased.  The second person I interviewed was Hope Burns a mother of four whose husband was incarcerated leaving her and her children to fend for themselves.  This is a tragic and heartwarming story at the same time because Ms. Burns credits her perseverance to her faith in God knowing that she could overcome anything with His assistance.  I am still sorting through this process and trying to draw some conclusions as well as organize my thoughts.  The most difficult is separating truth from my emotions, how do you do this?

Jail and Parents…

Description: I have worked in child development programs for twenty-five years and have observed the changes in family dynamics first hand.  My course project will be on children whose parents have been incarcerated and now live with a single parent who is responsible for the oversight of the entire family.  How does being raised by one parent affect the lives of the children?  As a child, how do you handle the stigmas of having a parent who is in jail?  What are the long lasting effects on children of a single parent?

What I have learned?

I have learned that as a culture child development has grown by leaps and bounds.  The validity through research based systems has shined a new light on the importance and relevance of early learning.  I have learned that as much as I think I know, there is always more to learn.  I am in an ever-changing field where new ideas, concepts and practices are scrutinized and implemented regularly.  I am interested in continuing to be a voice to a voiceless generation of children who will one day advocate on my behalf.  I desire to be that soft still voice in the darkness leading and guiding programs and educators to meet their maximum potential.  I want to encourage and equip others to provide, design and direct the highest quality programs for young children and their families.  Recently, a very powerful idea has come into forefront of this nation.  The reality is that a huge percentage of children live with the fact that one or both of their parents are in prison.  What does this mean to the Child Development Community, and what is our role?  Sesame Street is introducing a new character whose father is in prison.  Wow! What a powerful discussion, we are always advocating for realistic representation of culture and ethnicity, gender roles and family dynamics.  Well here you go America, welcome to what this generation has to deal with! http://www.today.com/moms/sesame-street-creates-first-muppet-have-parent-jail-6C10345061

Emergent Curriculum

There is an idea in early childhood education which states that children learn best when the subject matter interest them, is stimulating and age appropriate.  Emergent curriculum is the idea that curriculum for young children is birthed from the child’s perspective, interest and level of understanding.  This of course is all foundational in which the facilitator is responsible for providing materials and support to the active learner.  For example, if at large group time the children begin talking about the trash truck they saw on the way to school, the facilitator could suggest the class take a walking field trip around the neighborhood to see if they could find a trash truck picking up the garbage, they could talk about the importance of recycling, they could talk about the importance of taking care of the earth, they could talk about the idea of community workers.  The idea that we could take the child’s interest and build a whole curriculum around it is vital to the concept of emergent curriculum.  However, it is going to take the facilitator to think outside of the box and recognize that real world experiences are just as important to learning, as utilizing something like “Creative Curriculum”.  Why are teacher’s afraid of emergent curriculum? Why are we so locked into doing stuff, “the same old way?” What does it cost us to listen to children and build on what they are interested in?

Why Cry?

I recently read an article that spoke about the “reasons” children cry. As someone who never had a child, but has studied them for over 20 years I felt I was pretty knowledgable about the different reasons children, especially infants, cry. Typically, they are hungry, ill or need to be changed however, with all that said and done, the author stated, that children cry because they want attention. I have seen plenty of children in the market crying over the toy their parent wouldn’t let them have, but I always attributed to that to perhaps they were fussy, tired or had been in the cart for way to long? Could it be that crying on the part of the child was a plan, set up,or manipulation to get what they wanted from a parent to embarrassed to say No? What do you think? Does an infant or toddler have the cognitive capacity to think this out, and therefore maneuver their plan into action? I am interested to hear what those of you out there in BLOG world think?

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When I was a child I was very unhappy and used food to make me feel safe and secure…a way to escape from the very real difficulties that were my life! Obesity is such a huge issue in the child development arena, where children are babysat by video games and television…We need to stand up and make a difference…Progress!