When I look at what is happening in the news from the inhumane practice of separating families at the border to continued attacks on the LGBTQ community and the institutionalized racism that is part of everyday life for people of color it breaks my heart, and then it energizes me to make a difference. As preschool teachers, we have the power to help raise the next generation to be more equitable, to not fear the unknown or different, and to stand up to fix it when there is the injustice. I would argue more than just having the power to help; we have the responsibility.
But WOW is that a daunting task when you look at it as one big glob.
So let’s break it down and look at the tools we do have.
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1. Diverse materials and books
These matter because these books act as mirrors for children to see themselves as being a part of a group, to make them feel important and valid. When people feel included, they contribute their talents, their perspectives, and we all grow because of it. These also act as windows, as a way to teach children that there are people who don’t look like them, who don’t pray like them, and don’t have the same family structure as them… but that they are just as important, just as valid, and just as normal.
2. Social-Emotional Skills & Empathy
Yes, this is a huge part of this kind of learning. We need to raise and teach children how to be inclusive, how to talk about emotions, and how to handle disputes. This starts on day one, but as teachers, we can easily and playfully incorporate this into our teaching and even art projects! One of the most important skills is to learn to love themselves to have pride in who they are and where they are from in order to better accept others.
3. Teaching Strategies & Resources
Funds of Knowledge are collections of knowledge based in cultural practices that are a part of families’ inner culture, work experience, or their daily routine and incorporating them into your teaching strengthens bonds as well as creates more understanding and empathy.
The curriculum in Open Hearts, Open Minds is created to challenge our own biases and help slowly expand children’s worldviews, to see past their own experiences and have empathy and understanding of others.
Teaching preschool is about so much more than letters and numbers, and children need us to work hard to help them navigate their whole development not just their academic one. I hope this list helps you see where you can make some simple and some not so simple but equally vital steps towards helping our children overcome so many of the issues we face and work towards a much better, more equitable, and compassionate future.