A trip to attend the National Association for the Education of Young Children Conference (NAEYC) is something most early childhood educators can only dream about. I had the pleasure of spending four days in Anaheim, CA at the conference last month, where I met many wonderful early childhood professionals. There, I gained a renewed passion for early childhood education, and even better, new ideas.
Here are my top eight “take-aways” from my time in Anaheim:
1. Reflective teaching is not a trend—it’s here to stay.
Early childhood educators who work with young children must be able to reflect upon children’s learning, interests, and teaching outcomes in order to be responsive and meet children’s needs. As educators, we must help students to gain knowledge, put that knowledge to practice, and then reflect on that practice. Inside of this process, students are able to transform themselves into their own teachers.
2. In the classroom, it’s important to integrate knowledge of child development.
College programs seeking to provide top-quality preparation for early childhood professionals must design their programs so that they possess a cohesive, consistent knowledge of child development. At the conference I learned that placing an emphasis on developmental and time-specific skill-building is crucial to becoming a more successful, effective educator.
3. Today’s families are under stress, and part of an early childhood educator’s job is to support them.
Families need the support of early childhood educators. Our job is much more than working with children; we need to create communities of learners in which parents are fully integrated.
4. Professionals have more observation and assessment skills than they did 10 years ago.
I appreciated that NAEYC has recognized the importance of using observation and assessment in early childhood education to inform practices. I hope that this trend only continues to grow in the coming years.
5. There are many dedicated companies who work to provide developmentally-appropriate curriculum, supplies, and materials to support early childhood professionals.
I was astounded by the number as well as the quality of displays provided by the conference’s vendors. It was thrilling to see such creative and developmentally-appropriate materials as well as equipment for young children and students.
6. Early childhood educators are FUN!
In a crowd of 30,000 people it was amazing to feel such a common bond. Four days of getting to know new people, spending time with colleagues, and bonding with those who share a common passion was heart-warming. We had many laughs, and I loved hearing their funny, inspirational, and thought-provoking stories.
7. Online teaching is effective.
I was fortunate enough to find presenters who have designed and taught online teacher preparation programs. It was affirming to hear that online education can be enormously effective. One thing that stuck with me: in online learning environments, teachers need to use multiple strategies to build a community of learners; they need to use models of differentiated instruction; and to better connect with students, also need to place an emphasis on feedback and reflection.
8. Teachers are obligated to engage their students in an anti-bias education.
I had the pleasure of listening to Louise Derman-Sparks speak on anti-bias curriculum. She helped me to understand that we must teach our students to be activists for fairness. When dealing with issues of prejudice, she argued that, “silence is not so silent,” and explained that addressing issues is always important. As teachers, she maintained, we all must expose children to critical, anti-bias thinking strategies.