For the past several months, I have been participating in a book club with other colleagues reading Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children Ages Birth through Age 8. Each week we have explored a chapter and asked ourselves the following questions:
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- What does the author(s) tell us about this particular period of development?
- How do we see that period of development in action with young children?
- What can we do in our role as adult educators to support those who are working directly with young children and families regarding DAP?
- How do we lift up the work others are doing in order to spotlight educators in the field using developmentally appropriate practices?
- A great example of this is Jaclynn Foged, Carrie Gottschalk and Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers’ work with child care directors.
We recently finished the book reviewing some of the Frequently Asked Questions when the following question bubbled up during our discussion:
How do you support an individual, particularly an early care and education teacher who finds themselves grappling with the implementation of developmentally appropriate practices with children?
Our team had a long pause, longer than usual. Then we began sharing examples, some that we did when we first started teaching. I shared that when I was teaching mobile infants and toddlers, I would try and make them sit during a circle time activity which involved reading long books. I could not figure out why they would not sit and listen to the story. As I continued taking additional coursework and specialized in infant-toddler development, I realized that mobile infants and toddlers developmentally needed to manipulate materials using all of their senses, and have the freedom to move about their environment. As their caregiver and educator, it was my responsibility to respect their need to play. It was my responsibility to have appropriate and reasonable expectations for what they could do, and be patient when they asserted their independence. During those early years of teaching, I learned the art of balancing, like a mobile hanging above a crib, staying sturdy at the center as the children spun around me. Sometimes I turned the dial to set the pace, other times they bounced around to their own tune, and every once in a while, the batteries just ran out, and the mobile stopped. It was during those times I learned how to be patient and use those moments as opportunities to take a step back and observe the situation for what it was, with no judgment.
Patience. Accountability. Reasonable Expectations.
It seems we are back at the first part of the question. What do you do?
During our call, we agreed going back to the position statement which first, and foremost states no harm to children*. From there, the rest of the document and principles serve as a foundation early childhood professionals can use to brainstorm and create strategies on how to begin the conversation around developmentally appropriate practices.
There are several resources, but there is one document I tend to utilize to when reflection and guidance are needed. It was one of the first items I received during orientation when I became an early care and education teacher. The National Association for the Education of Young Children Code of Ethical Conduct has several position statements that “offers guidelines for responsible behavior and sets forth a common basis for resolving the principal ethical dilemmas encountered in early childhood care and education.”
Personally, as an adult educator, I found the supplemental document Early Childhood Adult Educators helpful and I’ve included three insights I gained directly from the position statement:
- To adopt an attitude of continual learning and growth.
- It is important that any information shared, or teaching strategies recommended are based on present and accurate research when it comes to early childhood education, child development and adult learning theory.
- When early childhood educators present information that is contrary to your own beliefs and knowledge, acknowledge the different perspectives and if appropriate explore your own biases.
I invite you to review each of the position statements suitable for your particular role. There are statements for educators, administrators, and adult educators. I hope that you find it as beneficial as I did and can utilize it to address any issues you may potentially experience in your work with children, families, and adult learners.
* If you are a early childhood educator and have questions regarding mandatory reporting laws, click here.
LINDA REDDISH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD
Peer Reviewed by Jaclynn Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers, Assistant Professor of Child, Youth, and Family Studies and Early Childhood Extension Specialist Extension Educator, The Learning Child
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