A coworker recently challenged my thinking by saying that members of our 4C coaching team are early childhood education (ECE) snobs. At first I was offended. Of course I’m not a snob. I believe I have an open mind when working with teachers. I believe I attempt to meet teachers where they are and not pass judgment. The more I thought about it, the more I understood. She wasn’t meaning to be rude or disrespectful. She meant to challenge perspective.
As an ECE coach, I have an ideal classroom, philosophy, interactions, environment, etc. When I enter a classroom, I should put my ideals aside and ask how I can support the teachers. I must meet them where they are regardless if their philosophy matches mine. I need to coach toward Developmentally Appropriate Practice, not my idea of what should be done.
I may ask clarifying questions. “Tell me more about how you believe children learn.” “I’m curious about your lesson plan. Can you tell me what prompted this focus of study?” The questions I ask are meant to prompt the teachers to explain why they are doing what they are doing. Teachers need to have an intention behind every action.
I may ask the teachers to reflect upon an activity. “I saw that you closed the sensory table. I wonder what would have happened if the table were left open for the children?” The purpose of the reflective question is not to embarrass the teacher but to get the teacher to think of the situation from a different perspective. The teacher may have closed the sensory table because children were fighting over a measuring cup. If another measuring cup were brought out, would the fighting have stopped? Did closing the table solve the issues at hand?
While I was processing my role with teachers, I couldn’t help but think of teachers roles with families/parents. As adults we have beliefs on how children should be raised. We have beliefs about toileting, pacifiers, food, separation… the list goes on. As teachers, we may know more about child development and best practice in group care than some families, but those families are the experts on their child. The family is parenting their child according to their beliefs, their philosophy. As teachers we need to meet families where they are and not pass judgment.
Teachers can do with families what I do with teachers. Ask questions. Find out more about the families. “Can you tell me what you like to do as a family?” “Tell me about your bed time routine?” “What did you do over the weekend?” Questions aren’t to grill families about where they were and what they did or what they didn’t do. Questions are for building a relationship. Teachers and families must have a trusting relationship to meet the needs of children. We must meet families where they are.