Abstract Early Childhood Programs should support families of diverse cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds to incorporate them their classrooms. Examining existing programs can provide educators with the information they need to assist families and their children in their needs. It is also crucial for educators to build a program which involves the community in a culturally responsive and inclusive program for all families. Description of the program: The program that I observed was a Head Start program, licensed for children ages three to five years-old.
Children are enrolled in only one of two sessions during the day: in the morning or afternoon session. One starts from 8:15 to 11:45 AM and the next goes from 12:15 to 3:45 PM. The school provides a light breakfast and lunch for AM classes and a lunch and snack for PM classes. A Lead Teacher and an Associate Teacher typically work together with an average of 15 students in each class. The school sets goals to have staff committed to partnering with families to prepare children for kindergarten. The program is located in the City of San Dimas, California in division Altadena.
The date of my observation is February 13, 2017. The number of children in attendance that day was 11 children in the AM class session in room two that is a part of the Ramona site. A. Creating a welcoming environment: The classroom’s environment seems to be fairly welcoming to parents and extended family members. The family bulletin board has two postings, the February Newsletter and the daily lesson plan. Many photos with children and their families or with their teachers are displayed in the classroom.
During large group time children were encouraged to talk about how they spent the weekend with their families. In addition, the Lead Teacher respected the diversity of their families by encouraging children to talk about their differences and similarities during the time given for small group. Although, greeting time did not seem to honor the families presence in their arrival and dismissal time. Teachers seemed to be very busy preparing activities and managing food, rather than welcoming children by their names.
Jor’dan, Wolf, and Douglass (2012) imply that “In the Strengthening Families approach, early childhood teachers and child welfare professionals work intentionally through relationships with families to build protective factors (p. 20). ” Meaningful family interactions with teachers could create mutual respect, warmth, and the feeling of acceptance, which in turn can strengthen these important relationships. Thave observed many families volunteering outside the classroom to prepare and bring food to the children.
Yet, it seemed like their olunteering time was used to complete busywork that the teachers did not have time to do, instead of allowing the family members to actively participate in their child’s classroom with their child. Moreover, the Parents Handbook encourages parents to take a minute to ask the child’s teacher about the child’s day and the activities that they completed. These approaches were not observed either. Most of the family interactions with the teachers were about preparing lunch and whatever else the teacher needed done. B. Interacting with the community: Family engagement for diverse families requires a culturally responsive community.
What I have noticed in this particular classroom is that the Lead Teacher communicates to some children and their families in their home language. Also, during large group time she asks children to greet one another using their home language. For instance, a child who speaks Arabic was asked to say good morning in his home language, and he said “Sabah el Kheer. ” Then the teacher encouraged each child to repeat the greeting back to him. Haynes (2011) stated that “A good relationship with classroom teachers and classmates will provide a great deal of the help and support ELLs need to cope with the challenges they face (n. . )”.
Supporting children in their learning is crucial and here, the teacher did so by establishing an activity that promotes their development in language. C. Conducting Home Visits: The Parent Handbook explains the importance of family/teacher communication concluded in the two home visits to children’s homes. Accordingly, teachers should conduct the home visits to get to know the child and his/her family. As established by the National Education Association (2015), it is a requirement for Head Start teachers to make two home visits for each student during the school year.
I think this requirement is very important because it could culturally close the gaps between the teacher and the child. D. Promoting two-way communication with all families: The parents’ bulletin board had posted on it a monthly Newsletter which informed the parents of school events. It also showed the date and time of the parents’ meeting. The Parent Handbook also has information concerning a family service specialist who assists families in choosing goals for their child, such as school readiness goals.
Moreover, they provide assistance for emergencies and other services like referrals. I think it is a good idea to choose a family service specialist to follow up with families to reach their goals for children in this particular program. During dismissal time, I saw a specialist outdoors with a parent talking to them and handing them a few papers. Although I think it is better to have a direct relationship with parents, the teachers seemed to be very busy and therefore they have a family specialist to intervene.
The American Federation of Teachers (2009) stated that, “The great diversity among families means that it is not possible to rely on a single method of communication that will reach all homes with a given message (n. p. ). ” I believe this particular program shows many ways to communicate effectively with parents. E. Incorporating families with the decision making process: The Parent Handbook provides opportunities for families to participate in a parent committee that meets monthly. This committee chooses a Policy Council Leader who is a parent of a currently enrolled child.
This committee is responsible for achieving the highest quality of education possible in partnership with the program. Having families participate in their child’s program to be able to make an important decision for their child’s education, is very important. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (n. d. ), implies that “The [programs] understand the necessary role families have in making decisions about their own children and include families in shared decision making about and goal setting for their children’s education and learning (n. p. ).
Early childhood programs should consider this approach for families to allow their input in every important detail, for example the type of food provided for children for lunch or having a fund raising event to raise money for the program. F. Providing opportunities for adult education and parenting education: The Newsletter indicates that the program conducts a monthly meeting for families to attend and learn about a new topic. As an example from this classroom, the parents’ meeting has a training topic about healthy nutrition for children in the month of February.
Eliassen (2011), stated that “Children’s food preferences and willingness to try new foods are influenced by the people around them (n. p. ). ” The communication between teachers and families has to be effective to benefit children in their learning. Therefore, I think it would be more beneficial for the parents to choose which topics to discuss during meetings. | think the topic of the meeting is important but I do not think it was based on a parent’s choice because it was not mentioned in the newsletter.
G. Offering resources such as childcare and transportation support: The program did not mention anywhere or show any arrangements for the above reference. I believe it would be more effective if programs would provide some arrangement for childcare when families are attending conferences, meetings, or any events. Thad observed some families with many siblings during pickup time. H. Provide resources for extending learning experience at home: The program provides a variety of books for children to check out with their families and there is a sign-in sheet to track books.
I have seen two children negotiate with their parents to check the books that they like. Most of the families in this program are low-income and a good resource for literacy activities would be the home-school library. In conclusion, I think overall the program encouraged family engagement that was culturally effective for most part. The reason for this is that I think families have the opportunity in this program, to receive the information they need with their own language and partially participate in the classroom. Also, there were many opportunities for families to make a decision in their child’s education.