cstravato's Pre-k World

The life of a Teacher / Student / Mother


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Impacts on Early Emotional Development around the world

I chose to review the UNICEF region of Guatemala. I have a student in my class this year whose family is from Guatemala. I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more about the life they left when they came to the United States to begin a new life. Honestly, I am more unaware than I care to admit what life is like in other parts of the world. I was surprised and saddened by what I learned about my student’s homeland.

To say Guatemala has it all is not the catch phrase one might think. Guatemala is a region of the world that has many challenges that have affected the physical, emotional, and cognitive development of generations of children. The natural disasters range from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, landslides, to sever floods. (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.). “From 1976-2009 natural disasters took the lives of about 82,000 people and affected over 6 million others. The economic impact of the damages was around 3 billion (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.). This is just the beginning of the challenges Guatemalan children face daily.

The UNICEF Guatemala has identified four areas of priority for this region; social inclusion, protection of children and adolescents, education for life, and a good start in life. Each of these components are working to improve conditions in Guatemala for children. Social inclusion component is working on equal opportunities for all children. Indigenous people are excluded and discriminated against; with the greatest emphasis on girls, children with disabilities, and children affected by HIV. (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.) The protection of children and adolescent component is working on strengthening the national system for protection. “Guatemala is ranked 5th highest in the world’s homicide rate. About 40 children are orphaned each day due to murder (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.).” Children live in constant fear of violence, exploitation, neglect, abuse, trafficking, and forced marriages at yearly ages. (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.) The education for life component is working on universal access to preschool, primary, and secondary education for girls and boys. The good start in life component is working to reduce malnutrition and expanding access to quality care for pregnant women and the first 1,000 days of life for newborns. They are working on reducing the rate of child and maternal mortality, improving nutrition, water quality, sanitation, and hygiene to improve the physical and mental development of children. (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.) Guatemala is clearly a region with many challenges that have a lasting effect on children’s early development.

“Negative early experiences can impair children’s mental health and effect their cognitive, behavioral, social-emotional development (Trustees of Columbia University, 2010).”  The children of Guatemala face extreme negative conditions from multiple sources and it is effecting their physical, mental, emotional, and cognitive health.   “Trauma is toxic to the brain and can affect development and learning in a multitude of ways.   However, children are resilient and within positive learning environments they can grow, learn, and succeed (Souers & Hall, 2016).” Although children in Guatemala are facing great challenges and trauma with help and support, they can survive and thrive in life. Efforts like those of the UNICEF are critical for the development of Guatemalan children and their future success. The ultimate goal is that all “children can exercise all of their rights to survive, prosper and develop their full potential (UNICEF Guatemala, n.d.).”

This study of Guatemala has given me new insight to my student whose family is from Guatemala. I have a new found understanding and respect for the possible challenges they faced and left behind to come to the United States to raise their children. Personally, I have gained a new appreciation for the organizations that advocate and support children in our country and around the world. Human rights are for all not just those that have a governments that protect them. We need to be the voice for those that have no voice! (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010)

Reference

Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Souers, K., & Hall, P. (2016). Fostering Resilient Learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Trustees of Columbia University, The. (2010). National Center for Children

in Poverty (NCCP).

UNICEF Guatemala, (nd.). UNICEF for every child

https://www.unicef.org/guatemala/english/activities.html

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The Sexualization of Early Childhood

This is a sad and shocking topic to discuss. No one should ever be made to feel like physical appearance and sexuality defines his or her worth. This is not a new issue for teenagers trying to deal with so many changes in their body and figuring out how and where they fit in. It is new to focus on such topics so early as preschool. “Preschool age to tweens is when you can make the biggest difference in reducing the negative impacts of the sexualization of childhood on our children (Levin & Kilbourn, 2009, pp. 7).” It is important to realize very young children are exposed to the same inappropriate and harmful messages in todays cultural environment (Levin & Kilbourn, 2009) as teenagers, young adults, and adults are. We live in a cultural that bombards the media, toys, video games, and more with negative messages of sexualization affecting children of all ages, genders, race, socioeconomic status, and ethnic groups.

The foundation of our sexual identity is formed at a very young age from the positive and negative experiences we have and messages we receive. This foundation will affect the types of sexual relationships we have when we grow up. (Levin & Kilbourn, 2009) It is important for us as parents and teachers of young children to support a positive foundation and develop a support system for children to develop a positive sexual identity. As a teacher and a parent, I have not experienced any stories so explicate and graphic as the ones share in the book, So Sexy So Soon. (Levin & Kilbourn, 2009) However, I have experienced more subtle examples that illustrate the exposure of young children to a highly sexualized environment. I have notice over the year girls are more aware of and looking for ways to alter their appearance at younger and younger ages. Preschool girls wearing makeup, jewelry, coloring their hair, and wearing tighter and shorter clothes to school are examples of young girls getting the message their natural looks are not enough. I have noticed a trend to design girls clothing to match older teenagers and young adults just in a smaller size. This can send messages that young girls are interested and ready to be sexually active well before they know how to send this message. I have noticed an increase in preschool age students who feel justified in pointing out and teasing other children who do not dress the same as they do. The increase in sexualized media content is sending the message that if you don’t look like the models and dress like them, your life wont be as glamorous and you will not be as happy. Children are reenacting these messages by bullying peers at younger and younger ages about their physical appearance.

These are more subtle than the examples in the book, however they carry the same message, children are highly influenced by the sexualized environment they are growing up in. In my classroom, we had an experience that opened our eyes to this very issue. One morning as a few students were entering the classroom, a staff member noticed one of the little girls shirts and mentioned she liked the color. Another little girl stopped, looked at the teacher, and said I will go back out and come in again so you can look at me. She really did go out and back in, paused, posed, and waited for our compliments. This took us by surprise, we had to take a step back and reflect on the messages we had been sending. We realized in an effort to engage and interact with student’s daily as they enter the classroom our focus may have been or at least ws interpreted by this girl on children’s appearance. This was a big revelation for us. We took time to discuss this situation with each other and agreed to make a conscious effort to not identify any physical characteristics of children as they entered the room. This was actually harder than we thought it would be. We are working hard on catching our comments and really thinking about he messages we are sending children about many topics but especially about their sexual identity.

“No child growing up today can fully escape today’s sexualized environment (Levin & Kilbourn, 2009, pp. 7)” but we can do more to make the impact less damaging to children’s sexual, personal, and social identity development. Building resilience in children will not be easy but we as parents and early childhood professionals must make every effort to show children ways to expand their horizons that respect who they are as individuals and each other. (Levin & Kilbourn, 2009) Through our actions and our words, we can make a positive difference in a child’s sexual identity that will follow them to adulthood and impact future relationships. Helping children value themselves beyond their physical appearance and attractiveness is key. We must counter the messages of the media with a true understanding of self-worth and valuing others.

 

Reference

Levin, D. E., & Kilbourne, J. (2009). [Introduction]. So sexy so soon: The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids (pp. 1-8). New York: Ballantine Books.


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Evaluating Impacts of Professional Practice

 

As early childhood professionals we try to separate our home lives from our school lives as best we can. However, we are human and who are, is who we are, at home and at school. I can think back to some examples of times my personal life has affected how I interacted at school with fellow staff, students, and parents as hard as I try to not let this happen. When I am sick and not sleeping well, I can clearly tell a difference in my ability to be patient, energetic, and able to quickly solve problems. This is a mild example of how my personal life can affect my professional life and have an impact on children and families. I can imagine if I was subjected to an “ism” in my personal life how much that could have an effect on my professional life and how I interact with children and families.

Imagining how “isms” in our personal life can affect our professional life is important to knowing yourself and the deep impact we have on children and families. If I experienced classism in my personal life, I could anticipate the challenges I might face in my professional life. In this scenario – throughout my life I felt judged and looked down on because of my socioeconomic status. As a child, I was often teased because my clothes and shoes wear not the same as the other kids. I never felt comfortable asking friend to come to my house. I did not want my friends to see where I lived. We lived in what was referred to as the poor part of town. I defiantly absorbed many messages growing up about prejudice and social advantages and my disadvantages that affected my social identity. (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). As I grew up I was able to get several jobs and put my self through college and become a teacher. Although I am a professional now and part of a professional community, I often feel others do not see me as and equal, do to my childhood. This could have an impact on my professional life and how I interact with a variety of families.

The social identity I have developed in this scenario do to classism could have an affect on my ability to effectively communicate and interact with children and families of different social classes. I may be less comfortable working with families of higher economic status do to my own biases developed from my past experiences. I may have a tendency to identify more with children of a lower socioeconomic level than other classes. I may not respect or feel respected by families of different classes. I may make assumptions about families higher socioeconomic status, that they have and easier life and do not need as much support and attention from me. The affects from our personal and social identity can have many challenges. My bias developed from my social identity may also allow me to better understand the needs and challenges of families in my classroom of lower socioeconomic status. Having grown up in a similar life style families may feel more comfortable sharing their struggles and asking for the help they need. I may also be more aware of the real community support available to families in need.

Our personal and social identity is part a who we are as an accumulation of our experiences from birth. (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) If we can take time to reflect on our lives and be aware of our biases, we can be aware of the possible negative and positive impacts they may have. We as professionals in the early childhood field must make every effort to ensure we do not let our experiences have a negative effect on our interactions with children and families. If we are unaware of our biases we will be unaware of the impact they may have. Anti-bias education begins with self-reflection. (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010)

 

Reference

Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and

     ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.