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