cstravato's Pre-k World

The life of a Teacher / Student / Mother


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.



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.


1 Comment

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)



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

     ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.




Leave a comment

The Importance of listening to and Speaking with Children

It is valuable practice for teachers to take a step back from their everyday role and observe there class and other classrooms. I chose to observe teachers and teacher assistant’s interactions with children during Discovery time in a preschool setting. During this time of the day student verbally plan what center they would like to choose and what they would like to do while in that center. Children are able to change their plan and independently choose when to change their roles and when to move to a new center. Teachers move around the room joining student’s play throughout the 40 minute Discovery time. My goal was to observe effective “teacher talk, encouraging and letting children know that we value their efforts and accomplishment.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) I also wanted to observe effective “Challenging talk, building on what children say and moving beyond the immediate conversational context.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010)

In my observation, I saw many examples of staff getting down to the child’s level to join their play and to talk to them about their play in a calm respectful tone (Kovach &Da Ros-Voseles, 2011). Staff showed genuine interest and joy in children’s play. Children were very receptive of staff joining their play; they smiled, welcomed, and quickly incorporated the staff into a role. The staff was able to allow the children to take the lead and direct the play. Staff fluctuated between questions that encouraged a one-word answer specific to the context of the play to more open-ended questions connecting to real-life experiences (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010). It was clear the staff understood the value of “Challenging talk” but they were still working on making it a consistent form of communication. Overall, it was clear staff viewed this time of day as child or peer centered and not teacher centered (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010).

I observed many examples of staff encouraging children and trying to convey the message, that they value children’s efforts and accomplishments. However, many of the interactions were through phrases such as; good job, I like the way you did…, and that is beautiful. Although it was clear the staff’s intention was to use the message of “teacher talk”, they may need some training or support on how to tweak their communications to be more effective. Focusing more on how the child accomplished the task rather than their opinion of how the task turned out puts the value on the child’s efforts not the teacher’s opinions. I would recommend new phrases as described by Rainer Dangei & Durden such as; “Wow you have spent a longtime working on you project (2011)”, and “That is so colorful it stands out on the purple paper (2011).”  Changing our communication puts the value on the time, effort, and creativity children are putting into a project or task not on the quality of the finished product or the teacher’s feelings about the final product.

This weeks readings centered on mindful listening to and speaking with children.   The reading that stood out to me the most was, The Nature of Teacher Talk during Small Group Activities. (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) As I read this article, I began questioning my own communication and the communication I have modeled in my classroom between children and between children and adults. Throughout my observation, I reflected on my own communications with students.   “It is important to consider the actual words we say to children.” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) Through the readings and the observation, I have learned the importance of communication and the incredible impact it has on children. I believe my staff and I use some aspects of both types of talk, however we often fall back into old habits of less valuable communication. I will be taking a closer look at my communications and the communications of other staff in my classroom and supporting our ability to consistently use affective “Teacher talk” and affective “Challenging talk” (Rainer Dangei & Durden, 2010) with students throughout the day. “To help children communicate with each other they have to feel listened to and seen.” (Kovach &Da Ros-Voseles, 2011)


Kovach, B., & Da Ros-Voseles, D. (2011). Communicating with babies. YC: Young Children, 66(2), 48-50. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database. http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=60001533&site=ehost-live&scope=site


Rainer Dangei, J., & Durden, T. R. (2010). The nature of teacher talk during small group activities. YC: Young Children, 65(1), 74-81. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database. http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=47964033&site=ehost-live&scope=site



Creating an Anti-Bias Environment

1 Comment


My goal is to create a learning environment that demonstrate respect and acceptance of diversity that will support the development of children’s positive personal identity as well as a positive social identity (Santora, 2004). “What children do not see in the classroom teaches children as much as what they do see.” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) We as teacher must ask what message our classroom environment is sending children about their identities to insure we have done all we can to make children and families feel welcomed and represented in our classrooms.


Our classroom journey begins with setting up the environment, which starts with families. Families are the foundation to an anti-bias education. (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) Our quiet transition nook, supports morning transitions, demonstrating understanding and flexibility for families and the important role they play (Laureate, 2011). This space is filled with comfortable seating, familiar books, and quiet music. Then as you move into our classroom, images of all our families are throughout the classroom to help children and families feel welcome and represented. Our family share space shelves encourage families to show case items that represent their families, culture, and heritage (Laureate, 2011). The share shelves allow families a chance to share with staff and other families what is important to their family. This is a great opportunity for families to get to know each other better and learn about a variety of families similar and different from their own. The more visible we can make each child’s culture with in our classroom culture the more children can develop their positive personal and social identity (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

It is important that each child in our class’s culture is represented in a variety of ways to demonstrate the value we place in their culture. Then we must take it to the next step to demonstrate acceptance of other cultures beyond our own (Santora, 2004). As you take a closer look at the variety of centers you will discover they are set up to foster exploration and conversations between children on many diverse topics. Within each of these centers a variety of materials are provided to support children at different levels allowing all children to be successful in all areas of the classroom. Materials in each center support diversity through multicultural dolls and people, multicultural foods, bilingual labels and signs, images of people of various cultures, ethnicity, gender, ability, and age in roles related to each center, and images of children in the class participating in the centers with peers, staff, and family members. It is important to take time in choosing images to post so we do not inadvertently display pictures, books, or materials that reinforce stereotypes (Santora, 2004). The centers and materials provide many opportunities for “teachable moments” about equity and diversity. “Anti-bias curriculum seeks to nurture the development of every child’s fullest potential by actively addressing issues of diversity and equity in the classroom (Derman-Sparks & Hohensee, 1992).”







            It is natural and successful anti-bias education when children notice difference and want to talk about them, however it is how we respond that will determine the message they receive and carry with them about diversity and equity (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). Our classroom environment is only as supportive of ant-bias education as we address each anti-bias “teachable moment” as it arises. “What children do not hear us say or see in our classrooms teaches them as much as what we do say and they do see in our classrooms” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, pp.43). Setting up an anti-bias environment takes a great amount of thought and planning. We must never forget to include families in our anti-bias education plans. Families are the diversity of our communities and are an invaluable resource.



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

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Welcome to an anti-bias learning community. Baltimore, MD: Author

Santora, L., & Anti-Defamation League staff. (2004). How Can You Create A learning

Environment That Respects Diversity? New York, NY: Anti-Defamation League.



1 Comment

Hopes & Goals for the Future

My hope for future work with children and families of diverse backgrounds is that we come to a place where culture and diversity are promoted, society’s power relationships have dissolved, and privilege is experienced by all. Until then we must never forgot we have the power to help children “thrive and to succeed in school, in work, and in life” by what we say and do everyday in the classroom. (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, pp. 1) We must continue to work toward being true anti-bias educators. “We are cultural workers, whether we are aware of it or not.” (Pelo, 2008, pp. 4) We are making a difference everyday, we must ask ourselves is the difference I am making a positive difference for all children.

A goal I have for the Early Childhood Field related to diversity, equity and social justice is greater awareness and increased actions to ensure “all children have equal opportunity to become all they are” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, pp. 9) Anit-bias work needs to become common language in all educational programs. Teachers new and experienced need to training and teaching to help them reflect on their own bias and influence children in a positive non-bias manner.

Thank you to my Walden Colleagues for sharing your knowledge and stories. I appreciate your continued support, motivating ideas, and the insight you have brought to my self-reflective process. I wish you a positive experience as you continue your journey toward your educational and anti-bias goals. Remember we make a difference everyday even if we never get to see it!


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

     young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Pelo, A. (Ed.) (2008). Rethinking Early Childhood Education. Milwaukee, WI:

Rethinking Schools.




1 Comment

“We Don’t Say Those Words In Class!”

“As children begin to work out who they are (their self-identity) they also try to work out who they are similar to and different from in some ways.” (Smidt, 2013, pp. 85).   How adults react to the children’s natural awareness of differences will have a critical affect on how children will react to these differences in the future. “What adults do, teaches just as much as what they say.” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) Self-reflection of our own biases and how they influence the children we work with is an important daily task in effective anti-bias work.

As a parent and a teacher I can recall times I have reprimanded or silenced a child after he or she pointed out someone they saw as different. Before this anti-bias work, I had believed it was inconsiderate to point out others difference. I had believed by not pointing out differences and treating all children equally I was teaching acceptance. One day a little girl in my class called another little girl a baby and told the other child she could not play with them. I told her it was not nice to call her a baby, and encourage her to apologize to the other child. Reflecting on this situation, I have to wonder what messages I sent to these two children. Did I teach them it is not ok to notice difference? Did I teach them it is not ok to talk about difference? Did I teach them anything? I do not believe I sent the message I intended to send with my response. This type of personal reflection has motivated my cycle of liberation (Harro, 2010).

I have had similar situations as in this example recently; I have learned to not react verbally or nonverbally, instead to ask questions (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). Now I would try to remember to pause and to ask the child why she thinks the other child is a baby. Recently a child responded, “Because she talks like a baby.” In the past, I would have been uncomfortable discussing this child’s ability difference. Today I would very factually acknowledge that different people do speak different, and that is ok. I would explain that we all communicate in different ways and it does not change her ability to play.   I would point out the differences in how I speak from how the other teachers in our class speak. I would be careful I did not make the child feel they were wrong be noticing the difference, I want to change the reaction to differences not the awareness of the differences.

Through the Start Seeing Diversity Video’s on physical ability, characteristics, race, and ethnicity I have learned many new strategies to support students understanding of diversity (Laureate, n.d.).   In above example the underlying issue is a misunderstanding of communication differences. I can address this by incorporating a variety of different types of communication styles into our daily classroom practice. I could incorporate music and other audio materials of people with variety types of communication types and abilities. I can use personal doll to act out a similar situation encouraging the students to participate in the discussion (Laureate, n.d.). By incorporating diversity into every part of students day in natural and authentic ways I will be able to model and awareness of diversity and an appreciation for diversity.

Children are dynamic not static and will continue to be shaped by biological factors, culture, environmental cues, experiences, and by their choices (Deaux, 2001). We as early childhood educators have a responsibility to support children’s continuous development of diversity. I have learned a lot about my own biases and the many biases within my classroom, literature, and the curriculum, I know I still have a lot more to learn. It will take time to truly incorporate this new way of seeing my teaching practice and myself. In the words of Nadiyah Taylor, “The path to diversity, equity and social justice is a journey, and it takes time (Laureate, 2011).”



Deaux, K. (2001). Social identity. In J. Worell (Ed.), Encyclopedia

     of women and gender (Vols. 1–2, pp. 1–9). Maryland Heights, MO:

Academic Press.

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

     and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young

Children (NAEYC).

Harro, B. (2010). The cycle of Liberation. In M. Adams, W. Blumenfeld, C. Castaneda,

  1. W.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Diversity and equity work: Lessons learned

[Video file].

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Start seeing diversity: Physical ability and

characteristics [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.ed.

Smidt, S. (2006). The developing child in the 21st century: A global perspective on child

     development. New York, NY: Routledge.