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Certified PreK-6. Masters in Child Development. Advocate for play, teacher & children choice, & the family's voice. Believe in volunteering as social justice.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What Did I Take Away from the NAEYC Conference? The People. Always, the People.

Well, well, well...I know that it has quite literally been A YEAR since I've published anything on the blog.  What can I say? I've been in a year long spiral of new jobs, too many commitments, and a period of not trusting my voice.  While I can't promise myself that I'll be super consistent, I do want to try to get back to the blog.  In the meantime, I was asked to write a reflection as part of my participation in the Lasting Legacy Scholarship for the 2015 NAEYC conference and I thought I would share it here as well.  Perhaps it will be the first of a series of posts inspired by my thoughts from the conference.

As I settle back into the cold Chicago winter and the day to day responsibilities as a preschool director, my thoughts keep drifting back to Orlando and the 2015 NAEYC Conference.  I think about the practical information I learned that will help me as a first year director, the new ideas about curriculum I want to share with my teachers, and the words of inspiration from some of my early childhood heroes.  What do I think about the most?  The people and the relationships both renewed and made anew while at the conference.  Vygotsky taught us that children learn and thrive in the context of relationships and the same must be said about educators as well.  The conference provided me with a context to build relationships that will push me to be the type of early childhood professional I want to be, the relationships that will challenge me, the relationships that will pick me up when I fall and tell me to keep going.  

I am an academic at heart and I can tend to let my introversion, reflective personality, and lack of confidence keep me looking inwards only rather than looking outwards.  There is great value to reflection, but there needs to be balance, a balance in which I often struggle to find.  The conference forced me to be brave, to step out of my world of words and introspection, to have the conversations that will foster collaboration and community.  From the first meeting with the other women who were awarded the scholarship, to meeting global friends face to face for the first time, to connecting with local professionals in the exhibit hall and inside workshops, to quiet coffee chats with early childhood kindred spirits, to sharing stories with each other at the end of the conference, I was pushed to make conversations and connections outside of the written words that make up my comfort zone.  

Because of these opportunities to be brave and build relationships, I left Orlando with the connections to further my work at home in Chicago.  I’m taking away from the conference the knowledge that I have people that I can turn to when I want to challenge my teachers to think about their classroom environments in a new way or to consider technology in a new light; when I am ready to build a collaboration of preschool directors within my city; when I’m ready to bring the voice of the young professional to the state AEYC; and those who will be there when i want to cry, scream, laugh, or problem solve the day to day.  

So yes, while at the conference the words of Ruby Bridges and Lella Gandini wowed and inspired me and moved me to tears, but more than that, it was my fellow professionals who had the most impact on me.  It is the women from my scholarship cohort, the enthusiastic students who are just starting their early childhood journey, the mothers turned teachers with the passion to change the world, the fierce advocates for social justice; the friends from Canada and Jamaica who I was fortunate to finally meet face to face; the former co-workers who have moved out of town and happened to also be at the conference, these are the true inspirations and the people I will turn to as we continue our all important work of advocating for play, for social justice, for the children and the families who we serve every day.  These are the people who make me brave, who give me hope for the future of childhood.