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A Quick Read About Family Culture in ECE

 To address family culture appropriately, it is important to exhibit flexibility as Smidt (2013, p. 85) compares it (culture) harmoniously with language in that they both "change with usage and over time".  It has been a personal strategy to assess all domains of learning regardless of subject, for a baseline from which to grow. Goode (2009), speaks to the necessity of the flexibility trait when encouraging feedback loops and distributing classroom information while tackling language barriers. A fond memory of an often referenced experience in a mixed-age culturally diverse classroom strikes as powerfully relevant.  With a classroom family of 75% English second language learners, four languages and several individual education plans for speech and behavioral referrals our ultimate goal of developing what is described by Gonzalez-Mena and Eyer (2015, p. 313) as  "the parent and caregiver share(ing) in the care of the child", or "Caregiver as Partner to Parent/Family", was to be met through establishing a "language relationship" (Gonzalez-Mena & Eyer, p. 198).

One of the most pressing challenges was communicating to families that students were bonding appropriately with us as their external attachment figures (Berger, 2018), as many of them displayed signs of secure attachment (Gonzalez-Mena & Eyer, 2015) (sobbing and calling for their mother and father in the families home language) at arrival and departure. Because we could not verbally communicate that children were responding, we chose digital and hardcopy photographs and videos of frequent positive exchanges (Goode, 2009).  This communicated visually that we were utilizing alternating modalities of modeling and song to establish consistent routines, smooth transitions and behavior expectations (Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008).  With growing trust, we introduced families to our Lending Libraries (personal reference, Hamilton, 2010) containing books with accompanying compact discs such as The Napping House (Wood, 2014) and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: With Audio Recording (Martin, & Archambault, 2011). Several families were taking books home and learning with their children. We completed a cultural study that culminated in one of our fathers translating Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Martin, & Archambault), into Mandarin and reading aloud. Project learning is student/family-led and often creates unexpected investigation offshoots (Helm, & Katz, 2011).  Within our classroom family study, we haphazardly created a highly effective way for willing families to model/mentor for their children and other students (Berger, 2018; Goode, 2009).  Sometimes happy accidents are the most productive means.


Communication of cultural sensitivity exhibited by the teaching team may be limited to program procedures and policies of the administration (Goode, 2001; Talan, & Bloom, 2011). We experienced this in the aforementioned classroom. We had families who practiced feeding their 36-month-old children as part of a daily routine. Our expressionless faces must have revealed confusion and our immediate level of cultural competence (Goode, 2009), but we could not verbally communicate with any families that were participating. Our program requiring family-style dining (personal reference, Wolfe,) we asked the administration for an exception. It was denied and we had to dismiss the families. 

The example above is proof of a mindset indicating what Gonzalez-Mena and Eyer (2015) refer to as savior mentality. This is one of many noted areas of growth, but one that is of personal interest due to its reoccurrence while reflecting for improvement.  


References

Berger, K. S., (2018). The developing person through childhood. (8th ed.). New York, NY. Worth Publishing


Gonzalez-Mena, J. & Eyer, D. M., (2015). Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers. A Curriculum of Respectful, Responsive, Relationship-Based Care and Education. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill Education


Goode, T., (2009). Promoting cultural and linguistic competency. Self-assessment checklist for personnel providing services and supports in early intervention and early childhood settings.  Retrieved from http://nccc.georgetown.edu/documents/ChecklistEIEC.pdf.  


Helm, J. H., & Katz, L., (2011). Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years. New York, N. Y.: Teachers College Press

Martin, B., & Archambault, J., (2011). Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: With Audio Recording. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.


Pianta, R. C., La Paro, K. M., & Hamre, B. K., (2008). Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Manual, Prekindergarten: Baltimore, Maryland. Brookes Publishing

Smidt, S., (2013). The Developing Child in the 21st Century: A global perspective on child development. London, NY. Routledge


Talan, T. N., & Bloom, P. J. (2011). Program Administration Scale: Measuring Early Childhood  Leadership and Management. New York N. Y. Teachers College Press


Wood, A., (2014). The Napping House.Boston Massachusettes: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  

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