Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflecting about My Collegial, Professional Learning Community

I am not a classroom teacher, although I feel that I have always been a teacher if only for my children. Because of that, I need the expertise of my collegial, professional learning community. Each and every one of us has something to contribute to the early childhood systems. Whenever I need input, I would consult with this group who has proved to be dedicated, devoted, and passionate early childhood professionals.

Have I had experiences of being a part of a caring and collaborative learning community? I feel fortunate to have been a part of community advocacy group. Whenever I have an idea, or a letter, or an article, the group can improve the idea or the article in amazing ways. Sometimes it would be something I had forgotten like the time I forgot about transportation for my hypothetical family project, and my colleague reminded me of that. Sometimes, it was an idea I had never thought about before. I have come to depend on our collective thinking process to make something even better.

Sometimes, I feel frustrated by a process that appears to not be working. The collegial, professional learning group can boost my self-confidence by giving me ideas of how to work through or around a thorny issue. That could be because some of our group members have had the experiences and can share their expertise.

Ultimately, it is much more fun to work within a group that shares the same goals. I hope I have been as much fun for others as they have had been for me.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Hypothetical Family Situation

Who am I?

I am a mother of a deaf child and seven other children ranging from ages 14 to 1. We moved to the United States from Syria in 2013. My family speaks Arabic; and today we are still learning English. My husband works in a food store that sells Arabic food, and I am a seamstress. We have no family in the U.S. We are dealing both major political and religious circumstances. We are working to become citizens of the United States; although we have experienced some of the American generosity, we are occasionally targeted for our Muslim religion.

My 2-year-old deaf child is the next to last child. We just found out that she is Deaf. We have never met anyone who was/is Deaf and have no idea what to do. We want her to maintain her Syrian heritage and speak Arabic as well as English.

Today, we are concerned about what services there are for deaf children. Can she go to school? We are concerned about her future; can she succeed in life? Whom will she marry? Ultimately, how will we communicate with her?

Has anyone of you encountered a family like that? A family with similar situations but different circumstances?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Political Will to Improve Early Childhood Systems

In researching and working on Week 5 assignments, I was drawn to a number of strategies that organizations use to influence political will toward improving early childhood systems. Most of them have websites full of information to share with others with similar interests in early childhood systems.

Some of them would sponsor research and conferences. Some of them would have articles or blog posts arguing for or against a specific policy or issue. Some other articles would be written as summaries of research findings about a specific topic. And yet others are information sharing articles.

Some organizations like Children’s Defense Fund would have campaigns for specific issues like “Protect Children Not Guns” and encourage supporters to take action like organizing community activities. Another website, SparkAction, has a campaign geared toward tracking federal budget.

Personally, I am interested in writing articles in support or opposition to issues and outlining reasons for support or not. That seems to be where my strength is: my ability to put together all of the supporting data and writing about it. Indeed, I enjoy doing it.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Parent, Family, and Community Engagement

How can you not be impressed if you heard the story of Almeta Richards Keys, a Head Start parent in Louisiana 35 years ago who is currently the Executive Director of a parent child center in Washington, D.C.? Because of her involvement as a parent in the Head Start programs, she was able to empower herself by cultivating the systems of Head Start and the process of rules and regulations. One of her four Head Start children got a Master’s degree in Engineering (Keys, 2011).

You would have to be likewise impressed with Zachary James who had 8 Head Start children; Zachary decided to learn how to read so that he can read books to the daughter who kept asking him to read books to her. He learned how to read, got his GED, and started reading books to his children! Imagine the influence that action had on his children; it showed how much Zachary valued reading that he went back to school to read and become more engaged with his daughter when they both read books! I know the importance of parents and children reading books together because I attribute our family’s nightly reading ritual to our children’s eventual academic success.

Those stories evoke inspiration when they are told in first person. Those stories illuminate the outcomes and the data that cannot begin to tell the personal stories of parents whose lives are turned around because of Head Start involvement in the lives of their children and themselves.

Head Start involvement breaks what is frequently a vicious cycle and creates a community where parents such as Zachary James and Almeta Richard Key become involved for future generations. I know that James’ daughter will always remember how her father learned to read just for her; and that is very empowering kind of love. Key invested in becoming involved in the Head Start program committees, and her son was able to get his Master’s in Engineering! Oftentimes, all they needed was this one break and words of encouragement.

Ashline (2013) outlined five reasons why we should volunteer at our children’s school. They are:
1.     It takes a village.
2.     A little goes a long way.
3.     Everyone has something to offer.
4.     Your child will benefit.
5.     You’ll feel good.

Some families have resources to volunteer at their children’s schools. Head Start programs make it possible and easier for parents to volunteer at their children’s childcare and educational programs, and the entire village benefits. Then, you’ll also feel good.


Ashline, J. (2013). 5 reasons you should volunteer at your child’s school. The Orange County Register. Retrieved from:
James, Z. (2008). Parent interview. 36th Annual National Head Start Training Conference. Retrieved from:

Keys, A. R. (2011) Parent and family stories. Head Start. Retrieved from:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Quality Programs for ALL Children

When we paid for our 3-year-old firstborn’s preschool, I remember vividly – even after 21 years – thinking to myself how other families could afford preschool. It was an option that I was willing to let go, but my husband insisted that we would send both of our children to preschool. He did not want to miss opportunities to provide both of our children with preschool advantages. I know that there are families who would love such opportunities, but would never be able to afford quality childcare and preschool.

Why would our society not want to fund quality services and programs for ALL children?

McGowan (2014) outlined a list of five lessons we can learn from the history of child welfare services; they are what we call early childcare and education programs today. I think three of them are worth mentioning here:
1.     We can never perfectly resolve the tensions between the interests of children/families and the community at large.
2.     Our willingness to invest adequately in the provisions of services to enhance the well-being of families is “meager and begrudging at best” (p.41).
3.     Although children’s needs would change over time, our social responsibility to support those children and their families remains constant.

Why would we be reluctant to invest in early childhood programs for all children?

Some of the reasons why we do not invest more robustly in such programs include:
1.     parents’ rights versus children’s needs;
2.     federal versus state versus local responsibility;
3.     public versus voluntary financing and service provision;
4.     developmental versus protective services
5.     specialized professional services versus informal, natural helping networks.
(McGowan, 2014)

Sadly, “all these issues appear and reappear in the major historical documents on the American child welfare system” (McGowan, 2014, p.11).

Although most Deaf babies are eligible for intervention services from birth to 21, not all of them receive such services. California has a 94% rate of follow-up after families’ initial newborn hearing screening tests. Sometimes, families still fall through cracks.

As for early services for deaf children, we are faced with the polarizing service provision viewpoints of professionals providing specialized services and Deaf adults who are able to provide with more natural helping networks such as serving as language models to Deaf babies and their families.

NAEYC has 10 program standards, and #8 is Community Relationships. Deaf communities in the United States are a resource that is underutilized. “Relationships with agencies and institutions in the community can help a program achieve its goals and connect families with resources that support children’s healthy development and learning” (NAEYC, n.d.). They provided some examples of an ideal community relationship; it involves inviting American Sign Language (ASL) performers and artists of which there are many.

For every dollar invested, we get an average annual return of 7-10% (Children’s Defense Fund, n.d.). This really begs the question why we would not invest more robustly and less begrudgingly.


Children’s Defense Fund. (n.d.). Early childhood development & learning. Retrieved from:
McGowan, B. (2014). Historical evolution of child welfare services. In G. Mallon and P. McCartt Hess (Eds.), Child welfare for the twenty-first century: A handbook of practices, policies, and programs (pp. 11-43). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

NAEYC. (n.d.). The 10 NAEYC program standards. Retrieved from: