Well, it is funny because before I chose this specialization in Early Childhood Education MS program, I did not know that there was such a specialization. I was actually looking – even at a tender age of 58 -- to begin a new professional career as a classroom teacher. I was told that I would need to be a teacher currently in a classroom, which I was not. I was sorely disappointed, and started to look at other options. This specialization came up, and I thought that it was right up my alley.
Ever since, when I mentioned my graduate studies in Early Childhood Education with a specialization in Public Policy and Advocacy, my friends would exclaim how a perfect an option it is. I feel very blessed to be studying something that I have been doing all my life. My mother is my role model; she was a fighter before there is the “advocate” label. As a four-generation deaf family, we are accustomed to asking and advocating for our own communication needs. As a mother of two deaf children who attended public schools without any specialized programs, I advocated for their access issues and was, if I may add, pretty successful at what I did to ensure that both of my children received top-notch education through sign language interpreting services. Through my personal experiences, I realize that I could contribute to the field with a more professional base of knowledge. I really need to learn how to become more engaged in public policy that impacts deaf children and their families.
Louise Sparks-Derman (Laureate Education, 2011) defined advocate as someone who speaks for the voiceless. That resonates so much for me. I wrote the following during the second week of my first class, Foundations of Early Childhood:
It was a thrill to watch the video, The Passion for Early Childhood, in this week’s Resources and listen to how each of the five speakers discuss their love for the field that we all are engaged in now. Each one of them said some buzz phrases that resonate so much with my professional and personal goals. “Self-identities.” “More just world.” “Opportunity to give back.” “Civil rights issue.” Louise Derman-Sparks, Professor Emeritus at Pacific Oaks College, (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010) ultimately outlined the essence of early childhood education, “…that the preschool years are critical; they are the first, most fundamental period where children are in fact noticing who they are and are noticing the attitudes of the stereotypes and the discomforts…that the teachers have a tremendous influence on their self-identities.” She (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010) also believes that we need “to fix the injustices that existed in the world.” Renatta M. Cooper (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010) commented, “I see early childhood education, all education, really, as a civil rights issue.”
The civil right issue is keenly highlighted in Deaf education. Deaf preschoolers are “noticing the attitudes of the stereotypes and the discomforts” when their teachers try to make them into something that they essentially are not. In most American preschools for Deaf children, the focus is on learning to talk when it would be more beneficial to learn American Sign Language and focus on being Kindergarten-ready.
Those reasons outlined above are why advocates are essentially important in the early childhood field.
I have learned some great stuff – such as cultural diversity, communication & collaboration, and equality & equity -- about being an effective advocate from some of my previous classes. I am particularly interested in the public policy aspect where I hope to learn how to become a part of the both state and federal public policy. By that, I mean, how can I influence public policy that would change the landscape of early childhood education of young deaf children? Can I become a staffer within the public policy system? How do I influence public policy to ensure that it benefits the infants and toddlers and their families? Public policy about deaf children is entrenched in an ideological belief that deaf children must hear to acquire language and in their intentional ignorance of what deaf children can achieve through a visual language.
Is that a good reason to become an advocate? I think so. I will tell you another reason: I love what I do as a volunteer advocate.
Laureate Education, Inc. (2010) The passion for early childhood. Baltimore: Author