Using Communication Skills to Enact Change

Communication skills vary from person to person but are vital in conveying or publicizing the message of policy change. Communication may be spoken, nonverbal, or written and the manner in which the message comes across will determine our success when leading policy change. 

Two communication skills that are important to exemplify when leading policy change are emotional awareness and listening. Emotional awareness is essential in communicating how a person feels about a certain subject or in making decisions.  Most often we make decisions based on how we feel (Helpguide.org, n.d.), making it essential to know why we have the feelings we are experiencing and how to control them.  Being able to manage our feelings appropriately (Helpguide.org, n.d.) in any given situation is a source for good communication.  Being emotionally aware of our feelings gives us the ability to identify with or understand what others are feeling.  It also assists us in being courteous to others (Mind Tools, n.d.) and identifying with them even if we do not personally care for them or the message they bring (Helpguide.org, n.d.).  In leading policy change, we will come in contact with people who do not agree with us or our message.  It is at that point when we need to be emotionally aware and not communicate in a manner that could produce a negative response to our policy issue.

Listening skills are critical to positive communication (Helpguide.org, n.d.). Developing good listening skills would be valuable when leading policy change.  While I may be the person to develop the idea of the policy issue, I can learn from others I come in contact with to help advocate for my policy issue.  Cooperation from others will go a long way when they feel they have been heard and that their input is valued.  Listening helps create an environment of cooperation, collaboration, creativity, and connection (Helpguide.org, n.d.).  It has always been my belief that the more you listen, the more you learn. 

Communication is a constant part of being a school administrator and something that on most days I do well. However, on other days I totally miss the point and fail greatly in my attempts to communicate in a clear manner.  When communicating with my staff I find it most effective to bring the conversation to a personal level.  For example, a few months back I had to speak to a teacher who had been confronted by a parent.  The parent lashed out at the teacher and made her feel terrible as a teacher and she suddenly did not feel confident in what she was doing.  She is an outstanding teacher and one whose professionalism I value greatly. In my communication with her, I reminded her of the good that she had done.  I recalled specific children and families she had worked with and helped through difficult struggles in their lives. I was able to talk with her and help her work through this issue. 

On the other hand, just last week I was having a conversation with the father of some children in the school. The conversation was about the behavior of his youngest child and I felt that we had settled the situation by the end of the day.  However, the next day both parents arrived at my office very upset, wanting to pull their children out of the program because of what I had said to the father the previous day.  After further discussion, I realized that we were not on the same level of our communication and the father had understood me to say something that I did not intend to convey.  His understanding of what I said was the complete opposite of what I felt I had conveyed.  I realize now that I had not been clear in my communication with this parent.  What we say or how we present our message will affect how others respond to our communication.

 

Helpguide.org. (n.d.). Effective communication. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/effective_communication_skills.htm

Mind Tools. (n.d.). The 7 Cs of communication: A checklist for clear communication. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCS_85.htm

Dynamics of Early Childhood Policies and Systems: Social Media

social media’s influence on policy issues

One could stand in the middle of any public area, be it large or small, and be surrounded by individuals who have are “connected” to social media.  Social media infiltrates our lives at work, in school, at home, and anywhere we carry our phones, tablets, pads, or just about any other electronic device.  Anyone can be instantly connected to a friend, relative, or stranger in our own city or somewhere on the other side of the country or the world.  Social media has connected the world through communication and has made it possible to convey any message to millions of readers in an instant and simultaneously.

In communicating my policy issue, I would use Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube as sources of communication.  The audience I want to reach is educational professionals such as superintendents and academic professors.  I will also reach out to advocates on educational issues and to local and state legislature.  Facebook offers the prospect of creating a page that clearly and concisely (Mind Tools, n.d.; Pillow-Price, 2009) explains my policy issue of quality teachers in non-public early learning centers.  Because Facebook offers space for comments, this opportunity would allow me to draw support from educators and those advocating on behalf of academic issues.  YouTube would present the chance for me to speak collectively to my audience in a manner where I can confidently share a solid message with the facts (Mind Tools, n.d.) of teacher quality in early childhood education.  LinkedIn would allow me to network with other professionals concerning teacher quality.   My professional profile would give my audience the chance to learn about my professional background, the places I have worked, others I network with, and offer a professional presence as I begin to communicate with superintendents, academic professors, and those in local and state politics.

I found it interesting that Pillow-Price (2009) suggested sending a fax when communicating with those in politics because often their mail is delayed days before they actually receive a letter.  They have web sites that contain contact information such as telephone and fax numbers.  She went on to state that most of the legislature does not check their email regularly because they prefer meeting face-to-face (Pillow-Price, 2009). It would be essential to know your audience and determine the best manner to communicate with them.

Social media has benefits and challenges that can serve or hinder the efforts of the message being published.  The use of Twitter, BlogSpot, WordPress, or any other forum where there is discussion (Auer, 2011), can be used as outlets that serve as effective tools for not only getting the message out, but for collecting information, thoughts, and even answering questions that people might have concerning the issue.  Advocacy can take place through means of Facebook or YouTube and is effective in spreading the information rapidly as one person “likes” the post or “shares” it with a friend.

Unfortunately, social media can create challenges for its users.  Auer (2011) explains how in politics social media can manipulate political order.  He uses the example of the Secretary of State encouraging the owner of a microblog not to maintain the site or delete the content so that political pressure can be put on other countries.  Some countries might hack accounts of those speaking against them through social media.  Auer (2011) goes on to call these people influencers and controllers because they use social media for political gain and control of communication.

Social media has advanced to the place where news or policy issues can quickly be spread in a manner of minutes.  These media sources can be of great influence in communication my policy issue locally, statewide, and across the nation.

 

Auer, M.R. (2011). The policy sciences of social media. Policy Studies Journal, 39(4), 709-736. Retrieved from Walden Library databases.

Mind Tools. (n.d.). The 7 Cs of communication: A checklist for clear communication. Retrieved May 28, 201from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCS_85.htm

Pillow-Price, K. L. (2009). Influencing legislation – Advocacy basics. Dimensions of Early Childhood, 37(3), 18-23. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

 

 

Dynamics of Early Childhood Policies and Systems

When I first learned that I would be studying policies and systems, I was apprehensive due to not working in the public school system and knowing that I fall short when it comes to totally understanding education policies and systems as they relate to the public school system.  Throughout this course I will be studying some things of which I have a little knowledge and other things will be completely new.   Thus far, as I have read the text (Kagan & Kauerz, 2012); I have become a little frustrated because it appears there are many definitions for systems building.  It seems there is a new definition for systems building for each chapter and I am looking for one solid definition that I can take and add to it as my knowledge expands throughout this course.      

Goals:

My first goal is to understand current policy and how it applies to my school.  Since my school is a private Christian school, we fall under the auspices of the church and not all public policies apply.  While I am somewhat aware of public policy, it has not always been a top priority to fully understand it because we fall under different regulations.  I hate to admit that I do not know them as well as I should and seek to improve in this area.  I would like to gain understanding of how these policies could help our program better meet the needs of young children.  I do not know if there can ever be total compliance because of separation of church and state.

My second goal is to learn more about a comprehensive system as discussed in our text by Scott (2012).  I understand it to involve multiple agencies working together on goals and mission statements with the ultimate objective to improve services offered to the children and families in my care.  I want to learn how this system applies to private schools and what subsystems can be integrated without the private school having to lose the characteristics that make it uniquely private.

My third goal is to inquire about other quality rating and improvement systems so that I can learn what other states or programs are using compared to what is used at my school.  I am always looking for ways to improve the quality of the learning environment, curriculum, and the overall program.  By learning of other quality rating and improvement systems, I can work toward assuring we are providing a high quality program for our children and families.

Educating a child is not the sole responsibility of one teacher or a single early childhood program.  To successfully educate a child it takes many people and resources to do the job correctly.  Through this course I want to learn about policies, advocacy, and how I can have a part in meaningful policy making that will affect every child.  Instead of being apprehensive about what I may not know about policies and systems building, I want to face it head on as an opportunity to learn, grow, improve my professional abilities, and most of all improve the quality of education for young children.  

 

Kagan, S. L., & Kauerz, K. (Eds.). (2012). Early childhood systems: Transforming early learning. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Scott, K. (2012). Perspectives on and visions of early childhood systems: Vision vs. reality: The real challenge of large systems development. In S. Kagan & K. Kauerz (Eds.), Early childhood systems: Transforming early learning (pp. 18-24). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Influences of Family, Culture, and Society in Early Childhood Education

 

The name of this course is Influences of Family, Culture, and Society in Early Childhood Education.  The word influence comes to mind when I reflect on this course and the knowledge gained from our studies.  In life I have always agreed with and repeated on various occasions the statement “We are a product of our own environment.”  Upon the completion of this course, I have a greater understanding of how young children are influenced daily by their surroundings of family, culture, and society. These influences help shape who the child is and who they will become. 

While all of the class materials were helpful to the nature of this course, I most enjoyed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. I enjoyed this text because Fadiman (2012) so appropriately describes the clash of cultures and shows how there are two sides to every story.  The fact that neither side backed down should be a lesson of how not to treat families and children in our care.  Fadiman (2012) shows the devastation such behavior can cause upon the child.  There are many insights I gained from reading this book, but I want to specifically mention two that I feel will be applicable to my work as an early childhood professional. 

The first insight I gained was how the only connection between the doctors of American medicine and the Lee family was the child Lia.  As I stated, throughout the book Fadiman (2012) shows how there is more than one side to a story.  The perspective of the medical doctors was totally different from the parents as to how the child should be cared for and what medicines should be given.  Neither side would look at the situation from the standpoint of the other so this became a detriment to the child.  This situation is applicable to my work as an early childhood profession in that I can learn from what happened between the doctors and the Lees.  The Lees were driven by their customs and cultural background and the doctors wanted to aggressively treat Lia in a manner that is customary for doctors in the United States.  In the early childhood profession the only connection between the school and the family is the child.  Instead of insisting that my way is correct or that I know best, it is essential to listen to the family, try to see things from their perspective, learn from them, and work together for the benefit of the child.      

The second insight I gained from the Fadiman (2012) text was how children from immigrant families have to somehow remain true to their family or cultural customs and beliefs while trying to maintain a life in a culture that is different from home.  Not much was mentioned about the siblings of Lia but it was noted that while the parents were worrying about Lia, the siblings were trying to learn and take on a culture that was not their own (Fadiman, 2012).  As an early childhood professional I will have children in my school who have to learn to live in two cultures, the one at home and the one that makes up their environment outside of the home.  They may struggle with the language, with the food, and even personal habits.  As an early childhood professional I can learn from their culture and customs and help them adjust to the life outside of their home.  It is also important to understand that there may be differences, but those differences can be a positive contribution to the classroom.

 

Fadiman, A. (2012). The spirit catches you and you fall down: A Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Poverty

 

Topic:              Poverty

Challenge:       Struggles in Literacy as it Relates to Living in Poverty

 

For this blog we are to summarize the interview experience, explaining any successes or challenges we may have faced during the process. 

The interview process for the course project has been good thus far, as I have completed only one of the interviews.  The second interview will take place this weekend via Skype.  The biggest challenges I have had during the interview process has been in getting the actual interview scheduled and then take place.  I contacted the interviewees at the end of November, but because of illness, both interviewees have had to cancel and reschedule.  By now they can feel the sense of urgency I have concerning the completion of the interview process. 

The interview I have completed was with Mrs. R. and it was fascinating in that she is in a kindergarten classroom and faces much diversity.  When I say diversity, one automatically thinks of diverse cultures or ethnic groups.  While culture and ethnic diversity is present in the classroom, she also experiences great diversity in learning abilities.  Mrs. R. has a few children who do not speak English and is trying to teach them to read.  I can connect with the challenge this brings because we struggle with the same situation in my school.  However, what I learned was that Mrs. R is working with a child who has a mental delay and reads on a second grade level.  Her challenge with this student is in getting him to comprehend what he is reading.  Mrs. R. states that there is very little comprehension so she finds new ways each day to help this child understand and put meaning to the words he reads.  On the day of our interview she had helped him act out the motions of what he was reading.  For example, he read the sentence “let’s play ball.”  Mrs. R. had a ball there and after the child read the sentence, she repeated what he had said and then completed the action of playing ball. She was putting real life actions to the words the child was reading.  I had never seen anyone working with a child on reading comprehension in such a manner as Mrs. R. displayed.  That was her first day of using this technique and I look forward to following up on how the progress continues. 

My project for this course is well under way but I have stopped working on it until I complete the second interview this weekend.  I want to incorporate some of the information I obtain in the interviews into my paper.  Both are Title I schools and Mrs. R’s school has 100% of the student population living in poverty.  Both interviewees have much information to offer on my challenge of struggles in literacy as it relates to living in poverty.  I do not have any specific questions concerning the project but find myself wanting to focus on more than just literacy struggles.  I think it is important to include parental involvement because they play an important role in helping the child develop literacy skills. Any feedback on this thought would be appreciated.            

 

Poverty

 

Challenge:       Children Exposed to Risk, Stress, or Trauma

Topic:              Poverty

With 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion of them live in poverty (Shah, 2013).  Bringing those numbers closer to home, in the state of Illinois there are 544,689 children under the age of six and 44% of these children live below the federal level of poverty (as cited by NCCP, 2013).  For children, this type of life can bring stress, suffering, embarrassment, and emotional trauma in their young lives.  Too many children come to school hungry, embarrassed by the clothing they wear, or feel ashamed for what they do not have, or where they live. These challenges of poverty can affect the development of a child.

I currently work in a private school where there is little or no poverty seen. I have chosen the topic of poverty because in my professional life I am getting ready to make a change where I can work with children of diverse cultures and diverse economic classes.  I am challenged by the fact that children from poverty or low economic backgrounds tend to be at risk and many have academic difficulties (Hanson & Lynch, 2013).  The statistics for poverty around the world are too high.  I may not be able to solve world poverty, but I can begin to work with the families in my area of Illinois who struggle with this issue and as a result, their children are at risk in school.    

Questions:

1. What type of services do public or other private schools offer children living in poverty?

2. Where can I look for tuition assistance for families living in poverty wanting to enroll in my early learning program?  Does this differ from state to state?

 

Hanson, M. J., & Lynch, E. W. (2013). Understanding families: Approaches to diversity, disability, and risk. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP). (2013). Illinois early childhood profile. Retrieved from http://nccp.org/profiles/pdf/profile_early_childhood_IL.pdf

Shah, A. (2013). Global issues: Poverty, facts, and statistics. Retrieved from http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

 

The family, we were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.

~Erma Bombeck

 

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.

~Shirley Abbott