And How are the Children..?

Archive for the ‘professional development’ Category

What a day! 2 Skill-building sessions, a few minutes with the kids, and a cavalcade of talented, amazing colleagues in early childhood care and education.

I started the day with Lori Jensen’s session: Leaving a Strengths-Based Legacy. This was a coaching skills workshop, where the very energetic Lori Jensen (Ph.D.) described myriad practical ways to learn about making the best use of people’s strengths. She presented this somewhat counterintuitive idea, which turns out to make a lot of sense: Don’t try too much to improve on weaknesses, but rather invest most of your time and energy in improving things that people are already good at. Jensen shared a good-sized bucket of research that supports this notion. We did a few group activities, plenty of reflection on our own experiences, and had a good group discussion.

Don't Get So Upset - T. Jacobson

Don't Get So Upset - T. Jacobson

After lunch, I bought a new book: ‘Don’t Get So Upset!: Help Young Children Manage their Feelings by Understanding Your Own” by Tamar Jacobson, Ph.D. I’m very excited about this (though I really wanted to get Perspectives on Gender in Early Childhood – edited by Jacobson, but it was cost prohibitive, alas) because I read Jacobson’s ‘Confronting Our Discomfort’ during my graduate internship and found it to be so transformative: a great foundational text for someone studying Anti-Bias Education. These days, finding the balance between patience and anger are more challenging than ever before, so I appreciate finding a book that touches on that topic by an author whom I admire. I’ll let you know how the book goes if I ever get a chance to read it. Just kidding – I’ll find time. I will.

Second session: One Size Doesn’t Fit All – The Coach’s Role in Professional Development, by Cate Heroman. Somehow, I did not consciously realize how my conference choices had all coalesced around the theme of ‘coaching.’ The pre-conference seminar and both of today’s workshops were all about coaching, consultation and leadership. In today’s afternoon session, Cate Heroman talked about the kinds of mentors that have the greatest impact on our lives, and the traits that we brainstormed reflected what the opening keynote speaker talked about when he described characteristics of leaders, for example trust. Trust keeps coming up again and again – I guess because these topics have to do with relationship-based support (i.e. coaching and consultation). The opening keynote talked about that, too. Trust and building relationships to move forward. These themes were reflected again later on in the evening during the Fireside Chats.

Heroman ran a fun, focused workshop. The conversation was pretty lively, and she has a spark of fun that lightens the experience. Prior to the session, I took the opportunity to introduce myself as a Twitter friend. It’s a strange, but fun experience meeting people in real life after piecing together online relationships based on brief comments, web links, and tiny photographs.

Enjoyed meeting Twitterfriend Cate Heroman IRL!

After the afternoon session, I spent a few rejuvenating minutes with my family. My dear, dear husband came up to pick up milk for our one-year-old, and I was so pleased to see them when I opened my hotel room door! As great as it is to have the Heavenly Bed to myself, I’ve missed them, and have definitely gotten a boost from seeing them, however briefly. Same with the ‘Say goodnight’ calls at bedtime. I thank my husband for his support and participation.

The Champions for Change Dinner with Paula Jorde Bloom and Teri Telan was enjoyable – good food and good conversation. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Maria Gandara of Sunshine Learning Home & Day Care – a tireless local advocate for children and families, and home-based child care providers, especially. She was vocal about desire among home-based providers for the development of a credential that addresses their unique service issues and competencies, which turned out to be a pretty hot topic of conversation. I listened a lot and didn’t talk much (a rarity), and afterward made my way to the fireside chat, which turned out to be a anniversary celebration of McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership (25 years!) as well as a surprise celebration of the career and work of Paula Jorde Bloom.

Luis Hernandez facilitates.

Luis Hernandez

After a hilarious introduction by Luis Hernandez (McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership Advisory Board member), people took turns describing how their careers had progressed and how they experienced Dr. Bloom’s influence, or been involved with MCECL over the years. What an invaluable set of accounts, not just for the sentimental value, but also for the historical perspective available in the telling of these stories that overlap and intertwine over decades. I was so pleased to be there to hear it. How inspiring! Advisory board members shared their stories, and then everyone in the room had a chance to share their experiences of how Dr. Bloom and the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership had touched their lives, and the lives of people they serve (someone from Singapore got up to tell Dr. Bloom that she has touched many lives in her country as well).  This is where that theme of trust and leadership was revisited – a few people related their experiences of Paula’s exceptional leadership, and that it has been characterized by trust, among other things.  It must feel very good to have all of the themes of your leadership conference culminate in a discussion about your leadership.  What a legacy!

Then there was coffee and cake. A lovely end to a very full day.

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I feel as though this experience is coming to a head, but I’m too tired to reflect on it properly. Trust me, though: once it all sinks in, I will break it all down. Until then…


Opening Ceremonies and Keynote

We started off right with a dance party!  After the dancing lights formed into a Kool and the Gang conga line around the room, we all settled down and enjoyed our cupcakes (the electric tea lights were brought in atop cupcakes) while the keynote speaker began.

Let it shine at Leadership Connections 2010!

“Good leaders lead with the heart.” This was a recurring theme in the keynote address given by John Graham, a former diplomat and mountaineer turned philanthropist. Graham is the spokesperson for Giraffe Heroes Project, an organization that encourages people to “stick their necks out for the common good.”

We’ve been hearing a lot of giraffe-related metaphors today as a result.

Graham is not of the early childhood field, but appears to understand the qualities that make for good leaders are required for all leaders, whatever or whomever they lead – like ability to use intuition, to build trust, and to have vision. Regarding vision – he is quick to explain that vision is not code for dreams and fantasies, but rather a visualization of real goals and plans. A kind of projection of the future. According to Graham, “A vision is a great North Star – a vision is a great source of guidance… It inspires. It’s glue…” He talks about using vision as a planning tool for groups working together, reminding us to use heart to guide visioning, not just brain and thinking; non-profits often start with goals and objectives, and he urges them to start with vision.

He touched on a lot of values that feel very spiritual to me, and in such an amicable, straightforward kind of way. I appreciate his approach. Even if he’s not familiar with the details of early childhood leadership, he gets leadership. He gets the humanity required to lead and to make meaning, which he boils down to service and making life better. I believe in my heart that leadership is a way to practice serving society and humanity.

Public Policy Forum

We the PPF took the form of a lecture/presentation (during which I tweeted a few salient points), followed by facilitated breakout discussions. The Forum Facilitators:

  • Kay Albrecht of Innovations in Early Childhood Education
  • Stacie Goffin of Goffin Strategy Group
  • Luis Hernandez of Region IV Head Start
  • Karen Ponder, an ECE Consultant
  • Margie Wallen of the Ounce of Prevention Fund

The Public Policy Forum Keynote speaker was Sharon Lynn Kagan of Teachers College, Columbia University – today’s recipient of the Visionary Award. Her talk was called Advancing ECE2: Early Childhood Education [ece] and its Quest for Equity, Coherence, and Excellence [ECE]. Very clever title.   Kagan stridently puts forth a number of ideas about how she thinks early care and education should be moving forward in terms of policy on the national level. During the breakout sessions, we discussed what she referred to as ‘8 Bold Steps’ that could be taken. I’ll have to find a link to her website so that people can read about that in detail, as we did not get handouts for that session. One of the 8 Bold Steps was to change how we credential ECE professionals. There is ongoing discussion, debate and some tension about how to appropriately require educators to obtain the proper knowledge base to do their jobs effectively and well. Research tells us that quality of education improves if teachers hold degrees, but Kagan points out that she isn’t convinced that there is a big difference in quality between those who have 2 or 4 year degrees.

Addressing AA vs. BA – Kagan commented that she doesn’t want to excise or price-out diversity among our practitioners. She says we need to develop a system where educators function like nurses and demonstrate skills, irrespective of the degree. They would take a competency-based exam. I think this is a really good idea. It sets a consistent standard for quality service provision, but allows for more variety of educators. Kagan says she also wants a credential that has national recognition and is transferable from state to state.

In a lot of ways, she seems to want the moon. In a lot of ways, I agree with her; It’s about time we started acting like we deserve the moon in early childhood. We’ve gotten way too comfortable with the assumption that we’ll never get what we need, so we often don’t bother to aim high. Kagan is aiming crazy high, but her aims might be crazy like a fox.

This topic got a lot of attention during the break out session that I participated in. I chose the session facilitated by Kay Albrecht, and she had us jump right in and hit the ground running. It was a bit much – lots of people talking about a lot of topics. My favorite moment during the breakout session was when the event photographer chimed in: Apparently, he is a retired high school administrator. He told us that he believes that what ECE professionals do is very important, and the effects of our work could be seen in the children he worked with. Too bad he’s not working anymore – it figures that when I finally hear someone from the high school side of things acknowledge that, they’re retired. I’m glad he spoke up, though.

Anyway, it was a good session, and Kay Albrecht is an excellent facilitator. I will definitely be following up on Lynn Kagan’s work, and I hope that she can get more educators on board with advocacy engagement. That’s my pet soapbox at these ECE events: We’ve got to get involved in advocacy! Let’s be activists! Stop complaining to each other and start demanding change!

Then we had delicious hors d’ourves and very nice jazz music during the networking reception, where I caught up with some old acquaintances and talked more with new friends before retiring to my room for a little time with my family. My amazing husband has done a lot to make it possible for me to attend this conference, and I am very grateful for his sacrifices and accommodations. I’m drinking lots of water!

I’d love to hash it all out even more, but the Westin Hotel Heavenly Bed is calling me. More tomorrow: Skill-Building Clinics, and the Friday Evening Champions for Change Dinner!  More to come…

  • Much has happened since my last professional development update (I’ve signed on as a worker with the U.S. Census, so my blogging opportunities are somewhat fewer and further between).  In brief:
  • Conference Scholarship: Rescinded!  😦
  • Registration Status: Registered anyway! 🙂
  • Extra Seminar and Dinner: Signed up (and very excited)!
  • Hotel Room Funds: Raised!

When we left our intrepid hero, she had blazed into the month of April on a comet’s tail, reporting that she had been able to raise enough funds to cover the lower conference registration fee, AND that she had been surprised with an offer of a scholarship!  Huzzah!  But then, minor disaster struck..!

Unfortunately, about 2 weeks after accepting the scholarship, booking a room and ordering new business cards, on the day that I received my conference registration confirmation, I was told that I should NOT have been offered that scholarship, and that my registration would have to be canceled.  Whaaat? Oh, the disappointment!  Apparently, someone who shall go unnamed allowed my scholarship to be approved when it should not have been.  So my professional development fund bottom line took a hit to the tune of a few hundred dollars, and I had to regroup.

Fortunately (have you ever read that book, ‘Fortunately’?), I was able to (eventually) raise enough money to pay for registration out-of-pocket, thanks to many generous donors, and a kind, helpful conference organizer at National Louis University.  So, ultimately, losing the scholarship was an inconvenience, but not a tragedy.  Scholarship notwithstanding, I am registered for Leadership Connections 2010, as well as an additional seminar on change management, plus a Champions for Change networking dinner.  In spite of my setback, my goals are being achieved.  I have no complaints.

Since the elimination of the scholarship, I have had to scale back my plans for spending at the conference vendors’ hall, and I won’t be able to donate any scholarship funds as I’d hoped, but I have been able to keep my hotel reservation, and should be able to afford to buy meals (hotel food is expensive, and I don’t have a car to go out foraging with), due to the incredibly generous support of several private donors.  I continue to be amazed and humbled at people’s capacity for sharing and caring.  You better believe that I will pay it forward the first chance I get.

So we’re set to go!  Who knows what adventures will unfold, but rest assured that I will make the most of them, and I will keep you posted!  See you at the conference (if not before)!

I am very pleased and so excited to announce that I will be attending Leadership Connections 2010!

As I described in my initial post on this topic, I decided to set some professional development goals to guide my focus during this time while I am between jobs. So I set out to obtain sponsorship to attend the McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership’s Leadership Connections conference. Starting about a month ago, I wrote letters to my local legislators, made announcements at my church, and wrote about it on this blog; I offered to exchange services, and generally worked hard to make the case for supporting the professional development of an ambitious (albeit unemployed) early childhood professional through private donations. And it worked!

My first donation was a $5 bill from an elder lady at church – a good reminder that sometimes we must start small, and any support and good will is worthy of gratitude.

As the days went on, I would receive a little money here, a rejection there. I got a personal call from my Congresswoman’s office, explaining that while they could not offer a donation, they appreciated what I was doing. That was my nicest rejection.

Then, just a few days before the conference registration rate was to increase, I redoubled my efforts, since I didn’t yet have enough to cover the cost of registration, and was nowhere near being able to take an additional seminar, or stay at the hotel. And it worked! With just enough time to mail a check, I was able to pull together a little over the registration amount from generous private donors. Then, something unexpected happened…

I got a scholarship!

It seemed like a long shot when I applied. Not because I’m not a worthy candidate, but because I don’t really fit the description of the scholarship candidate as described on the McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership  webpage. I figured I must have been disqualified when the end of March approached and I had not received any response to my application. Then, on March 30, I was informed that I would be receiving a scholarship to cover the cost of the conference registration!

So now, I am able to attend the conference and an additional seminar and a leadership networking dinner (those cost extra). And very significantly, I will be able to stay at the hotel. This is particularly significant, because besides being a nice hotel, it solves the problem of my husband having to drive me from Chicago to Wheeling, IL every morning, since I still do not have a driver’s license (I’ve never had one – a long story for another day).

So, as you can imagine, today I am truly, truly grateful, and humbled by the extent of people’s generosity. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of those who have supported my efforts! I will certainly be blogging the conference, so stay tuned for Leadership Connections coverage right here. More conference updates to come!

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