The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recently convened its annual conference in Nashville, TN. Early childhood professionals from across the nation, including many of Groundwork Ohio's partners, gathered for a week of learning and community. Conference attendees were immersed in NAEYC’s pursuit of equity and inclusion in early childhood education. The conference centered around NAEYC's commitment to belonging.
Celebrating Diversity and Advancing Equity
One of the conference's notable moments was the President's Seminar, where Qianna Tidmore, Co-Executive Director of the Ohio Association of the Education of Young Children, shared insights on centering lived experiences to foster equity. As a panelist, Tidmore discussed her personal and professional journey, emphasizing the need to recognize and address systemic challenges within the early childhood system. Her reflections were consistent with many other discussions at the conference in that she placed a spotlight on the lived experiences of individuals as a catalyst for change.
NAEYC's Advancing Equity Position Statement
Present in all aspects of the conference was NAEYC's position statement. Based on feedback NAEYC received from members, family child care providers, and Early Childhood Professionals, the organization created committees to review many of NAEYC’s position statements and standards to ensure they are culturally responsive and reflect all members, including their Advancing Equity position statement.
Central to NAEYC's commitment to belonging is its position statement “Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education,” a comprehensive guide outlining the organization's stance on providing equitable learning opportunities for all children. The statement emphasizes dismantling systems of bias and promoting full inclusion across all social identities.
Within early childhood education settings, NAEYC advocates for environments that embrace diversity, respect individual strengths, and teach children to treat others with fairness and respect. The organization recognizes the pivotal role of educators in creating inclusive learning spaces and calls for a collective effort to eliminate educational disparities based on race, class, culture, gender, and other identities.
NAEYC CEO Michelle Kang and Governing Board President Natalie Vega O’Neil emphasized NAEYC's commitment to establishing an inclusive organization. Kang, as the first Asian American CEO, and Vega O’Neil, as the first Latina President, exemplify the organization's dedication to breaking barriers and championing diversity in leadership.
A Lesson in Equity from the Classroom
Comedian DJ Pryor delivered a captivating keynote address that artfully intertwined humor with his own lived experiences on the impact of teachers in shaping a child's sense of self and belonging. Pryor shared two stories — one negative and one positive — narrating the transformative power of recognizing each child's individuality.
Listening and Sacrifice
The NAEYC annual conference continues to resonate with me. It was not merely a gathering of professionals; it was an invitation into the heart of equity, diversity, and inclusion in early childhood education.
One of the defining moments for me occurred during the President's Seminar, where Dr. Stacey French-Lee, a NAEYC Governing Board Member and Professor at Georgia State University, shared insights and advice for white individuals entering the conversation on equity. Dr. French-Lee framed it as a call to action and an acknowledgement that it isn't about us. We must learn to listen to the experiences of people of color before interjecting our own narratives.
Dr. French-Lee's expressed the necessity of sacrifice. The reminder that people are sacrificing their lives for this cause compelled me to confront the question: What am I willing to sacrifice for everyone to belong? It was a moment that forced me to reassess my role in the broader movement for child care justice.
Towards a Future Rooted in Equity
As I reflect on the conference experience, it is apparent that the journey towards equity is both personal and collective. It demands an honest acknowledgment of privilege, a commitment to listen, and a willingness to sacrifice.
The stories shared, the insights gained, and the personal revelations all contribute to the larger narrative of advancing equity in early childhood education. Groundwork Ohio, consistent with NAEYC, remains committed to advocating for policies that ensure every child, regardless of background, has equitable access to learning opportunities.