Each time I have the opportunity to attend the NAEYC conference, I learn a lot and come back confident in my decision to invest wholeheartedly in the children I teach. I also usually have a chance to attend sessions with some of the greats in the field of early childhood. This year was no different. The opening general session featured a physician and advocate of early care who is basically a household name…Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. When I was a child, and even today, many parents religiously consulted his Touchpoints book, highlighting key points in a child’s early development. Now, at 92, Dr. Brazelton is still speaking out about the importance of the early years. Amazing. Honestly, as he spoke, tears welled up in my eyes at the thought that this was truly a historic moment…Dr. Brazelton speaking to thousands of early childhood teachers and caregivers toward the end of his life and still so passionate about child development! He talked about the need to embrace parents and support them in their critical role as a child’s first and most important teacher! Dr. Brazelton talked about this need in relation to the stressors facing families today: stressors like a change in family structure, a change in women’s roles, a lack of time for family rituals, poverty, the media, a broken educational system in America, and others. Each of these heavy topics would take a semester to even begin to unpack, but they are issues that early childhood educators deal with every day. Good teachers strive to support the parent/child relationship by somewhat alleviating the stressors of our society through the creation of secure and stable relationships with children and families, and by simply loving the children in their care.
Dr. Brazelton also made a statement that stayed with me. He said, “Value passion wherever you find it.” This made me think about my own passions as well as fostering the passions of the children with whom I spend my days. My goal is to instill in them passion – passion for life and passion for learning. Do I always validate the things that are important to them? Do I create environments in which children can discover their passions? That is my goal and I hope that I do, but I know that I am always in a state of reassessing and evaluating how to best serve these little people with big ideas. While teaching is an enormous responsibility, it is also my passion. Today one of my little students said that when she grows up, she wants to be a teacher. It brought joy to my heart. In her young life she has experienced a love of learning and even though she will probably change her mind many times before she actually grows up, she was able to express her love of learning by attaching it to a role that she recognizes to be important. What an honor!