| In the Seattle
metropolitan area, vocational instructors made weekly visits to a
wide variety of child care centers, where they were expected to contribute
to the improvement of program quality. It was up to these instructors
to figure out how, and they had autonomy in doing so. Staff were generally
not voluntary participants, nor were they necessarily experienced,
competent, or planning to remain in the field. In contrast to the
experienced, stable staffs with which David Beers and Kay Greenough
worked in Native American Head Start, Margie Carter encountered constant
staff turnover in this urban setting.
Under such conditions, can a trainer become a facilitator and storyteller? In this chapter Margie describes how and why she did. The changes she made in her approach over a number of years grew out of her frustrations and continuing curiosity: How can child care workers really understand developmentally appropriate practice? Can I help them construct knowledge for themselves through collaborative observation and reflection?
Entering Terry's classroom, I sat down to begin my weekly observation. I used the form I had recently invented, with room for both notes and comments to be discussed with Terry during naptime (in the notes, T is for Terry).
* Here the storyteller is Margie Carter, and this is an observation-with-comments she made, as a child care trainer, for discussion with Terry, the teacher.
Focus: Active learning
At 9:00 A.M.the children came from outside, hung up coats and, without adult reminders, came to sit for circle time. Terry immediately sat on the floor with those who arrived first, while aides helped others with coats.
|Great that kids who were ready didn't have to wait.|
|T: "Do you know a song we can sing while we're waiting?" Someone suggested the alphabet song, which they immediately began singing. There were a few songs with motions, roll call, and a dismissal into small groups.||
You allowed them to choose a song. Got them actively involved so that even those who don't sing have an option of motions to do.
Smooth transition. Again, no waiting. Immediate involvement and active participation.
|(9:12 A.M.) T: "I need some help pulling out the table for my group." The children quickly moved to help and then settled into seats. T held up a can of shaving cream and asked if they knew what it was. She then went from child to child, putting shaving cream on the table in front of them in the shape of a letter to guess. They were told to "go ahead and play in it." T sat down with some in front of her, played and drew in her cream, talking with kids as she did. They talked about how the cream felt, what they were making, and things going on at home. As the children said they were done and wanted to wash up, T let them go to the bathroom, one at a time.||Wonderful opportunity for sensory exploration of their own choice. A range of topics emerging as they played. Did you hear any that you might want to follow up on later?|
|(9:28 A.m.) T goes to wash her hands and returns with paper towels and a sponge, starting to clean up the table.||Would some dishpans of water and towels on a nearby table have worked to use for washing up? It might have made supervision of cleanup easier and possibly led to some further water activities.|
|Immediately several kids said they wanted to clean up. Nathan pointed to Ts sponge, saying "I want that." *What is that?" T asked. 'A sponge." T gave it to him.||I wasn't sure why you asked this. Do you have more sponges that could be used?|
|Nathan moved -the sponge back and forth on the table and said, "I'm washing my car window. Look. I'm at the gas station washing my car window." T didn't respond. She may not have heard.||If you had heard this comment, how could you have extended the activity?|
When most of the table was clean, T started individual kids on planning with pens and a clean-wipe board. She let them draw, then asked "What did you make?" "Blocks," Jenny answered. "What are you going to do with blocks?"
A good indication of your awareness of potential frustration. Substitution allowed for the representation to continue without disruption.
Another good example of allowing child to pursue interests.
|As the board seemed difficult to erase, T suggested replacing it with a tray of salt in which they could use their finger to sketch. "Tell me about it." "Puzzles," said Taiko. "What area are the puzzles in?" "Table Toy Area."As children were off to activities, one child returned to the table and asked to play with the clean-wipe board. T explained that it wasn't erasing well but could still be used if he wanted.||This is an occasion for further active exploration and language. How could the children have been involved in figuring things out with you? Things you could have said? Questions that might have promoted thinking and exploration?|
|(9:55 A.M.) Nicky asked to use the new tape recorder. T sent him to the office to get batteries. A small group gathered around to see the new player. T opened the package and silently began to figure out how to insert batteries and microphone jacks.||Are you interested in doing further activities based on this experience with batteries?|
Terry responded positively to the comments I had written and thought that my suggestion of having dishpans of water, towels, and sponges was a good way to enable the children to continue in self-help without checking with her or having to leave the room to clean up.
Most of our discussion was focused on the missed opportunities with the tape recorder and batteries. She acknowledged that it never occurred to her to talk out loud about what she was trying to figure out and to trust that, in fact, some of the children might be able to problem-solve how to insert the batteries. I asked if she had other battery-operated objects in the classroom or materials that she could bring from home to explore batteries and their use in a small group. She has a flashlight that the children periodically use in the room, but she couldn't think of anything else. I clarified that I was not suggesting she go out and buy battery-operated toys; rather, I thought it would be helpful to just keep in mind that putting objects together and taking them apart was very much a part of how children learn. She expressed a concern that the last tape recorder had gotten broken from misuse. I suggested that she identify the children who knew how to use the tape recorder properly and have them demonstrate to the rest of the group. I also suggested she give the children some screwdrivers and pliers to use in taking apart the broken tape recorder, making it clear why this was acceptable and that it shouldn't be done to the new one. Terry left, saying that she would keep in mind the idea of involving children in the introduction of new equipment in the room.
This observation in Terry's classroom took place early in my experience as one of 30 (fewer in some years) part-time early childhood education Instructors employed by Renton Vocational-Technical Institute (RVTI; now Renton Technical College) in the Seattle area. The child and family department of RVTI had a program of child care instruction that involved instructors' making three-hour weekly visits to child care sites to offer on-the-job training. The program was funded by a combination of fees and Washington state funds for vocational education, which could be used to upgrade personnel already employed in industry-including child care.
Participation by centers was voluntary except for centers under contract with the city of Seattle to take low-income children These centers were expected to provide staff training under the terms of their contract, and it was assumed that all teachers would participate. Other centers paid a fee of $10 per staff member per quarter, and staff were thereby registered as RVTI students receiving off-campus instruction.
RVTI always had a waiting list for the training program. To be eligible to participate, a center had to have at least five staff members working with the children at 10 A.M. Because the program as a whole had to average 11 staff members per center, larger centers had some priority. Centers could stay in the program as long as they liked.
The Seattle metropolitan area, with a population of about two million, includes a variety of urban and suburban communities. Child care is available through nonprofit agencies, churches, private for-profit groups, and public sponsorship. Child care centers in Washington must meet licensing requirements, but these do not include preservice training or educational qualifications for staff. Anyone 18 years of age or older who passes health and fingerprint checks can be employed as a full-time child care worker. Wages are low (average $5.21 per hour in 1988) (Whitebook, Phillips, & Howes, 1989), and staff turnover is 43% in any given six-month period.
State licensing requires that a program supervisor with 45 credits in early childhood education be on the premises 20 hours a week. This is usually, but not always. the director. Directors are better paid and more likely to stay in their positions, although annual turnover is still significant Of the many demands on directors, not the least of these is the constant hiring of new staff from an everdiminishing pool of qualified applicants. RVTI trainers have been the cornerstone of director support and access to resources for staff training.
RVTI's role in this training partnership was administrative; it brought the players together. Trainers (although our official title was "part-time instructor," our supervisor and all paperwork referred to us as trainers) were provided with a list of possible training objectives and were assigned to centers. In theory the center interviewed and chose a trainer; in practice RVTI made the match. If either the center or a trainer requested a change, however, it was always granted. We were trusted to work independently with little supervision except for an annual trainers' meeting and two evaluative observations of our work. Old-timers took new trainers under their wing and taught them the ropes.
Trainers hired by RVTI were expected to have a B.A. in early childhood education, management experience, and at least five years' work in quality child care centers. We were employed for 3 to 21 hours a week, some of us working at one or two sites, some at six or seven. We acted as consultants to the center, working with the director, staff, and, in some cases, parents, to improve the quality of the program. Although we were well qualified in child care, most of us had little or no formal education in adult learning theory. We improvised as we went along.
Some of the trainers, especially those assigned to only one or two centers, worked on their own without much interaction with the other trainers. Others of us were eager to initiate dialogue about the complexities of our task, our questions, and our discoveries. Trainers at centers with Department of Human Resources (DHR) city contracts had two annual case-management meetings with DHR and RVTI supervisors. with public health nurses in attendance. At these meetings trainers expressed concern that we were regularly used for crisis management rather than working with directors in any systematic fashion to get to the root of the problems. DHR and RVTI responded by formalizing a goal-setting process between trainers and directors, using a list of training foci to choose from.
I found organizing a voluntary support group for trainers more useful than the case-management meetings. This eventually led to a request that I develop a class, Training of ECE Trainers, which I cotaught over a three-year period with Deb Curtis, another trainer. The class was very popular, averaging 30 to 40 participants each time it was offered.
Just as we were formalizing a four-quarter ECE trainers certificate program, though, RVTI responded to state budget cuts by gutting the entire on-site child care training program. As of January 1993, a redesigned program serving the City of Seattle contract centers is being administered by Seattle Central Community College.
The city's child care subsidy program contracted with child care centers to take low-income children with fees paid by the Department of Human Resources (DHR)-nowHealth and Human Services.
Because the city's reimbursement rate was substantially lower than the actual child care fees, programs lost money when they enrolled these children.As an incentive (and to ensure that low-income children didn't get substandard care), a trainer and a public health nurse were provided without charge, to participating centers. The city contracted with RVTI for the trainers.
When I began to work as a trainer at a center, I first met with the director. In some cases she had identified an individual classroom or teacher needing help; occasionally teachers had requested help. My preference was to begin working with those teachers who were eager to have me help. I found that positive experiences and recognizable changes in their classrooms would spark an interest on others' part to have me work with them, too. When directors wanted me to fix up teachers whom they saw as having problems, I tried to be responsive to their requests, but often I was able to strategize with them about making my work with interested teachers spill over to those who were initially less interested.
Because I was in the center under a contractual agreement with the director rather than at the request of teachers, I initially believed that my responsibility was to the directors, and I discussed staff strengths and weaknesses with them. If there was staff suspicion of me as evaluator, this was to some degree justified. In most cases, however, teachers soon saw me as a listening ear for their frustrations and confusions and seemed pleased with my responsiveness.
I was called trainer, and it was evident to me that training to establish a baseline of competence was the priority in most of the classrooms I visited. At first, teachers' deficits were clearer to me than their strengths. Nevertheless I began my work in a facilitative mode with the hope of establishing trusting relationships on which teaching and learning could be built. Not wanting to intimidate staff or produce anxiety, my general approach was to present myself as a "resource person" available to answer questions and provide ideas and resources.
As people became comfortable with me, I offered direct help to improve their teaching. Through the years, in active dialogue with fellow trainers, I became more direct in my initial approach as well. I experienced a continual concern, however: If I tell people how to do it, they may do it. But they won't really understand it unless they've constructed their knowledge for themselves. It was out of this concern that my training strategies gradually moved beyond expert "telling" to facilitative "storytelling" and "broadcasting."
My strategies changed from year to year as I became familiar with the issues and thought in depth about the theoretical and practical implications of my work. As I kept trying to get teachers to reflect on their practice, I was continually reflecting on my own. Some of the teachers changed; so did 1. This account of strategies is thus chronological, describing where I began, the disequilibrium I experienced, and how and why I continued to make changes.
When I began making weekly visits, I was particularly conscious of the need to take time to build trust between staff members and myself. I strove to find ways to identify and work from their strengths. For most of the teachers, this was the first time an outside specialist had been available to them, and many were nervous about being judged or evaluated. I was, in fact, internally evaluating them, although for the first few months at a center I kept all of my comments positive and tried to push out of my mind's eye the things I would have liked them to be doing differently. I sat with the children at circle times, reinforcing good group behavior even when I internally questioned the length or legitimacy of that time. I helped with what I believed to be questionable art activities, lunch routines, or time-outs. My first priority was building trust.
Some of my training colleagues expressed guilt if all they did was hang around and talk. I had my own share of anxieties, but I could see the value of this low-key approach, so I ruled out guilt.
Informally moving around the classrooms, I attempted to model appropriate interactions with the children and between adults. To show respect I never interceded in a teacher's activity, but I made it clear that I was available should the teachers need a hand. I helped with housekeeping chores, playground supervision, diapering, and naptime, wanting to demonstrate that I could be useful and was willing to dirty my hands. Sometimes I brought a story or song or materials to share with the children and offered these activities as options to the teacher when I arrived. Teacher almost always were grateful, and increasingly this became part of my training. I left the material with them to use for the week, often with a related article to read. Rarely was there any interest shown in follow-up activities or discussion, and I often didn't pursue the idea myself.
During conferences with the director I attempted to "plant seeds" by raising questions, in the most innocuous way I knew how, about certain policies and practices: "Do you have any rules in the center about how time-out should be used?" "I've noticed that the children in the Bluebird Room are having trouble sitting during group time. Have you and the teachers talked about that?" "All of the teachers seem to be frazzled and using loud voices at lunchtime. Is that something you would like me to focus some training on, and if so, which room would you like me to start with?"
My goal in these conversations with directors was twofold: to alert them to an observation without sounding critical or making them defensive and to get them to authorize or legitimize my role in suggesting some changes. My relationships with all of the directors grew to the point where they began to seek my advice and call upon me for specific help. By the second half of the year, directors began to arrange for me to have meetings with the staff at least once a month. This felt like progress because there had been no staff training meetings in the past. It signaled to me that the director was valuing what I had to offer.
My role was defined as training, and that's what I assumed I should be doing. There were many obvious deficits in most programs; I felt responsible for trying to fix some of them, but I didn't feel particularly successful. Trying one strategy after another, I perceived that my training was jumping around rather than consistently moving with a clear focus.
Second and third years
Increasingly rapid staff turnover contributed to my sense of inconsistency. By the end of my second year as a trainer, half of the people I had started with had left their centers. I was continually starting over with building relationships, establishing trust, and generating some interest in training. I saw classroom after classroom get rearranged and routines and schedules reorganized. New teachers coming in wanted to make the classrooms theirs, and often they made changes with a "new look" in mind rather than with some principles about learning environments for children. There were always new faces, new rules, new routines, and new room arrangements for children to get used to. The constant changes were beginning to show in children's behaviors; they seemed less and less involved in any sustained play. An increasing number of children were being referred to as "behavior problems."
During my third year as a trainer, the "environment as curriculum" became central to my thinking. If I could get teachers to set up an interesting environment with many choices and materials available, would that provide enough stability to engross the children in play? Increasingly I felt the need for a structured approach to working with an untrained workforce in child care centers. Building trust and gradually sorting out my role in each center no longer seemed possible because new staff were coming and leaving all the time.
Facilitative strategies may include the following:
In my fourth year as trainer, I introduced a more direct approach, with observation- feedback sessions as a general strategy. I began by asking teachers to identify something in their classroom or teaching about which they would like some feedback. Then I developed an informal observation form to highlight what I hoped to see; and in an effort to reduce anxiety and get the teacher focused on appropriate behaviors, I gave her the option of using the form to observe me first. Following my observation we conferenced during naptime. I then observed for two more weeks, varying the structure each time. At each stage I wanted to set the teacher up by making it clear what she should be striving for and what I would be looking for.
I gave teachers the choice of whether to participate in this process and to determine what the focus should be, but the idea was mine and made most of them anxious. I don't think they complied to please me. however, rather because they know it would give them a straight look at themselves. The motivation to see oneself as others do is a clear indicator of a desire to learn and change behavior. (Terry's story at the beginning of the chapter is an example of this observation/feedback process. It worked well for her. At the end of the year, however, she left child care for a cosmetology program, hoping for a glamorous paycheck.)
In response to the several strategies I had used up to this point, I saw positive changes in many classrooms. Learning environments and interactions with children had improved. Classrooms were running more smoothly, which pleased teachers and directors alike. I was still troubled, however, by the extent to which children's play was unnoticed or unappreciated and therefore continually interrupted. Although in most classrooms a time block was devoted to "free play," adults were missing its significance. They spent their time in housekeeping or recordkeeping chores, only noticing when problems arose. Or they moved about the room asking a stream of closed-ended questions: What are you making? What color is that? How many blocks are in your tower? Or they could be found continually reminding children to share, to clean up, or to put their name on their work.
Facilitating Observation of Children's Play
The first role of a teacher is that of observer of children. A facilitator can help teachers to
A facilitator can help teachers by modeling the role of observer:
As teachers get more intrigued with children's play, they become more Intentional and appropriate in their actions in the classroom.
During the summer I took a graduate class on observation of children with Elizabeth Prescott. In the class, working in small groups to identify a question we wanted answered through our observations, we spent mornings observing and afternoons discussing and interpreting what we had seen. Several things happened to me during this experience. I became a more skilled observer and formulator of exploratory questions; and, with no responsibilities other than to observe, I learned to focus more keenly on children's play and its significance. It felt like falling in love.
My previous work with teachers on observation had focused on cognitive learning objectives, leading most teachers to approach observation as an assessment tool. I began to see the limitations of this approach as a primary motivator for observing children-it tended to create myopic vision.
In some of the classrooms in which I worked, teachers were using the High/Scope Plan/Do/Review process, in which, during review time, teachers help children recall what they did during their play. The most effective review strategy I had seen was when a teacher reviewed for the children what she had seen them doing, rather than asking the children to tell for themselves. What I liked best was the fact that this task created a new role for the teacher during play time. Her job was no longer to tell, question, or police, but rather to observe in order to be able to feed back to the children some form of representation of their play-in story, song, pictures, or written words.
When I challenged teachers to try this new role, those with limited observation skills found it difficult; but it was a challenge they eagerly embraced. What they saw excited, pleased, and raised new questions for them. They wanted more time and skills to observe. Our discussions moved to a whole new level. It became clear to me that, as effective as my work with observation/feedback had been, I needed to shift my focus from observing teachers to thinking out loud with them about observations of the children's play. It now seemed obvious that if I didn't want the teachers to be the primary focus in the classroom, my modeling should not be making them central in my classroom observations. I should observe children and invite the teachers to observe children too.
Around this time I taught a community college class on developmentally appropriate curriculum with Deb Curtis, and I convinced some of the teachers with whom I had been working to enroll. I wanted them to have experiences to develop their understanding of the role of play in their own and children's learning. Key concepts of the course were seeing the curriculum as "loose parts" in the environment; roles for the adults other than "teaching"; and observing and planning from children's play.
The class was built around playful experiences for the adults and video clips of children delighting in play. It brought teachers together in a group for discussion, play, and mutual support, and the result was tremendous enthusiasm for a play-centered curriculum. Still, some teachers worried about learning objectives and their own ability to justify letting the children; "just play all day." Would they sustain an orientation toward a play curriculum once our class ended? It seemed to me that high involvement in observing children's play would enable teachers to continue reflecting on the children's play and its significance. I concluded that the first role for teachers is that of observer.
The following year I started my on-site work with a dramatic shift: I took my focus entirely off the teachers and, instead, I thought out loud with them about my observations of the children's play. This focus is consistent with the idea that in a good early childhood classroom, most of the attention should be child centered rather than teacher directed. I began to model an interest in children's play and initiate enthusiastic discussion of "master players" (Jones & Reynolds, 1992). Standing on the sidelines, I'd talk with a teacher about the play I was observing.
I discovered that as teachers got more intrigued with children's play, they became more intentional and appropriate in their actions in the classroom. As they began to initiate conversations with me about children or activities, I gave teachers a short form to use as a way of learning observation skills. Or we'd use it together while viewing video footage I had taped in their classrooms.
Probably the most successful strategy I used to get teachers excited about children's play was to document and broadcast my observations of children at play. Moving into the role of storyteller, I made sketches or took snapshots and annotated them for "Master Players" bulletin board displays. Eventually some of the teachers began doing this themselves. The photo to the right is an example from Juanita's classroom. Juanita had been a challenge for me. Early in our relationship I wrote,
Juanita has a reputation for being a terrific teacher. Every inch of her room breathes creativity and attention. Based on the theme of the month, there are decorations from the entryway to the farthest comer. Most are made by her talented hand, some by the three-year-old children under her close eye. She works alone in the room with nine children. Occasionally she's dressed in a costume related to the theme.
Juanita gets mixed reviews from the other eight regular staff members. Some find her a fantastic model. Others say they would never want to be like her. There is a mixture of awe, jealousy, and resentment.
Once I spent time in her room, I began to unravel what troubled me most. She spent hours setting up a remarkably inviting environment and allowed very little time for the children to actually explore or experience it. Her activities and schedule were so planned out that the children never really got to their own sustained play. How could I begin to raise questions about the suitability of Juanita's classroom for three-year-old learning? The director and every parent at the center thinks Juanita is what preschool paradise is all about.
Juanita was an experienced, creative teacher, accustomed to being appreciated. Never had I come across such an overachieving teacher in child care! She continually sought opportunities for professional development and repeatedly invited me to observe and give her feedback, expressing hurt that I paid her less attention than other teachers. Looking back, I see clearly that I somewhat avoided her because I thought she needed some fixing but didn't know how to raise my questions with her.
It wasn't until I learned to express my appreciation using the storytelling role that Juanita and I connected. The challenge of observing master players gave her a reason to stand back and see what the children might do with the amazing environment she had created. Slowly she shed her tight schedule and excess daily routines. Children were allowed to carry her materials around the room. Some of this material began to include stuff scrounged from recycling bins, yard sales, and hardware stores.
"Loose parts! Loose parts!" she called to me one morning, waving me into her room (she was taking my college class on developmentally appropriate curriculum, and loose parts in the environment was a concept [Nicholson, 1974] we were discussing). "Look how they took my lacing boards and put one here and here and here on the table. Then they tied the laces across the top and created a bridge to crawl under. I would never have thought of that."
Three teachers at Juanita's center were taking my class, and we started a Master Players bulletin board. Juanita was the first to fill it with sketches, photographs, and dictated and teacher-scribed stories. Because she still needed an outlet for all of her creative talents, she quickly channeled them into displays of what the children did with the materials she provided for them.
One day I heard Juanita laughing all the way down the hall. When I poked my head into her room, I didn't see her at first. More laughter led me to her in the dressups. "Oh, here's my teacher, Margie," she exclaimed to the children. "Perhaps she'll come to our dinner party too."
"You know, Margie," she said with delight, "I think this is the teacher as player. I think this is a wonderful job."
Because RVTI had a video camera available (old and funky, but functioning), I had made use of it from the beginning. At first I taped teachers' behavior for feedback; later I shifted to taping children's behavior.
My use of videotaping varied depending on teachers' response. Some teachers continually shied away from taping; others found it invaluable. In one center tapes were for teachers' private viewing at home; I filmed but never previewed or discussed the tapes with them. One center wrote a grant and got their own camera; teachers set it up on a tripod and taped themselves then privately critiqued themselves with guidelines I had provided.
Choice and empowerment seem to be the key. It's hard to give adults choices when we see changes we want them to make in their behavior. Directors and trainers frequently ask me, "What if the teacher's choice is nowhere near the area of change I want her to focus on? We really must trust that if we build on a learning interest a teacher expresses, this will start a change process that carries over into other areas. I see this as another example of doing with adults what we hope they will do with the children.
Teaching directors to facilitate
Teaching a class on staff training and development, Deb Curtis and I have chosen to assume that center directors can spend part of their time as facilitators rather than evaluators (see discussion of this issue in the Introduction). In search of a training strategy to motivate teachers to observe children, we asked directors to enter the classrooms at their sites with a focuson the children's behavior rather than on the teachers'. This is consistent with the idea that in a good early childhood classroom, most of the attention should be child centered rather than teacher centered. We wanted directors and trainers to model an interest in children's play and to initiate enthusiastic discussion about their observations of master players.
For two weeks we asked directors and trainers to observe for the kinds of play they hope to see in children, documenting specific examples and "broadcasting" them throughout the center. Some used the idea of a bulletin board with examples of master players observed. Others made an effort to take teachers aside and point out sustained play that was occurring among children. Within a short period many reported a new excitement emerging, with teachers starting to discuss their own observations.
With an interest in children's play and the practice of observation under way, we expanded our training strategy to alert teachers to their role in planning for master players. For the next two weeks, we asked the directors and trainers to continue observing and broadcasting in the classroom but to shift the focus to environmental factors that support play. Some made use of sketches to note room arrangements that encourage sustained play. Others documented materials in one part of the room that children incorporated into their play in a different area. As these observations were shared, teachers began to see more clearly the role of the environment in children's play and to become more intentional in their planning. They were then eager for ideas and resources on learning environments.
For the final two weeks of our class, we had trainers and directors observe for examples of teacher behaviors that encourage sustained play by children. Annotated sketches, photographs, audio tapes, and videotapes were all used as tools for broadcasting. The teachers were as thrilled as the children were to have ir daily activities acknowledged and presented. And, as we know is true with children, catching the teacher "being good" was contagious, and appropriate behavior became increasingly common.
What Directors Can Do
Directors can spend part of their time as facilitators rather than evaluators if
Empowering teachers beyond the classroom
Teacher empowerment has been a significant outcome of this work. I have devoted energy to it while wearing several different hats. Because the RVTI training was part time, I held other jobs simultaneously. For several years I was the training coordinator at Seattle's Child and Family Resource Center, where I organized workshops for teachers, directors, and trainers and created a lending library of dramatic-play kits. I also taught evening and weekend community college classes like the class just described. This collection of roles supported my interest in building collective support networks among child care staff.
Within each center I worked hard to create mutual support. I constantly referred teachers to each other as resources, both in conversation and through announcements in newsletters and at workshops. I took teachers to other centers to visit. As trainers began to network, we began to connect our teachers with each other, as well. Several centers began coordinating evening trainings together.
In my third year of working for RVTI, I returned to my six training sites to find that over the summer most had had close to 50% staff turnover. Chaos was again the norm, along with many developmentally questionable practices. I became enormously discouraged. What good is all that I have learned about facilitating staff growth when program quality is continually eroded by staff turnover?
When staff turnover is high,
It was at this point that I helped to begin what has become a national effort to address the child care staffing and salary crisis: the Worthy Wages Campaign. In Seattle this work was begun by directors and ECE colleagues, who organized an annual parade through the downtown business area. As a follow-up to the National Child Care Staffing Study (Whitebook et al., 1989), 1 worked with several trainers and advocates on a teacher-empowerment retreat, which w called "Finding Our Voices." Out of that the Worthy Wages Task Force was formed and after several years of tenuous existence, it has finally stabilized with its own strong leadership. Five of the eight core leaders are from centers where I have been the trainer. Some members of this task forc are emphasizing solutions through legislative and corporate support systems. My own interest is in assisting child care sta to find their own voices for self-advocacy and problem solving. Today I can hardly set foot inside a child care program without referring to work on staff salaries.
As external facilitators and broadcasters, several RVTI trainers have been instrumental in assisting many directors and teachers to find their voices within their centers-with other staff, parents, and boards-and within the metropolitan area-becoming part of such activities as a speakers' bureau, union organizing, street theater, article writing, and media interviews. Some have gone on for further education, while others have become officers in AEYC Affiliates. our citywide directors' association, and other community organizations and agencies.
We have learned-and taught-that
increasing quality in child care can't happen in any lasting way within
individual centers. But networks of early childhood personnel in active
dialogue with each other about quality teaching and about the working
conditions we share can hope to make a difference.
Carter, M., regular column on staff training in Child Care Information Exchange.
Carter, M. (1991). Staff development in early childhood education: Training approaches. Unpublished master's thesis, Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena. CA.
Carter, M. (Producer). (1991). Worthy work, worthy wages [video]. A 15-minute video chronicling the Seattle child care community's efforts to address the staffing crisis. Available for $20 from Child Care Employee Project, 6536 Telegraph Avenue, A201, Oakland, CA 94609.
Carter. M., & Jones, E. (1990, October). The teacher as observer: The director as role model. Child Care Information Exchange, 75,27-30.
Carter, M., Jones, E., & Lakin. M.B. (1991). Ideas for staff development. Occasional paper. Pacific Oaks College. Pasadena, CA. (includes reprints of the Carter & Jones and Jones & Carter articles)
Jones. E., & Carter, M.
(199 1, January/ February). Teacher as scribe and broadcaster: Using observation
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To contact the author, write:
Margie Carter, 3212 E. Terrace, Seattle, WA 98122.