On April 21st, 2021 tiney hosted a sold-out webinar to launch the 'Guide to Becoming an Inclusive, Anti-racist Early Educator' we released with early years expert Laura Henry-Allain.
After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, we were spurred into action to create a useful resource for fighting racism and the systems it upholds. And how timely that the night after a verdict was reached, we could hold this event as a means of spreading and fostering awareness and action in the early years sector.
The event felt special, 1,000 tickets were sold and on the night,and hundreds of people were brought together by their desire to change the world. Off the success of the event, we wanted to write a blog post addressing some of the unanswered questions from the event. Inclusive and anti-racist education in the early years is of paramount importance and we want to continue the conversation.
How do we start to address institutional racism within our educational system? (Cathy B)
High-quality education is one of the leading tools with which we can fight racism. We as early educators play a role in shaping children's beliefs about the world. No one is born racist. We must equip those students with the skills they will need to build a fairer world. This means creating an environment where children can learn about others, ask questions, as well as make mistakes. This will help children to learn about respect, fairness, and equity. We need to teach children about justice and fairness and empower them to act with empathy when they see someone treated unfairly. Don't shield children from their differences, celebrate them. We are not all the same, and the sooner we as educators acknowledge this, the better. I would recommend engaging with research topics such as 'democratic education', 'racial literacy', or 'education for citizenship'. These topics provide frameworks with which to reflect on your practice with.
I have a family in my setting who were turned away elsewhere for their ethnicity, how can I be supportive to them in a way that isn't condescending or offensive to them? (Casmira N)
It is important to be mindful of the racial trauma your families may have been through. Make sure that you acknowledge and celebrate the diversity that they bring to your setting. Creating a safe and open space for that family will be paramount. Show them that you value them and the diversity they add to your setting. Invite them in to share a beloved story from home or recipe. This will show the family that you care and you are committed to being inclusive, instead of exclusionary. Part of being an ally is acknowledging the varied lived experiences of people you encounter. Every person of colour has experienced racism in some form. The worst thing you can do is not acknowledge that this fact exists.
What is the best way to teach in an anti-racist way with babies? I have a 4m old, but also worked in a 9m-14m room before mat leave, and lots of my ideas perhaps better fit with preschoolers (Catherine S)
We believe the crucial way to raise or support an anti-racist baby is by celebrating difference. This allows babies to develop a culture of respecting difference and a lack of fear related to people or experiences that are different. Although babies are unable to communicate through language early on, they do notice slight changes or variations. They are sponges who are soaking up every interaction and every piece of stimuli they experience. We need to remember that they do have the awareness. How we can support them is by extending these experiences and observations as means to have meaningful conversations from the very beginning.
On a more practical level, you can make sure you are exposing babies to different types of songs and rhymes, as well as a wide range of food. Make sure that babies are interacting with the likely rich and diverse community they find themself in. Include exposure to varying languages. Addition of sign language is great as a tool for helping babies to communicate while also allowing them to connect with individuals of differing abilities.
Are you able to give support in putting together an action plan for my staff teams? As a black preschool owner, this means a lot to me & I feel my whole team needs to acknowledge the impact this approach to Early Years can have if we get this right? (Chantele M)
We at tiney aim to keep this conversation going. The guide has been so well received by the early years community and we are looking to keep the pressure on. We aim to hold more events to extend this topic and create more spaces in the early years to discuss and develop an anti-racist curriculum and practice. Stay posted on our upcoming events and newsletters. Awareness and action go hand and hand as a means of positive development on social issues. Just having these conversations with staff in your early years setting will start to lay the ground for larger work. Ask your staff: Do you respect heritage and identity in your practice? Does your curriculum reflect whitewashed ideas about the world and history? Can your children see themselves in the people they learn about?
How about parents, is there a way to build advocacy around inclusiveness, and anti-racist behavior right in the household, around the early years? (Sayantan C)
Being open with families about your anti-racist and inclusive mindset is a valuable tool for building awareness and advocacy. Another great way to include parents on this journey is to share ideas with them on opportunities for play or exploration they can share with their child, recommending books for the family to read at home and sharing local events in the community. We at tiney aim to soon release a guide for parents to raising anti-racist children which will have a lot of practical and tangible advice and guidance for you to share in the future.
We have also attached a copy of Laura Henry-Allain's moving presentation from the launch event. You can download it here.
Laura Henry-Allain MBE is an international award-winning Early Education specialist, writer and children’s media creator.