In this new role as the first Executive Director of Defending the Early Years, there is so much I hope to accomplish. Since I became a kindergarten teacher almost 20 years ago, the one thing I felt lacking in my professional identity was a place where like-minded early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals could come together to share, learn, collaborate, advocate, and heal. As I joined various professional associations, they usually focused on one or two of these areas but not all. And until I joined the DEY advisory board, none of the grassroots groups I worked with focused specifically on ECEC. My vision is that DEY can become the space I longed for and a space for others who may be looking for something similar.
I believe in the power of community, and I know that ECEC professionals need a community now more than ever. Teaching has always been challenging, but it has become unsustainable. My ongoing research on the impact of COVID-19 on teachers’ stress, mental health, and burnout has made me realize just how much damage was done to the profession I love. The pandemic took an already battered field and tore it to pieces. Teachers across the globe or doing their best to hold those pieces together, but many are grasping at straws. Teachers can not repair the damage done from a white supremacist patriarchal society, nor can they self-care themselves out of systems of oppression and colonization. Our best option is to unite and rebuild ourselves and our work as an act of resistance.
Together we can support each other as we resist practices we know do not have the best interest of the child at heart. We can resist deficit thinking that impedes our ability to trust children and have faith in their capabilities. We can resist blaming families, cultures, and communities when we know the true culprits are corporations, reformists, and lawmakers who prioritize profit over child development. We can resist fighting amongst ourselves because our pedagogies and practices diverge and build upon our common beliefs in the power of caring for children and protecting childhood. We must come together if we are going to survive. Together we can rebuild an approach to ECEC that builds upon the strength, agency, and resilience of children and families and the passion, knowledge, and skills of ECEC professionals.
And I believe DEY can play a significant role in this work. We can provide space, both virtual and in-person, to support each other in the rebuilding process. We can draft position statements, white papers, policy briefs, and research findings that clearly articulate what we need to undo the damage of privatization, accountability, and standardization. We can provide testimony and support for local, state, and national legislation. We can offer authentic professional development opportunities that align with real best practices and research findings. We can uplift and celebrate your work, accomplishments, and breakthroughs.
I hope to do this and much more in this role, but it is all for nothing if it is not what you need. So please take a moment and share with me what you would like DEY to do for you. How can we support you as an ECEC professional? How can we help you resist the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) and other attacks on the profession? How can we strengthen your practice and advocate with you on behalf of your children, families, and self? You can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, post a comment on our Facebook page or tweet @dey_project. I cannot wait to hear from you and get to work creating a place where we can unite as an act of resistance.
Have you heard our latest episode of the DEY podcast hosted by Lakisha Reid?
Have you seen our Advocacy Map? If you know of an early childhood advocacy organization or legislation, please submit it today.
Do you need funding to engage in community action? Apply for a DEY Mini-Grant.
Are you concerned about the direction that education policy is going? Please consider donating to support DEY’s important work advocating for appropriate education for young children.
Denisha Jones, Ph.D., J.D. is the Executive Director of Defending the Early Years and a part-time faculty in the Art of Teaching program at Sarah Lawrence College and the School of Education at Howard University.