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The field of early care and education (ECE) spans the early care system (ages 0-3) and the early years in the PK-12 school system (i.e., grades PK-3). ECE is a field with a long-standing and sharp institutional division. According to prominent writers on ECE leadership (Goffin & Washington, 2007; Kagan & Bowman, 1997; MacDonald, 2016; Rodd, 2006), the division presents immense leadership challenges, both for the field as a whole and for leadership of care centers (e.g., daycare centers and preschools) and elementary schools. Standards, preparation, and qualification systems differ. And indeed, the outlooks of caregivers and educators often differ, and that may be the most significant challenge (Goffin & Washington, 2007).

This module, like ECE itself, bridges the division in its treatment of ECE leadership. In particular, it takes the view that elementary principals—who in Ohio need have no experience or training in ECE or childcare—have something to learn from those outside the school system who care for children from birth to age 3 or 4.

And it also recognizes that school principals can help promote the position that society needs to direct much more attention and resources to the care of young children and the young families they are part of. In the OLAC approach to leadership, improved equity of schooling outcomes justifies this stance. Providing high-quality childcare and early education is an investment with very well-established payoffs (Goffin & Washington, 2007; Heckman, 1999; Kagan & Bowman, 1997; MacDonald, 2016; Rodd, 2013). The most prominent professional organization in ECE is also a strong advocate for equity—for everyone, including young children.

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Discussion Questions

  1. What steps can BLTs and DLTs take to scaffold more joy, curiosity, self-direction, and adventure (aka PLAY) in teaching and learning?

  2. In your school or district, what practices support teaching to the middle? What practices support “teaching to the edges”? What does the balance between the two look like? What practices would shift the balance toward “teaching to the edges”?

  3. Appropriate instruction promotes optimal development “through a strengths-based, play-based approach to joyful, engaged learning” (NAEYC, 2020). How well is society doing with this work? What evidence and logic support your assessment?


Introductory Activities

  1. Elementary school:
    Invite the director of a childcare center to attend a BLT session—or, better yet, a scheduled series of sessions—devoted to a schoolwide consideration of the issue of play. The BLT facilitators might want to plan the session or series together with the guest.
  2. Childcare center:
    Invite the BLT of a local school to visit your center. Work with the principal to set the agenda and the itinerary.

Advanced Activities

  1. School or district:
    What evidence is there that your BLTs and DLTs recognize or support the shift away from teaching to the middle and toward teaching to the edges? Design a survey to collect such evidence and use the evidence to plan relevant PD. The survey should be short and simple—perhaps about 10 or 15 questions. Start with a small group to discuss the issues and decide what items to write about “recognize” the idea and what items to write about “supporting” the movement toward teaching to the edges.
  2. Childcare center:
    This activity requires a team of caregivers, perhaps from one center or perhaps more than one. As children transform into “students,” most families worry about how the transformation will go. How do the families you serve think about the transition from center to school? You can find out in several ways: (1) a focus group (small group of parents and maybe 5 or 6 questions for them to answer and discuss); (2) individual interviews (also with 5 or 6 questions); or a survey (10 or 15 written questions). Once you know what the families think, there’s a key leadership question: what will you do with the information?

You can earn credit and contact hours for modules, webinars, and podcasts completed on the OLAC site.

For more information, visit the Credit Corner. If you’re seeking credit for the Gifted Education Professional Development Course or the Culturally Responsive Practices Program courses, you can find that information on the course overview pages.