Optimistic Stories of Real Hope for Families with Little Children
Wednesday, January 31, 7pm
Pete Seeger once said: “The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”
In many ways, writing a book about my family’s experiences at Playhouse, a cooperative pre-school in West Orange, NJ founded in 1951, is in fact telling an optimistic story that has the potential to inspire others, early childhood teachers and parents alike, to search for, create, or contribute to progressive learning environments for their own children and students. Playhouse serves as more than just a school for children. It is a learning community for parents, where they can learn and embrace progressive models of education. This type of parental education is more important now than ever before, especially in the face of parental opt out movements and objections to standardized testing and curriculum like the common core standards.
Parents and early childhood teachers need to educate themselves about the tenets of democratic and progressive schooling, and there is very little written for them. Early childhood teachers often graduate with certification but are unsure of how to implement this progressive pedagogy in their classrooms or how even to find schools where these types of practices are encouraged. They may have been prepared to teach in a progressive way but are unsure of how to apply these ideas in the classroom with 15 or more little ones in front of them.
Finally, with the Core Curriculum Standards and their aligned standardized tests dictating the curriculum and teaching in public schools, parents and early childhood educators need a platform to innovate schools for their children/students. This optimistic telling serves as a reminder for us all that even in this tumultuous storm of standards and testing, progressive preschools with deep commitments to social justice exist, are thriving, and are available.
Monica Taylor is an urban teacher educator, social justice advocate, and parent activist. She is currently a professor and deputy chair of the Department of Secondary and Special Education at Montclair State University.
Over the past 27 years, she has taught in an alternative middle school in NYC, worked with adolescent women Crips as they negotiated their multiple identities, parented two sons, and more recently co-led the math/science cohort of the Newark Montclair Urban Teacher Residency. She is co-Principal Investigator of the Wipro Science Education Fellows grant which supports science teacher leaders in five districts in New Jersey.
She has several publications on teaching for social justice, urban teacher education, and the self-study of teacher education practices. Her most recent book, co-written with Emily J. Klein, is A year in the life of a third space urban teacher residency: Using inquiry to re-invent teacher education.
Her commitments to social justice manifest in all aspects of her life. She advocates for her own children as well as New Jersey students as an organizer for Save Our Schools NJ. She also deeply values the work of the many teachers with whom she is in contact.