The COVID-19 pandemic has initiated unprecedented challenges and disruption for all, yet educators across the country are finding ways to continue their work and support students by adapting teaching and learning to suit a virtual approach.
From March 24–26, Bank Street Graduate School of Education hosted its annual Infancy Institute online, offering educators, parents, caregivers, social workers, child care professionals, and specialists the opportunity to engage in real-time, remote learning about infant/toddler research, practice, and care.
“In these uncertain times, we need community more than ever and it is wonderful to be in this community with all of you, connecting about the important work we do in support of children and their families, and each other,” said Margie Brickley GSE ’89, Coordinator of the Infancy Institute and Supervised Fieldwork Advisor and Course Instructor, Bank Street Graduate School of Education, as she addressed attendees over the video conferencing platform Zoom. “Our colleagues across Bank Street worked together to swiftly move the entire conference programming to an online format this year to accommodate our scheduled interactive workshops and speaker presentations.”
This year, Dr. Bonnie Keilty, Associate Professor, Special Education, Hunter College, City University of New York, delivered the keynote presentation titled “How We Partner With Each and Every Family: Evolving Practices, Beliefs, and Values,” in which she explored how a strengths-based mindset can help build and sustain positive family-professional partnerships.
During the presentation, attendees were able to engage with each other and share responses to prompts through Zoom’s chat feature. For example, Dr. Keilty asked the audience to think and share strategies they have used for building relationships with families.
“One of our roles might be to bring [existing strengths and resources] to light to families… helping them see what is there and affirming those competencies, supporting them,” said Dr. Keilty. “We come to a mindset of the partnership that families are already utilizing their strengths and resources to meet their outcomes, then we can start with that—that strengths-based perspective.”
Dr. Mark Nagasawa, Director, Straus Center for Young Children & Families at Bank Street, also spoke at the conference in a presentation titled “Power to the Profession! Politics, Policy, and Collective Action as Caring for Families and Ourselves,” a name that references the National Association of the Education of Young Children’s initiative to elevate the role of the early childhood workforce.
Throughout his presentation, Dr. Nagasawa discussed how policy development, including those related to standards, assessment, and quality, often funnels from the top down rather than beginning at the community level. Additionally, he explored the topic of low paying salaries within the profession as well as imbalanced ideas around quality.
“What about assessment that’s actually useful for learning?” he questioned. “To see if kids are learning and for us—as professionals—to learn about children and families. What about “equity-focused standards? So not just standards that you measure, and you meet or don’t meet, but really thinking about ‘how do we promote systems that make for a more fair and just society?’”
Dr. Nagasawa added, “Our well-being as professionals is tied to the well-being of children, and it’s not selfish—it’s important and it’s valued and it’s central to all the ideas of quality that are being floated that we know is actually good for kids and families.”
Various workshops were held on all three days of the conference and included presentations by early childhood specialists as well as several Bank Street faculty members. Topics included Building Global Citizenship with Young Children, Dual Language Development: Honoring our Families (in Spanish), Emergent Curriculum with Toddlers Using Emotionally Responsive Practice, and Caring for the Caregivers: Taking Care of Your Own Mental Health, among others.
In 2021, the Infancy Institute plans to be held in-person at Bank Street for the 34th year.