In late June, Bank Street Graduate School hosted its 37th annual Infancy Institute, a three-day conference that offers training and intensive workshops for early childhood professionals who work with infants and toddlers. This year’s conference welcomed over 175 teachers, caregivers, early intervention specialists, home visitors, social workers, and others from across the country to reflect on their practice and learn new tools to enhance their work with young children.
With this year’s theme, “Relationships that Heal: Choosing Connection over Control,” attendees came together to explore the importance of nurturing productive relationships. They heard presentations by two guest speakers and attended interactive workshops on curriculum development, challenging behaviors, working with families, emotionally responsive practice, and more.
The featured keynote speaker was Deidre Quinlan, licensed clinical social worker and project and professional development director at Circle of Security International, an early intervention program. Using the Circle of Security lens, Quinlan explored how behaviors feel from the inside, not just how they look from the outside, giving attendees a method for analyzing the impact of their own feelings and behaviors on children in their care and a better understanding of how children depend on relationships with adults to grow and develop.
Participants also attended a featured presentation from Soyoung Park, director of programs in early childhood special education at Bank Street Graduate School and a former special education and inclusion teacher. Park explored what it means to create communities of care when we live and work in an unjust society that pushes us towards control. Through stories of children, families, and educators, she discussed opportunities to collectively reimagine institutions that aim to “fix,” control and manage young children and families who are too often othered in our social systems, reframing responses so that fear becomes curiosity, perceived deficit becomes genius, and a desire to control becomes a desire to connect.
Over the course of the three days, attendees selected from an array of Interactive workshops led by early childhood development experts from around the country, including Bank Street faculty and staff. Topics included Navigating Difficult Conversations with Families, Welcoming Spanish-Speaking Children and Families in the Classroom, A Developmental Approach to Music with Infants and Toddlers, and Conscious Discipline, among many others.
Margie Brickley, GSE ‘89, is co-director of the Infancy Institute (with Yasmin Dorrian, GSE ’13) and a supervised fieldwork advisor and course instructor in the Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention Program at Bank Street Graduate School of Education. She said, “Our conference provides a generative space for knowledgeable infant/toddler practitioners to connect with each other and gain new ideas for their daily work. This year, they learned about creating communities of care, as well as ways to promote attachment and security in early care, but every year, they renew their commitment to the children and families they serve by learning more about their work and themselves as professionals.”