GSEAP Presents “Great Beginnings: Re-Imagining Early Childhood: Education, Family, and Community”

Submitted by Genevieve Bleidner '13 on May 3, 2011

Imagine a classroom in which at least 5 preschool children are expelled each year, all due to poor preparation and stress management by the educators in charge.

This situation, unfortunately, occurs every year in schools across the nation, with classrooms led by under-prepared, over-stressed teachers working with students they do not know how to control. The result is often unnecessary expulsion, exacerbating the problem rather than fixing it.

In a gathering held on the evening of Wednesday, April 13 in Alumni House, the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions sponsored a lecture and discussion surrounding such trials of early childhood education.

More than 50 people came to the event, entitled “Great Beginnings: Re-Imagining Early Childhood: Education, Family, and Community.” The lecture featured Walter Gilliam, Ph. D., Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology and Director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at the Yale Child Study Center.

Gilliam covered a broad range of early childhood education topics, from the statistical information regarding expulsion of young students in public schools versus those enrolled in Head Start programs, to the policies of various preschool programs across the nation.

Also discussed was the issue of teachers being over stressed and under prepared to handle a classroom full of rowdy children. After Gilliam showed a film clip of a teacher who called her 4-year-old student “stupid” and “bad,” the audience responded with audible gasps and exclamations of “well that is awful” and ”I cannot believe she was allowed to teach.” The film clip highlighted the difficulty some teachers have in handling their students, and how many easily write off “problem children” and expel them instead of working with parents to correct bad behavior.

As a solution to these struggles, Gilliam offered an approach to teaching wherein the teacher acts as a surrogate parent.

The discussion was led by Stephanie Burrell, GSEAP faculty member, and Eileen Ward ’80, ’88, GSEAP board member. After the lecture, audience members and panelists responded to the talk.

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