Double tap to zoom in and out on mobile devices.
As she said her name, I looked at her name tag and saw that it read “Ana.” I
remarked that she had only one n in her first name. Well! That little remark
brought a flood of feelings to her face. “Yes, one n,” she said and paused.
Then she launched into an emotional story. She told me that when she
started kindergarten she already knew how to write her name. She proudly
showed her teacher. The teacher said, “Oh, honey, Anna has two n’s,” and he
added the second one for her.
Ana went home that day and told her mother that her name was spelled
wrong. Her mother was angry and insisted that the spelling was correct.
“It was your grandmother’s name,” she assured Ana. “Your Croatian grand-
mother. That’s the proper spelling.” Ana got tears in her eyes as she contin-
ued to tell me her story. “I was caught between my teacher and my mother.
Who was right? I had to decide at that moment.” She paused, sighed, and
then said, “I decided my teacher was right, so I spelled my name with two n’s
until I was thirteen years old. Then one day I suddenly said to myself, “It’s
my name and I will spell it the way I want!” At this point she stood taller and
her voice was loud and clear.
I’ve never forgotten that story. And I often wonder how many children
in our early childhood programs feel forced to make a decision between who
is right—their family or their teacher. I have an image of a child standing
between two powerful adults facing him. He turns to one and his back faces
the other. If he turns around, he still faces one and turns his back on the
other. The child is caught in the middle. I like to change that image to the
adults standing side by side when they face the child—a team—and nobody
is in opposition. They all work together.
These are the kinds of conflicts—diversity versus early childhood educa-
tion (ECE)—that I’m most interested in. My goal is to change the phrase
to diversity and ECE. As a profession we have standards, regulations, best
practices, research, and other guiding principles that tell us what’s right for
children. We also need to have room for families to tell us what’s right for
their children even though those things may not fit with what we know and
believe. When we discover conflict, are we able to dance with it instead of
trying to convince the other person or party that we are right and they are
wrong or instead of stepping down and giving up? Can we create a dance
that doesn’t involve us trying to win by pulling power plays or losing by just
giving in? Can we be nice and still work toward resolution that is just? The
answer is yes!
Maybe one day when I get this all figured out and I am good at dancing
with conflict, I won’t have to keep talking about it. In the meantime, let me
introduce you to another person, besides Marcus, who has helped me along
this path. Her name is Isaura Barrera. The first thing Isaura taught me was
2 C H A P T E R
1 Copyrighted Material