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and families. Friendly communication, even if sometimes firm, is always at the
heart of guidance.
Collaborate: Plan Together, Work Together
There is an unfortunate tradition in American education that goes back to one-
room schools in our nation’s past (Gartrell 2014). It is that the individual teacher
handles all situations alone. We see this widespread practice in the mass-class
phenomenon in K–12 public schools: One teacher and twenty students or more.
In class sizes too large, the teacher handles all situations up to a breaking point,
when the student must be temporarily removed. At that point, there is a mark not
only against the student, but also against the teacher, who could not handle the
situation without temporary expulsion.
By using differentiated staffing, even in group-family child care programs,
early childhood education leads the way, modeling a system that alleviates the
mass-class phenomenon. In encouraging learning communities, the model is two
or more adults in a more reasonably sized group. One adult is a lead teacher and the
others are assistants, who nonetheless lead small groups and build proactive pos-
itive relationships with individual children (Gartrell 2014). When problems arise
in the learning setting, the teaching team pulls together and addresses the matter
in a collaborative way.
The golden rule of collaboration is that early childhood professionals accom-
plish together what they cannot alone. But as with other aspects of guidance, the
teamwork happens because the lead teacher builds the team from day one. Saying
no to a traditional professional/nonprofessional separation of roles, lead teachers
assign groups to assistants who become primary care providers for those groups.
Leads treat team members with appreciation, building mutual appreciation in the
process (The Greta Horwitz Center 2016).
So, if a lead teacher sees a spill, she or he cleans it up. If an assistant has a pen-
chant for music or science activities, the assistant is able to use and grow those skills.
If an assistant works well with a child who has frequent conflicts, the teacher assigns
the assistant leadership tasks with the child and often assigns the child to the assis-
tant’s group. The children in the encouraging community, as well as other adults,
benefit from experiencing this collaborative (hence democratic) rather than authori-
tarian staffing system. Moreover, young children in such settings do not have to begin
mass-class public education until they have more experience and brain development.
When comprehensive guidance becomes necessary, the lead teacher is always
the captain of the team but expects and encourages the team to work together—on
Seven Guidance Practices
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behalf of the child and the encouraging community. The teaching-team model is
not automatic; it requires perspective taking and interactive scaffolding taught and
modeled by the lead teacher. Especially during challenging times, this leadership
needs to be firm and friendly. The more serious the conflicts a child is experienc-
ing, the more the teaching team needs to work together. When circumstances
warrant, the lead professional expands the team to include family members, other
professionals in the program, and sometimes professionals from outside agencies.
Working together, caring adults can accomplish what they cannot—and should not
be expected to—accomplish alone.
An element of being an early childhood professional is respecting the children,
parents, and educators with whom you are working by keeping identities private.
In completing follow-up activities, please respect the privacy of all concerned.
1. Which of the seven guidance practices have you seen used with effectiveness
by a caring early childhood professional? Protecting privacy of all parties,
share an illustration and tell why you think it is an effective example of good
guidance. 2. Which of the seven guidance practices do you feel most comfortable with
yourself? Which have you used or seen used in ways that seem to work on a
3. Which of the seven guidance practices seems the most challenging for you to
move toward and use as a teacher? Share your thoughts about why and how
(or whether) you might make a start at using the practice.
Definitions of the Key Concepts can be found in the glossary on pages 177–84.
Collaboration Group meetings
Passive bear hug
Five-finger formula for conflict
mediation Teaching team