Category Archives: Early Childhood Education

A Roadmap for Social Change

"All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual." Albert Einstein

Since a perk of my work is learning what amazing non-profits are doing to help families survive these difficult economic times, I was thrilled to talk to Crittenton Women’s Union, an .org located in Boston, MA.  CWU provides direct services, conducts research, and advocates for public policy to better support low-income women in their journey to economic self-sufficiency.

The foundation of CWU’s work is a theory of change for what moves a family from poverty to self-sufficiency, Bridge to Self-Sufficiency.  This model not only provides strategy and internal structure for developing programs and measuring outcomes, it gives the CWU clients a tangible set of goals to strive for in the difficult journey from poverty to economic independence.

CWU has a keen focus on specific, relevant data such as their Economic Independence Calculator that determines the actual costs of living depending on family size and location. A single mom in Boston with an infant and school-aged child knows she’ll need earn almost $60K/yr (about $28/hr) to achieve economic independence.  This data is linked to Hot Jobs, “careers that require two years or less of post-secondary education or training, meet the Massachusetts Economic Independence Index income level for a single-parent family with two children, and currently post high-vacancy rates.”  CWU is giving a woman clear, meaningful data to develop a career path that offers opportunity for advancement and breaks the cycle of poverty for her children.

To see what your community’s livable wage is, visit the National Center for Childhood Poverty’s Basic Needs Budget Calculator.

What is your community doing to support upward economic mobility of disadvantaged families?  I’d love to share your story!

Simple exercise to improve your mood!

Years ago, my prankster grandfather put a plaque outside my bedroom door.  It read, “Warning!  My moods change without notice!”  Did I mention I was only 6?

This started an early awareness of my moods, what affected them and how to improve them.   I’ve followed, read, practiced and thrown out a lot of theories which, of course, put me in a bad mood.  However, I’ve been a devotee of Marty Seligman for years now since he pioneered the notion that psychologists focus too much on the pathology of disorders.  Seligman’s construct of Applied Positive Psychology has shown that cognitive exercises can help us overcome depression, anxiety, etc.  For more info, check out Penn’s Master’s of Applied Positive Psychology program or read his latest book, Flourish.

Now I implement simple exercises to improve my mood and feel happier.  Here’s one I use daily:  Write down three things that went well and why they went well, or why it means so much.  That’s it!

Here are some real-life examples to get you going:

1.  J got the job in NYC!  She moves this summer!  Why?  She’s so awesome and was really intentional about manifesting a more meaningful job for herself.

2.  Dinner tonight: wine and cheese with Jack.  Why?  Relaxing end to the day.

3.  A student told me today I was an “excellent teacher”!  Why?  Because I love my students and hope they feel I’m valuable to their success.

If you don’t have a journal, print this WhatWentWellExercise and put it next to your bed with a pen.

Teachers can use this as a “ticket out the door” exercise at the end of class or day.  Not only does this work on students’ metacognitive skills, it should improve the classroom environment.

The Other 99% of US

After reading Joseph Stiglitz’s article on America’s social inequality (in Vanity Fair, just under the hyperlink to the International Best-Dressed List) I wondered what is it that allows us to maintain this idea of America as the land of opportunity?  Are we truly a nation that believes in equality and the American Dream?  Or is it an ideal we clutch on to like a worn-out teddy bear to give us a semblance of  comfort while equity vanishes from our homes, our jobs are shipped to other countries and our kids’ academic performance continues to decline?  Are we a nation of equal opportunity or a society functions on survival of the fittest?

“While the law [of competition] may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department. We accept and welcome, therefore, as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few, and the law of competition between these, as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race.” Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth,” in the North American Review, June 1889

Andrew Carnegie

And if social darwinism is the driving force for opportunity that concentrates our country’s wealth into the hands of a few, what does that mean for the well-being of the other 99% of us?

A sign of things to come?


Repairing Our Opportunity Society

In a video excerpt discussing their 2009 book, Creating an Opportunity Society, Brookings Institute Fellows Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill propose that poor public policy, a broken education system and “the behavior” of the poor themselves sustain our vicious cycle of poverty in America.

While I hate the “blame the victim” argument, they highlights critical points: a) Americans believe in an opportunity society where everyone deserves a chance to realize their full potential; b) Some kids are born with distinct disadvantages; c) Low-income kids attending sub-par schools are at risk for poor academic outcomes unless they benefit from positive educational intervention; d) Our education system needs higher quality programs and teachers especially with respect to Head Start.

While reading the research I though of my work with adults who grew up in poverty, did not complete high school now struggling to get a job providing a livable wage.  Clearly there’s some truth to the quote by Frederick Douglass, “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

During his State of the Union Address, Obama says, “If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child — become a teacher.  Your country needs you.”  I’m afraid it will take more than that.