R.R.P. Real Responsive Practice: The definition of the word responsive is “reacting quickly and positively”. In the moment, authentically positive responses towards families are paramount to the healthy growth and development of the child.

Students show up with incredible strengths and assets. Kids are capable of much more than we think.

Gloria Ladson-Billings

Parents as First Teachers

I chose Gloria Ladson-Billings to kick off this blog post category because she represents an approach to partnering with children and families that begins with an understanding of the family and culture. In fact, her “Culturally Responsive Teaching” framework recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning beginning with positive perspectives on parents and families (Ladson-Billings,1994).

In my work with families, from private early learning and care interactions, to Head Start parent engagement, to in-home play-based therapy, I have learned the importance of acknowledging parents as first teachers. I see parents (broadly defined to include primary caregivers of varied titles) as the ambassadors of family culture, tour guides to the outside world, first models, and first teachers. In order to partner with families, we must actively acknowledge parents’ positive roles in the lives of children. Our celebration of each child’s strengths, assets, and capabilities includes a heartfelt nod and listening ear for their loving adult.

Here are some ways I strive for responsive interactions:

I listen to every parents’ beliefs, hopes, goals, and concerns for their children.

I acknowledge parents’ unique ways of knowing and doing by incorporating family practices into my work with their children even when they differ from my own ways of knowing and doing.

I recognize how my ways of knowing and doing are cultured.

I embrace difference by being honest about myself, asking respectful questions of things that are unfamiliar to me, and by celebrating the expansion of my world.  I revel in the act of exchange as families share their unique funds of knowledge with me.

How about you? What do you strive to be responsive?

How do you express your belief that parents are the first teachers
to the parents you work with?

If you are a parent, what are some examples of responsive interactions you’ve had?

What are some examples of interactions that could have been better (when were you misunderstood)? How can we learn from your experiences?

Note: This is a blame free zone. Comments that focus on exceptional cases of negative parent influence may be true, but they are unhelpful in this space. Moreover, stereotypes and generalizations are the enemy of real responsive practice. I appreciate your shared commitment to understanding.

Want More?
References for this blog post include:
Wanless, S. B., & Crawford, P. A. (2016). Reading your way to a culturally responsive classroomYoung Children71(2), 8-15.

Ladson‐Billings, G. (1995). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogyTheory into practice34(3), 159-165.

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson

Dr. Andrea Miller Emerson is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Division of Education and Leadership at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon. Andrea lives (and laughs frequently) with her husband, Kyle, and her cat, Zuzu. She brings diverse personal perspectives to early childhood education and care from her father’s Colombian heritage, her mother’s all-American culture from North Texas, her ongoing involvement with an Italian Immersion Program for pre-service teachers in Carpi, Italy, and her extensive international travel. To learn more about Dr. Emerson’s speaking engagements, or to invite her to speak, please click here.