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 In this discussion, you will need to review the scenario about Lisa and Danielle, as collegial co-teachers in an infant and toddler program in the document below. 



For this discussion, you will take on either Lisa or Danielle’s position based on:

  • If your last name starts with A – M you will be taking Lisa’s position.
  • If your last name starts with N – Z you will be taking Danielle’s position.

In your initial post,

  • Explain your assigned person’s position for supporting development.
  • Defend your assigned person’s position with examples of how their position:
  • Meets individual needs
  • Contains elements of responsive caregiving
  • Supports attainment of milestones

In your response post,

  • Find a peer with the other assigned person’s position.
  • Do you agree with their assigned person’s position on supporting development? Why or why not?



Janice Im, Rebecca Parlakian, and Sylvia Sanchez

Understanding the Influence of
Culture on Caregiving Practices • • •

From the Inside Out

Lisa and Danielle are collegial
coteachers in an infant and tod-
dler classroom. Occasionally
what seem like minor Issues
cause them to make some
pointed comments that silence
them both. For example, Lisa
believes that babies need to
be held and cuddled as often
as possible; she carries them
throughout the day or picks
them up at the first sign of fuss-
iness. She frequently observes
aloud, “Babies need lots of
love and attention.” Danielle
responds by rolling her eyes
and saying, “They also need
to learn to soothe themselves.
You’re going to spoil them if
you pick them up and carry
them all the time.”

Their different views about
feeding can also lead to minor
conflicts. Lisa refuses to let
babies eat with their fingers.
She thinks they won’t get
enough to eat and that it’s too
messy. Danielle lets babies pick
up food off their trays as soon
as they are able, stating that “it
helps them to deveiop indepen-
dence and small muscles.”

Why do Lisa and Danielle
each get exasperated with the
other’s “illogical” way of think-
ing? Their own upbringings
and cultural perspectives about
children influence their views
on everyday activities such as
holding, responding to, and
feeding infants and toddlers.

naeyc 1,3,7

Everyone bring^s specific vaiues,
beliefs, and assumptions about child recir-
ing and child development to their work
with infants and toddlers. Even two teach-
ers who share the same ethnic culture may
not share the same beliefs about what is
best for young children. Conflicts around
these issues can arise with colleagues and
families in early care and education pro-
grams. Recognizing and acknowledging
another person’s point of view and coming
to a shared solution is critical in providing
high-quality care to infants and toddlers.

The roots of caregiving

It is helpful to understand and explore
two particular areas when caring for infants
and toddlers—self-knowledge and knowl-
edge of culturally informed teaching (Abt-
Perkins & Rosen 2000).


Self-knowledge is defined here as “a thor-
ough understanding of one’s own cultural
roots and group affiliations” (Haberman
& Post 1998). Before we as teachers can
address the needs of very young children,
we must first become more aware of our
own cultural beliefs and practices. By taking
a good look at our early relationships and
childhood experiences, we can recognize
the influence that these factors have on our
role as caregivers, as well as on our feel-
ings, attitudes, and beliefs about children.

The people we were close to as we grew
up—and our experiences with them—shape
who we are today. Most of us still believe
much of what those special people taught
us about ourseives, other people, and the
world. The messages our caregivers con-
veyed in words and actions reflected their

cultures, beliefs, values, and attitudes—and
these views become a part of us. When our
culture differs from that of a colleague or
child and family in our program, it may cre-
ate a barrier to understanding how best
to support children’s learning (Orange &
Horowitz 1999).

A colleague can be a great asset in the
journey to understanding oneself. Teachers
and caregivers who work together Cein take
time to reflect on and discuss questions
such as the following:

• What do I believe a child can do and not
do at this particular age?

Janice Im, MS, is a senior program man-
ager at ZERO TO THREE: National Cen-
ter for Infants, Toddlers, and Famiiies, in
Washington, D.C.

Rebecca Parlakian, BA, is a senior writer
with the parenting resources department
at ZERO TO THREE. She researches,
writes, and edits publications for
parents—most recently a booklet on the
feeding relationship. Previously, Rebecca
developed professional materials and cur-
ricula at ZERO TO THREE.

Sylvia Y. Sanchez, EdD, is an associ-
ate professor in the College of Education
and Human Development, George Mason
University, Fairfax. Virginia, where she is
coordinator of the early childhood educa-
tion program.

This column is adapted from an articie
in ZERO TO THREE’S training curriculum.
Cradling Literacy: Building Teachers’ Skills
to Nurture Early Language and Literacy
from Birth to Five, by Janice Im, Carol
Osborn, Syivia Sanchez, and Eva Thorp.

Illustration by Melanie Hope Greenberg.

“Rocking and Rolling” is available online
in Beyond ihe Journal, September 2007,
at www.journal.naeyc.org/btj.

Young Ch/Vdren’September 2007

• What child behaviors do 1 feel are
acceptable and not acceptable—why?
• Should boy babies be treated differently
from girl babies? If so, in what ways?

• What do 1 believe about how to best
care for, support, and nurture the chil-
dren in our program? How are my beliefs
the same as or different from yours?

Reflecting on our own cultural beliefs
and practices about caring, teaching,
and learning can help us recognize the
cultural perspective we bring to our
work. Oniy then can we begin to address
any preconceived notions that make
it difficult to accept, understand, and
effectively support the children and fam-
ilies we serve (Willis 2000).

Knowledge of culturally
informed teaching

Knowledge of culturally informed
teaching comprises the information a
caregiver needs to create a learning
environment that welcomes children
from diverse cultures. This environment
includes not only the physical setup of
the classroom, but also a culturally sen-
sitive pattern of caregiver-child inter-
actions and the use of approaches that
engage and encourage the participa-
tion of children from a variety of cul-
tures. Culturally informed teaching
strategies help us individualize learn-
ing experiences based on each child’s
needs. Delpit (in Willis 2000, 6) notes,
“The question is not necessarily how to
create the perfect ‘culturally matched’
learning situation for each ethnic group,
but rather how to recognize when there
is a problem for a particular child.” As we
get to know different children, families,
and cultures, we may find our caregiving
practices challenged in various ways.

For instance, having learned to value
and support autonomy and indepen-
dence, a teacher encourages young
toddlers to feed and dress themselves.
She believes this practice builds pride
and self-esteem. Then a toddler from a
culture in which children are generally
hand fed and dressed by their families
into their kindergarten year enters the
program. The family’s cultural beliefs
value interdependent love, and they want

their children to understand the mean-
ing of giving and receiving help. Both
approaches can benefit children.

Talking with families about their cul-
tural practices, traditions, and beliefs
provides the message that they are val-
ued. However, just talking with families
may not be enough. Teachers need to be
open to and accepting of different ways
of caring and teaching, and thought-
fully explore the many ways to help chil-
dren and families feel welcome. Visiting
the families’ communities and invit-
ing families to share what they believe
is important for their children to learn
and achieve are the first steps for teach-
ers in building a knowledge of fami-
lies’ cultures. From these interactions
and observations, teachers can gain an
understanding of the strengths children
and families bring with them to the pro-
gram. Such knowledge can help teach-
ers provide care and support that honor
and celebrate families’ cultures.


Every interaction that a teacher has
with a child or a colleague is a cultural
exchange. How we diaper, our expecta-
tions for children’s behavior, the topics
or issues we choose to discuss with fam-
ilies—all are a reflection of our cultural

If we go back to our opening scenario.
Lisa and Danielle would benefit from tak-
ing time to discuss the beliefs behind
the caregiving decisions they make. By
doing so, they can begin to establish
a shared understanding and, in time,
appreciation for why each operates the
way she does. It is an ongoing process of
self-awareness, learning, and discovery
that is repeated at intervals throughout
our professional careers. This process of
exploration and questioning may not be
simple or easy, but it is an essential part
of working respectfully and effectively
with young children and their families.


• Think about your own family and how you were
brought up. How have your beliefs, attitudes, and
values about how to care for and support infants
and toddlers changed or stayed the same over

the years? What brought about the changes or
reinforced what you already believed?

• Think about other cultures. Recognize that
there are differences and similarities among
all cultures. When you feel yourself judging a
practice that a colleague or a family prefers, or
a family’s request for how they want their child
cared for, stop and ask yourself: Could this be
a culture bias of mine? Do I really understand
what this family is asking and why? Explore
your feelings and potential biases about others’
practices in regard to child rearing and your own
beliefs about how infants and toddlers should be
cared for.


• Share information about your own culture,
beiiefs. at)dpractices. Make a book about you
and your family and share it with your colleagues
and the children and families in your program.

• Encoutage families to discuss their culture with
you. Ask questions and listen closely without
judgment. Ask families how you can support their
children’s leaming and development. Be open to,
and include, a variety of approaches in your car-
ing practices.

• Suggest that a staff meeting be scheduled
around this topic and discuss your beliefs with
your colleagues.


Abt-Perkins, D., & L. Rosen. 2000. Preparing
English teachers to teach diverse student
populations: Beliefs, challenges, proposals
for change. English Education 32 (4): 251-66.

Haberman, M., & L. Post. 1998. Teachers for
multicultural schools: The power of selec-
tion. Theory into Practice 37 (2): 96-104.

Orange. C, & R. Horowitz. 1999. An academic
standoff: Literacy task preferences of Afri-
can American and Mexican American male
adolescents versus teacher-expected prefer-
ences. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Liter-
acy A3 Oy. 28-39.

Willis. A- 2000. Critical issue: Addressing lit-
eracy needs in culturally and linguistically
diverse classrooms. Online: www.ncrel.org/

Copyright © 2007 by the National Association for the Educa-
tion of Young Children. See Permissions and Reprints online

6 6 Young Ch/Wren’September 2007

DE NUESTRO PRESIDENTE (contmcion dep^g. 6}
Index of A d v e r t i s e r s

2007 de Young Children. Como profe-
sionales del cuidado y educacion de
iiinos (lequenos, tenemos la respon-
sabilidad de actuar en armonia con
nuestro conocimiento acerca de lo
que es mejor para ios nifios. y debe-
mos responsabilizarnos de trabajar
en armonia con dicho conocimiento.
El ser profesional nos exige nada
menos que eso.

A menos que nosotros, como
iideres en la profesion de ia edu-
cacion de ninos pequenos, este-
mos al nivel de ias circunstancias
tai vez nos hailaremos observando
desde un lado mientras ios iideres
dei mundo de negocios. ios politi-
cos y otros intervienen para for-
mar el futuro de nuestra profesion.
Estemos preparados o no, Goffin
y Washington nos piden contestar
la pregunta: ^Qi-î define y iimita el
cimbito dei cuidado y educacion de
ninos pequenos? Con las contribu-
ciones de todas las personas intere-
sadas en ia primera infancia. somos
nosotros -los Iideres de NAEYC y
de sus entidades afiliadas- quienes

necesitamos ponernos ai nivei de las
circunstancias para deiiberar sobre
nuestro proposito y definir nuestra

De ciertas maneras. Ready or Not
es un libro dificii de ieer. con sus
criticas francas de ias faiias dei
Smbito y de nuestras acciones . . . o
nuestra falta de accion. Sin embargo,
es util considerar su ilamada a ia
accion. con una perspectiva que
necesitamos escuchar y tomar a
pecho. Anticipo tener muchas discu-
siones profundizadas y estimuiado-
ras sobre ias cuestiones y las dificui-
tades que el iibro piantea. y espero ia
accion con proposito para definir y
adelantar ei Ambito a fin de mejorar
todos ios programas que instruyen
y/o cuidan a ninos pequenos.
(Nuestra integridad depende de elio!


Goffin. S.G., & V. Washington. 2007. Ready
or nol: Leadership choices in early care
and education. New York; Teachers Coi-
iege Press. Available from NAEYC.

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Observing and Assessing the Pre-School Learner
Friday, November 30 and
Saturday, December 1,2007
Teachers College Columbia University
in New York City

The conference will focus on :

• Screening, assessing, intervention and evaluation
• Review of recent assessment measures

• Cognitive and early literacy skills

Don’t miss discussions and presentations by regional
experts. Be sure to participate in roundtable discussions
on hot topics.

Avaiiabie for credit and non-credit.
To register or for more information visit:

www.tc.eclu/continuingeducation or cali 800.209.1245.



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