This year’s WECAN (Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America) conference, “Towards a Kinder, More Compassionate Society: Black Lives Matter in the Waldorf Early Childhood Classroom and Community,” was attended by most of our lead early childhood teachers as well as many assistant teachers. The rich theme of this conference was presented by keynote speaker Laleña Garcia, an experienced educator from NY, and was accompanied by a selection of thought-provoking panel discussions and workshops. The WECAN Board also shared a powerful statement of accountability.
Below are some thoughts and reflections from City of Lakes teachers who were in attendance.
Sarah Rose Miller
There was so much to take in from this conference; the sharings were insightful, bold, vulnerable, honest. Weeks later I’m still absorbing it.
As a Waldorf preschool teacher, I want more than anything to protect the children in my care. Some might argue that learning about racism is one of those things that young children need to be protected from. But we now know, from research and studies, that children absorb ideas about race and racism from a very young age from the society around them. This happens, whether we want it to or not, and these societal messages are overwhelmingly racially-biased. So I think the concept that resonated most strongly for me, from this conference, was that when we (educators/parents/trusted adults) explicitly interrupt racist societal narratives, we are protecting children. By interrupting and countering such messages with anti-racist messages, we are protecting the children in our care from internalizing these harmful ideas.
Kindergarten Assistant Teacher
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from this conference. It provided resources on how to normalize diversity and encourage equity and fairness in the classroom. I learned it is not too young for children to see diversity and our role is to create safe environments for children to process their thoughts, feelings, and questions. It is also our goal to incorporate age-appropriate content about Black Lives Matter into our daily activities so children are aware of these matters. All in all, it is to empower children to wonder about building a better now and a better future for everyone.
Kindergarten Assistant Teacher
The past month has given me the opportunity to absorb all of the wonderful insights and information that was so beautifully shared throughout this conference. I really enjoyed the space that was held for reflection. One of the very first reflection questions that was asked was, ‘When did you first figure something out about your race?’ This led me to reflect on my childhood and the people, books, and diversity of culture within my environment when I was 5 or 6 years old. Now, as an assistant kindergarten teacher, I have the responsibility of acknowledging the differences within my community and classroom.
Laleña Garcia encourages teachers to engage with our communities and to reflect on what we can do to make our communities feel safe. In our kindergarten we have introduced book circles which open space for important conversations around race and identity. The three new books that were suggested by conference speaker Laleña Garcia are, “Little Melba and Her Big Trombone” written by Katheryn Russell-Brown, “From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea” written by Kai Cheng Thom, and “Raising Dragons” written by Jerdine Nolan.
I had the great fortune to be a part of the annual WECAN conference this year named: “Towards a Kinder, More Compassionate Society: Black Lives Matter in the Waldorf Early Childhood Classroom and Community.” The keynote speaker was Laleña Garcia who spoke of her teachings in an early childhood classroom, where she talked with the children about what the core principles of The BLM movement means. In her experience, children have an innate feeling of justice and all you have to do is to call it forward. As usual, it is so very often the children who are our teachers. It left me inspired and ready to be an advocate.
Toddler Teacher, Conference Keynote Presenter, and member of the Conference Planning Group
I think one thing that I’m really proud of making happen was the contributions from Oxana Chi. I felt passionate about having a BIPOC for our artistic offering and she has such a world view of movement INCLUDING (but not limited to) Eurythmy.
I took her workshop and enjoyed doing:
- A Gaga style warm up (an Israeli movement – not the pop star)
- Some yoga
- We did Eurythmy for the words: Anger, Love and Hope
- We enjoyed the music played by her partner
It was joyful and healing.