The Latino List

We take trips to far away places seeking to understand other cultures by witnessing their architecture, listening to their language, and eating their food. But, you – nor our students – need to go to far away places to understand another culture. It’s right outside our front door.

The Latino List is a breath of fresh air I recently stumbled upon while browsing Netflix. The documentary is a series of stories from a number of people coming from numerous disciplines and professions. However, each story’s underlining theme is sharing the perspective of Latinos and Latino Americans living, working, and succeeding in the world.

Young children should be exposed to this types of stories and narratives. First hand. From the source. Imagine a camp fire with everyone gathered around where grandparents tell personal stories and history to the young generations. Too many times we let the media overtake and write the narrative, often with an inexperience, bias, or prejudice that bend, wrongly, or incorrectly represents the story.

Let the people who live the narrative share the narrative with our children. And it would probably not be too bad if adults would listen too. Too often we believe we understand a culture or group of people because of what we see in the media, yet have never had a friend or had a meal with someone from that culture.

How is this understanding? Being among different people while you’re grocery shopping, events, or community functions is not understanding. I’m around automobiles, trains, and airplanes, but I don’t understand how they are built or how they work. Proximity does not equal understanding.

We invite parents, family members, and friends into our classrooms so children can understand and sit in awe of the world they are entering. Firefighters, police officers, and postal workers come to our classrooms. We invite parents to share what they do for a living, in where they are representative of the field they work in. When you’re on Netflix, click the Latino List (1 & 2) and invite the first hand narrative into your living room.

(picture from


Family Picture Board

I worked with families that spoke English, Spanish, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and German. And that was just my initial class roster for one year!

Given all of the different primary languages – and the fact that I only speak one – it can be difficult to communicate with all of these families. You’re not expected to be your own translation service and Siri cannot be an assistant teacher. Still, you have to find ways to communicate with your families.

There is, at least, one thing everyone should communicate regardless of language barriers: everyone is welcomed in your classroom. And, despite the diversity of cultures and language, there is a universal way to communicate this feeling.


How do you say “Good morning” in Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Tagalog, & German?

In my classroom, I dedicated one display space for family portraits. I asked families to bring one family photo to post in the classroom (one that they didn’t mind having in the classroom and not one that, if destroyed, would be devastating). Also, I communicated this in such a way that it felt like a requirement. Each family must have their photo on the wall. I mean, imagine if you were the only child who didn’t have their family portrait displayed?

And for the families who didn’t have a family portrait, I have a smartphone and a digital camera (and get a signed photo release too). Whether during a home visit or on the first day of school during sign-in, I’ll take their picture. If not on the first day, then the second or third. I’ll pester and nag. Why? Because I don’t want to imagine that only child who doesn’t have their family portrait displayed.

Nothing says that this is a welcoming classroom than to see a large display with families of all cultures and creeds posted prominently in your room. It’s a good thing. Do this!

Here are a few I found online:

Siri photo from

The Family Connection

The Family Connection-01

I never knew what it was like to change a diaper in the middle of the night. Or go through weeks upon weeks of sleep deprivation because of baby feedings and rocking back to sleep. I’ve only been a father for a year. I’m happy, but what an experience so far.

When I became a father, I became a better early childhood professional.

In the morning, when I approach parents, I’m not always welcomed with a smile.  Some parents yawn as they greet me.  Others barely have their eyes open.  Others are in and out of the center before I have a chance to utter a word.  I get to speak to a few parents, but not all of them and not every week.

Parents have a busy life, one that I’m experiencing now.  However, for all of the busyness I have around me – and I know I would be one of those parents who are speeding in and out of the school – I would still want to know what’s going on with my child.  The fact that I don’t speak with my child’s teacher on a regular basis doesn’t mean I don’t want to know what’s going on.

Throughout the school year, connecting with families is one of the most important relationships a teacher will establish.  Furthermore, this relationship must be more than the teacher just telling the family what to do for homework, what to bring on field trips, or when the next meeting will be.  There needs to be real back-and-forth conversations.  Especially in early childhood, where some of those kids are the first in their family and there is a heightened sense of trust required.

These kind of back-and-forth relationships are known as Reciprocal Relationships.  These are two-way relationships in which information and power are shared; based on mutual respect, trust, cooperation, and shared responsibility.  Educators must understand that the child’s first teacher is their parents, and we’re the second.  There is information, observations, guidance, and knowledge within each family that is begging to be mined by the preschool teacher and staff.  Furthermore, there are parents that want to be a part of their child’s education.

Even when you don’t speak with the parent every morning or when they give you the stank-eye and don’t want to speak, parents deserve to be part of their chid’s academic future.