A Powerful Day of Powerful Interactions
The first-ever Oakland Early Learning Symposium was a great success. Over 300 early learning professionals spent the day discussing “powerful interactions for powerful learning.” If the energy in the room is any indication, our city’s babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are in good hands!
Participants from Head Start, Oakland Unified, private preschools and coops, and home-based care settings all came together -- with simultaneous translation into two languages -- to share their struggles, triumphs, and lessons learned from their work with young children.
The day started with an address from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and OUSD Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, who shared their admiration for the work of early educators. Next was a keynote speech by Judy Jablon, co-author of Powerful Interactions: How to Connect with Children to Extend Their Learning. Judy shared her 3-step approach to turn everyday interactions into powerful interactions:
- Be present so you can be intentional
- Connect to deepen your relationship with the child
- Extend learning in ways that are responsive to each child
In the afternoon, participants chose from a range of workshops, all led by local experts from the community. Topics included dual language learning, supporting families with developmental concerns, the brain science behind storytelling, and more. A complete list of workshops is here.
In between was lots of opportunity for networking and movement activities led by Linda Faye Johnson. (If you haven’t seen 300-plus early learning providers dancing together, you’ve missed out!)
At the end of the day, each participant was challenged to make a plan for sharing the day’s key takeaways with their community – to extend their powerful interactions throughout Oakland and the East Bay. This day was made possible through the generous support of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and conference management provided by the Oakland Literacy Coalition.
We can’t wait to see what this powerful group of early learning champions does next!
We plan to make the Early Learning Symposium an annual event. Stay tuned for ways you can get involved.
“I come to events like this because I know I need some education in early childhood for myself. When my children were in preschool, I volunteered and I saw how important it was. You give a child 5 minutes of attention, 3 minutes, and they won’t feel alone.
I work by myself and I only have two hands, but I can use my eyes and my voice. I tell parents that I’m not just changing diapers and feeding bottles. When your child wakes up, the first face he sees is me. I’m there.”
“To me, what’s most important is to have a safe place for the children. Especially for children coming from trauma. Empathy is very important too, for both the children and the parents. We have a lot of parents who have a lot of trauma in this country right now.
We’ve taken a lot of classes in trauma from the City of Oakland. We try to support parents by offering a friendly, safe environment. We always share what happened in the classroom during the day. Our goal is always to work as a team, to build relationships between the children, parents, and teachers.”
“I love having the opportunity to work around little scientists, seeing how everything is a joy to them. I love being a part of the learning process and being able to scaffold them to the next level.
One of the main challenges I see right now is the effect of gentrification on Oakland, and how it is affecting equity and parent engagement. For instance, I started a father’s playgroup. It was mostly Latino dads. We had a few dads come in who were white who started to take up more space in the group, and it made our fathers feel intimidated and like they weren’t educated enough. It caused some of the Latino dads to stay away. Now we tell people that you are welcome to join the group, as long as you recognize your privilege and use the spot wisely.”
“My passion as a teacher is babies’ cognitive power. I love to watch them learn. They are so funny to me! You never know what they might say.
What I want to tell first-time parents is: interact. Interact! Babies love that. Oh, and don’t start singing Baby Shark, because babies love that too.”
Presented by: OUSD, Oakland Starting Smart & Strong, Oakland Literacy Coalition, City of Oakland Head Start/Early Head Start, ACOE, First 5 Alameda, BANANAS, YMCA East Bay, St. Vincent's Day Home, and the New Teacher Center.
Oakland Early Learning Symposium photos by Eric H. Peterson