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Power Dynamics in Early Learning: The Language We Use

by Nichole Parks and Judy Jablon
July/August 2021
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/power-dynamics-in-early-learning-the-language-we-use/5026018/

*Graphics can be found in the pdf version of this article.


Zariah, a teacher of 3-year-olds, works with a coach, Mena, who visits the classroom on Fridays. Today, Mena begins their conversation by saying, “I would like to let you choose one goal for us to discuss today.”

Zariah shuts down and remains silent. Mena, uncomfortable with Zariah’s silence, keeps talking. In a later conversation with Zariah, Mena explained that she had intended to “give Zariah a voice” in the conversation. As she talked with Zariah, she realized the impact Zariah experienced was feeling patronized, disempowered, and defensive, and therefore, she was silent. Mena’s choice of words and delivery created an imbalanced and one-sided relationship. 

It is the first day of school, and Kim feels excited and just a little anxious about leaving her daughter, Anna, at school to start Kindergarten. As she walks in, Emily, the teacher, says to her, “Hi Mom. You do not have to walk her in, she is a big girl now.”

Emily then takes Anna’s hand and walks away. Kim is left standing at the door, feeling unseen, unheard, and unsure about her decision to walk Anna in. While Emily’s intent was to reassure Kim that Anna was ...

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