How Early Childhood Educators Can Lead During Times of Crisis

Nikki Baldwin shares how early childhood educators have developed a specialized set of skills that can help our communities heal and provide needed leadership during this challenging time.

How Early Childhood Educators Can Lead During Times of Crisis

Early childhood educators have been given a special gift. We are trained to notice things that often go unrecognized by others. When we see a child at play we know that complex thinking and problem-solving is taking place.  We can identify the achievement of an important developmental milestone just by observing how a child moves or talks to a friend. We likely don’t feel comfortable being labeled “experts”, but we do possess expertise that many people do not have. These skills are powerful tools that help us look beyond assumptions about children and dig deeper to truly understand the world from a child’s perspective. This is especially important because young children’s voices are often not given the same attention as adult voices. This means that key part of our job is to bring attention to and amplify children’s voices. We are advocates, helping others see the wisdom and gifts young children possess. What a beautiful calling! And, more importantly, when we do this work we are often the ones most changed.

As I have considered recent events and spoken with friends and co-workers, I have realized that our unique skill set has prepared us very well to respond in times like this. In moments of unrest or discomfort, it is tempting to shut out the world, or only tune into the voices that sound like ours. We may feel afraid or under attack when we encounter new ideas or feel things changing. But, in this moment, we are well-equipped to lead! We can help our communities learn and practice the skills we have been working on for years.  We can demonstrate in our conversations in-person and on social media that we are interested in listening and that we are trying to move past assumptions and dig deeper to understand. We can also be the ones that invite all voices into the conversation, especially those who have been left out in the past. This is our gift to offer, and our obligation for all children and families.

If you are unsure of what you can do to help in a time like this, here are some ideas:

  • Read, listen to, or watch something created by a person of color, or someone who has had different life experiences than you.
  • Diversify your social media feed to include different voices.
  • When scrolling on social media, avoid taking things at face value. Find out more and consider the feelings of everyone who may see it before you repost or reply.
  • Talk to a community organizer or leader about their beliefs and what motivates their work.
  • Reach out to the families in your program who may have experienced exclusion, trauma, or racism and offer them support and a listening ear.
  • Read the NAEYC position statement, Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education, at this link:

And, if you are feeling some discomfort or fear about being vulnerable during this time, look to the children you teach for strength. Children teach us every day about listening, trusting, forgiving, and doing hard things. It takes a special kind of toughness to live in and love Wyoming. We have what it takes to tackle difficult problems together, and early childhood educators can lead the way.

Nikki Baldwin

University of Wyoming


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