Helen Frazier is the Project Coordinator of the Institute’s Pre-K Support Team, which provides professional development to early childhood teachers. The team trains teachers to effectively use data to inform classroom practices and continues to support teachers through ongoing coaching. We asked Helen to share some of her reflections about her work with us.
What is your current role? In your own words, how would you describe the work you do?
In my current role, I design content for trainings, train trainers, and lead a team of coaches. This year, we partnered the New York City Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood Education to provide professional development and coaching to program leaders and teachers on “Using Data to Inform Instruction.” Our team of 83 trainers led a series of workshops for 750 leaders and 3,500 teachers. The sessions covered topics such as using observation and recording to understand each child’s development, how to craft meaningful interactions in child-centered, play-based classrooms, and building families’ abilities to be their child’s first teacher.
What motivated you to work in the early childhood field?
I wanted to do this work for as long as I can remember. When I was a preschooler and kindergartener, I lived in China and attended a Chinese school. The teachers were very professional, and very loving, as the Chinese students only went home on Sunday afternoons. I remember a lot of dramatic play, and being gratified at having real water in the toy sink and real grains of rice to spoon between the toy bowls. I recently visited a program in Crown Heights. The teacher carefully filled the sink in the dramatic play area with water and said, “You’ve just got to do this. When I was a child, it was crucial to me that there was water in the sink.” I think my motivation comes from believing in the importance of these things: responsive care and the people who provide it.
If you could learn a new skill today, what would it be?
I would love to learn more about how to design a virtual space in which early childhood teachers could build community, share documentation of their work, and solve problems. Early childhood leaders and teachers are often siloed by their funding sources. An online platform could support the alignment of their practices and give them a place to advocate for their needs.
What brings you joy in your work?
It’s joyful to support the birth of a comprehensive early education system. We have a long way to go, but because I work with passionate, intelligent and determined early childhood professionals at the Institute and meet so many more in the field, I have no doubt that we will get there. As coaches for Pre-K for All, we see teachers and leaders developing common language and values around practice. It’s exciting every day.
What do you want to be remembered for in your current role?
As a leader, a coach and member of the Institute, I hope that I can be remembered as someone who listened, and helped others to be heard. We focus a lot on supporting coaches’, leaders’ and teachers’ ability to articulate their practice. I want to gather their voices and raise them up.
If you had one piece of advice for a new early childhood teacher, what would it be?
Do less. It’s important for early childhood teachers to be able to pause and take care of themselves. Exercise, breathe, eat, be with your family. When you are centered and present with the children, your interactions will be more intentional, and the children will learn more.