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Who's Down with DAP? (Everyone at NAEYC!)

You down with DAP? (Yeah you know me.) You down with DAP? (Yeah you know me.) Who’s down with DAP? (Everybody at NAEYC.) Who knew that Naughty by Nature lyrics could help accurately sum up my experience at the 2016 NAEYC Conference?! Do you think Naughty by Nature know that DAP stands for Developmentally Appropriate Practices? Probably.

This was my first time as an attendee at an NAEYC conference. I am no longer a classroom teacher but I still work in the field of education as a program evaluator at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. I was pleasantly surprised that there were so many quality sessions at the NAEYC 2016 conference that applied to my current role in education. In fact, there were so many sessions I wanted to attend that I had a hard time finding space in my daily itinerary. I would like to highlight and share some of my big take aways from the conference and highly encourage ALL that work in the field of early childhood education to attend this conference at some point in your career.

I was sent to NAEYC after winning monies from an essay contest hosted by my local Omaha AEYC chapter. Add in some professional growth money from my current job and BOOM- I was LA bound. My sweet colleague and dear friend from UNMC was able to attend with me. We each were leaving four young children of our own at home to be cared for by our capable husbands. That’s right. We left a total of eight kids home and didn’t look back. NAEYC 2016 was good for the mind and the mama soul. My youngest is four months old and I am nursing. I could write an entirely different blog post about pumping while you travel. It could be a Dr. Seuss themed book titled, “Oh! The Places You Will Pump.” I pump in the Uber. I pump on the plane. I pump in the Convention Center. I pump on the train. Would you pump here or there? I will pump EVERYWHERE!

OK, back to being down with DAP and big takeaway moments…The most inspiring part of the entire conference was being surrounded by thousands of like-minded people. Everyone in attendance was there because we all cared about early childhood education. We were there to learn from each other, mingle, talk about strengths and current trends, and discuss concerns. The keynote speaker was Sonia Manzano who is best known for her role as Maria from Sesame Street. She eloquently and passionately spoke about the importance of early childhood education and how educators can help to be advocates to promote tolerance and equity for all children. Her keynote address was a tremendous way to kick-start the conference.

As I mentioned there were so many sessions to choose from that it was tricky to select which one to attend. There were several sessions on brain development, behavior management, cultural sensitivity, teacher burnout, current research, dual language learners, assessment, and the project approach (which was my master’s thesis so it is near and dear to my heart).

Amongst all of the great options, there were two standout sessions I attended that spoke the most to me. One was a session led by Sam Meisels and Judy Jablon titled “Intentional decision making: Using assessment to increase knowledge of child development and enhance program quality”. Sam and Judy spoke on the importance of using work sampling to help educators move from doing assessment to using assessment. Judy mentioned the importance of asking children open-ended questions that were authentic versus simply asking open-ended questions in order to receive high scores on the CLASS. Yes. Amen. We should be using assessment to aid us in making meaningful decisions about teachers and learners.

The second standout session was my absolute favorite: “This ain’t stand-up: Exploring improvisation as a useful disposition for educators”, presented by Ijumaa Jordan and Kelly Matthews. This fun and interactive session discussed the importance of finding the joy in teaching. “If you don’t come from a place of joy and curiosity you can’t foster that for your students.” Ijumaa and Kelly also emphasized the difference between collaborating and competing. Competing is all about me. Collaborating is all about you and how I can help you. That is a life lesson that can apply to any situation in which you are working on a team.

Finally, I can’t write a summary about NAEYC 2016 without mentioning the extensive exhibition hall. The expo was an enormous venue filled with a variety of vendors. I completely GEEKED out over meeting authors such as: Mo Willems, David Shannon, Dan Santat, Laurie Keller, and Eric Litwin. There was so much to see and do while in the expo you could have made an entire day of simply strolling the exhibitors.

I have attended other educational conferences but none as valuable as NAEYC. I highly encourage all working in the field of early childhood education to make it a career bucket list goal to attend an NAEYC Conference at least once. It is a great way to recharge your batteries and get excited about being an advocate for young children. Are you an advocate for DAP? (Yeah, you know me!)

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