What education and experience should the director of a childcare center have?

Sheila, a teacher of infants and toddlers, is frustrated in trying to implement developmentally appropriate practice when her director demands that she provide what Sheila considers to be inappropriate art activities.


We have 12 developmentally delayed children; a staff-child ratio of one to four; a well lit, spacious, organized classroom; toys in abundance; and adequate supplies to suit every need. Doesnt this sound like the ideal classroom? Well, what is missing from the description is the method of teaching expected by our director, Diane, who holds a degree in psychology but has no background in early childhood education. She has no idea what is developmentally appropriate for children from birth through age 3.


When I assumed this teaching position I was so excited, bursting with new ideas to implement in my classroom. I had many opportunities and took advantage of them by doing all sorts of fun, creative, cognitively stimulating activities with my children. I was careful that the children were challenged at the appropriate developmental levels and that they felt successful at whatever they did.


But this didnt last long. One ominous day my lesson plan was rejected by Diane. For the art activity, I had planned, toddler graffiti, allowing children to scribble on different surface using various media. Diane said, This is not art. The parents expect real art to come home; they dont want to see scribbling. They need to recognize what the picture is.


But the children need opportunities to explore and experiment with different art materials. Its not developmentally appropriate to expect them to do representational art, I pleaded. Well, cut out some patterns and have the children color them instead, Diane curtly replied.


Deciding I wasnt getting anywhere with my argument, I backed down. Although I did cut out patterns, I let the children have some freedom and creativity in how they colored them. This activity was nothing like the one I had originally envisioned, and I felt frustrated. The following week I tried once again. This time I planned to have the children explore finger-painting using different textures. I had coffee grounds, cornmeal, sand, and flour for them to add to the paint. I fully expected another argument with Diane about representational art. Instead she focused on the mess.


Diane came into my classroom just as one group of children was going to the sink to wash up and another group was coming to the activity center to get started. Sheila, you cant make this kind of mess in here. There is paint everywhere and Im afraid the kids are going to get it all over their clothes. The smocks cant protect them from this much paint. Arent there some art activities you can do that dont make such a mess?


I mumbled something about cleaning up when I was done, but I could tell Diane was not satisfied with my answer. I decided to find out what the other teachers were doing.


I was surprised that I hadnt noticed before the kind of art hanging on their walls and in the hall. It was typical cut and paste artwork that all looked the same. I spoke to some teachers about Diane wanting art projects that were copied from the teachers model, and they did not seem to have a problem with this. Perhaps they think this type of patterned art is an easy way out. To me its seems that they are using the same art activities to implement new ideas.


At this point I dont know what to do. Im torn between my enthusiasm for teaching and the frustration of not being able to teach the way I think is appropriate. I struggle through days when Diane makes routine checks to see that I am following our daily schedule and lesson plans without deviation. I am losing the opportunity to make use of teachable moments.


How can I get Diane to understand what developmentally appropriate practice really means, especially in promoting creativity?

Discussion questions


1. What does developmentally appropriate practice really mean? How would you explain it to someone who doesnt seem to understand? Does everyone agree? What other viewpoints on developmentally appropriate practice can you find besides the NAEYC position statement? For example, what are the art experiences like in the Reggio Emilia approach?


2. What education and experience should the director of a childcare center have? What are the regulations in your state? Do you think they are adequate? What are the national accreditation standards for directors?


3. Should teachers always be able to teach the way they want to? What role should the director play in deciding curriculum activities?


4. What is developmentally appropriate art for toddlers? Why do you think Sheila feels that patterned art is inappropriate? What do you think are the parents perspectives in this case?


5. What advice