The American Indian College Fund supports four tribal colleges in work to strengthen Native early childhood education under the Restorative Teachings Initiative. Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (KBOCC) is one of four 2016-17 TCU grantees implementing programming to increase access to health and wellness and securing Native families.
“When families are comfortable enough to talk and share with you, they value and understand the relationship that has been built between you and them,” says Kim Swanson, program director and lead teacher for Migiziinsag (Little Eagles) at KBOCC. Swanson attended training offered by the College Fund’s national partner, Brazelton Touchpoints Center.
Brazelton Touchpoints is a practical approach for building strong-family-child relationships from before birth through the early years. Through the KBOCC Restorative Teaching Early Childhood Initiative, Joelfre’ Grant and Marlies Sammuto provided a practical, preventative training approach that supported local early childhood advocates to form strength-based partnerships with parents. Home visitors, social workers, parents, mental health and early childhood development specialists, program directors, caregivers and teachers within the KBOCC received the training. Participants enjoyed three days of interactive and learner-centered training.
Each day, Christine Awonohopay, KBOCC’s Early Literacy Coordinator opened with a smudging ceremony to support Bimaadiaiwin (A Healthy Way of Life) which is the premise of our Abinoojiinh Waakaa’igan project through the Restorative Teaching Early Childhood Initiative. The use of the sage during the smudging helped to cleanse and purify any negative energy, disorganization, or trouble feeling prior to the start of each day. Next Joelfre’ and Marlies offered opportunities to support parents in understanding their child’s behavior and strengths, leading to a stronger emotion bond which is critical to a child’s development.
According to Brazelton, author of Touchpoint, The Essential Reference, each close relationship—with fathers as well as mothers, with grandparents, friends, other caregivers, and the child’s doctor—contributes to the child’s emotional and behavioral growth. Participants, who are all early childhood advocates, built relationships throughout the training, shared their roles within the realm of early childhood and passion for children, and discussed issues beyond traditional roles (Touchpoint Guiding Principles).
Children have an undertaking, a life journey, toward individuality and independence. The more we cultivate these relationships, the more advocates a child will have on the journey toward success in life.
Eva Hatfield, program director of Michigan Technological University Little Huskies said, “I think that during the period of disorganization and vulnerability of the family, an opportunity arises to support parents through their previous strengths. We can reflect on those strengths…and parents can say, ‘I am a strong parent’ and take those strengths and apply them to a new situation.”
Training programs offered by national partners, like the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, offer our tribal college grantees and their respective early learning centers technical assistance and support to strengthen their programs from within their local community. The Restorative Teachings Initiative is excited to share work from across TCU grantee sites, like KBOCC.
Post by Cheryl LaRose KBOCC Restorative Teachings Initiatives Project Director, Abinoojiinh Waakaa’igan (A Child’s House)