Like many area libraries, the Deerfield Public Library has offered an annual Preschool and Early Childhood Fair. For three years, the Fair brought together early childhood professionals, so that our patrons could easily gather information and make informed choices for their families. The best thing to come out of those Fairs, however, wasn’t for our patrons, but connections for the early childhood professionals themselves.
After the most recent Fair, which wasn’t as successful as previous Fairs, the directors had time to enjoy the conversations they shared with each other. Two of the directors later approached me to see if we could create some sort of group to continue that interaction. After a few organizational meetings, ECEDS was created (Early Childhood Educators for Deerfield Schools). The goal was to include directors from any early childhood setting whose students would eventually attend our public school system.
The first meeting was held at the Library, a neutral space, so to speak. We had a good showing of 11 educators. I presented on early literacy and picture books to support the six skills and five practices. We decided to continue meeting quarterly, and we even began planning for a community-wide in-service day for all early childhood educators. Exciting things were happening….
And then COVID hit. Rather than undoing our progress, however, the pandemic made our group even more important. We began meeting monthly over Zoom. Directors shared pandemic-related issues, problem-solved together, and truly bonded over issues facing themselves, their staff, and their students’ families. Those monthly Zoom calls have continued and are truly a lifeline to our members.
In advance of writing this post, I asked the directors to share a few sentences about the group. Taking what they wrote, I created a word cloud.
The words that jump out at me underscore how important this group has become. Our monthly meetings have created a new, strong sense of community, and I am constantly in awe of their devotion to our youngest patrons and their families. The husband of one of our members works in the agriculture business and was familiar with the term “coopertition.” The combination of “cooperation” and “competition” speaks to the idea that when competitors cooperate, everyone is lifted up. This group lifts each other up and, by doing so, makes our community stronger. It is a privilege to be a part of it.
It is also a model that is easily replicated in other communities. Reach out to your early childhood contacts. Offer to make the connections for and with them as you create a similar group. My hope is that your community will benefit from coopertition amongst the early childhood professionals who serve our young families so very well.
This post serves the ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and V. Outreach and Advocacy