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by Crystal Williams, Ed.M.

As a follow-up to OneOp’s 2018 Virtual Conference, the Family Transitions team produced a five-part podcast series, Moving Toward Inclusive Practice. In each podcast Dr. Anne Phibbs shares tips and resources to help professionals become more inclusive and culturally informed. Dr. Phibbs’ content is designed to be relevant to professionals in any discipline. OneOp team has developed five blog posts to help early childhood professionals apply these concepts to their work with children and families. Other blog posts in this series are linked at the bottom.

As you read each blog post in this series, you may find this Personal Storytelling Journal helpful. You can download it and complete it at your own pace after reading and reflecting on each blog post. You can also download a copy of these blog post questions and activity to complete here.

Practicing Humility

Humility is acknowledging and acting in ways that demonstrate to others that we do not value our own importance greater than anyone else’s. Dr. Phibbs suggests the first step to practicing humility is self-awareness; we must acknowledge the “space” we take up when we speak and work with others. Consider the questions below to identify your level of humility in your work with co-workers, children, and families.

  1. When you meet with caregivers, who talks the most?
  2. How often do you interrupt or talk over someone else (children, families, co-workers)?
  3. What opportunities do you give others (families, co-workers) to share their knowledge and experiences?
  4. What weight do you give to others’ perspectives? Are there certain people whose perspectives hold more weight? If so, whom and why?
  5. How do you incorporate others’ perspectives into your work?
  6. When you and another person disagree about a decision, how do you react?
  7. When you make a mistake that impacts others, how do you address it?
  8. What is your initial reaction when you are given constructive feedback? How do you respond?
  9. In what situations do you take credit for success? Do you recognize and give credit to others in these situations?
  10. When you help someone, what, if anything, do you expect in return?

Your answers may have helped you recognize areas in which you need to grow. That is good. Humility does not necessarily come naturally, which is why it must be reflected upon and practiced intentionally. We should also pay attention to how stereotypes and biases impact our actions and the “space” we take up in certain situations. For example, an administrator who is biased against women in leadership roles, may recruit men to take on these roles before asking for women volunteers. As another example, an early interventionist who works primarily with moms who do not work outside of the home, may not seek out the opinions of fathers during 6-month meetings; and therefore, only ask moms to share their ideas.

The table that follows includes some strategies for practicing humility.

Strategy Description Examples
  • Before responding or acting, take time to pause and think for a few seconds. This will help you combat initial reactions and biases.
  • If you notice yourself talking more than, or over others, practice pausing regularly in your interactions.
During parent teacher conferences, the SPED teacher, Lisa, usually takes the lead in discussing the children’s strengths and areas for growth. She realized families do not add much to the conversation. This time, she decides to pause regularly to encourage their participation.
Read the room
  • Observe what it is happening around you.
  • What are others’ reactions to your actions and words
  • How might others in the room feel?
  • What is their body language telling you?
  • Who is speaking and who is quiet?
  • Who has the power in this situation?
During a brainstorming meeting for a child with behavioral support needs, a social worker new to the team, Micha, starts offering ideas. She notices the speech language pathologist on the team rolls her eyes. Micha realizes that she forgot to ask the team what they have already tried before she started offering ideas.
Recognize and use your strengths and privileges with others
  • An individual’s strengths and privileges can be used to improve services, processes, and systems.
  • Be careful not to use them against, for, or towards others, as this may reinforce your self-importance.
  • Instead use these strengths and privileges with others.
Daniel is a white male who is pursuing a doctoral degree in organizational leadership and policy. He works with families of color to address systemic racism in the local school district. He elevates their voices, rather than his own, to work towards eliminating the disproportionate suspension of Black boys.
Recognize and admit your mistakes
  • No human is immune to mistakes; therefore, it is critical to recognize when we make them, admit them, and learn from them.
During a transition meeting for a child moving from early intervention to preschool, Mel, an early interventionist, interrupted the child’s mom to add her insights about the child’s strengths. After adding to the conversation, she realized she made a mistake and intentionally did not do it again. She called the mom afterwards and apologized for interrupting her while she was sharing information about her son with the team.

Now that you know some strategies and have practical examples of how they can be used, consider some situations in which you could use these strategies. Complete the table below to create a plan for yourself. By having this plan, you will be prepared to intentionally practice humility in your work.

Strategy In what situations could you use this strategy? With whom could you use this strategy? What will you say and do when you use this strategy?
Read the room      
Recognize & use your strengths/privileges with others      
Recognize & admit your mistakes      

 Previous blog posts in this series can be found at the link below:

Seeking Out Stories to Build Cultural Competence in Early Childhood Settings