One year ago, I stepped into my new role as Editor-in-Chief of Exchange, a magazine for early childhood leaders. I was to fill the biggest shoes imaginable—those of a founding editor who had helmed the magazine since its inception 38 years ago. Although I’m a mother of two young boys, I was new(ish) to the field of early childhood. I’d previously edited a university alumni magazine, but taking over a bi-monthly 96-page professional publication offered me a learning curve as steep as Space Mountain.
It’s been an incredible journey, and so much more FUN than I’d ever imagined. Each article we receive opens my eyes to a new aspect of early child care: the importance of caretaking tasks; the role of the natural world in inspiring creative and critical thinking; the need for self care and continuous improvement for early childhood professionals; the challenges of our assessment-driven culture; the need for tenderness and intentionality when nurturing every phase of child development.
I was thrilled at the opportunity to meet and correspond with my new heroes—founder of groundbreaking work in Anti-Bias Education Louise Derman-Sparks, leaders in ECE from countries as far flung as New Zealand and South Africa, and dozens of school and center directors committed to embracing diversity and providing unparalleled care for all children. There is a community out there, I realized, that is changing the way we provide care for our future leaders. And I get to be a part of their work!
I have also come to understand how high the stakes currently are for children and those who care for them. Critical programs such as Head Start may find themselves dropped from the federal budget. Access to affordable health care for mothers and babies is threatened. Test scores and penciled-in bubbles on Scantrons are replacing deep thinking and rich assessment in classrooms from Maine to Albuquerque.
We are all working—together and also in our individual ways—to provide the brightest possible world for the children we love and care for. This is not easy work, but it’s among the most important work on earth. Now more than ever we must also encourage each other to be advocates—in local election cycles, and on the national stage—for the needs of children and their families. I hope that Exchange will play a role in asking questions like, “What do children really need from us? How can we support child-led discovery and authentic experiences for children in my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, for their toddler peers halfway across the country in downtown Philadelphia, and for preschoolers living in refugee camps in Jordan and Kenya. What is our responsibility, every day, to our global community of lively young boys and girls?”
Editing Exchange is a privilege and a joy. I’ll admit, it’s still occasionally terrifying, but it is, without a doubt, the best work of my life.
Sara Gilliam is Editor-in-Chief of Exchange, a magazine for early childhood leaders. She also serves on the founding board of directors of Carry the Future, an international nonprofit that works with refugee children and families in a growing number of countries. Sara has two young sons, Coltrane and Otis, and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.