TARSS mid-year review

A snapshot of our work on the TARSS program over the past six months.

The TARSS team recently completed a mid-year report outlining what they’ve accomplished. This infographic offers a snapshot of their work over the past six months.

Mid-year review infographic; text description is below

Mid-Year Review

July-December 2022

  • 29 total trainings offered
  • 439 total participants attended
  • 105 participants attended the RBPD Retreat
  • 2 Training of Trainers (TOTs) offered
  • 31 phone calls answered
  • 850 emails answered

Creating the RIOS™ Guide: a Q & A with Christopher Watson and Deborah Ottman

Christopher Watson, PhD, and Deborah Ottman discuss the origin of the Reflective Interaction Observation Scale and how the new RIOS Guide for Reflective Supervision and Consultation in the Infant and Early Childhood Field was designed with practitioners’ needs in mind.

The RIOS™ Guide for Reflective Supervision and Consultation in the Infant and Early Childhood Field was recently published by Zero to Three. The book is the culmination of more than a decade of work by CEED’s Christopher Watson, PhD, Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, and colleagues. Professional Development Coordinator Deborah Ottman was directly involved in preparing the Guide for publication. In this Q & A, Watson and Ottman shed light on the origin of the RIOS and discuss how the Guide was designed with applicability in mind.

Christopher Watson
Christopher Watson, PhD

How did the RIOS itself come about?

CW: Twelve years ago, at a meeting of the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, a group of us did an activity to try to understand the structure of a reflective supervision session. We came up with a process where five groups of people watched video recordings of reflective supervision sessions. We talked about our responses to what we saw and heard in the recordings, asking questions like, “Can we agree on what we’re seeing in this recording? What do we call it?”

Deborah Ottman
Deborah Ottman

That initial meeting gave us a bunch of data, and for the next eight years or so, a smaller group of us met once a month online to try to further distill the data, operationalize it, and fill it out. Here at the University of Minnesota, we did the final structuring to make that data into a scale that could be used in empirical research.

So the RIOS was intended as a tool for researchers to document and measure the “active ingredients” of a reflective supervision session. But it ended up being useful for practitioners, too.

Image of the cover of the RIOS Guide for Reflective Supervision and Consultation in the Infant and Early Childhood Field

CW: People immediately grabbed onto it as a way to explain reflective supervision when training both supervisors and supervisees. And supervisors began using it both prior to a reflective supervision session to remind themselves of what they wanted to address in the session, as well as following a session to review what occurred and to determine what they wanted to pursue in future sessions. It became a natural outgrowth. We created a RIOS Manual to train researchers to use the scale for their studies. Later, we decided to adapt the manual to create a how-to guide for practitioners who were using the RIOS as an aid in sessions.

In reality, though, the Guide is completely different from the manual. The manual taught researchers how to code recordings of sessions, in other words, how to put numbers on what they hear or observe and make some meaning of that. The Guide is for practitioners–supervisors and supervisees both, but particularly supervisors and their trainers. The Guide was shaped by input from practitioners around the country, so in it, you’ll read about real-life situations and professional relationships, and about using the RIOS framework to understand what’s happening in those situations.

DO: There are a couple of other ways in which the Guide was specifically created for practitioners in the field. First, there was an effort made to embed principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the Guide. This was the result not only of collecting the real-world examples that Christopher mentioned, but also of our current cultural moment in the wake of George Floyd’s death and other tragic instances of racialized violence. We received guidance from Dr. Barbara Stroud who, as a contributing editor for the Guide, focused on these issues in particular. She helped us be more specific about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in reflective supervision.  

Also, the Guide includes a new tool to help practitioners who are using the RIOS as a job aid: a one-page Self Check form. It’s not an assessment; there’s no right or wrong. It’s a way for practitioners to track their growth and document what they tend to focus on in their sessions. 

The Guide is the only book that explains how practitioners can use the RIOS in their jobs.

CW: That’s right. There are other excellent books about reflective supervision, of course. But our goal with the RIOS tool and with this book was to place reflective supervision within a framework with which to understand the processes involved. 

DO: And to find ways to actively apply those processes, which are described in the RIOS as five Essential Elements and five Collaborative Tasks of reflective supervision. 

But the RIOS is not a checklist, correct? People can’t just go down the list and say, “We addressed all the Collaborative Tasks.”

CW: There’s actually a disclaimer in the book about not using it as a checklist. You don’t have to hit each Essential Element and each Collaborative Task within a session. A given session may focus on one Essential Element, and that would be just fine. Although it’s not a checklist, the RIOS does provide a way for practitioners to look longitudinally or in a big picture way at an ongoing reflective conversation. For example, if I were tracking our conversations over a period of six months, and we never discussed Holding the Baby in Mind, that might be a problem and something we want to look at. We might say, “Well, this time we talked all about the parents’ problems, so in the next session, let’s talk about the baby and their experience.” Even though it may have been really important to talk about the adults’ challenges this time, ultimately you want to get to: “What does this mean for the child?”

DO: You may not be able to get to the child’s perspective until you address some of the things that are happening within the family or things that are coming up for the practitioner. The book is not prescriptive. Guide” is the perfect word for it. It’s a roadmap that offers you a million different paths to the same destination: the child. And you can choose different paths on different days.

Go deeper with the RIOS with CEED’s online courses, RIOS™ 1: Using the RIOS™ Framework for Reflective Supervision and RIOS™ 2: Advanced Reflective Supervision Using the RIOS™ Framework, starting soon!

Do grown-ups play pretend?

Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, explores ways in which adults benefit from using their imaginations, just as children do.

By Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD

Alyssa Meuwissen

Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books are favorites in our household. Willems has a knack for addressing both children and the adults who are reading to them. In I’m a Frog, Piggie teaches her friend Gerald about imaginative play. “You can just go out and pretend to be something you are not!?” Gerald asks in disbelief. Piggie replies, “Sure. Everyone pretends.” “Even grown-up people?” asks Gerald. Piggie’s answer: “All the time.”

Maybe Piggie is referring to imposter syndrome or the pressure that many adults feel to “fake it till we make it.” But given that we’re in a cultural moment where cosplay, live-action role playing (or LARPing), and Dungeons & Dragons are enjoying a surge in popularity, I also wonder about taking Piggie’s statement literally: we “grown-up people” really do enjoy playing pretend.

Maybe you’ve never been to a comic con, and you haven’t put on a costume since you gave up trick-or-treating. But I’d argue that the majority of what adults do for entertainment still engages our imagination. Think about the types of entertainment you enjoy. Do you look forward to a regular game night? Do you like to curl up with a good book? Which are your favorite movies and TV shows? Why do you like these forms of recreation? I asked friends and coworkers what they look for in a book, movie, or TV show. They answered:

  • To escape my day-to-day
  • To travel and have adventures
  • To watch people use skills I don’t have
  • To understand other people and why they are the way they are
  • To learn about how the world works
  • To laugh

Media fire our imagination and tap into humans’ connection to stories. A baking show allows us to try on the idea of being a baker, even if we rarely turn on the oven. A character-driven novel helps us empathize with people who are different from ourselves. A superhero movie gives us the chance to escape the mundane and experience feeling powerful. These are all strikingly similar to the reasons why children play.

A person wearing bracelets and a yellow sweater chooses a book from a row of books on a shelf
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MSed, writes in the journal of the American Association of Pediatrics:

Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.

I think that we adults turn to our favorite forms of entertainment for similar benefits.

The benefits of play

We know a lot about the importance of play in childhood. Fred Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.” I remember reading about the various functions of play in my undergraduate textbook. At the time, I was skeptical; I couldn’t remember engaging in play as a child that specifically addressed social-emotional needs. But as an adult, I’ve often thought back to those functions of play as I watched the children around me. Having fun is certainly part of play. But play offers other important benefits, including: 

  • Helping children master anxieties and conflicts;
  • Allowing children to practice skills like saying “hi” and making friends
  • Giving children a chance to be “in charge”; they may pretend to be a parent, a doctor, a teacher, etc.

The psychologist Lev Vygotsky said, “In play a child is always above his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” When my nephew was little, his family’s apartment was near their building’s dumpsters. The noisy weekly process of emptying the dumpsters scared my nephew. His response? Become the garbage collector. My nephew played “garbage truck” exclusively for months, constructing neighborhoods where his toy truck could empty bins over and over, and ultimately, conquering his fears.

An acquaintance described an experience in which she turned to pop culture to allay her fears, just as my nephew turned to imaginative play. Nervous about giving birth to her first child, my acquaintance decided to try and channel one of her favorite cultural icons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to prepare mentally for the experience of labor. A study done here at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development attests to the effectiveness of this strategy. Researchers Rachel E. White, PhD, and Emily O. Prager, PhD, described what they called the “Batman effect”: children persevered at a task longer when they pretended to be a heroic character. My acquaintance, too, took advantage of the “Buffy effect.”

Psychological distance in play

A key aspect of the Batman effect is that pretending to be someone else allows us to psychologically distance ourselves from a situation. Psychological distance means we’re less emotionally involved and more able to use our executive function skills–like working towards a goal or controlling our impulses. Recently, my 2-year-old daughter was playing with her toy puppies. She pretended that the puppies were fighting over which would go into the swimming pool first. My 4-year-old daughter pretended to be the puppies’ mom and said, “Let’s think about a way that we could work this out for both of you.” Would my daughter have taken this calm, logical approach in a real disagreement with her sister? Probably not! Her psychological distance from the puppies’ disagreement opened up the opportunity to practice her conflict resolution skills in a way that was “a head taller” than her typical behavior in her own life.

Similarly, adults may favor content that they can maintain at least some psychological distance from. I’ve heard from a number of parents that since having children, they avoid books and movies whose plots include threats to children. These are too close to home, too emotionally activating. Certainly, narratives are most engrossing when we care about the characters and situations presented, but we don’t want to care too much.

Experiencing mastery through imagination

I’m struck by the fact that two of the most enduring fiction genres are romance and mystery. These stories can be repetitive: the couple always gets together, the detective always catches the bad guy. Maybe these classic genres are so appealing because they address some of the biggest life challenges that adults face in the modern world: creating connection and acceptance, and conquering the threat of living in a society with other people. Yet romances and mysteries explore these challenges in ways that preserve our psychological distance by being very different from our actual situations, and their endings resolve the messiness of interpersonal relationships. While children may want to read the exact same picture book ten times in a day, the adult version of mastery through repetition may look like consistently engaging with familiar genres.

All of us–adults and children alike–are looking for mastery and control over our lives. My spouse has a demanding job as a hospital physical therapist. He is also a parent to two young children with lots of their own opinions. In short, his daily life involves a lot of interactions where he doesn’t have control over the other person’s emotions or reactions. Even after a long week, he likes to relax by playing complex strategy games like Everdell, Wingspan, Pandemic, or Scythe. These games offer the opportunity to make decisions that have a direct and immediate effect on the outcome of the game. Win or lose, you control the imaginary world of the game. Table-top games may also offer escape from unpredictable social interactions, or even the opportunity to practice social skills and process experiences. In a recent Wired article about the therapeutic use of table-top role-playing games, one mental health practitioner touted the “life-magic of narrative social play.” 

Play is part of the work of growing up. It helps children practice skills and experience a sense of mastery that builds confidence. Is the same true for adults? I wonder how we might benefit from prioritizing play and imagination in our lives, whether it be at work or at home with our families and friends. How can you use your entertainment and leisure time intentionally to provide fulfilling self-care? What do you do to play? How will you use your imagination today?

Our top 10 blog posts of 2022

We’re looking back at our most-read articles in 2022! Take a look and see if you missed one of these popular posts. 

We’re looking back at our most-read articles in 2022! Take a look and see if you missed one of these popular posts.

2022 spelled out in the air using a sparkler with a heart for the 0

We’re taking a look back at our most-read articles in 2022! Take a look and see if you missed one of these popular posts. 

#1 Gratitude, sympathy, sharing: helping children practice prosocial skills at home

#2 A vicious circle: how the child care staffing crisis leads to real consequences for children

#3 New, first-of-its-kind RIOS™ guide fills a need for reflective supervision practitioners

#4 New tip sheets for early childhood professionals

#5 Building Family Resiliency: a new podcast for early childhood professionals

#6 “Without it, I would have to find easier work”: a new report describes reflective supervision in the field

#7 “Kids don’t need us to fix everything; they need us to witness it”: Kristin Irrer on social-emotional development

#8 Helping child care providers reach their goals: a Q & A with Kami Alvarez, professional development specialist in Minnesota’s DHS

#9 Bailey, Meuwissen present to delegation from National Conference of State Legislatures

#10 Explore Campbell Hall!

What would you like to see us write about in 2023? Tell us at ceed@umn.edu! Meanwhile, we hope all our readers and our colleagues in the early childhood sector enjoy a peaceful and joyful holiday season. We are grateful for you!

Tip Sheets: Stress Behaviors in Young Children

Our evidence-based Tip Sheets for early childhood professionals break topics down into two parts: theory (Introducing It) and practice (Applying It). Download these free resources.

Introducing It: Understanding and Recognizing Stress Behaviors in Young Children

This tip sheet introduces what causes unmanageable stress in children, the role the brain plays, and the impact a child’s unmanageable stress may have on caregiving adults. It also describes what children need to remain emotionally regulated.

Applying It: Responding to Unmanageable Stress Behaviors in Young Children

This tip sheet introduces the steps adult caregivers can take in preventing stress in a child before challenging behaviors occur, and how to respond when a child uses behavior to communicate feelings.

NEW tip sheets for early childhood professionals

We’re excited to introduce a new series of evidence-based Tip Sheets that explore topics of relevance to early childhood professionals. Download these free resources!

We’re excited to introduce a new series of evidence-based Tip Sheets that explore topics of relevance to early childhood professionals. Each topic has an Introducing It Tip Sheet and an Applying It Tip Sheet. The Introducing It Tip Sheet gives background information and current research about the topic. You can think of this as the “why” behind our recommendations. The Applying It Tip Sheet suggests ways to implement your new knowledge. This explores the “how” of each topic.

Our first Tip Sheets are available now! Download these free resources.

This tip sheet introduces what causes unmanageable stress in children, the role the brain plays, and the impact a child’s unmanageable stress may have on caregiving adults. It also describes what children need to remain emotionally regulated.

This tip sheet introduces the steps adult caregivers can take in preventing stress in a child before challenging behaviors occur, and how to respond when a child uses behavior to communicate feelings.

Look for new Tip Sheets rolling out regularly over the coming months on topics such as:

  • Reflective Listening
  • Authentic Assessment 
  • Relationship-Based Professional Development
  • And more!

What other topics would you like to read about? Feedback is welcome at ceed@umn.edu.

Educator, trainer, and advocate: Q & A with Training Specialist Melissa Donovan

Melissa Donovan joined CEED in 2022 as TARSS training specialist. In this Q & A, she discusses the importance of high-quality training for the early childhood workforce and shares what she most looks forward to in her current role.

Melissa Donovan joined CEED in 2022 as TARSS training specialist. In this Q & A, she discusses the importance of high-quality training for the early childhood workforce and shares what she most looks forward to in her current role.

Melissa Donovan

What was the career path that led you to CEED?

MD: I began my career in the banking industry, but when I couldn’t find quality care for my youngest son, I became a family child care provider. I’ve always loved kids, and my mom ran a family child care business, so I grew up with it. I operated my child care business out of my home for 16 years. I closed the business to focus on getting my master’s degree in early childhood education from Liberty University. Following that, I worked in child care centers, most recently as director of the Mary T. Wellcome Child Development Center.

I had a lot of fun both as a family child care provider and working in child care centers. I absolutely loved being with children and working with staff. I even had the opportunity to mentor several individuals who started their own family child care businesses. But I always wanted to keep stepping forward and furthering my career path, so when the opportunity to work at CEED arose, I jumped at it.

What is new for you in your role as TARSS training specialist? 

The first thing that comes to mind is that after 20 years working with children on a day-to-day basis, I’m now on the administrative side. Fortunately, I’m still able to find ways to be around babies and kids by volunteering in the nursery at my church and babysitting my grandson! 

What I am most excited about in my new role with TARSS is the opportunity to support the trainers who are preparing child care providers to bring up the next generation of scholars, whether they are doing that in classrooms or in home-based settings. My job includes designing and scheduling courses for trainers, sharing recommended training practices, and responding to trainers’ questions or concerns. I’m looking forward to working with a variety of individuals and organizations to create and provide access to quality training.

What are some of the things you are most looking forward to in your new role? 

For a long time, my ultimate goal has been to support and advocate for those who work with our littlest learners. I’ve been a trainer for about six years, and I love to teach and mentor other professionals. I really enjoy working on our professional development offerings, for example, facilitating Training of Trainers events and supporting participants both on the technical side and as learners. In particular, I’m enjoying being a part of planning the upcoming Trainer Academy and envisioning next year’s Trainer and RBPD Specialist Symposium. 

Becoming a part of the University of Minnesota community is also really special. As a professional in the field, I’ve always liked to keep informed about the latest research on early childhood and the valuable work that happens at the U. For example, I’ve been a big fan of podcasts from the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW), including the Early Childhood Development and Child Welfare podcast that CASCW and CEED collaborated to produce. 

Also, while it’s not strictly a part of my position as training specialist, I consider myself to be a lifelong learner, so I recently decided to train to become a CLASS® observer. A lot of what I’m learning in the process of becoming certified as an observer really resonates with my experience as an educator and center director. The CLASS® has a lot to offer in terms of creating great classrooms and supporting quality relationships between children and their caregivers. 

What don’t people understand about early childhood education, the ECE workforce, or training for the ECE workforce?

People underestimate the importance of quality programming in early education for our littlest learners. Early childhood educators are vital to the workforce as they give caregivers the opportunity to work. One misconception I’ve noticed is that people think early childhood educators are babysitters. They are so much more! These are hard-working professionals who want to ensure that children receive a solid foundation for lifelong learning. It is not easy being an early childhood educator. It means long hours, low pay, and great rewards.  

Why is training important for early childhood educators? Why is it important to “train the trainers”?

Early childhood educators are the individuals who are responsible for the earliest education experiences of our next generation of scholars. For those students to receive a quality education, early childhood educators should have a heart for learning also. Continuously learning better, more effective ways to have an impact on a child’s life is important. Ensuring those who are  training early childhood educators have the proper qualifications and skills helps to make sure the subject is being taught well and the information given to educators is the most up-to-date.

What are some of your interests and activities outside of work?

I’m a Twins fan with season tickets, so going to games is always fun. I also love going on walks with my dog, Stubby. He is about five years old and is a wirehaired dachshund-Boston mix. My son used to work at a pet store, and someone just dropped Stubby off there one day, so we took him in. 

Spending time with family is also really important to me. We have a blended family with five children; we have one grandchild and another on the way. I love to travel, and my sister and I have tentative plans to go on a trip to Israel or Italy with our daughters for my 50th birthday.

New, first-of-its-kind RIOS™ Guide fills a need for reflective supervision practitioners

A groundbreaking new book by CEED personnel is the first guide to using the Reflective Interaction Observation Scale (RIOS™) as a framework to plan and shape reflective supervision sessions.

Cover of the RIOS Guide for Reflective Supervision and Consultation in the Infant and Early Childhood field by Christopher Watson with Maren Harris, Jill Hennes, Mary Harrison, and Alyssa Meuwissen along with four photographs showing (clockwise, from top left) a woman and man in conversation, a mother talking with a professional with a clipboard while her child sits on her lap drawing, a baby smiling at an adult who holds the baby's hands, and a couple with a sleeping infant

A groundbreaking new book by CEED’s Christopher Watson, PhD, Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, and colleagues, is the first guide to using the Reflective Interaction Observation Scale (RIOS™) as a framework to plan and shape reflective supervision sessions. Entitled RIOS™Guide for Reflective Supervision and Consultation in the Infant and Early Childhood Field, the book is out now from Zero to Three.

The origin of the RIOS™

The RIOS™ was initially developed as a research tool. Its purpose is to help researchers identify and measure the “active ingredients” in a reflective supervision session. Researchers who study reflective supervision may watch video recordings of reflective supervision sessions to determine how and why this practice works. The RIOS™ organizes the processes involved in reflective supervision into a framework. Within the framework, these processes fall into two categories: Essential Elements and Collaborative Tasks. Using the RIOS™, researchers can catalog and assign numerical values to the Essential Elements and Collaborative Tasks that they observe in recorded reflective supervision sessions. This process, called “coding,” is one of the ways in which social scientists collect quantitative data about practices like reflective supervision.

Watson, who retired as director of CEED’s Reflective Practice Center in 2021, led the development of the RIOS™. In 2010, he joined a group of researchers and practitioners from the Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health who came together to gather data about reflective supervision. Over the course of the following eight years, Watson headed up the effort to turn that raw information into a useful tool.

“A smaller group of us met once a month online to try to further distill the data that we had started with, operationalize it, and fill it out,” he says.

Watson and his colleagues were fascinated to find that the RIOS™ quickly proved useful not just to researchers, but to practitioners of reflective supervision and others in the field.

“People immediately grabbed onto it as a way to explain reflective supervision when training both supervisors and supervisees,” Watson recalls. “And supervisors began using it both prior to a reflective supervision session, to remind them of what they wanted to address in the session, as well as following a session, to review what occurred and to determine what they wanted to pursue in future sessions. It became a natural outgrowth.”

With this use of the RIOS™ in mind, Watson and his coauthors included a one-page “Self Check” form in the RIOS™ Guide, which enables reflective supervisors to quickly document the content and process of the session and to record notes for the next session.

“‘Guide’ is the perfect word for it”

Work continued on developing the RIOS™ for research purposes, and Watson and colleagues created a RIOS™ Manual to train researchers in the use of the tool for coding. However, nothing similar existed for those who had adopted the RIOS for use in the field until now. Watson recalls that careful thought was put into choosing a title for the new book.

“Reflective supervision is not a manualized process; it’s the antithesis of that,” he says. “A manual is prescriptive. It trains people to do the same things. The RIOS™Guide is the opposite of that approach.”

“’Guide’ is the perfect word for it,” agrees Deborah Ottman, CEED’s professional development coordinator. Along with Meredith Reese, research assistant at CEED, Ottman was instrumental in preparing the RIOS™Guide for publication. “It’s a roadmap that offers you a million different paths to the same destination: the child. And you can choose different paths on different days.”

For those who are providing or preparing to provide reflective supervision, CEED offers two online classes on the RIOS™: RIOS™ 1: Using the RIOS™ Framework for Reflective Supervision and RIOS™ 2: Advanced Reflective Supervision. We also offer 10 self-study modules exploring different aspects of reflective supervision.

Meeting people where they are and getting them where they want to be: a Q & A with Daisy Corona

Daisy Corona, TARSS community program assistant, shares information about her role supporting trainers and RBPD specialists throughout Minnesota, as well as her interest in maternal and child health.

Daisy Corona joined CEED in August 2022 as community program assistant with the TARSS program. In this Q & A, she discusses her role supporting trainers and RBPD specialists throughout Minnesota, including those who speak Spanish. She also talks about her passion for advancing maternal and child health, which inspired her current graduate studies.

Daisy Corona

What is the educational and career background that led you to CEED?

I received my bachelor’s degree in crime, law, and justice from the University of Iowa. I minored in social work and Spanish. I have always been interested in advocacy work, so I dived into social work, which led me to my first career as a child welfare specialist within the foster care system in my home state of Illinois. In that role, I connected families with diverse backgrounds to the resources they needed to promote healthier environments for children.

I continued to work with families after moving to Minnesota, where I relocated to establish residency and get accustomed to the environment before applying to my current graduate program. I worked at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center as a family spirit home visitor–a parenting coach for members of the native community. I worked with parents, guardians, and anyone else who needed support with children from pregnancy through three years old. The organization focused on tradition, culture, and values, and making sure that at-risk families had everything they needed. My job was to make sure families were in a place where they could move forward once the baby arrived. A big thing I learned from my past work experiences was how to meet people where they are and assist them with getting where they want to be, and that’s something that I bring to the table working with trainers and RBPD specialists who are making plans to further their careers.

What is your current degree program?

I am working towards a dual master’s degree in public policy and public health with a specialization in maternal and child health policy. I love my classes and feel challenged by them. Right now, I’m learning to visualize data using programs like ARC GIS and Stata. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge and skills towards political roles and policy development. 

What is new to you in your role in the TARSS program?

In my previous jobs, I worked directly with parents and caregivers and their children. I worked with early childhood educators, too, but from the perspective of a case worker making sure a child’s needs were met. In my current role as community program assistant, I’m focused on supporting the trainers and RBPD specialists, including those who speak Spanish, who work with child care providers throughout the state. I’m working with trainers in the field through the mentoring process and observing trainings and providing other support as needed for each unique trainer. 

I also enjoy the opportunity that my current role gives me to collaborate with colleagues. For example, helping to plan the RBPD Fall Retreat and coordinate the day’s agenda has been a lot of fun. 

What do you wish more people knew about the TARSS program?  

TARSS is an amazing program that supports trainers and RBPD specialists through the early education lens. The opportunities available through this program include all kinds of professional development: coaching and observation, the Trainer Academy, and special events like the annual RBPD Fall Retreat and Trainer and RBPD Specialist Symposium. I also want to make sure that people in the trainer and RBPD community are aware of our great customer service. If they have questions, they can call 612-624-5708 or email us, and we’ll get back to them within two business days. These various tools all support the goal of the TARSS program, which is to set up patterns of success in child care and early education throughout the state of Minnesota. 

Where did your passion for supporting families with young children come from?

I grew up with a lot of siblings, and I’m on the younger side, so I babysat my nieces and nephews a lot while their parents worked. I did feel like I had that mothering role at a young age. Also, babies are incredible. They pick things up so quickly, and even when you think they’re not paying attention to you, they are learning from you and mimicking you. To me, it’s very important to make sure that both moms and babies are being taken care of, and that moms receive the services that they need. Supporting families is at the heart of my studies and also my work in the TARSS program.

What are some of your interests and activities outside of work?

I like learning, so I like to read books. Right now I’m reading a book about care through the stages of pregnancy, what our bodies go through during pregnancy, and what to expect during pregnancy and postpartum. I also like to read philosophical books about how our minds work. I think it’s fascinating how our childhood experiences impact us as adults. 

I also like to go hiking. I have a dog named Boba Tea who is bossy and likes to be outside even if it’s cold. I’ve explored the outdoors in greater Minnesota, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know the Twin Cities as well. Lately, I’ve been visiting local markets and enjoying different cuisines and cultures that the Twin Cities offer. Even though I’m a planner in my professional life, I’m not a planner when it comes to my free time. Instead I say: “Let’s see what GPS tells me.”

Bailey, Meuwissen present to delegation from National Conference of State Legislatures

CEED Director Ann Bailey, PhD, and Research Associate Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, were invited to present on the early childhood workforce to policymakers from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A group from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) visited ICD this month to hear from our early childhood experts. They met with faculty and students at Campbell Hall, toured the Child Development Laboratory School (CDLS), visited a number of ICD labs, and watched student teachers in action.

Group from the National Conference of State Legislatures in front of Campbell Hall
Visitors from the National Conference of State Legislatures toured Campbell Hall

CEED Director Ann Bailey, PhD, and Research Associate Alyssa Meuwissen, PhD, were invited to speak to the visiting group about issues surrounding the early childhood workforce. Early care and education programs (family- and center-based child care, Head Start, school-based preschool programs, early childhood special education, and early childhood family education) have great difficulty attracting and retaining staff. Burnout is a common problem among early childhood educators, as are the consistently low wages. And a nationwide child care shortage was worsened by the pandemic.

“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with legislators about the complex challenges facing the early childhood sector,” says Bailey. “These challenges are not unique to a particular region or state. They are not confined to urban or rural areas. No matter where you are in the country, issues around access to early care and education are impacting your local community and economy.”

Bailey and Meuwissen also relayed information about what’s working well for the early childhood workforce, including promising practices for improving recruitment, retention, and the quality of care.

Meuwissen added, “The policymakers in attendance were very interested to hear about our research findings around possible solutions to some of the problems facing the early childhood workforce. As an example, the growing practice of reflective supervision is showing promise is supporting the workforce and addressing staff burnout.”

The tour was an Early Child pre-conference opportunity for attendees of NCSL’s Education Chairperson Retreat, which was held on campus the first week of October. Legislators from Alaska, New Hampshire, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as policy analysts from New Mexico and NCSL, participated in conversations about the intersections of developmental psychology research and early childhood policy.