What does effective early learning practice look like in action?

Preschool student focuses on building activity


As we work with our partners across the country, we document exemplary early learning practices and elevate the wisdom of educators using video and interviews. Our collaborative video production results in a lasting digital library — a legacy that supports sustainable improvements in early learning.

We offer a sample of videos here, where you can see educator effectiveness in action and build upon your professional growth and learning. As you watch these videos, we invite you to approach them through a strengths-based lens and demonstrate respect for the educators’ learning processes.

All of the videos below were produced in collaboration with our colleague, Shaun Johnsen, of Murray Hill Studios in New York City.

11 Simple Rules to Create Thriving Communities for Children

The 11 Simple Rules is a Leading for Children framework that makes early childhood program quality holdable, sharable, and achievable for all the adults in the child’s ecosystem. As we define quality in early childhood education, it is important for all of us to be on the same page. We achieve this by guiding quality developments across three key dimensions: Relationships and Interactions; Emotional and Physical Environment; and Learning Experience.

Relationships and Interactions

Learning Network members in Mississippi illustrate the first dimension and four simple rules of the Coherent Path to Quality: Relationships and Interactions.

Our partners in Alabama describe how to foster relationships and interactions by Building the Classroom Community.

Educators in Connecticut, New York City, and Hawaii demonstrate strong, positive relationships and interactions.

Jenny and Zaria

Fefe and his teacher

Nichole and Iakona

Emotional and Physical Environment

Learning Network members in Mississippi illustrate the second dimension and four simple rules of the Coherent Path to Quality: Emotional and Physical Environment.

Our partners in Alabama offer wisdom about Creating the Learning Environment.

Educators in New Jersey describe Setting Up to Support Children’s Learning.

Learning Experiences

Learning Network members in Mississippi illustrate the third dimension and three simple rules of the Coherent Path to Quality: Learning Experiences.

Our partners in Alabama offer wisdom about Assessing Children’s Learning Day-by-Day to ensure that the learning experiences they plan respond to each child’s growth and learning.

Educators in Arkansas and New Jersey engage in learning experiences that are meaningful, exploratory and actionable.

Ms. Jeanne with Parker

Ms. Molina with children in the block area

Ms. Howell facilitating a small group

Intentional Teaching

Here are two videos that illustrate intentional teaching: the three dimensions of the Coherent Path to Quality in action.

Educators in New Jersey describe Intentional Teaching and Supporting Literacy.

Educators in Alabama explain Intentional Teaching and Learning.

Coaching Partnerships

To support equity and excellence in early learning settings, coaches and teachers in Alabama engage in reciprocal learning partnerships. Let’s see two examples in action.

Coaching is a Learning Relationship.

Teachers and Coaches: Setting and Documenting Goals.


Blog Posts

Optimistic Leaders Stay Steady Amidst Uncertainty

It was 2004, the fifth hurricane of the season was about to arrive in Florida, and my mom declared that she wouldn’t evacuate her home ever again. “I’m too old for this,” she insisted. Knowing that I was not going to change her mind, but unwilling to let her go through this alone, I decided I needed to be with her to ride out the storm. Full of worry and feeling criticized by my loved ones (who wished I would not fly towards a hurricane), I boarded the last flight from Newark to West Palm Beach. As the plane took off, I thought to myself, how do I want to show up for Mom?

Refine Communication for Mutual Clarity and Understanding

I was in New Mexico facilitating a workshop for a group of Navajo educators. During the lunch break, one of the teachers, Miss Augusta, offered me feedback. “Your words make us very tired, I just wanted to let you know.” I thanked her and she gave me a hug. Her feedback was an invitation to cultivate self-awareness and think about the impact of my words on others. She inspired me to listen to myself and to think about how others hear me. Thank you, Miss Augusta, for your wisdom and guidance.

Cultivate Self-Awareness to Guide Thought, Emotion, and Behavior

For me, cultivating self-awareness is like opening the windows and letting some fresh air in. It means allowing myself to be curious, rather than judgmental, about what I don’t yet know or understand about myself. And as Nichole Parks, LFC’s Associate Director of Programs, so wisely said: cultivating self-awareness is hard work. That’s why people shy away from it. We have to be brave, bold, and persistent. We have to keep talking about it and make lots of space to think about it with colleagues.

Nurturing Relationships: Me in a Group

When I was in my twenties, I was teaching third grade at a school in New York City. I had many close friendships among the faculty and got along with just about everyone. Early one year, the Director organized a whole-school professional development retreat at a beautiful location just outside the city. We were seated at large tables around the room and the event began. Within the first hour, I decided I didn’t like the presentation. Why is not important to the story — how I showed my dislike is what matters. I wrote a few sarcastic notes to my friends seated at my table. Their laughter fueled me and I continued to make jokes, bringing more people in and creating more of a distraction. The day continued. The next morning my Director asked to speak with me. She offered me feedback: Judy, she said, you have many relationships in this school. Your colleagues respect you and are influenced by you. You always have a choice about how to use your influence. Yesterday, you chose to use it to impede the learning of some of your colleagues.

Think Impact to Make Informed Decisions

When I think back to my freshman year in college, I recall a professor returning my very first paper with a comment on the front page. It said: THIS READS LIKE THE YELLOW PAGES. His comment was humiliating and painful. It certainly didn’t offer me tools to improve the paper. Instead, the impact of his choice of words and method of delivery squashed my confidence as a student. All these years later I wonder what impact he was striving for. Or, perhaps on autopilot, he just wasn’t thinking.

Why do we need Optimistic Leaders for Children?

We know that young children thrive in an environment of trusting relationships with the adults who care for and educate them. All aspects of children’s development — intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioral, and moral — are shaped by the relationships they have with the adults in their lives [1]. Now, imagine this environment of nurturing relationships where every adult in children’s lives owns a clear sense of purpose, has a strong voice, and listens and learns from diverse perspectives. These adults are intentional decision-makers who collaborate with others to make good things happen. They are optimistic, see a path forward, and have the grit to persevere even when the going gets tough. Just imagine the possibilities for all children if they could live and learn in an environment with such exemplary models of leadership surrounding them.

Upcoming Events

  • Achieving Equity and Quality: 11 Simple Rules to Build Thriving Communities

    April 7, 2022 2:00-3:30 PM EDT

    Join Judy Jablon and Nichole Parks from Leading for Children, and staff members from the Wyoming Learning Network to explore the 11 Simple Rules for Thriving Communities – an LFC framework that establishes a new, equitable model for cultivating early learning communities where children and adults thrive.

Webinar Archives

How to Be an Optimistic Leader for Children

December 2, 2021

Watch Judy Jablon and webinar attendees examine how Optimistic Leaders think impact, cultivate self-awareness, nurture relationships, refine communication, and activate curiosity to enhance their work and ensure children’s success as learners. Hosted by the HiMama Helps webinar series, this interactive conversation was designed to help adults apply the Five Commitments in day-to-day settings.

How Optimistic Leaders Can Create Equity in Early Learning Programs

October 14, 2021

Watch the recording of Judy and Nichole’s conversation on the ways that Optimistic Leaders create equitable early learning programs where children grow as problem solvers and decision makers. In partnership with Early Childhood Investigations Webinars, we examined how Optimistic Leaders think impact, cultivate self-awareness, nurture relationships, refine communication, and activate curiosity to enhance their work and ensure children’s success as learners..

Effective Team Meetings: Striving for Equity and Inclusion

January 19, 2021

Join Leading for Children’s Judy Jablon and Nichole Parks, with panelists Nikki Baldwin, Lisa Bonds, Diana Courson, and Joseph Warren to explore how Optimistic Leaders foster an inclusive and equitable culture in team meetings. We will examine how group interactions among adults can be a model for inclusive conversations with children that ensure all voices are heard and respected.

Power and Equity in the Early Learning Community

November 11, 2020

Equity for all children begins with equity for all the adults who care for and educate them. As Optimistic Leaders, we are responsible for creating equitable early learning environments that eliminate traditional power dynamics. Together, using the Five Commitments of Optimistic Leaders as our foundation, we will discuss strategies that shape environments and ensure our children grow and develop in a more equitable world.
Panel: Judy Jablon, Nichole Parks, Sharmaine Thomas-Binns.

Staying Steady: Using the Five Commitments in the New School Year

August 26, 2020

Join the LFC Team for a conversation about how to weave the 5 Commitments of Optimistic Leadership to empower you to be a steady, effective, and Optimistic Leader for children during the new school year. Panel: Judy Jablon, Tunga Otis, Casey Sims, Silvia Salcido.

Cultivating Self-Awareness: Why Optimistic Leaders Commit to Knowing Themselves

June 22, 2020

What does it mean to know yourself and why is it important in our work with young children? Research shows that child development and well-being is inextricably linked to adult development and well-being. In this webinar we will explore how Optimistic Leaders cultivate self-awareness to guide thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

We will examine how by cultivating self-awareness, Optimistic Leaders can more effectively think about the impact of their decisions, nurture stronger relationships for learning and collaboration, refine communication to ensure mutual clarity and understanding, and activate curiosity to find connections and continue learning.

Optimistic Leadership: Activating Curiosity in Challenging Times

June 1, 2020

Judy Jablon, Nichole Parks, Laura Ensler

When we activate curiosity, we are more willing to take risks, experiment, and try things out. A curious and open mind invites learning. When adults adopt curiosity, they invite children to join them in discovery and exploration.

Activating curiosity can be difficult even in “regular” times. It might require letting go of our current agenda, facing the unknown, or choosing to try an untested approach. In challenging times, it can seem even harder– if not impossible. In this webinar, we explore what it means to activate curiosity for oneself, with others, and in a group, and how to think about it as a daily practice.

The Coherent Path to Quality

November 14, 2019

This webinar was presented by Judy Jablon and Nichole Parks on November 14, 2019. We believe in order to truly have high quality care for all children, everyone within the ecosystem of early learning must share a well-articulated path to quality. We must begin to talk about quality in a way that is understandable, cohesive, and simple (“holdable”). At Leading for Children, we use a framework called The Coherent Path to Quality to engage educators of in all roles to think about three aspects of quality: relationships and interactions, emotional and physical environment, and learning experiences.

Be An Optimistic Leader for Children

May 16, 2019

This webinar was presented by Judy Jablon and Nichole Parks on May 16, 2019. It introduces the Leading for Children model of Optimistic Leadership. We begin with a definition of leadership in the broadest sense: how all educators must be the leaders children deserve. We discuss the Five Commitments of Optimistic Leadership and how you can practice them day by day to be even more effective at enhancing the quality of learning for every child.