How elementary and early childhood classrooms engage with socio-emotional learning is deeply connected to creating a classroom community. Yet, much of socio-emotional learning curricula focuses on the individual child, rather than on the everyday interactions that build and sustain community. During the Civic Action and Young Children study, we spent a year in a Head Start preschool in Texas, where we noticed that although many children in the class struggled with varied difficult circumstances including poverty, homelessness, discrimination and threat of deportation, the teachers did not label them as homeless, illegal immigrants or poor. Additionally, children seemed to help one another more than we saw in other preschool classrooms. This paper focuses on Ms. Luz and Ms. Louisa’s classroom of 17 preschool students and how they created a community that supported a young Latino boy, Luis, who experienced housing insecurity during his year in the classroom. Luis’s story highlights how the collective idea of civicness, i.e., acting with and on behalf of the community created authentic opportunities for creating and sustaining community. Rather than working with a child experiencing trauma through an individualized and decontextualized curricula, focusing on the community created opportunities for all children to practice authentic care and for Luis to experience inclusion in the community. We offer five implications and recommendations to create classroom communities that both welcome children experiencing trauma and create authentic opportunities for children to enact civicness.

Author Biography

Katherina A. Payne

Katherina A. Payne is an Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research considers the intersections of civic education, elementary/early childhood schooling, and teacher education, and examines the role of relationships, community, and justice to transform classrooms into child-centered, democratic, more equitable spaces. She has conducted qualitative research in urban schools with teachers and children in grades PreK through 5th grade. Dr. Payne has published in a range of publications including Teachers College Record, Teaching and Teacher Education, Social Studies and the Young Learner, and Young Children.

Jennifer Keys Adair

Jennifer Keys Adair is Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at The University of Texas at Austin. As a young scholar fellow with the Foundation of Child Development and a major grant recipient of the Spencer Foundation, she focuses on the connection between agency and discrimination in the early learning experiences of children and immigrants, particularly how systemic deficit, racialized views of families often translates into harsh learning environments that deny children's agency. Dr. Adair has published in a wide range of journals and news outlets. She has conducted multi-sited, video-cued ethnographic research projects in the United States, India, New Zealand, and Australia as well as throughout Europe.

Shubhi Sachdeva

Shubhi is a PhD candidate in Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in Early Childhood Education at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include global perspectives on childhood, socio-cultural processes in ECE, and equity and social justice issues in early education. She is currently working on her doctoral dissertation that looks to understand school readiness practices in India. She holds a master’s degree in Child Development from Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi, India.



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