Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Dallas HIPPY Spotlight
Last year I was asked by HIPPY USA to serve as the external monitor visiting Dallas HIPPY. Usually other HIPPY USA trainers are brought in to evaluate Texas sites, but I quickly agreed because I felt it was an opportunity to provide in depth technical assistance to our original Texas HIPPY site and work in my home turf. Each site is assigned a national trainer for a 2-3 year cycle, and last year our “visit” began with an assessment of program strengths and challenges and identification of areas in which staff wanted technical assistance and support. We developed a plan together and this year I have followed up with in depth observations of home visits, a file review and observation of parent group meetings to see how the plan has been implemented. As I zoomed around town from one home visit and school to another I was suddenly reminded that this little corner of the world is abuzz with HIPPY! Right in the neighborhood where I live (Oak Cliff) there are several “HIPPY Schools”. Indeed, this is one of our challenges; HIPPY can often seem invisible because it’s happening in the privacy of family homes and in remote corners of school campuses. On my first home visit, the parent recognized me from 20 years ago when she was first in HIPPY with her oldest son and I was the HIPPY coordinator! She said that when she had her youngest daughter, now 4, she sought the program out even though she had moved to a new neighborhood. She wanted to ensure her daughter had the same opportunities she had given to her oldest son. At the parent meeting in another neighborhood the coordinator started the meeting with a quick warm up that resulted in parents identifying the skills that children were learning in the HIPPY activities. To have a group of parents of preschoolers engaged in “teacher talk” about vocabulary development, logical thinking and eye hand coordination caught the attention of nearby teachers who weren’t sure if this was a staff development or a parent meeting! Later, back “at home” in the Dallas HIPPY office, I was so impressed by the intensity and level of the home visitor training; the coordinators have developed a series of interactive and engaging training activities that prepare home visitors for enriching conversations with parents about the development of their children, the skills they are practicing and the instructional techniques used in HIPPY. Each component that I observed brought home the realization that we need to bring HIPPY into the public eye! We have some really great things happening!