Taking Action with Green Tomatoes

The central ethical and political question now becomes: ‘how do we live
together with human and non-human others?’
(Taylor & Guingi 2012)

 

“I think we should make a trap…..yeah we can trap them with green tomatoes, that will make them sick! Then they won’t be able to work!”

 

This sinister sounding plan came from two boys as they watched city workers radically prune 15 feet off the trees in the park just outside the play yard fence. The boys were disturbed at the sight of the trees being so damaged, and devised this plan to lure the workers to eat green tomatoes, theorizing that the tomatoes would make the workers too sick to continue. Deviously brilliant!

On my visits to the centre I have observed these children on many walks through this park and have repeatedly been surprised and impressed by the attentive care they have shown to creatures and plants.

IMG_4366 copyThey gently hold slugs within a flower

IMG_4093 copyUse fallen leaves  and gravel to create small works of art

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Beautifully arrange flowers for passsersby

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Build homes out of grass and sticks to protect a wounded bee they found in the grass

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And taste frost.

The educator at this centre makes these walks a regular part of her program, and is attentive to what children notice, the stories they imagine, the naming of places, particular trees, a pile of rocks. She doesn’t impart much ‘scientific knowledge’, rather she asks and listens to the knowledges the children bring. She and I have discussed at length the compassion children show to the creatures, the curiosity to know them. In our ‘teacher role’ we sometimes assume our job is to teach the names of plants, the habits of hibernation or how slugs travel, and these are certainly interesting things to know. But in our rush to teach, we miss what children know. And knowing that a bee will climb on bark if you gently guide it is pretty impressive knowledge. Knowing how to carry a slug, naming it, spending time simply being with it, is another kind of important knowledge. Creating beautiful arrangements of flowers, tasting frost, piling rocks artfully, all these are ways of knowing as well.

This kind of knowing builds compassion, creates a relationship, a kinship. So when the trees are threatened the children are willing to take action. Isn’t this kind of awareness, of responsibility to all ‘human and non-human others’ just what we need?

 

I matter to a healthy economy

My Dilemma

I matter to a healthy economy

She sits across from me with the biggest smile on her face.

“Danielle” She says “We would like to offer you a promotion.”

“Really?” I ask.

“Yes” with a huge grin she goes on to describe what the promotion entails. A wage increase, increased hours, more responsibility, more autonomy, and benefits.

“We understand childcare may be an issue, so you can do some of the admin work from home.”

“Wow” I either say or think. I am certain I said thank you but I can’t be sure. I was in a bit of shock.

I want to tell you I was bursting with joy and excitement. I want to tell you I jumped up and said “Thank you, I’ll take it!” I want to tell you that but I can’t. What I was thinking at that exact moment was “can I afford to take this opportunity.” The organization thought of the childcare issue but I know my track record of being able to work from home with a three, soon to be four year old running around the house. Blog posts, admin, feedback that I used to be so good at getting done in a timely matter has taken a back seat to snuggles, walks, playing, cleaning and the constant feeding a growing preschooler needs. I know that if I do choose to take this opportunity, I will need child care. Child care costs money. So the numbers start rolling around in my head.

The meeting is over. She asks me to let her know by the following Friday if I will take it.

I go home and I look at the numbers and the reality of the situation is this. Even with an increase in hours and wages my monthly income will be greatly reduced by taking this position. The cost of childcare will take up what extra income I could be bringing home and then some. Based on finances taking this promotion will hurt my family.

How can this be okay? How can we live in a time or place where this is our reality. I love my job, I love what I do, I so desperately want to take this promotion and be happy.

Last year during elections we heard the slogan families first. We heard our premier talk about growing a healthy economy. There was an early year’s strategy, which was fantastic and welcome news. New childcare spaces would be created. I don’t feel like families are first. It’s all well and good to create more childcare spaces but if you can’t afford those spaces what are our options. Doesn’t my contribution to the economy matter?

I can’t sit here and take this reality. Can you? So on July 12th I will be joining the stroller brigade for the $10 a day Childcare. I would invite you to join me. Affordable childcare is part of a healthy economy. More importantly I am part of healthy economy.

Side note: I took the promotion. Fairfield Gonzales Community Association and Kristina please know I felt so valued and so honoured by this opportunity. I may have been fretting about numbers but I was elated.Thank you!

save the elc

They Listened…..

save the elc We wrote letters, signed petitions, dropped off letters from the children and families, spoke to the media, tweeted, shared information via social media and educated the community about the importance of a high quality education for the educators who work with our youngest citizens and they listened.

Monday evening the board of governors at Camosun College voted not to cut the ELC program.

I don’t know about you but I feel like we can change the world now! So what shall we do next?

 

What does leadership look like?

2 copyWhat does leadership look like?

 

This is a question that Danielle and I wrestled with along with our cohort in the ECEBC Leadership Initiative in 2009.  We were jolted out of our reluctance to claim the word ‘leader’ by the brilliant Sheila Davidson and Rita Chudnovsky who challenged us to reconsider how leadership looks. They told us we could redefine what a leader is, we could be leaders in the most ECE of ways. We didn’t have to adopt the corporate model of leadership wherein one knew all the answers, commanded all the attention, never showed vulnerability. We could be leaders who made cookies for everyone, sat in circles, made sure everyone felt good. Leaders who communicated effectively, showed empathy, listened, and who articulated our beliefs and values with force and passion.

 

This past weekend Danielle and I returned to this question at the ECEBC Conference, five years after our leadership experience. We had created a presentation on leadership, discussing the large and small ways we can all make a difference in our field. Before our presentation we connected with colleagues, old friends, students, and instructors from around BC and something beautiful happened….we were told stories. One ECE told us  of challenging a school administrator on the idea of children needing to be  “ready for kindergarten”  arguing that schools should be a welcoming place for all children,  an instructor told of her advocacy to save an early years program in her community, another told us of challenging  the idea of using smart screens in child care settings so ‘children will be able to sit for longer’.  Yet another educator shared how she made signs in her community to tell the world about the value of the work of early childhood educators, and another described how she questioned her colleagues about practice she felt did not reflect the values of the community. Everyone we spoke to seemed to have a tale to tell…..a tale of courage, of initiative, of advocacy, of leadership.

 

We had come to do a presentation about leadership, to try and inspire others as Sheila and Rita had inspired us. And we were the ones inspired all over again.

 

I want to congratulate these women, to thank them. I am proud of you, of your work, your commitment, your leadership. Your very ECE leadership.

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Another Letter of Support for the ELC Program

IMG_2884We will be posting stories and letters of support for the ELC program at Camosun. Tonight’s letter comes from Western Communities Family and Early Childhood Resource Network.

April 3, 2014

 

The Camosun College Board of Governors
Attention: Dr. Marilyn Pattison, Chair, Board of Governors

Dear Dr. Marilyn Pattison,
 
On behalf of the Sooke / West Shore Family and Early Childhood Resource Network, a community early years table with a shared vision to promote a better future for young children and their families, we are writing to express our concern regarding potential budget cuts to Camosun College’s Early Learning and Care Program. The Early Learning and Care Department are to be commended for their leadership, growing partnerships and ongoing initiatives that address the needs of the early years community throughout the Region.
 
The recent announcement proposing potential cuts to the Early Learning and Care (ELC) program has come as significant blow to our communities. At many of our community table meetings we hear from local service providers about the need for more qualified Early Childhood Educators, Special Needs Educators and Infant Toddler Educators, which this cut in funding would dramatically impact. We also hear from local families that have been through exhaustive searches to find quality childcare which these cuts in funding would have a significant impact on.
 
The West Shore Communities of Langford, Colwood and Sooke continue to experience growth as increasing numbers of families are relocating due to affordable housing and greater access to family focused opportunities. It is projected that the West Shore communities will experience a continued growth in population with a forecasted 92% increase by 2026. With this rapid growth and development continuing for the foreseeable future, there is an increasing need for support of new and existing childcare spaces and programs for families and children. If cuts are made to Camosun’s ELC program it would limit access to trained Early Childhood Educators which would significantly jeopardize our ability to work with government to create more childcare spaces and “improve Early Childhood Educator and out-of-school care provider training.”
 
With the recent announcement made through the Provincial Office of the Early Years to include more childcare spaces across the province over the next five years we need to be in a position to provide quality educators that are equip to provide exceptional care for children – our greatest natural resource.
 
On behalf of the Sooke / West Shore Family and Early Childhood Network we strongly encourage you to continue to invest in the ELC program and consider our collective voice and the impact that this potential decision will have on our communities, our families and our children. The vision of providing quality education to future Early Childhood Educators is vital to supporting the broader vision in the early childhood profession.
 
Sincerely,
Shantael Sleight
Sooke / West Shore Early Years Coordinator
Darlene Manthorpe – Belmont Park Pre-School
Ramona Melanson – Early Childhood Educator
Nicky Logins – Sooke Family Resource Society
Mitzi Dean – Pacific Centre Family Services Association
Scott Branch – Military Family Resource Centre