Stand Up and Whoop!

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 1.31.12 PMDanielle and I sat there listening, smiling, nodding, clapping. What we really wanted to do was stand up and whoop while doing some major fist pumping, but as we were in a university lecture hall that seemed unwise. So we contained ourselves and clapped vigorously instead.  We were listening to Maureen Dockendorf, the newly appointed British Columbia Superintendent of Early Years, a position jointly shared between the Provincial Office for the Early Years and the Ministry of Education.  This is a woman with clout on the BC education front, a woman who has been collaborating with teachers across the province to spearhead a transformation of the BC curriculum, shifting  how we think about educating our children.

And her message?

Her message is not about the curriculum at all. Her message is this:

What matters most is not the curriculum, not the content. What matters most are the kids.

Welcome conversation, listen to stories of students, spend time, pay deep attention, get to know them.

Be present in the moment for those children, you are not in a rush. (She repeated “You are not in a rush” multiple times, pointing her finger at the audience)

Children come with funds of knowledge, understandings that we need to pay attention to.

We are not covering curriculum, we are covering children.

It is about the process of becoming.

Don’t you want to stand up and whoop and fist pump too?

(The revised curriculum can be found here.)

Fake it till I make it

InstagramCapture_54d78944-37eb-41d8-b17a-296a53177b9e_jpgAt the beginning of this preschool year our class was inundated with babies. There were babies everywhere. Little wee babies only weeks old, smiling cooing babies, and almost toddler babies. We had families who were defining new normal for themselves now becoming families of two or three. We even had a couple of families who were adopting preschool children and becoming parents for the first time. It was an exciting time in the preschool. I myself had a little secret of my own I was 15 weeks pregnant expecting a baby in the New Year. It just seemed like a perfect time to have a gaggle of babies and new families surrounding me.

635601429133700103In early February I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. He was preterm but perfect. Small yes but ready for this world. So ready he was out in 13 minutes flat. We were now a family of four and going home to define a new normal for ourselves. My daughter was a big sister and my partner and I were now parents of two. A little adjustment period was to be expected.

What I didn’t expect though and what shook me to my core was an absolute feeling of disconnect. I absolutely did not feel connected to my baby. This feeling of disconnect lead to feelings of guilt, sadness and shame. My partner adjusted to having two children so smoothly he was so in love with his family and children. I did not want to burden him with my shame. My baby gained weight slowly and the midwives were concerned. I was fearful of telling them how I was feeling, scared they would blame this disconnect on his inability to gain weight quickly or latch properly. So quietly on my own I decided to fake it till I made it. I put my best parenting foot forward. To the outside world I was a good mom, I snuggled my baby, I smiled and I griped about lack of sleep. Inside I felt like I was dying. How could I not have a connection with my own child? I connect with other people children every day.

I was also overtaken with anxiety. I was constantly worried my baby would get hurt and that it would be my fault. So I tried not to be alone with him often. I was thankful for sharing circles with colleagues, preschool pick up for my daughter and family functions.

Struggling hurts, struggling alone is soul crushing. Two things saved me. At eight weeks the health nurse called. I found a quiet room in our house I locked the door and I told her everything. I cannot thank her enough for listening, letting me say a hard truth and all the follow up phone calls and appointments.

The other thing that saved me happened at pick up for preschool for my daughter.  Morgan one of her wonderful educators came and checked in with me. She said to me “Just so you know we haven’t brought up baby with Helaina. We are waiting for her to talk about him. We are just focusing on her right now and she is doing great.” I cannot tell you how much those words meant to me. They were exactly what I needed to hear. Two wonderful caring educators were looking out for my daughter every morning and focusing on her. Which gave me permission to just focus on my baby.

Ten weeks have passed since that time and I am absolutely in love with my baby. I can’t wait to see his smiles in the morning. He is the happiest little man a parent could ask for. He gains weight like a champ so much so that he is already at four months of age wearing 12 month old clothing. The health nurse informed me on our last visit that he was in the 90th percentile for head circumference, length and weight. So in her words “He is a big baby but he is proportionately big.” I feel absolutely connected to both of my children.InstagramCapture_087684b2-76b5-4623-b048-8d3d6aa641de_jpgI can’t help but think about all those babies in September, all those families defining a new normal for themselves and I wonder were any of them faking it till they made it? If they were I hope we said or did something to help.

If you are struggling with  postpartum depression or anxiety please don’t fake it till you make it. Seek help. Talk to your midwife, doctor and/or health nurse.

 

A Daughter, a Mother and Educator

20150510_150120I was invited to speak at the Stroller Brigade for Childcare today by the local branch of ECEBC. Below is the speech I gave at the event.

I come to you today as a daughter, a mother, an early childhood educator and a proud member of ECEBC.

As the child of two working parents I can speak first hand  at how child care was an integral family support for my family. Because of childcare both of my parents were able to return to work, provide for our family and be contributing members of the economy.

As a mother I know the struggle to find care for my children with qualified educated educators. I know the disappointment of never getting off the waiting list and having to make hard choices when options run out.

I know the sadness of handing in my resignation because I could not find or afford child care.

As an early childhood educator I have seen how getting a spot can transform a family’s life. How knowing their children are cared for by qualified educators and being able to return to work, can lift a family up.

For these reasons I personally support and endorse the $10 a day child care plan.

Early childhood educators have a specialized education and knowledge about young children. We dedicate our lives to life long learning. We know how to tie shoe laces, we know how to make an ouch feel better. We know how to tell a story with the gusto of an academy award winning actor. We know the complexities of play and understand the learning that happens there, and we know how to push that learning in new directions. We know how to provide and facilitate new learning. We know how to expand on the questions of young children.  We know how to support  families when they are low and down. We know how to give a hug when needed. We know how to say I see you. We know all these things yet many of us, dare I say most of us earn below living wages, receive no benefits and quite often don’t even get sick days. Which seems ridiculous to me as we put ourselves in rooms with 20 children with runny noses every day as our career.

It is for this reason that ECEBC supports the $10 a day childcare plan.  We believe the 10$ a day childcare plan will give living wages to the dedicated educators in our field. It will retain educators in our field. It will boost our economy by allowing more people to go back to work and creating more jobs for early childhood educators. Most importantly though it will acknowledge and invest in our youngest citizens. Thank you.

Some more images from the rally

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Celine Beattie and Joanne Gordon speaking to the crowd on the issues facing young parents and early childhood education students.

 

A group of us standing up for child care
A group of us standing up for child care
Our youngest supporters
Our youngest supporters
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The men of childcare

 

If you want to learn more about the plan please go to the ECEBC website to read more.

 

 

Inviting a Little Intensity

DSCF3319 copyThe feeling in the room was tense, uncomfortable…people were challenging me, judging me, telling me I shouldn’t have done what I did. My face was red, my voice was cracking. Someone in the audience was crying, overwhelmed by the emotion of the topic. Others were confused, many were angry. My hands shook for hours afterwards.

This scenario occurred a few years ago when I shared a pedagogical narration that told the story of a group of children in my program who were exploring guns, power, hurt, and fear. The narration told how these children and I grappled with the intense feelings, the complex relationships, the questions and the tensions. I presented this narration as a way of opening dialogue with an audience of colleagues, of sharing the uncertainties of our practice. I was unprepared for the intensity of the responses from the audience, their anger surprised me.

In the years since that presentation I’ve seen that intensity of response to dialogues and narrations many times. And that is exactly why pedagogical narrations and collaborative dialogue are so powerful….and so important.

The field of early care and learning has been dominated by a school of thought that values a western, english speaking narrative of the child within the discourse of developmental psychology. This view of children suggests a ‘universal child’ who learns and progresses through predicable, stable and predetermined sequences and suggests that there are particular  ways of doing child care and learning that are ‘best practice’. Peter Moss tells us:

This narrative has a distinct vocabulary, in which terms such as ‘development,’ ‘quality’ and ‘outcomes’ are prominent. …. The narrative is inscribed with the values and assumptions of modernity, for example objectivity, mastery, and universality, and with particular understandings of childhood, learning, evaluation, and so on. (Moss, 2006)

These ideas and practices have come to be understood as ‘truth’, and are deeply embedded in our minds, hearts and practice.

Challenging these ‘truths’ and suggesting that they might be only one way to view a child and our practice is unsettling. Inviting other perspectives, other theories, other ways of thinking about doing child care and education can feel threatening. Can everything we have known and believed and practiced with all of our best intentions be…wrong?

But creating space for these dialogues, difficult as they may be, can only open possibilities. Discussing, disagreeing, asking hard questions, not knowing the answers, all this generates new thinking. Yes it is unsettling…but it also interesting, enriching, and very exciting. It means we don’t settle for simplistic one-size-fits-all practices, but instead open ourselves to seeing learning as dynamic, unpredictable, with many ways of knowing, thinking and practicing.  It means our practice becomes more vibrant, more democratic, more diverse, more inclusive of children’s ways of seeing the world.

Our everyday lives with children are entangled in a web of cultural, political, social and ethical threads. As educators we can be critical thinkers, researchers in dialogue with our communities, reflecting on these threads that shape us. These dialogues aren’t always going to be ‘nice’…at times they might be intense. But for me, these conversations are important. I’m willing to invite a little intensity.

jessie

Rituals

jessieThe following post is a guest post from Jessie Gill an Early Childhood professional who practices at Moss Rock Preschool.  Jessie has been an Early Childhood Educator since 2007. She studied at Vanier College in Montreal. She then went on to get her BA in Education and Cultural Anthropology.  She has strong image of the child, educator and Family and we were so happy to have her join our team at Moss Rock Preschool.

A Preschool is a cultural community; one that includes children, families, teachers, and community members. In beginning my new position as Educator at Moss Rock Preschool, my main objectives during the initial weeks was to observe the culture of the group and begin the relationship building process. In my observations of the children and how the group navigates through their morning, I have begun to notice daily patterns occurring, that the children, parents and educators move through with confidence.

 

I was recently reading a blog written by a particularly reflective Educator that brought to light the distinct difference between routines and rituals within an Early Childhood Environment. We all have routines in our lives that are repetitive and perhaps we go through the motions without giving much thought to what we’re doing. However, Danielle, Morgan and the children of Moss Rock have established some routines that hold significant importance for the group. Despite their apparent simplicity, I argue that they are more than routines, but in actuality special rituals. Coming from a cultural anthropology background, I studied rituals of all kinds but had never really taken the time to notice the incognito rituals that enrich Early Childhood Environments.

 

Cracker Time at Porter Park

It’s 10am and the group is dispersed around Porter Park, some children play in the spacious sand area, others groupings of children are tucked away in the trees, others stand or crouch a top the mossy rocks. The children appear deeply engaged in their work, their play. Wendy approaches Morgan in the sandpit area and asks, “Is it cracker time? Cuz I’m hungry!” Morgan replies with enthusiasm, “Yes yes yes!” The two of them head over to the coniferous tree that is our gathering place at various times throughout the morning. Wendy announces “CRACKER TIME” with gusto. The message of cracker time is passed amongst the group and children flock to the big tree. Circling around the educator, eager anticipation can be seen on the children’s faces. Morgan retrieves the crackers from the backpack and hands out crackers to the children, acknowledging each child as they are crowshanded a cracker “one for Rory, one for Polly, one for Gerta” and so on. Our park cohabitants, the crows, swoop to lower branches in anticipation of fallen crackers. The children munch on their snack and some notice and comment on the crows behaviour. As crackers are finished, the group naturally returns to play.

 

Rituals don’t have to be complex, but they must offer a sense of belonging and predictability to the children. Cracker Time can be initiated by any group member, however all participants have active and important roles. I wonder if Cracker Time would exhibit the same message of care and group belonging if the children didn’t gather all together under the same tree each day, or if the Educator didn’t acknowledge the children as the snack was handed out. From my point of view, this ritual provides children with more than a daily snack. It is a ritual that the group collectively looks forward to, where the children willingly break from their play to spend a moment gathered together with other members of their community. It is more than a routine; it is a daily ritual that holds value for the children and Educators of Moss Rock Preschool.
Jessie