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

 

Puddles

Puddles are part of life here on the west coast of Canada. Water gathers where it can, in the cracks and dips of sidewalks, in the depressions of a grass field, in the contours of a pathway. There are distinct categories of  puddles, the shallow watery ones that you can barely make a splash in, the almost invisible ones looking for all the world like grass, until you step into it and sink with a deep sucking sound. There are the puddles that hover on the edges of streets that you need to leap over when you cross, or leap away from when a car drives through it.  There are mud puddles, the rich chocolatey brown puddles that just get better with some stomping action, and the puddles that are really small ponds, sometimes becoming a place for ducks to gather.

Children and puddles seem to call to one another, as though a magnetic force pulls them together. And adults seem equally called to make sure puddles and children don’t get too intimate.

In the world of early childhood this means educators send out warnings: “You don’t have boots on!” Your boots will fill with water!” If you splash you’re going to get wet!” “You know you don’t like getting wet!” Most of these warnings go unheeded, but still we keep sending them out.

Why?

Last week at a centre that I regularly visit, the children, the educator and I went for our usual walk and came to the mother of all puddles, a lovely large, deep, brown puddle that stretched far and wide across a pathway. The children ran to it and waded in without a moment’s hesitation. We watched as they jumped and splashed and stomped, or simply sat in the middle, trailing fingers in the rippling water.  The educator stood back and watched, laughing with delight at the sight.

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Wet socks? Oh yes. Wet faces, hands, arms, legs, and boots filled with water. And happy happy faces.

Were there consequences of succumbing to the puddle? Sure, we headed back inside a little earlier than planned as the chill eventually set in for many wet bodies. Muddy buddies had to be hung to dry, some socks and pants needed changing, but…these things dry.

I wonder why we try so hard to keep kids out of puddles?

 

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I am sitting

In the middle

Of a rather

Muddy puddle,

With my bottom

Full of bubbles

and my rubbers

Full of Mud.

While my jacket

And my sweater

Go on slowly

Getting wetter

As I very

Slowly settle

To the Bottom

Of the Mud.

And I find that

What a person

With a puddle

Round his middle

thinks of mostly

In the muddle

Is the Muddiness of Mud.

Dennis Lee

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The Good, The Bad, The Mindful and The Self-Regulated

IMG_7269Sometimes when I have a few minutes free to myself I like to peruse the parenting or education section of bookstores to see what is being shared. My last visit to the bookstore the shelves were inundated with books with mindful, present, self-regulated in their titles. I was bothered.

I was at a professional lunch not long after when a colleague said “I just want the children to be more mindful.” As the word mindful slipped out of her lips I felt an inner cringe occurring deep within me. I was rejecting this word.

A week later I found myself facilitating a professional group discussion on practice. The word mindful came up several times in our conversations.  As the word came up again and again I could feel my body rejecting the word, cringing at its use. I wanted to interject into their conversation and ask “What does it mean to be mindful?” I knew though I may use a judgemental tone in that moment that wouldn’t convey a desire to understand but more a desire to reject that word. So I listened to their thoughts on it, as well as my own body and thoughts. What was it about this word that upset me?

What does mindful mean?  When I looked it up Mindful was defined as being conscious or aware of something. I have watched children consciously kick or bite someone. Would people label that behaviour as mindful? Probably not. To me it feels like mindful is another way to label a child. Being a mindful or self-regulated child is just another way of telling them they are a good child.  Telling parents they are not mindful or present parents is just another way of saying they are bad parents. Who decides who is mindful and who is not? Who decides how much being present makes you a good parent?

We as educators know it is wrong to label people as good or bad. We know that we internalize these labels and no longer see our choices as good or bad choices but ourselves as good or bad people. We know this but yet we still struggle not to label a child or parent. These words mindful, present, self-regulated, etc… are still labels no matter how enlightened they are.

I think all children are mindful. I think they are very aware of the choices they make good or bad. I also think parents are some of the most mindful people I know revisiting and examining  every choice they make as parents. I also think all children have the ability to self-regulate, I think we as a society just don’t like it when their way of regulating feels like chaos. I believe language has power, it’s probably one of the most powerful things I have as an educator. Words like mindful and self-regulated are not used in my practice because it requires me to make a judgement about someone and that is not my job.