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An Unapologetic Rant

IMG_4661 copyAre you ready for a rant? Every once in a while a topic comes up that simply won’t be addressed in a ‘nice’ ECE way. Sometimes a rant is needed. So here we go….I want to rant about “the pressure”.

As Danielle and I travel the province talking with ECE’s, parents, teachers, child care consultants and administrators they tell us how they are expected to ‘prepare’ children for academic success. They are told they must teach 3 year olds how to write their name, 4 year olds how to count to 100, and 5 year olds how to read. They tell us of children being labelled  as behaviour problems and removed from kindergarten because they can’t sit for long periods of time and do ‘work’. We hear of kindergarten prep classes in preschools that teach letters and numbers and science. We are told of 3 and 4 year olds being referred for extra support, and the support workers being required to teach academic skills. We hear the frustration and the sadness in their voices.

These educators feel they are working against what they believe. They want to spend time with children investigating, exploring and listening. They value play, they value taking on a role of co-learner alongside children, delving into the questions children bring. They want to step back and observe, to find out what children know and to expand their thinking together. But they can’t. These educators feel powerless. They feel alone.

But here’s the thing: they are not alone. When Danielle and I begin a dialogue on values and reflective practice, Bang! a story will emerge. And as soon as one person opens up, a second person will tell another story. Soon the entire group is engaged, sharing their frustration.

When we begin to speak out, we find we are not alone.

So here comes the rant part (in case the rest of this wasn’t rant-ish enough!)

WE MUST BEGIN TO SPEAK OUT. We must begin conversations, we must begin to articulate our values and beliefs. We must begin to push back against ‘the pressure’.

We must begin conversations with anyone who will listen, and especially those who won’t. We must find allies and speak out together. We must tell our colleagues, our administrators, our families that children do not need to be prepared for school. School should be prepared for children.

We must tell everyone that children are strong, capable, and full of ideas and theories. Our job is not to provide all the questions and all the answers, our job is to “think with” children and find out what questions they have.

WE MUST BEGIN NOW. The 3 year old who can’t sit still and cut with scissors will thank you. The anxious parent who’s  4 year old can’t read her name will thank you. And the educators who are daily working with the impossible stress of ‘conforming’ will thank you.

And if you can’t figure out how to begin the conversation quote this:

“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” ? Ken Robinson

Or this:

“(The educator)  needs to be attentive to ‘creating possibilities rather than pursuing predefined goals’, assuming ‘responsibility to choose, experiment, discuss, reflect and change, focusing on the organisation of opportunities rather than the anxiety of pursuing outcomes, and maintaining in her work the pleasure of amazement and wonder.”  Peter Moss

The pleasure of amazement and wonder……now that’s worth ranting about.

About Kim

Kim is an admitted ECE geek. She and Danielle have bonded over their shared geekdom and have come to terms with it. She is a pedagogical facilitator working with educators in a number of early learning settings supporting and extending new thinking and practice. She loves reading, writing, talking and sharing ideas about the potentials of teaching and learning with ece's and young children. ECE geeks unite!

22 thoughts on “An Unapologetic Rant

  1. I could not possibly agree more! We need more people to speak up, trust your gut, stand up for what you believe in, and don’t just trust that those in more know best! Trust yourself!

  2. I have this dialogue with the grown ups that attend my StrongStart everyday, in small ways. They see how engaged the children are exploring the variety of activities and how they are learning many basic concepts in natural ways. I’ve stopped saying that children need to be ready for school and instead they are getting ready for the rest of their life.
    Thanks for ranting Kim because this is a discussion that does need to be repeated many many times.

  3. You’re right Amy, we do need to trust ourselves to speak what we believe. And we do need to repeat it many times…knowing that others out there believe what we believe is empowering!

  4. As I said to a (nameless) deputy superintendent, “this is all fuelled by curiosity”
    Unfortunately I was met with a blank stare…


    appreciator of ECE’s =D
    (emoticon by Hugh)

  5. As I said to a (nameless) deputy superintendent, “this is all fuelled by curiosity”
    Unfortunately I was met with a blank stare…


    appreciator of ECE’s =D
    (emoticon by Hugh)

  6. Oh I wish you were in Australia- we need the same sort of shouting to happen here! So, so tired of the push down. I took my 4 year old out of Kindergarten for that very reason. He said “We don’t have time to play Mum. We have too many activities to do.” And that was that for me.

  7. Well we would love to come to Australia! I know there are many dedicated and thoughtful educators there….but it is so sad to hear those words from your child. More reason to continue to rant.

  8. Vivian Gussin Paley worked for nearly forty years as a preschool and kindergarten teacher and is the author of thirteen books about young children, including, most recently, A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play. You might find this excerpt from her book useful in your discussions about the importance of play and the strange twist education has taken for young children.

  9. I was so happy to read this. It feels good knowing I’m not alone. I run a small home based preschool, and no one understands what I do. I explain it and they respond by saying:Sounds great what about math and reading. It deflates me every time.

  10. No you are not alone!! But I know that it can feel that way sometimes. And Marty’s suggestion of reading and sharing Vivian Gussin Paley’s books (any of them!!) is so right, I have recommended A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play to many many people, and I had it in my preschool as resource for parents. Thanks for the link Marty.

  11. As an educator, I have worked in many different facilities: Home day care, pre-schools, regular day care, out of school care and in Strong Start. When I worked at the Child Development Center and as a Strong Start Facilitator, I feel I received the most acceptanced and recognition as an educator.
    I have become very discouraged since. I have become discouraged with standards and with Licensing and with fellow educators who just fold to the pressure from the top.It has always been my belief that if I can’t stand up for my self, how can I protect children?

  12. Your ‘rant’ needs to appear in all media, newspapers, tv etc and even the colleges where Early Childhood Education is being taught ……… I daily rant along with you on the same issues. We just need to keep doing it and hopefully more people will get it.
    Just the other day my daughter who has a 2 1/2 year old said to me ‘ Mom, the other day I heard myself ranting ( like you do), to my friends with young children, the importance of unstructured play for young children, preschoolers don’t need to know their numbers, letters etc before kindergarten ”
    Keep on doing what you and Danielle are doing Kim……. there are many of us who believe so strongly along with you both.

  13. I would love this rant to appear more widely! The more of us that keep ranting and the louder we do it the more hope there is for your granddaughter.
    Thanks Dianne.

  14. I struggle to spread this message in my community almost daily. I’ve been feeling defeated lately. After attending the ecebc leadership initiative- chort 5, I feel a renewed inspiration in knowing that I’m not alone in sharing this message and that it’s worth the ongoing and sometimes tiring advocacy. Thank You for walking with me on this journey!

  15. I know what you mean by the inspiration from the leadership initiative, knowing that you have like minded colleagues makes a huge difference. And you are not alone!! We talk to educators all over the province that are dealing with the same frustrations.
    Danielle and I really enjoyed our short time with all of you and were so impressed by the thoughtfulness and commitment of the entire group. Best of luck with your project and let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

  16. I think I rant about this almost every other day. This topic also comes up, everytime when reflecting on ‘circle time’. What is the purpose of circle time? Some educators say it is to prepare children for kindergarten and teach them. In response I often ask, “why are you in ECE? What is our role as an ECE?” Is recognizing the first letter of name more valueble than playing? Please give children their childhood back, it will never return. Children will learn alphabets anywsys in Kindergarten, so why should I prepare them. They have so much more to explore than memorizing letters and counting number! I don’t want to teach them, I want to be a part of their childhood and be a supporter of their wonderful childhood experiences. I can go on and on ranting about this. Don’t be discouraged if somebody puts you down for what you belive, you are not alone! Share your pedagogical narrations and belief with other educators and parents… I’m here with you to advocate for children’s right to PLAY!

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