Tag Archives: advocacy


What Kind of Educators are We Allowed to Be?

IMG_9363Kim and I have been talking advocacy lately. Speaking engagements are becoming opportunities to pull out our soapboxes and implore all early care and learning professionals to speak up, and advocate for ourselves, the children and the families we work with.

 Kim’s rant yesterday talked about the pressure. Mine is about the outside forces that are deciding what our programs and classrooms should look like. An alarming trend is emerging as we talk to more educators, teachers and administrators. Outside forces are deciding what they can and can’t put in their rooms and what kind of play is allowed. We have heard stories of educators who decided not to allow paint, sand or any messy sensory play in their classrooms because pressure from the Janitor. We were told of a school where teachers had to get rid of couches in their classrooms because the fire marshal told them couches were a fire hazard. Licensing officers pushing centres to get rid of trees and bushes in their yard.  These outside forces are deciding what kind of educators we are allowed to be.


When did these outside forces become experts in early childhood?


Why are we letting them decide what is best in our programs and classrooms?

 Here is my rant though. They are just doing their job. We must also do ours though and part of our job is to advocate for the kind of practice that we believe in. We must become articulate about why we do what we do. We must talk to our administrators about our concerns. We need to talk to these outside forces about our practice and explain to them why we need messy play, soft surfaces and natural elements. We must implore them to not only look at the risks but the benefits as well.

I have been there. I have felt powerless. I have felt the pressure to conform my practice to others wishes. I CANNOT do that anymore though.

My licensing officer and I have a great relationship and I am never afraid to ask her why. This took time, I won’t lie it was scary the first time I questioned a licensing recommendation or requirement. It is Licensing’s new practice to negotiate with licensees.  The more I ask why or negotiate with licensing the more comfortable I get with advocating for my practice.


Shouldn’t we decide what kind of educators we want to be?


I must give credit for the title of this post to Cristina D. Vintimilla who asked the question “Who is the educator allowed to be?” in her chapter These Ventriloquist Walls: Troubling Language in Early Childhood Education in the book Flows, Rhythms and Intensities of Early Childhood Education Curriculum edited by Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw. A book I highly reccomend to help you on your journey of becoming more articulate and advocating for your practice.


My grandfather and I when I was two.

My mentor

My grandfather and Helaina in 2010.

A couple years ago my husband and I drove my grandfather back from another emergency visit to the o.r. in Victoria to his home in Campbell River. Upon arriving we were greeted by the local home care nurse, who wanted to go over grandpa’s medicines and care. She sat across from my grandfather and said “Well Mervyn we need to come up with a plan for you.”

“Plan, I don’t like that word.” He said.

The nurse sat there looking confused.

“You see” he continued “When I was a social worker I didn’t like coming up with plans for the people I worked with. Plans imply there is something wrong and we have to work on it. What I tried to do was find out what that persons strengths were and I nurtured them.”

I silently chuckled to myself as he continued to school the nurse in strength based practice. My grandfather is the reason I hate checklists, assessments  and learning goals.  See my grandfather schooled me as well.

When I lived up island every week I would make the trek from Courtenay to Campbell River to have tea with my grandfather. We would talk about social justice, equal rights, race, pain, children and love. My grandfather and I would often joke that we were solving the worlds problem’s in an afternoon. We couldn’t understand why they weren’t listening to us. Often at the end of my visit he would hand me a book to read. Don Quixote, Winnie the Pooh, Life of Pi, Jude the Obscure, the list could go on.  My grandfather would share such wisdom during those visits. He didn’t do it by saying Danielle this is the way to do it. He would tell me stories from his days as a social worker. The stories he shared stemmed from questions I was having about my own practice, need for advocacy and life.

When I moved to Victoria my visits were less frequent but in times of questioning I would call him and we would talk for hours.

Saturday I visited my grandfather at the nursing home. I walked into the room and found a frail man, who couldn’t talk. He was happy to see me. He wouldn’t stop kissing my hand. So I pulled up a chair and told him what was happening in the world. I told him about Idle no more, Chief Theresa Spense’s hunger strike, I told him about Helaina starting preschool, I told him about the work Kim and I were doing, I told him about Christmas with seven small children. I rambled on about my belief that change is happening. I told him I talked to his friend Peter. I cried as I told him that I lost a baby just before Christmas and how his son(my father) doted on me. I told him how I wished the world would realize how amazing my dad was. I told him everything I could think of and I tried not to be sad that he couldn’t share a story with me.

Most girls have a box of old love letters tucked away somewhere in the back of their closet, I don’t. I have a box of cards and letters my grandfather wrote me.  From time to time I go through those letters, sometimes they make me smile, sometimes they make me cry, they always make me think, So much wisdom. Today I am thankful for those letters, his wisdom, the tea shared and the school of Mervyn Davis.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

My grandfather and I when I was two.
My grandfather and I when I was two.

Small Acts of Advocacy

 The word advocacy can be a daunting and scary one. It can conjure up images of great world leaders or tireless community leaders. People who spend a lot of their free time educating, promoting and advocating for important social issues.

Advocacy does not have to be something large, time consuming or public. It can be simple small acts of kindness. It can simply be sharing your beliefs with another.

Today when I got home from work I packed up my daughter and took her to the public health unit to get her vaccinations. When we arrived we were greeted by a table with instructions to sign in, weigh our babies, measure our babies and fill out the age appropriate checklist. I signed in and grabbed a check list for an 18 month old.

Helaina sat down with her water beside me as I filled out the form. The first page seemed absolutely appropriate, just questions about Helaina’s health and well being. Do I breast feed still? Is she brushing her teeth regularly? Is she eating a diet with foods from all four food groups? Then I turned to the second part of the check list. There it was a developmental checklist for my child, asking questions like  Can your child say twenty words? Can your child point to body parts if asked? Does your child help get dressed by extending arms for sleeves or feet for shoes? The check list had about twenty questions. My heart sank as I read through it. I hate check lists. I have spent a lot of my career trying to remove them from the programs I practiced in. I tried to fill it out, I tried to put my beliefs aside but I just couldn’t do it. Finally I handed the checklist and pen to Helaina and told her to tell them what she could do. She proceeded to draw all over the checklist.

The nurse came and got us. She asked for her weight and height as we walked to her office. Once in her office she asked for the checklist. I smiled and said “I did the first part but I just couldn’t do the second part.”

She smiled back at me. I decided to continue “See I couldn’t do it for ethical reasons. I’m an Early Childhood Educator. I have found if a child is unable to perform just one of these milestones it can cause undue anxiety and stress for parents. It can cause parents to worry that their child is not okay. It causes them to worry about their future and question their parenting.Its does this because it does not get the whole picture.”

The nurse then said “Well I have never thought of it like that.”

Now I don’t believe because of this small stance that public health will get rid of the checklists but I shared a different perspective. Hopefully that perspective will be taken into consideration from time to time when reviewing their practice.

Everyday we perform small acts of advocacy. When you get down to a child’s level, when you choose to treat families and children with respect and when we share our stories we advocate for children and families.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Jack Layton

What small act of advocacy have you performed lately?