Tag Archives: Professional Development

Can We Talk?

“Our current educational systems ‘seem stuck in a time warp….displaying an unwillingness or inability to engage with either new thinking or the state we are in–and worse, the state we are heading towards”

Peter Moss,  Michael Fielding

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In her post A Tale of Two Wardrobes Danielle generated great dialogue by linking wardrobe choice and professionalism in the field of ECE. Lots of discussion ensued, people with strong opinions voiced their ideas and were countered by people with equally strong dissenting opinions. There was a lively debate that resulted in no clear answer but got us all thinking.

 This is exactly what we need more of in our field. We need more lively debate, and it needs to go beyond what we wear to work. We need to be discussing big ideas, and big questions about the field of early childhood care and education. We need to debate questions like: What are the values we hold about children and families? What is our idea of learning? What is the meaning of school? What education is for?  Who is responsible for education? Whose voices are heard and whose voices are silenced?

 In a society where test results and predefined outcomes dominate our educational systems, early childhood care settings often become sites for preparation for school readiness. Our role is often reduced to providing programming that will allow children to ‘practice’ for school.

 So rather than educational spaces being sites for adults and children to  explore new thinking and investigate new ideas together, educational spaces become standardized. Instead of being places where independent thinking and experimentation are valued, we have places with preplanned curriculum.

We need to debate and challenge and be challenged.

 We need to talk about this.

What Does Professional Look Like To You?

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Danielle in typical work attire.

Wow, great dialogue started on our Facebook page about professional attire and the ECE. Thank you to all the people who emailed me as well after my post on wardrobes.

Do you know I have been thinking about that post for over a year? I wrote it six months ago and it took me until two weeks ago to muster up the courage to post it. I knew it would spark some intense feelings. I worried about the message and how it would be taken.  I sent the post to many trusted colleagues for feedback. I agonized over every word. I almost didn’t post it.

I am glad I did though. I have been pleasantly surprised and excited by the dialogue it has inspired. Even the people who disagreed with me and left comments, I was glad to hear their perspectives. It’s not so much that we agree with each other but that we have the willingness to discuss these issues together. To think together about what our values are and how our programs can reflect those values back to our communities.

The catalyst for this post was my experience subbing last year. Seeing educators who felt like they had been beaten down and looked it too, noticing where the wages were low the professionalism was also low. It didn’t reflect the educator’s passion though. If I asked the right questions I could see that twinkle in their eyes about why they entered the field.

While on holidays I talked to anyone who would listen to my stream of thoughts.  In conversation with others I remembered something I heard long ago when I was entering the work force.  “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Now I have the job I want so what if we shifted that statement to “Dress for the respect/wage you want, not the respect/wage you receive.”  To me that’s what it’s about.

 I am one of the lucky ones who receive a living wage, have benefits and I feel respected in my workplace. What I want though is for my field to be respected in our society. For it not to be an issue of luck, I want children and families to be first in line for funding and honestly I want Christy Clark/Adrian Dix/Stephen Harper/Justin Trudeau/Thomas Mulcair to say they respect us…… and I want to believe them when they say it.

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Kim at work

Somehow a few people believed I was suggesting ece’s needed to be more stylish.  Goodness knows the style fairy chooses to skip my house most mornings. There are days where I wish Stacey London and Clinton Kelly would surprise me at a presentation to say they are going to take me shopping in New York city. I find myself wishing for a personal stylist when I am going on the road with Kim (she is the most stylish ECE I know). Style and professionalism are two separate things that can intertwine. I think we all deserve to feel stylish and confident but what I was suggesting was professional and confident.

Professional is different things to different people. To a former student of mine she feels professional when she wears suits, blazers and blouses that don’t show her shoulders, to my mother she feels professional when she looks stylish, a co-worker feels professional when she has the right clothing for the right season (i.e. rain slickers and gumboots for rain) and I feel professional when I dress in clothing that makes me feel like a professional.

I would like to know what professional looks like to you. So I would invite you to send me a photo and a few lines about what looking professional means to you. If you have a blog send me a link to a post about what professional looks like to you. Next month I will do a post sharing your pictures, stories, posts and together we can discuss what professional looks like in Early Childhood Education.  Send pictures, links and stories to ddavis@imagesoflearningproject.com

I look forward to continuing the dialogue!

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Lella…..

Danielle and I and Danielle’s colleague Ashlee with Lella Gandini

Danielle and I spent two full days with Lella (OK, we weren’t exactly alone with her, we shared her with 123 other people….but still….)

Lella Gandini has been integral to introducing the Reggio approach in North America, accompanying the Wonder Of Learning Exhibit and introducing the ideas and the stories to rapt audiences. Lella doesn’t simply give lectures, she embraces her audience with her humour, her grace and her passion. And so we spent two days talking, listening, wondering, laughing…..entering into her beautiful vision of what education can be.

She spoke of creating joyful problems for children. A joyful problem, what a lovely image. An image that respects children as curious and intelligent and seeking research and investigation. An image that believes teachers are strong, capable of thinking and listening to children.

If we were to think about joyful problems, how would we set up a room?

How would we approach a child as they investigated the problem?

How would it shift the questions we asked? Or the expectations we had?

I see this invitation to create a joyful problem as a provocation to think differently about learning.  To embrace the joy and the complexities.

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Have you seen it?

Have you seen the Wonder of Learning Exhibit?

It is currently in Vancouver BC and I was lucky enough to go with a group of educators last week. My first impression was of lightness and space as the high windows filled the room with natural light. Comfortable chairs overlooked a view of tugboats and log booms working the Fraser river, and the mists floating over the mountains. There were beautiful artifacts to handle, low tables to compose the natural branches, stones and seed pods, books to peruse. The environment urged me to slow down, take notice, attend.

The exhibit meandered through the space, inviting me to pick up a thread of a story, follow it, pause, and then begin again. I read about children experimenting with light, measuring how far a beam would reflect, hypothesizing on why the beam faded away as it reached the trees.  I watched toddlers explore white paper, rolling it, tossing it, shaping it. I watched children run through an open space, embracing the sounds and the feeling of movement, but attending to one another, observing, connecting.

But there was so much I still need to see. In my two hours I absorbed a small sense of place, more a feeling than anything else. This space, this exhibit requires more from me, requires me to listen, to search for myself, and to lose myself to it.  I need to think with it longer, talk about it, argue and challenge and be challenged.

So I will be back.  I will return to find out what else it has to say to me, what else it will invite me to rethink, reconsider, recreate.

Thank you Laurie.

The art of research already exists in the hands of children acutely sensitive to the pleasure of surprise. The wonder of learning, of knowing, of understanding is one of the first, fundamental sensations each human being expects from experiences faced alone or with others. ~ Loris Malaguzzi

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Hope For Education

Today’s typical classrooms do not reflect the outside world. If you placed a physician of 100 years ago into today’s operating room, she would be lost. However, if you place a teacher of 100 years ago into today’s classroom, he wouldn’t skip a beat.   Trish McNabb

Danielle and I talk frequently about schools as a political place, a place that reflects the values of a society. We reflect on the spaces that house childcare; basements, church halls, portables; places that not many others want. I tell the tale of my 30 years as an ECE in which I have never worked in a space that was purpose built, how I’ve had my fair share of silverfish (those tiny fish shaped insects….ugh!) invading all cupboards and drawers.  Schools fare somewhat better, but still reflect the above quote.  The teacher from 100 years ago would have no trouble identifying the classroom of today.

But here is an astounding exception.

Danielle and I were honoured to be invited to the Peace River North school district in BC to present to kindergarten teachers and ECE’s. We engaged in wonderful dialogue and reflection, had thoughtful discussion, great food, a snowstorm and a delayed flight.

We were also treated to a tour of the Energetic Learning Campus, a brilliant new satellite school for grade 10 students that defies traditional thinking. Look closely at the photo. The lockers? They all move. The tables and  chairs? They all move. The cool benches and low tables? They move too. The walls? Yup….they all move. The philosophy is revolutionary:

The ELC will foster student engagement by knowing students well, tapping into student experience and interests, and building a strong sense of community through an advisory program. All of the teachers will have shared preparation time where they will have the chance to reflect on and refine their day-to-day practice. This weekly shared-time will provide the occasion for powerful and productive discussion of the issues and needs that teachers identify in their work. 

Here is further food for thought;

I believe that if schools fail, kids lose and therefore society tends to stick to the safe ideas and traditional schooling, knowing the outcomes may not be amazing, but they are predictably mediocre at worst. I realize change is a difficult journey but to take education to the next level it is going to be hard. However, “difficult” or “hard” is no reason not to change.   Trish McNabb

Can we argue with that? Not likely. How about this?

For over 75 years the North American high school has followed three critical “operating instructions” that are so ingrained in the culture by now as to seem natural:

•    Segregate students by class, race, gender, language ability, or perceived academic ability.
•    Separate academic from technical teaching and learning.
•    Isolate adolescents from the adult world they are about to enter. 

Sheldon Steele 

 This is all about high school kids, but don’t these issues resonate for early childhood? Don’t we believe all areas of learning are overlapping, that one “subject” cannot be” taught” in isolation? That we fail to engage children in discussions of the real world? That class, gender and race still impact our programs?

It was wonderful to see a school district intent on exploding the myths of education.