This is a question that Danielle and I wrestled with along with our cohort in the ECEBC Leadership Initiative in 2009. We were jolted out of our reluctance to claim the word ‘leader’ by the brilliant Sheila Davidson and Rita Chudnovsky who challenged us to reconsider how leadership looks. They told us we could redefine what a leader is, we could be leaders in the most ECE of ways. We didn’t have to adopt the corporate model of leadership wherein one knew all the answers, commanded all the attention, never showed vulnerability. We could be leaders who made cookies for everyone, sat in circles, made sure everyone felt good. Leaders who communicated effectively, showed empathy, listened, and who articulated our beliefs and values with force and passion.
This past weekend Danielle and I returned to this question at the ECEBC Conference, five years after our leadership experience. We had created a presentation on leadership, discussing the large and small ways we can all make a difference in our field. Before our presentation we connected with colleagues, old friends, students, and instructors from around BC and something beautiful happened….we were told stories. One ECE told us of challenging a school administrator on the idea of children needing to be “ready for kindergarten” arguing that schools should be a welcoming place for all children, an instructor told of her advocacy to save an early years program in her community, another told us of challenging the idea of using smart screens in child care settings so ‘children will be able to sit for longer’. Yet another educator shared how she made signs in her community to tell the world about the value of the work of early childhood educators, and another described how she questioned her colleagues about practice she felt did not reflect the values of the community. Everyone we spoke to seemed to have a tale to tell…..a tale of courage, of initiative, of advocacy, of leadership.
We had come to do a presentation about leadership, to try and inspire others as Sheila and Rita had inspired us. And we were the ones inspired all over again.
I want to congratulate these women, to thank them. I am proud of you, of your work, your commitment, your leadership. Your very ECE leadership.