Kim 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.