By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. and Cindy Green, BSc, RECE. This is the third in a series of blogs written about a leadership research project that we are working on with Upper Canada Child Care Centres. In the first post we introduced the research project. In the second post we reflected on reflection as an important process essential to growing pedagogical leaders. This time we want to share one of the experiences that we provided to spark dialogue, reflection and change. We asked the participants to consider their lines in the sand. What pedagogical practices do they feel just aren’t negotiable?
A line in the sand is an idiom or group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words. A line in the sand is a figurative boundary that someone or a group refuses to cross or go beyond and no further advance or compromise is accepted. The result of exploring lines in the sand with pedagogical leaders was discussion that was engaging and lively. Indeed, the level of engagement and energy was high as there were not always agreements about particular lines in the sand. The lists generated were collated and used to create a word cloud. The bigger the word, the more often it was said during the workshop.
Themes, worksheets and cutouts represent the past. There was complete agreement that they depicted a line that cannot be crossed. However, it was recognized that there are those currently working with young children having difficulty letting go of these practices. This presented a dilemma. What do you do when you see these practices being used with children? Do you immediately remove them? Do you immediately let the educators using them know that they are not acceptable? Or do you wait for another time when you can offer evidence and support? What is the context of the situation? How important is it to listen to hear explanations? Dahlberg and Moss (2005) suggest that that an ethical basis for listening is ‘the ethics of an encounter’. The central idea of the ‘ethics of an encounter’ is the importance of relating to the ‘Other’, in a way that respects otherness and avoids making the Other into the Same – what the philosopher Levinas calls ‘grasping’. In grasping for the Other you do try to hear other perspectives. Removing without listening? Is that a line that should not be crossed? Colouring books generated almost heated conversations and it became obvious that amongst the leaders and facilitators this was a line some were willing to cross. Food in art was another that generated different perspectives. Listening to try to grasp other perspectives is important for early childhood educators in their practice with families, children and colleagues. However, is there ever a time, when action is required? Should dried up markers be immediately removed from the shelf? Should ripped books be repaired and broken puzzles discarded? These seem like easy fixes. Other lines in the sand may be harder to draw for others to see. They have become habits hard to break. What about having rules for capacity, for example only three children allowed in the dramatic play centre at one time. What about the constant use of words such as – walking feet, crafts, friends, say sorry, you’re okay, put your tears away, baby, big boy, big girl, cute, good boy, and good girl? How hard is it to break these habits? Should we support others to see these as lines in the sand? How do we do that?
The exercise of thinking and talking about lines in the sand proved to be one of the most valuable experiences that we had during the project and we wanted to extend an invitation to you to tell us where you draw the line? As in the past on this blog, a give away seems to encourage comments as seen in previous blog posts on loose parts, magic wand thinking and the ABCs of ECE. Again we would like to thank Louise Kool and Galt in supporting the early childhood education community with another fabulous prize. Post your line in the sand or lines in the sand in the comment section of this blog for a chance to win this sand tray.
Where do you draw the line? Not everyone will have the same line beyond which they will not go. It will be helpful to hear your reasons and to create a dialogue that allows for multiple perspectives. Are lines in the sand entrenched or can they be influenced by encounter and context? Please add to the conversations about lines in the sand in ECE. The winner will be announced in the new year.