The Rant Goes On: Finding our Voice in Early Childhood Education

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. and Rose Walton, OCT, PhD Candidate. This post is the second in a series about rants. A rant is an argument that is fueled by passion. The early childhood education sector has suffered from a position of silence. Ranting helps us find our voice. Ranting makes visible our passion for the work we do. Voice is important. To have a voice is relational; it depends on listening and being heard. Voice reflects the empowerment of those being heard. Early childhood educators can no longer be silent; we need to have our voices heard and we need to hear the voices of children and others. Almost ten years ago, I wrote in my doctoral dissertation, Reaching the Top of the Mountain: The Impact of Emergent Curriculum on the Practice and Self-Image of Early Childhood Educators, that there needs to be an integration of voices in early childhood education that occurs within a collaborative culture of co-construction. Early childhood education has always represented a holistic, inclusive, caring, and experiential philosophy. We need to establish discourse communities that provide safe places to be heard (Kashin, 2009). In the first post co-authored with Gill Robertson, we ranted about the word “cute” as an example of how language matters in our profession. The post was widely read and shared. Over 5,000 views in one day. There are over 40 comments on the blog with suggestions for words that need to be “unpacked, repacked and sent packing”. I had put out an offer that I would co-author another blog, suggesting that “if you have a rant or idea that could grow into a reflective blog post, add a comment about what it is you are thinking about”. Rose Walton was the first to share her thoughts and so I invited Rose to co-author this post. I have been Facebook friends with Rose for a few years, but it was last year at a pop adventure play workshop that I had the honour to meet Rose in person.

 

I have come to know Rose well. We share many of the same professional learning interests and passions. Recently, I stumbled across her Master thesis, Early Childhood Educators’ Experiences of the Ontario Full-Day Early Learning: Promises to Keep when doing some research and realized that while she represents one professional group and I represent another we can engage together in a way that empowers us both. In Ontario, early childhood educators and kindergarten teachers work in partnership in a full day kindergarten model. Early learning in our province now involves two professional groups who share so much.

Where partnerships are supported in trusting and respectful relationships, the skills of the two professional groups do not need to be positioned in competing ways but can indeed be seen as complementary. It is my hope that as the partnership evolves and educators engage in meaningful dialogue they will learn from one another. This study provided a platform to allow ECE participants’ voices to be heard and to begin transparent discussions of collaborative practices, collective agreements and professional learning opportunities (Walton, 2013, p.12).

In the previous post, Rose’s comment indicated that she agreed that language matters. I had mentioned one word that I no longer use in my speech or my writing and that is “field”. I prefer sector or profession. Rose responded:

Highlighting field was a proactive act to continue to promote, support and advocate for the profession. Word selection is indeed one step toward professionalization. But I wonder if this particular word also holds power to marginalized those working with young children as it has the ability to categorize female workers and disembody the profession. The “field” may be perceived as a place of collective understandings or lack of autonomy as female ‘workers’ view themselves as powerless. Does the field allow people to have a voice, share in the work or make decisions? Who is being left out in the field so to speak when we marginalize a profession through word selection? Are their voices being heard, honoured and valued?

Adding one more point, Rose suggested “as for future collaboration, count me in as I “just” work with small children who have a right to be heard”. Now what I understand is that Rose was assuming the persona of an early childhood educator in her final sentence. What I hear loud and clear is the word “just”. This is a word that I want to rant about! It needs to be unpacked, repacked and sent packing. We are not “just” early childhood educators! We are a profession. We are passionate about what we do. We are articulate. We are knowledgeable and have a body of professional knowledge that is distinct to our sector. We work in partnerships with other professionals and we love, nurture and facilitate the learning of young children. We help children have a voice. We need to help each other have a voice! It is my honour now to give voice to Rose who continues to unpack the word “just”.

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The word ‘just’ places boundaries around the value of people and denies one access to the richness shared in other professions and within the community at large. As a female intensive profession, women in early childhood education and care are not always afforded access to positions of power because they are ‘just’ working with young children. Marginalization comes in all shapes and forms whether women work with infants or school age children. However, women and more specifically Early Childhood Educators work in partnerships. (Please take note I purposely capitalized the profession out of respect.) Partnerships demonstrated in collaborative practices are sought after 21st century skills moving professions such as medicine and engineering forward. My experiences working with Early Childhood Educators has been a humbling experience beginning with Tam Aiken, Theresa English, Amanda Trimmer and Karen Gair who continue to lift the profession up and engaged me in a huge learning curve as we came together to promote and give a voice to colleagues as a profession and to children. I do not have the distinction of having their credentials but have some course work completed in this field of study. I identify myself as ‘just a learner.’

As a learner I am beginning to recognize my power, privilege and responsibility to support women in the profession of early childhood education as we lift each other up. We are more than ‘just’! We are the strength of children’s and women’s voices who care for the growth and development of a generation. We are ‘just’ the culture for learning whereby present and future leaders within the profession learn for and with one another. Collaboration within a profession brings together a shared history, theoretical frameworks, ideologies, problem-solving and relationship building skills, all worthy of notice and acclaim. We are the voice of the 21st century. We are each other’s shared history and a place of possibilities and opportunities. We are the voice of the profession. There is power in words and as Nike once said, “Just do it!”

I am grateful to Rose for lifting me up as an Early Childhood Educator and hope that this collaborative blog post will inspire. If you would like to comment with your own rant about words that you would like to see unpacked, repacked and sent packing we look forward to a discussion that will elevate and elate.

 

6 thoughts on “The Rant Goes On: Finding our Voice in Early Childhood Education

  1. Thank you to you and Rose for provoking our thinking and promoting this kind of discussion. I have found it is a disposition that many educators avoid ; deep conversations that may create discourse and disrupt our thinking. Thank you.

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  2. First, thank you to Rose for mentioning me as an important ECE in her ‘learning’. Truthfully, the reason we had such a great partnership is because Rose herself was open to exploring our roles in collaboration. I have experienced many opportunities in which I represented the ECE sector and my thoughts and experiences were not valued by others at the table. Rose allowed the door to be open and never had the mind set that I was ‘just’ an ECE. We were able to challenge each other and put our focus of children first. Not our titles. Through this experience I was able to become increasingly confident in voicing my experiences and to challenge myself and others in our contributions to children’s learning. Thank you Rose.
    Continuing the conversation of ‘just’ I have to voice my disappointment of the use of this term within our own sector (and yes language does really matter). My current role consists of working primarily with before and after school programs in over 60 schools. Our kindergarten programs operate within classrooms where the Teacher / ECE partnership is key. It is in these programs where we (we defined as the Teacher, the classroom ECE, and the Before and After School Educator who also may be an ECE), have so many opportunities to collaborate, to positively challenge each other, and to meet the needs of the children. We could be doing such amazing work together. However, I am saddened to say, this very rarely happens, and often what I hear is, “he/she is just the before and after school staff” or “he / she just works in the program”, and I often hear it said with disdain in the voice. The part that saddens me most of all is that often the ECE in the class is the one who uses such words, the ‘just’ word. Why? Why has it become the ECE in the classroom vs the ECE in the program? Why is the ECE in the classroom referring to the ECE or any staff in before and after school as ‘just’ the staff in the program? Our profession has worked so very hard to get where we are with our recognition for the important work we do. Yet we are taking our colleagues, and yes they are colleagues, down with our words. We should be working together not pushing each other away or creating tiers within our profession. ECEs in the classrooms (and I point out it’s not all, but enough), need to embrace the educators in the Before and After School Programs, support each other, build up those educators and the importance of what they do within the school community. Take away the power of that one word ‘just’. That one word ‘just’ .
    Thank you Diane and Rose for bringing your thoughts forward and challenging all of us to look at who we are and how we are within our profession.

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  3. Thank you for this piece rose and Diane . “Just” for sure needs to be sent packing it is overused. However it’s often used by ECE themselves. When asked what they do “oh I just work with kids” or at work. “I just set up such and such for the children to explore” it is often our own use of the word while playing the role of humble which far to many ECEs do that educates the people around us that Early Childhood Education is less than the “Real” education once the children are contained at school.

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  4. Thank you for writing such a wonderful article! I absolutely agree with sending the word “just” packing. When I first entered the ECE profession I heard the word “just” from supply staff – “I’m just a supply person” they would say. I remember thinking: supply staff are important so permanent staff can be off sick, attend to family matters, attend PD etc. I thought it odd they used the word “just.” They are important in any sector. But the one time I heard it and it rendered me speechless was when there was a dispute between myself and a teaching partner. The school principal attended a meeting between us. I believed he would mediate – listen to both perspectives and in a fair manner help us to resolve the issue. What he said to me was: “you are JUST support staff!” Beyond speechless I felt the administrator had disregarded all my credentials and was putting me in my place. I have come to despise that word ever since. That word instantly makes the person feel “less than” or not as important as others. Thankfully not all administrators speak this way and I am thankful for that. Now when I hear people refer to themselves as “I’m just . . . ” I tell them take that word “just” out and replace it with “I am . . .” When it comes to teaching young children we need to remember they watch and listen to everything we do and say. It’s important we all set the right example and treat everyone as the professionals they are, regardless of whether they are supply staff, college/university students etc. We all have a place in the educational profession, we all come with strengths and skills and we all need to recognize this and build up each other.

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  5. Pingback: Building Relationships in Early Learning: One Tea Cup at a Time | Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research

  6. I am an Early Childhood Educator in Alberta and I too have heard the word “just” used by Educators far too often. When Educators describe what they do and place the word “just” in the statement, it takes out the value of our profession and makes our position seem unimportant; when in fact, it is one of the most important jobs there are in the field. We need to call Educators out when we hear them use the term and give them terminology that should be used to replace it, just as Rose mentioned above, “I am..” The more we stand up for ourselves as professionals, the more others will see us as valuable professionals worthy of respect.

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