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”.
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.