By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE and Cindy Green, BSc, RECE. As we age, it is healthy to give advice and to feel that our long careers in the profession of early childhood education has been meaningful. We have both retired from full-time work teaching early childhood education at the same community college. There, the working culture did not always feel open or collaborative. Our advice was not always welcome or heeded. Now we both work as early learning consultants presenting workshops and offering advice whenever asked. Even though we both enjoy watching the sun disappear in the evening sky, our sunset years are busier than ever. And, this is by choice!
We began our careers in early childhood education, not too long after child care had become a formally organized, regulated service connected to diploma and degree programs offered at colleges and universities. We confronted and reframed our image of the college professor as sage on the stage who lectures to students who sit, listen and take notes. We both worked hard to equip our workshop rooms with hands-on materials designed to offer students opportunities to play and learn. Rather than sage on the stage, we were guides on the side. Now from the platform of this blog and the wisdom gained from age, research and experience, we would like to assume the sage position and offer our advice. Collectively our top three pieces of advice begin as follows:
Number One: Never forget the power of playing and learning at all ages. It will keep you feeling young, energized and strengthen your resolve and commitment to the importance of play-based learning for children.
Number Two: Be passionate! We believe in order to thrive as an early learning teacher, you need to be passionate about children’s play and learning. We wonder how it is possible not to be?
Number Three: Rise by lifting others. As pedagogical leaders we see ourselves as mentors and in order to help others develop, we must lift them up, not bring them down.
Do not underestimate the power of play. In this photo we were facilitating a risky play workshop and offered the participants materials to mess about with and engage in risky play. When we walked through the forest observing and interacting, we came upon this swing, we were compelled to test it out! You can play with materials and mess about, you can also play with ideas while messing about. We are suggesting that you can also play with advice. We are calling on the sages of our profession and asking the question; what advice would they give their younger selves? Play the game!
After some reflection and discussion with Diane, if I could give advice to my younger self, I (Cindy) would say that I needed to know more about the responsibilities that come with working in this profession. I now know that it is an honour to do the work that I do. Something else that I can share would be to slow down and take more time to listen to the perspective of others before charging in and making changes and decisions without collaboration. Looking back now, I wonder how many colleagues perceived me as a bull in a china shop, rushing about with little regard to the value of what was in my midst?
Another piece of advice would be to reframe my image of children and families and my role in regard to this relationship. As a young educator, working as a resource teacher supporting children and families, I remember now thinking that I knew what was best for the child from a holistic and developmental perspective. I had to learn and value that family members are a child’s first and foremost teachers and caregivers, and that they are deserving of genuine respect.
If I could give advice to my younger self, I would simply say, always in kindness and don’t fight every battle. I have been described by others as outspoken. I have lived my professional life, unafraid to speak up when in disagreement. I wasn’t always kind. I was forthright and brash. In retrospect, I fought too many battles, many not even my own. In the fullness of time, some of these issues would have worked themselves out. If they didn’t, my world would have been very different had I approached others with kindness, always with kindness. I do have one last piece of advice to my younger self and to anyone who is reading this post. Challenge yourself to continue to learn professionally outside your comfort zone. Find something you don’t know because there is so much to learn, and you don’t know what you don’t know. I especially look forward to experiencing the conference, Land as Our First Teacher: Establishing and Maintaining Relationship with Cindy and many others. I am now recognizing something I did not realize as a young early childhood educator. I am learning what Indigenous peoples have always known: we learn best in a community of positive relationships connected to our natural environment. We feel very strongly that the experience of this conference is important to all early childhood educators and all children. As an incentive to register, we have received donations of $1,200.00 worth of gift cards from Scholar’s Choice and Louise Kool and Galt. If you register or have registered, you will have a chance to win! We also want to hear from you. What professional advice would you give your younger self? Comment below and your name will be entered to win a copy of the textbook, Outdoor and Nature Play in Early Childhood Education, in which you will find the picture of us playing outside! If you comment and you register for the conference you double your chance of winning the book!! Share your wisdom – give some advice!