All You Need is Love in Early Learning: Embrace the Cliché!

By: Diane Kashin, Ed. D, RECE. I love my chosen profession. The emotion is deep and embedded. While it was not my original intention to become an early childhood educator, I am so proud to be one now and I have never regretted the decision. Even though I have been an early childhood educator since the 1980s I never tire of engaging in reflective dialogue with others about early learning. I am grateful for this platform, as a means to muse and then share the musings. Recently, I was tagged in a Facebook post and quoted. I had said in a blog post from 2014, that, “Teachers should never cease to be learners. Teaching can’t be mastered, only improved. You cannot reach a certain point in your professional life and say that you have acquired all the knowledge necessary to teach. Teaching requires reflection and acceptance that what we have once known as truth can change.”

I still love this aspect of teaching and learning. I loved reading the comments from others who agreed about the importance of continuous learning. I was especially touched when a respected expert in early years education, Laura Henry, from the United Kingdom whom I have only “met” virtually responded to the post, to say “I love Diane Kashin” as it filled my heart and got me thinking about love. Love is rarely mentioned in early learning and within this context there is no agreed definition for the concept (Uusiautti, 2013). 

I have written blog posts before about my love of things such as buttons but rarely have spoken for the love I feel for others. I have a great affection for those whom I have had the honour to teach over the years. I began teaching children at the start of my career and moved on to teaching adults. Most of the last three decades have been spent teaching early childhood education diploma or degree students. Young or old, the overriding emotion I feel towards my former students is love. I have never written a blog about love before. The love of which I speak is not familial or romantic love but professional love. I first heard this term from someone I love, Suzanne Axelsson of Interaction Imagination. I have such deep affection for Suzanne, who has visited from Sweden and stayed with me twice and I had the extreme honour of spending time with Suzanne in Stockholm. When we are together, we talk for hours and hours about early learning. I don’t remember how it came up but when she spoke of professional love, I was intrigued but never followed up to learn more until now.

The research on the topic of professional love has been led by Dr. Jools Page from the University of Sheffield. The research supports the importance of close, intimate and trusting relationships in the context of education and care. There is a fascinating research report that summarizes the findings from a survey of early year’s teachers views of professional love in the United Kingdom called Professional Love in Early Years Settings. I was especially intrigued by how the teachers described what they understood as professional love. They used words such as “care” and “kindness, being “available” and paying “attention” to children. There is so much in this report to reflect upon. I was fascinated by the concept of “de-centring” which is the ability to shift thinking beyond your own needs and to instead become completely absorbed in thinking about and acting with the needs of the other in mind. What this has left me thinking about is how does this feel for the other?

When I started writing this blog post, I was worried that it would sound cliché as I kept hearing love songs in my head. What I am hoping is that the readers of this blog will go beyond the cliché and think about what it feels like for a child to feel loved. What does it feel like when you feel loved? Powerful I am sure. Imagine what children feel. Curious about professional love, I went to my province’s pedagogy for the early years, How Does Learning Happen? and looked for the amount of times the word love is mentioned. I found the word love, twice in the body of the document. Both times it was in relationship to the love families have for their children. There was no reference to the concept of professional love. However, I found this quote from the amazing Dr. Jean Clinton suggesting that, “Every child deserves to have someone’s eyes light up when they enter the room” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 24). This to me is professional love. It tells a child that they are loved and valued.

By responding positively to children’s cues and engaging in reciprocal interactions with them, educators support the development of secure relationships. Secure relationships contribute to children’s emotional well-being and provide them with a safe environment in which to learn (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 24).

I have spent time in classrooms where the love was palatable – you could feel it – you could see it in the eyes of the teachers. In turn, children were happy, engaged and secure. I was in a toddler room that warmed my heart to the brim and even though I saw a colouring book page on the floor, it didn’t matter. Even though, I wasn’t impressed by the program plan posted and the activities offered, I could feel the love and it was the love that mattered. Sometimes I can get on a rant and denounce what I call dubious practices that include worksheets, colouring book pages, cut outs or pre-cuts and the unfortunate never-ending use of themes. I stand by my beliefs that these practices should be eliminated. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, and the use of these practices can be gradually reduced. We are all on a journey to learn and improve. What is important is the love. What is essential is the love. It is not cliché. All we need is love.

I dedicate this blog post to all the Early Childhood Education diploma and degree students that I have taught over the last three decades. Thank you for the gift of love – received and given.

9 thoughts on “All You Need is Love in Early Learning: Embrace the Cliché!

  1. Thank you for writing this timely blog post. As I read your words I could feel the comforting touch of a hand on my shoulder. The whisper of words to comfort, hold, cherish and feel a connectedness to one another is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give one another. Perhaps, this is professional love whereby a child intuitively knows you are there to support, encourage and create a true sense of belonging.
    I often wonder in the sterility of teaching or formulaic professional development if we have lost this connection to one another and “the work” no longer allows us to learn, to connect to be vulnerable to feeling a sense of love for not only the curriculum but for ourselves in the truest sense as loving learners being our authentic selves.

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  2. I never had a word for it before, Diane. Professional love. I have loved my children (preschool) and the families. I am Fb friends with parents whose children are now in their twenties. And with some of them, too! And my former colleagues are in my heart forever. Thanks for this post.

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  3. I couldn’t agree more with this post. Relationships in early childhood and beyond are paramount. Having a loving and caring relationship with children helps them to trust, take risks and give to others. I have seen it over many years of teaching kindergarten. Those children come back to the classroom to see you, even when they are in high school. The connection is everything.

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  4. I love this blog post! It reminds me to slow down and to take trust in relationships and to ensure that we as educators, as Dr. Clinton mentions,’every child deserves to have someone’s eyes light up…’ as all humans, we need relationships, love, and care. this helps us grow, it secures us, makes us feel safe and guides us through tough and difficult times. To know that you have someone who trusts and cares for you gives you the confidence to move forward and seek out adventures. This is the hope I would love to see educators practice for all children. Thanks Diane, again, finding a way to continue to write in these difficult times. You have the support and love of so many educators, friends, and families out there! Love you, girlfriend!!

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  5. Thank you for writing this article and for naming what I was feeling when I worked with children. The term professional love sums it up quite nicely. I have always naturally felt that we should lead from our hearts. It is from our heart that we can authentically learn and lead.

    Sending you lots of prayers and love as you continue your journey ❤️

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    • Thank you for writing this beautiful article. I loved reading it again and again and the term ,professional love”. I also really enjoyed reading, “Hygge in the early years “ and “Building relationships in early learning: One tea cup at a time” are my favorite. I really hope one day to see you in person ( in a workshop). It is so wonderful knowing that someone out there is passionate and like minded. Thank you for sharing your stories and thoughts!!!!

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  6. This is brilliant and a great re-focus for busy settings, that those simple transactions between an educator and a child will provide the enabling environment.

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  7. Thank you for your powerful message. As I visit the programs in my community I often struggle to determine what it is that lifts up some programs-it’s the love I see! Love for the children and families; love for educators; love for the learning environments and love for the profession!

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