By: Diane Kashin, Ed. D, RECE.
This past year has been a difficult one for me. Early in 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Between surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, my year was about healing and recovery. Normally, I would have been traveling and presenting workshops to the early learning community. I missed this as working with early childhood educators has been what gives me joy in my chosen profession. The new year is a significant one for me. I am stepping into one of the best years of my life as a survivor. I am looking forward to my first two workshops of 2020 on critical reflection and visioning. In preparation for these workshops, where I will unveil the new me, complete with very, very, very short hair, I have been doing some deep reflection. My thoughts have been inspired by a few recent posts on Facebook that suggested that rather than making resolutions for the new year, to focus on one word. That one word will be your defining word for the year. It did not take me long to land on my word for the year: HOPE. I want to be hopeful personally and professionally. I have hopes for early learning and early childhood educators. Hope is my one word for 2020. What will yours be?
I hope that in 2020 more early childhood educators will find their voice. I hope that they will embrace a way of being that reflects a progressive, social constructivist stance. I hope that as a result schools and child care centres will become sites for “democracy, emancipation and potentiality” (Moss, 2015, p. 232). This has always been the hope of my professional lifetime. I am far from alone as Moss (2015) suggests “this has been the hope and lifetime work of many educators, past and present. One notable tradition cast in this mould has been progressive education. While it can be argued that progressivism is largely a product of the late 19th century … its roots go back much further to writers like Comenius and Rousseau, and its legacy remains a significant presence today” (p. 233). John Amos Comenius is a giant on whose shoulders I stand. His words are as relevant today as they were over 500 years ago.
“Comenius cherished the hope that the reform of education would bring about a reform of the world” (Sichodolski, 1970, p. 35). Comenius understood that children need to play in nature to learn. I am hopeful that in 2020 there will be a recognition of this for all children with early childhood educators leading the way. I believe that early childhood educators can be strong advocates for children and for themselves. I am hopeful that 2020 will be the year of the early childhood educator. I have always hoped for this. My doctoral dissertation, Reaching the Top of the Mountain: The Impact of Emergent Curriculum on the Practice and Self-Image of Early Childhood Educators was a hopeful endeavour. My research focused on case studies of four teachers at various stages of embracing emergent curriculum and abandoning themes. In 2007 I wrote these words about the experience.
I hope I have demonstrated an integration of voices. While my story coincides with that of the participants, I am conscious of not wanting my words to overpower the stories of the teachers who are actually working with children within a context that is isolated, marginalized, and undervalued. I would presume that their level of feeling speechless would be much greater than my own. I am, however, so closely aligned in my soul with the early childhood educator that I, too, have experienced the disempowering impact of being silent. Unlike any prior experience, this dissertation has given me an opportunity for voice. Working collaboratively with a thesis supervisor, an editor, friends, and the participants, my writing became richer as I socially constructed this dissertation. Correspondence received from my editor is evidence of the impact that social constructivism has had on my self-image and practice: The woman, whose voice was originally subdued, withheld, and tentative, has become an assertive, fully expressive proponent for her own research, insights, and point of view. And thrilling (I truly mean this) for me to witness the new you emerge.
Yes, a new me emerged with that experience but once again, I am ready and hopeful for new beginnings and new knowledge. I am going to go into the new year remembering that I can have an assertive voice. I hope I can continue to use it to inspire others. I hope that this blog post will give you, the reader, pause to think of your own word for 2020. I would love to read your words so please add them to the comment section below. To encourage you to add your one word for 2020, I will be doing a giveaway of a very hopeful children’s book, I Wish You More.
Some books are about a single wish. Some books are about three wishes. This is a book of endless good wishes. Wishes for curiosity and wonder, for friendship and strength, laughter and peace. I hope that this blog will become a source of endless words of hope. I wish you all hope for 2020. I am hopeful that you will share your one word for the year. I believe that our words will give us direction, hope and voice. Please share.