Early Childhood Education: Making Sense of our Life’s Course

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE 

Exactly two years ago, I was in Reggio Emilia, Italy attending a study tour, enjoying the deep thinking, dialogue, food, drink and ambience with cherished friends. Exactly one year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With my last treatment coinciding with the end of 2019, I was very hopeful for 2020. Now, as Reggio Emilia, is shuttered and I am sheltering in place,  I am trying to make sense of the course of my life. I am trying to make sense of the course that all of our lives has taken. How do we make sense of this?

All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver ~ Mister Rogers

I know that most readers of this blog are early childhood educators like myself. I wonder if you are feeling the same as I am in this uncertain time. In my province, schools were closed to protect the spread of COVID-19 but there was not a centralized decision made about child care programs. Five days after the announcement was made about schools, it was recommended that child care centres close. If some choose to stay open, ECEs working at these centres would be in untenable positions. Do they put themselves at risk to keep their jobs? What about their families? This does not make sense to me. Then as of yesterday closure has been mandated. Why the delay? This is what has me thinking from my place of isolation. With planned workshops and conferences canceled or postponed, I keep socially connected through social media. I am filled with gratitude and pride to see how early childhood educators are supporting each other. I feel less isolated and I remember the words of Mister Rogers.

In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers ~ Mister Rogers

Prior to the call for social distancing, I was working on a featured session for a conference, in Edmonton, now cancelled. I was inspired by Alberta’s early learning framework, Flight and appreciated the metaphor used in the title.

Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework gives flight to deep thinking about images. This is what gives fuel to the province’s approach to early learning and care. Landing on the purpose of the framework, I appreciate that it is meant to articulate a set of holistic play-based goals for children’s learning and care (Well-Being, Play and Playfulness, Communication and Literacies, and Diversity and Social Responsibility). I appreciate that while each goal provides a particular frame for interpreting children’s daily experiences, they are overlapping and integrated and that is intentional – in an effort to maintain focus on the whole child (Makovichuk, Hewes, Lirette & Thomas, 2014). Taking off from my context in Ontario, examining the framework of another province, gave me pause to make sense of the journey.

When I am trying to make sense of something, I am as a constructivist educator, trying to make meaning. The term meaning-making has been used in constructivist educational psychology to refer to the personal epistemology that people create to help them to make sense of the influences, relationships and sources of knowledge in their world. When I am trying to make sense of something, I often go down the rabbit hole of the internet. The idea of a rabbit hole fits the process of sense-making. In an allusion to Alice Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, to go down a rabbit hole is to enter into a situation or begin a process or journey that is particularly strange, problematic, difficult, complex, or chaotic, especially one that becomes increasingly so as it develops or unfolds. When I landed on a page written for the sales industry, at first, I thought I needed to keep this stopover short. Instead, I spent some time, making sense of what I was reading as it relates to my context of early learning. “Does that make sense?” is considered the worst question to ask! I included it my slide that featured the six pedagogical approaches of How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years (HDLH?), to offer it as a provocation. Asking the question, assumes a position that does not reflect co-learning. It assumes a position of all knowing and could make the receiver uncomfortable. It comes from a place of innocence – even a place of compassion. You want to affirm that others understand what you’re saying, so you ask the question and mean it. Yet, it does not fit with the image of the child, from the Flight Framework, described as a “mighty learner”. It does not align with the view of the child, from Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years, that sees the child as competent, capable and rich in potential. When we make sense together, the learner is independently capable of socially situated knowledge construction. During these times of stress, I again look to the words of a hero, Mister Rogers and I am encouraged to seek to sense-make with others.

The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile ~ Mister Rogers

I continue to be inspired by the inspiring Mister Rogers, as I think about my fellow early childhood educators. We need to feel worthwhile, even in this world that seems to overlook our importance and value. Images can be framed and reframed as we work together to understand the impact that our images of ourselves, children, families, and colleagues has on our lives … as educators and humans. We need to stay connected and be strong and mighty.

The connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is ~ Mister Rogers

A few weeks ago, before the global pandemic grounded us all, I was inspired by a fellow educator, who had posted on a Facebook group related to the Reggio Emilia Approach™ focused on sharing courses and books. I don’t know Holly Warren, but I did ask her permission to quote these insightful words.

We are all very concerned about proposing and experiencing courses on the Reggio approach but are we not forgetting that it is the course we give our life that reflects our approach to life and teaching?

I am spending time on another stopover, as I try to make sense of the word “course”.  To all the early childhood educators reading this blog during a time when our world seems to be turning upside down, begin with images – they will mark your course. Even when air traffic has been grounded worldwide, keep thinking metaphorically. When we see ourselves as mighty learners, we can make a difference in this world. The engine is the heart of the plane – the pilot is the soul. You are the heart and soul that has the potential to keep us all virtually connected and grounded. I welcome your comments and inspiration. To conclude I am sharing these words from my friend and unofficial and highly appreciated blog editor, Cindy Green which she so kindly shared. Her reflections demonstrate how we can support each other at this time. It speaks from the heart and reaches my soul.

As you are making sense of this journey, you are demonstrating the power and importance of the 6 pedagogical approaches and messages in HDLH? By reaching out to people, you are inviting and strengthening responsive relationships as you invite us to explore and learn about meaning making and the role and experience that we can all, as co-learners give voice to. I think about the environment as the third teacher and how our communities are being impacted, physically and virtually by these challenging times and how this is influencing your need to engage in critical, reflective and collaborative practice with your many readers of this blog. Lastly, documenting your thinking and inviting the voices of others will provide us with data to be further reflected upon. THIS, is how learning happens!

8 thoughts on “Early Childhood Education: Making Sense of our Life’s Course

  1. As always your post is thoughtful and inspiring. Thank you for asking such important questions which may have gone unasked in this stressful time. As my April conference is cancelled I am thinking of uploading my presentation so that we can continue to share and support each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thank you for this lovely and thought provoking post. like you, i am an early childhood educator, who loves the reggio approach. i’m also working from home and am trying to figure out the best way to carry out this important new role.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Diane for this this provoking post. You are always inspiring me to go deeper in my reflections. You are certainly making an imprint on my learning journey

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Continuous Professional Learning for Early Childhood Educators: Process Art | Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research

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