The Beginning of Beautiful Friendships: Circles of Support for Early Childhood Education

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE.

I am proponent of emergent curriculum. Emergent curriculum emerges from the interests of children. I have a continuing desire to help others move forward to embrace this empowering pedagogy. The question of what I teach (emergent curriculum) has been framed by how I teach it. When I began this journey, I was teaching early childhood education at the college level. At the time, I needed a way to help my students recognize that there are many potential topics to focus on that are not the typical theme-based choices. A theme is usually a broad concept often based on holidays, like Easter or special days like Remembrance Day. I am concerned with themes on so many levels, but mostly because themes run the risk of being little more than a convenient backdrop for classroom decorations and craft displays. When I was teaching, I needed to find an alternative. I went back to my own childhood. What was I interested in as a child? The answer was easy. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks! Sharing rocks with my students was a way of activating their thinking about what interested them as children. It is very interesting to note, that every interest that was shared by my students involved hands-on play and learning!

In my current practice I no longer work with those embarking on their ECE journey. I am now motivated by those further along on their journey. How can I help them move forward with their interests, their musings, their hopes, and their dreams? After much thinking, dreaming, reflecting, and dialoguing with others, I have landed on the concept of critical friendship. The potential of this concept as a motivator for development seemed limitless and I wondered whether it could be more than a blog post? I am beyond excited to share that I have been offered a book contract with Redleaf Press, the source of exceptional resources for early childhood education professionals! I am now considering many questions related to critical friendships particularly; how we can cultivate our own critical friendships as early childhood education professionals? If you have a critical friend, you have a champion who supports you. You have someone who will advocate for your success. All you need is one other person to form a critical friendship. What would happen if you had a group of friends? I have brought together an initial local group of friends to see what might transpire. We have established a Circle of Support (CoS) for ECE! Next, I will broaden the group to include others from Ontario who can join virtually. From there we will build!

Each member of the group will receive an amethyst to keep whether joining in person or through zoom. We will offer a circle of support to each other as we move ahead on our own journeys. We will be there for each other as we work on professional growth. We will be there for each other as critical friends, thinking partners, and sounding boards. Taking turns, we can share current musings and each of us in turn will respond to bolster and encourage. This will be a place for courageous conversations. A safe place to share current thinking that may be impeded by self-esteem issues, a lack of confidence or the often present imposter syndrome. This is not a place for “I am just an ECE” laments! Being scared is okay when you have friends beside you and a rock in hand! Once again, the metaphysical properties of rocks have inspired me. In addition to being the official gemstone of Ontario, amethysts are said to provide inner peace and healing. The amethyst helps with communication, balance, and stress while guiding positive transformation. The amethyst is a powerful and protective stone and an appropriate metaphysical guide for our CoS.

Many cultures throughout the world have been drawn to the magic of this mesmerizing, mystical gem. My culture considers the gem to cause powerful dreams. The Hebrew word for amethyst, “ahlamah”, translates to “dream stone”. I will hold my amethyst while I dream about the possibilities of critical friendships. I cannot do this without a circle of support. Will you take the time to share your perspectives, thoughts, and ideas by commenting below? What do you think about a CoS for ECEs? Is there any advice you can offer as we embark on what hopefully will be the beginning of beautiful friendships? What might be the possibilities that this pilot CoS could be replicated elsewhere? Follow along on this journey! I will be writing blogs about critical friendships, to test some ideas. Could this be the start of something? I will conclude this post with the immortal words of Humphrey Bogart spoken at the conclusion of one of my all-time favourite movies.

8 thoughts on “The Beginning of Beautiful Friendships: Circles of Support for Early Childhood Education

  1. I read this particular blog with great interest. You mentioned your journey as a college professor and how historically the ECE profession has moved from theme-based learning to emergent curriculum. I find the topic of themes interesting as this approach seems to come to life during particular holidays and seasons. With this in mind I wonder if the concept of themes limits ones engagement, accessibility to curriculum and is in someway upholding colonialism and inequities. Just a thought as we approach themes of Christmas, New Years etc. Who is being represented and who is missing?
    Similar to themes the concept of friendship is recurring theme in ECE. In many instances friendships may be viewed in terms of how much ness, similar to likes on social media or how to make friends. The concept you are proposing of a critical friend is intriguing. This movement away from the theme of friends to criticality positions people in a space of reciprocity, integrity, trust, inquiry and questioning through supportive collaboration and networks. The conversations move from surface level to deeper meaning making and opportunities to lift each other up. I look forward to hearing about your continuing journey and your friends as they hold the gift of the amethyst.

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  2. Congratulations! How exciting to be embarking on a new exploration.

    Critical friendships are evident in my ECE journey. They emerged naturally and slowly, over the course of time. I had no experience in how to nurture such connections or what I should bring to the experience. Now, I reflect on how such a frienship of trust, support, and encouragement can develope and become a two-way exchange of mutual caring. There is no doubt that sharing a similar interest helps define the longevity of the friendship, including a raft of skills – listening, questioning, clarifying, etc.

    I am so thankful for my critical friendships because of their support and encoragement… there are projects that might not have come into being or insights gained.

    All the best!

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  3. Congratulations on your new book deal! I think this is a great new venture and one that can benefit so many. Thank you! I look forward to reading more as you dive in.

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  4. Diane I must say that I think this idea is brilliant. With the profession reeling from all the fallout resulting from COVID, I can’t think of a better time to introduce this concept into the field.

    Although I am currently off on LTD, I am in constant contact with my co-worker to offer up support during the shortage of ECE’s, and encouragement as they continue to work every day to ensure the best possible learning experiences for the children in their care.

    A month ago the girls came over and I donated most of my resources to them and the Centre, as they are expanding to add more rooms. As you know I am very nature based, and felt it was important for the Centre and the staff to have access to resources more suited to HDLH and Play to Learn. They are both Reggio based philosophies, and the girls were thrilled to get the resources, and know they can contact me at any time for assistance.

    I can see this program becoming and extension of what I have already started, as a mentoring program as part of my PD and CPL requirements. I truly believe that without the support and encouragement of fellow ECE’s that many in the field are floundering as they search to find their relevance in the profession. It’s very disheartening to see what is going on in the profession as qualified ECE’s leave the field due to burnout and disillusion.

    I love the idea of the amethyst as something tangible to hold on to as we embark on these new friendships representing solidarity with our fellow ECE’s. The best way to get the message across is to share your blog posts, and to inquire in your Centre who would be interested in joining in and sharing their perspectives, ideas, and experiences with fellow ECE’s. I know of at least 3 girls at my Centre who would jump at the chance to be a part of this.

    Congratulations again, on the book. It will be a welcome addition to my library, and look forward to gaining new perspectives in child-lead emergent curriculum.

    Warmest Regards,
    Annelise

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