Thursday, February 18, 2010

Valentines Day and Gifts for the Future

Early last Sunday, February 14th Valentines Day, my grandson Hawaiki appeared at our bedside, bleary eyed there I was expecting the usual request “read book now Nan” but no it was “ring here are Nan” as he held out his pointing middle finger with the offer of a gold ring on it. I accepted his generous gift of love and popped it on my finger. We lay snuggled up and gave thanks for such wonderful things… and read several books.

Later in the morning I said to his Dad, “that sure was a beautiful gift Hawaiki gave me for Valentines Day this morning” he looked a little surprised that his 2year old son had succeeded where he had not and said “Oh really what was that?” and I replied “Your wedding ring!’ which I promptly slid off my finger on to his. “Well that was high on my dressing table!!” Some children will go to great lengths or heights to give fabulous gifts.

This led me to reflect on the exercise some of us had done at the Early Childhood Futures Forum hosted by the Early Education Federation last week and that was to write an epitaph for Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand. It was a task to help us focus on what we want for our children and the future.

The gift may not be the gold ring – in this case it was the cuddle, warm and close and the opportunity to share breath and ideas.

What gifts are we giving our children in early childhood education in New Zealand? What will our mokopuna give us back?

If ECE died tomorrow what would be its epitaph?

Please feel free to write an eptitaph and share it here on our blog.

Mine went like this;

Early Childhood Education in New Zealand

Was good

Was kind

Was inspiring

Was the initial narrative of self

Was lifelong

And we belonged

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Returning to the joy of teaching,

Last week the NZ Herald ran a series of feature articles on NZ Early Childhood Education. Reading them gave me at times the disconcerting feeling that the full day care model, in particular was under attack. Uninformed readers could as a result of reading the series be left with considerable concern for the well being and happiness of the many young children that are under two years of age, who are in full day care while their parents work or study.
A sense of blame seemed to me to be directed towards teachers and providers.
It didn’t take me long to want to shift the blame to the reporter and the NZ Herald appearing to having an agenda of their own and choosing material that supported their own argument
My indignant response moved on as I began to think about the positive experiences I have as a professional development facilitator in the childcare centres that do not seem to feature in this series in the Herald. What a privilege it is for me to walk into centres where teachers work in a culture of respect that values deeply the intuitive knowledge and ways of living and learning that babies bring with them into this world. To walk into a culture in which teachers experience the joy of teaching, as they begin to understand and make room for this knowledge and innate ability in their practice. One of my personal goals I have is that teachers and children develop rich, loving, trusting relationships that support these very young children to be affirmed in their knowledge of themselves as questioning, discovering learners making sense of this world they have arrived in through no choice of their own.
Maybe at the beginning of a new decade, we could resolve to move onto acknowledging the things we do well and using the principles of Te Whaariki to guide us towards deepening and strengthening our practice. We have in our care a priceless gift, other peoples' children, in whom lies the future of our families, our whanau and our society. In this way we can as early childhood teachers truly make a difference to the world we live in.
On the 13th of February, Lorraine Sands and I will be presenting an ELP Inspiration Day at the Brentwood Hotel in Wellington. I would encourage you to come and explore more deeply what it means to listen closely to children. The focus is on the children under two years of age. If you live in the area between the Hawke's Bay to Nelson take the plunge, treat yourself and come. By the way, Wellington in the summer is a great place to be for the weekend!