Recently I was asked to speak to a group of people, not within the ECE sector, about why I choose early childhood, what my job entails and where my passions lie. This was not going to be hard - especially because the requirement was that I spoke about my passion. Obviously they had time to spare, this could end up being a very long night especially as passion involves emotion and when it comes to early childhood education there is an abundance of that, sometimes very obvious and other times bubbling just below the calm exterior within myself and people I met through my job.
I had just finished reading Celia Lashlie’s book The Power of Mothers which had the profound effect of once again stirring up all the passion that drew me into early childhood. You see coming from a social worker background where I felt like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff I really wanted to make a difference in the lives of young children. Not just picking up the broken and bruised pieces. I saw education as the fence at the top of the cliff a vehicle into the lives of people, a place where I knew that I could make a difference. Celia Lashlie’s book reminded me of this. Her book, written with absolute passion, provides an insight into many aspects of the criminal justice system, CYF’S and in particular women’s prisons. Part way through Celia talks about a ministry report and writes, “...... including the recognition that it is when children are young that we can have the greatest effect in terms of increasing the chances that they won’t end up in prison (or dead) as the result of an addiction or because they can’t find their place in the world. This is the stuff that everyone working with at-risk families knows - the stuff that teachers who watch the next generation of children from ‘that’ family come into their classroom at the start of a new year know deep in their bones.” It is so true ‘it is when children are young that we can have the greatest effect.” I do not believe that this is just the case for ‘that’ family but for all our tamariki across New Zealand. For me Celia could have been writing a mission statement for early childhood as later she talks about a young man “who was attracted in the Mongrel Mob in his early teens because this gave him a sense of family - his first real sense of belonging”. Sounds very familiar doesn’t it? Belonging one of the strands of our curriculum, this gives a new sense of the word’s importance and just why it is there so boldly within our curriculum.
So back to my night with those that really need to hear why I am so passionate about early childhood. I started with talking about my experiences in social work, next quoted Celia Lashlie and finally remind everyone present of the increasing number of suicides within New Zealand. In my own life I have personally known 5 people who have committed suicide - 4 of these young men, two of these have children. To me and I am sure to everyone else this is an enormous waste.
So for this reason I am passionately involved in early childhood. I want to make sure, to the best of my ability, that early childhood settings are places that see their opportunity to create a sense of belonging, that grow children’s idea of themselves as being valued contributing members of society, that take the opportunity to allow children to express their thoughts and feelings and finally where the well-being of the child is the driving factor behind teachers practice. Celia Lashlie’s book as I have said, once again stirred up that passion that first drew me to early childhood. It also reminded me of the huge responsibility we have as early childhood teachers - what a privilege, a joy and a challenge to the an early childhood teachers in the 21st century. We have the opportunity to make a enormous difference in the lives of our tamariki.
After passionately speaking from the heart to my group of unsuspecting people, who I am sure were unaware of the consequences of giving me free license to talk about my passion - I wondered how many of them will return home to consider taking up this rewarding and world changing career in early childhood. As most of them were in the near to the retiring age bracket this may not be possible. But who knows because when you allow passion and conviction to drive you you may find that the future paths may vary from where you thought you were going.