Society must give teachers of young children, especially childcare workers, the chance to transform other sectors. In our communities, we have some of the most extensive training and practical methods of social equity at our disposal, but are often dismissed as ‘babysitters.’
Though, who else simultaneously anticipates a myriad of needs, fosters a developmentally appropriate curriculum and cultivates emotional intelligence—inclusive of dozens of humans—every day?
To exact a child’s potential, educators attend to their dignity. We have decades of academic and statistical evidence, not to mention the example of real-life humans, to substantiate this approach. We know that belittling doesn’t create stronger people, withholding doesn’t incite drive and stress doesn’t cultivate resilience.
Truthfully, our approach isn’t easy, but human life is too valuable to risk taking a shortcut. We support emerging skills through scaffolding and actively investing in the self-esteem of all the children, family members and staff in the room.
We try to perfect the process
Recently, I attended a conference at the University of Toronto known as “Why Anti-Racism Work Still Matters Within Learning Communities and Beyond.” I listened to some of our most prolific minds address racism, equity and systematic oppression, with reference to post-secondary academia.
The conference was exceptional, though something in the panel discussions stood out as odd to an RECE like me: elective self-reflection.
For many in the room, the act of looking so deeply within was a foreign concept, surely to result in inserting bias. Even Ph.D.s in attendance, some of them charged with entire faculties, we’re much more comfortable with data-driven initiatives. What luck! One could avoid the muss of humanity, while addressing humanity.
On that day, a professor spoke about executing an initiative (in this case, a painfully simple initiative) to specifically increase the number of black and Filipino students in the medical program. Lo and behold, it worked. The number went from zero to a handful of black students (though there were still no Filipino students). In many sectors, this would elicit praise and even orders for replication across the organization.
Child educators know this would admit that the system is intentionally outcome-driven, a big no-no in our realm. If a certain outcome drives your system—let’s say, 75 percent of children surviving at any cost, an outcome of 25 percent of children dying would not only be acceptable, but a bona fide success.
We don’t worry about outcomes, we try to perfect the process. We objectively observe our efforts and constantly adjust our approach to best support each child as they exist in that exact moment, with that exact family, in that exact neighbourhood, with that exact government.
We critique ourselves
We critique not the child throwing a fit, but our own actions leading up to the stimulus, during the negative behaviour and throughout the recovery. Every single time, within every single interaction, we consider how we behaved.
Our accountability never ends, and our efforts cannot wane until the next HR workshop. Apologies for the tangent, but there’s no better way to illustrate self-reflection in action than to describe a day in the life of a child educator. We could do a lecture series!
Currently, we see the Ontario government making sweeping, violent budget cuts to Indigenous affairs, public health, education and public libraries, just to name a few things. This is an opportunity for us to put our theory into real-life adult practice. A chance for us to look at our own actions that may have contributed to or facilitated these cuts. An opportunity to consider how we will aid in the recovery of these cuts.
Perhaps no one is looking to the child education sector for guidance, but I’m confident that we would be invaluable, if consulted. Of course, a very real concern always looms when discussing social responsibility. An adult concern, mind you. What if everyone can’t be motivated to do the right thing, without some kind of direct capital gain?
With that, I leave you with some preschool wisdom about fear: “I not scared of the fire drill. Ah! Ah! Ah! *fire alarm impersonation* It’s so loud, but I’m louder.”