Laura Brothwell, North Lincolnshire
Early Years International Association
11 . 01 . 2021
Sitting where I sat as a child / my homeland / September 2019
Firstly it is important to establish the definition of Early Years Teachers for the purpose of this article; noun (superhero) a benevolence in the form of professional, parent, grandparent, student, volunteer, an animal.. any lifeform interacting with the younger generation - no age limits not qualification achievement defined not restricted to just human form.
It was this single moment of discovery today, I stopped to reflect.
I had asked my children do you want to do some 'homeschooling?' My eldest child was ready, ready to learn and be inspired, however as she sat surrounded by infinite papers looking completely overwhelmed. Typical working mum, I said why not brainstorm, and see what you come up with I have an important quick business meeting, I'm really sorry I’ll be back soon. When I returned the outcome was truly more beautiful and awakening than I had ever imagined. Now your probably thinking, Laura why are we talking about a child aged 10? We are here to read about the early years...
1. Have you been awakened to the impact of high quality 'early years' teachers?
2. Why is childhood limited and constricted to the 'early years'?
I am a Mountain - Harlow Ayla Whattam - Age 10
~ REALISATION HIDDEN BY IMPATIENCE & IGNORANCE ~
For most of my career I have been an early years teacher, saying a reluctant farewell to my cohorts between the ages of 3 and 5years. I have also been blessed by five wonderful children, but it hasn't been until now as they are growing beyond the 'early years' I am beginning to see the profound impact of the magical gifts granted to them at the start of their journey. This hand written poem, devised from the inner depths of creative freedom, held so much more incite than just the beautiful poetry scribed into the paper.
We, early years teachers do not do our jobs for instant gratification, we do not feel accomplishment from tick lists, progress tracking and ELG grading. If anything we are specifically trained to initially bypass achievement focusing foremost on the dips and gaps in such 'monitoring', working tirelessly to try enhance experiences and opportunities to help all our children thrive. We do our best, driven by passion and dedication, not by sparkling pay checks and work-based privileges.
Our strengths and main purpose can be disregarded by others through impatience and ignorance. For some, effective results can only be measured in the present time. I say different - we provide the core solid foundations, such foundations that will stabilise children throughout their relentless journey into an unappredictable, ever changing adult focused world. Our efforts are seen throughout the continual journey of each child's individual growth no just within the first 3 or 5 years.
And what surprises me even more, for the masses of early years teachers, we don't even acknowledge our own profound power. Humbled and absorbed within the present day, we just do 'our job'. Well I'm here to enlighten each and every one of you, you are worthy, you are awesome you are all superhero's, believe it, be proud of it, don't ever feel inadequate on this journey.
Such power teachers hold, I believe, comes in the united form of passion, connection and drive. Something truly beautiful, modelling wonderful characteristics to those we are destined to teach.
Passion : 1. a strong feeling or emotion, 2. an object of someone's love, 3. a strong liking or desire, 4. love
Connection : 1. the act of connecting, the state of being connected, 2. a means of communication or transport, 3. a person connected with another or a person connected with an object, 4. a political, social, professional or commercial relationship, 5. a set of persons associated together
Drive : 1. an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need
I do not dispute my teaching journey still is mapped out by a very long road ahead. As my children continue to grow and explore their own paths, I feel nothing but gratitude in my heart for all the teachers that have nurtured and inspired not only their souls but my soul too.
However, I cannot help but be filled with a niggling realisation. As these worksheets and papers surround me what will their world of childhood be like, back sat behind a desk? I suddenly feel the pressures this part of the journey holds, could this be why children escape into virtual reality, needing an escape from the wrong experience of human connection? Away from the many expectations and a misunderstood deliverance of authoritarianism, escaping to delve deep into a world away from their own reality? Are they reaching for their devices to connect - connect with friends and peers because they have been unable to connect within school, in fear to comply to a conversation required and focused solely around their teachers 'desired outcome'?
For some, they will argue how children have access to ‘play time’, the mere fact such time is named play time - is baffling to me. Children use this time to be allowed to move freely - whilst this is part of play to some degree - this time is spent fulfilling a physical need, a release after the 3 hours of restriction. Ask yourself this, if play time is truly for play and learning why are many of the schools today leading their play time with undervalued ”dinner time staff”, who try their hardest to fulfill their role, with all ratios disregarded, and furthermore when the child re-enters the classroom any experience within the playground is pushed to the side for “lessons” to continue?
I return to my own experiences and restrictions upon my own creativity, and 'out of the box' thinking, how I chose to stay quiet for fear of belittlement, humiliation or disregard from my teachers for not achieving the desired outcome. It was holding hands with these “dinner time staff” strolling around the playground I felt the most connection??? Whilst I will not deny how the traits and teaching methodology outside of the 'early years' can be productive for many, but undoubtedly the many doesn't include all. Is this really as inclusive as we can be in such modern times? What would be the outcome if all children were free to express themselves productively, without fear of judgment or restriction? What exceeding limits could they reach? What would an education alongside childhood liberation look like for the world outside of 'early years'?
Pretty extraordinary, I believe, the beautiful foundations are already being set in place, why are we not enhancing these beautiful roots, our 'early years' have provided?
~ CHILDHOOD IS NEVER ENDING ~
The awakening to the importance of 'early years' is becoming substantially more recognised in modern times; not only by a world wide community passionate within such area, spending their lives dedicated to such movement, but also, within legislation, science and research.
However, since connecting with these enlightening stars across the global childhood sector and beside my own personal parenting journey, there's more questions, curiosities, and a strong inner intuition to truly seek out the chronological journey of childhood. For many years the early years sector has been overlooked by KS1, 2 and 3 as 'daycare'. Many of the 'early years' teachers I have been blessed to come across, have voiced how they commonly feel deflated and undermined not only within their professional organisation but from the perceptions of the wider community too. My response to those with such narrowminded view, too right we embrace and provide care - not day care though - Edu-care. 'Edu-care' is part of the liberatory pedagogue developed by the McMillan sisters introduced just after WW2, merging quality education and nurture, accessible to all; putting key emphasis on how children would achieve their full potential through first-hand experiences and active learning.
Of course if you follow my journey I continually advocate for balance, I am in no way ignorant to all stipulations and regulations imposed on many, and for most, many are rightly done so. But nevertheless balance is something we all can achieve within our teaching journeys, if you are open to the infinite possibilities and embrace your own inner sense of childhood.
Along with care, our teachers bring something equally extraordinary, an opening to truly experience childhood,with the freedom and creativity to merge play and imagination with 'knowledge'. Finding balance between childhood and curriculum. Greg Bottrill a dear friend of mine enlightened me one day; 'we have established maths coordinators, we have established literacy coordinators - where are all the childhood coordinators?'. Yes, whilst most of the early years values each and every teacher a childcare coordinator, who advocates for childhood post 'early years?'.
Perhaps, just as Loris Mallaguzi all those years ago, formulated his school with the valued help and input of his community within Reggio Emilia, or perhaps how the McMillian sisters all those years ago, stood for change after the tragic effects of the Second World War fighting for childhood; we could open our minds to a new opportunity, inclusive to all, utilising and liberating the diverse range of 'superheros' we already are gifted with all over the world?
Yes, for many we still continue to battle with the overwhelming struggles of this pandemic. We have spent almost a year coping with the unprecedented trauma and uncertainty, how about now we create a new focus, coming together focusing on positivity and unearthing potential? As my daughters poem recalls "Was today the day? Maybe?". Why not
- Acknowledge and celebrate those who are the ’early years’ teachers within a child's life,
- Liberate one and other sharing experiences and joy,
- Break the barriers of privatised nurseries vs privatised nurseries vs pre-school vs reception vs KS1 vs KS2, and so forth and so forth,
- Provide inter-sector support with genuine admiration and gratitude, learning from one and other,
- Open an avenue of balance through innovative teaching,
It is time to discover pathways together, within a truly remarkable community that nurtures childhood through and beyond the ‘early years’.
Childhood still lives within me, and I know if you look hard enough you will find it within yourself too.
p.s change the word of “superhero” or “teacher“ to MOUNTAIN and re-read the poem 🤷🏼♀️🧐✨🗝
Just a thought...
| ADVOCATING FOR CHILDHOOD |