We are not alone

In her report, Re-imagining Childhood: The inspiration of Reggio Emilia education principles in South Australia , Prof Carla Rinaldi challenged:

“What is our image of a child?

What is the relationship between childhood and society?

What is the role of school in society?

What does it mean to be an educating community?

Why do we separate education and care?

Is it possible for early childhood services to be places where the educational quality and the rights of children are given priority rather than the needs of parents to work?

These are big questions that challenge our common perceptions of children and invite us to open dialogue about the culture of childhood.”  

The South Australian Collaborative Childhood Project

When I read this for the first time I cheered! [Note: This is behaviour is not warmly received on a QANTAS flight.]

On the second and subsequent reads I began to wonder if the discussion of ‘education’, while valuable, hasn’t limited our thinking and kept us away from having a deeper understanding of the other professions that have a close impact on a child’s life?

I wondered if Prof Rinaldi’s question (echoed by others) ‘Why do we separate education and care?’ could be the key to starting some thinking about what a new early childhood approach might look like, and if it is in the phrase ‘education and care’ that we might start?

What, I ask you, would be the change in your thinking if I told you that we were changing the phrase ‘education and care’ as Professor Rinaldi is referring to it, to for example, ‘guidance and wellbeing’? Would something like this place the emphasis back on the child and de-emphasize the structural impact of divided ‘education and care’ systems? If we did that, would we be able to more closely integrate the health and education professions into our work, and create an expectation that we would all work together for the child?

What skills and knowledge would we need to act as a professional guide for the child in such a system? Hold that thought!

At conferences, round tables, webinars and Zoom meetings, the gatherings of other professions talking about early childhood rarely have a practicing early childhood Educator as the headline speaker.

At a gathering earlier this year, I remarked to an organiser that it was wonderful to be at a meeting with so many other professions and to hear from their multiple perspectives. I was, at the time consulting to an early childhood service who were taking their first steps toward an equal partnership with occupational therapy, physiotherapy, child and family psychology and speech pathology. The meeting topic was case communication and management and how can we all talk together. I had stretched the budget to almost breaking point to travel to the event and was keen to learn. I asked when the Early Childhood Educator would be speaking. The organiser smiled at the remark and said ‘What would they have to say to us?’

I would have responded but could not. How could I respond in a busy meeting hall that the division between early childhood education and care and the school system was a structural problem that broke the idea of early childhood into pieces without regard for the individual child who should flow seamlessly through the system – but that while this division was capturing attention, it could not be said to be resolved until all of the professions working for the child communicated and planned together – for the benefit of that child.

Weeks later I wrote to the organiser and responded ‘I don’t know, I don’t even know if they would understand the early childhood experience in a Centre, but we have to try and we have to be given opportunities to discuss what we do and can do’. I finished by saying that one of the units of study in the Diploma for Early Childhood Education and Care required the student develop their professional knowledge to work in partnership with families, communities, and other services and agencies.

The problem is, we can’t grow those skills and that knowledge, until we have opportunities to do so…

” I worked with these other professions in regards to children in my class on a limited capacity. I believe we should have more visits, time for consultation with Educators and more correspondence between the two services. … I would say Educators need to stand their ground and request those professionals if needed, they’re often keen to do so. It’s sadly our Centres that wont give the time or support needed to work with other professions”

Educator 2020

Re-read the quote above again.

Did you see it?

She said ‘these other professions’, in other words she sees herself as a professional and requires the structural resources to support this area of her professional practice. In the discussions on professionalisation of the sector, there is an argument to be made that Educators are there – that it is external parties that need to catch up.

Going back to the question posed earlier – ‘What skills and knowledge would we need to act as a professional guide for the child in such a system?’ She already has the skills and knowledge – but is being artificially held back by a limited view of Educator professional practice, and by limited support, and so doesn’t get the chance to grow and be recognised in this area.

I have recommended that the next event consider the stream – ‘Working together – The collaborative requirements of professionals working with children’.

Next week in discussing the professionalisation of the Education and Care sector: Mapping one role across 3 professions – The professional role of the Educational Leader in Early Childhood settings – what we learn when we view the role in comparison with other profession’s leaders.

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