Progress on talking with Educators on their thinking about their own professional identity

The Centre based Educator meetings and discussions on professional identity continue.

Following on from the discussions in previous posts in this blog, I have been raising the idea of professional identity with some of the groups that I have been visiting over the last 3 months.

The visits have been either in person or online via Zoom. Each has been warm and in the style of a guided but free flowing meeting in a rewarded* discussion format.

At the start, it must be said that none of the groups have declared any issue with the idea of the need to consider and grow their professional identity – their issue is, as one Educator put it (and her team followed up with enthusiastic applause) was:

“I think we are going there, and I think we are coming close to finding out where ‘there’ is, the problem is no one will let us get there. It serves their purpose to keep us cheap”.

Educator, Diploma qualification, studying a degree in Education 2021 Perth

I was intrigued by her statement, and her focusing in on I think we are coming close to finding out where there is …’ In response I spent some time discussing what ‘professionalisation’ means, discussing that identity can be considered as separate to context, as it is a personal gathering of the elements of the identity, and that this gathering is not prevented by context although it is certainly impacted by context [and can be better supported by context].

At the beginning of this non-formal series, the definition of a profession (see earlier blog posts) was a commonly discussed question, now it is the context of the role of a professional Educator that is debated with a particular emphasis on real or perceived roadblocks. [The comment above comes from that part of the discussion].

Each time I encounter that question or similar, I am careful to remind the Educators present of the progress made since the implementation of the National Quality Framework – as was discussed in earlier blogs it is more useful to have Educators understand that they are on trajectory starting with the implementation of the learning frameworks and the National Quality Framework, because the alternative vision they hold is of being isolated/alone or having been abandoned. Those feelings are understandable, when you are at the centre of a cyclone it is difficult to see what is happening beyond the edge of the storm.

“I don’t know that anyone cares but us, and I find that knowledge exhausting. More than anything else, it is that feeling that makes me wonder if it is worth staying.”

Educator, part way through a Diploma, 2020 Perth

There is much happening in the evolution of the profession, the trajectory is real, but who is discussing that trajectory with Educators? Who is painting a picture with Educators and their managers? How much of this is getting into the conversations in rooms and services with Educators? Would conversations about the work underway go some way to alleviate the feelings of being abandoned that these Educators were describing? I put this to a manager after she expressed concern at what we were hearing at one Educator’s meeting.

Centre manager: I don’t know why they say they feel like this, I attend all of the sector meetings and keep up.

Me: How much of what you hear is discussed with the Educators who work in room?

Centre manager: Well, none. It’s a bit high level for them.

Me: If you discussed what you are hearing with your Educators, would it go some way toward supporting their understanding that their issues are being taken seriously? They may grow in their understanding of what work uis underway and be able to support you with feedback to take to your meetings.

Centre manager: But it is my role to do this, they should be focusing on the children.

Conversation with a Centre manager

Post a meeting with Educators, 2021 Perth

I have been re-reading Jen Jackson’s paper ‘Every Educator matters: Evidence for a new early childhood workforce strategy for Australia. [Mitchell Institute, Victoria University 2020]

This thinking paper [ noun: the process of considering or reasoning about something] Dr. Jackson notes ‘Educators’ wellbeing is undermined when they do not feel a sense of autonomy in their work’.

The paper goes on to consider what may give this professional autonomy a living presence in the very real, everyday lives of Educators. This thinking is framing my responses to Educators when they talk and ask about how they can get ‘there’ on their journey to professional identity.

The next step

The professional identity meetings will continue, both online and face to face over the next 3 months.

Our challenge is to develop the new language of communicating about profession identity with Educators who will leave the meeting and go back onto the floor and continue to reflect on and implement the steps needed on their own professional identity journey.

Why? Because I think Dr. Jackson is right about Educator autonomy – and I think the answer to that is to help them learn the new language of professional identity, including learning what ‘autonomy’ could truly mean, and because after all, it is their profession.

Update

More on this in April, May and June 2021.

References and reading

*’rewarded discussion’ is where active steps are taken to positively restate and deconstruct each idea so that the Educators hear their own or peer ideas heard being given serious consideration

**I should note here that the meeting structure/agenda looks something like this:

  • 2021 The Year of Early and Middle Childhood (summary)
  • The early childhood profession [includes a question – what is a profession]
  • You and your role in that profession
  • Understanding your job description
  • Professional and regulatory requirements
  • The Standards and Code of Ethics
  • The year of review – the EYLF, the Review of the NQF, Workforce planning

Jackson, J. (2020) Every Educator matters: Evidence for a new early childhood workforce strategy for Australia. Mitchell Institute, Victoria University https://www.vu.edu.au/mitchell-institute/early-childhood-education/every-early-childhood-educator-matters

#profession #professional identity #Educator professional identity #professional autonomy