Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

A Rose by any Other Name?

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In my role as an educational leader I have spent much of my time over the past couple of years thinking about documentation and planning within the Early Years Learning Framework and supporting my colleagues in their practice. I have always been a strongly reflective practitioner so critiquing my own work has been a somewhat natural process for me. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still challenging, it’s certainly not easy. I am a questioner. I am a challenger of the status quo. So reflection is very much part of my nature as well as my teaching practice. If anything, I over-reflect, and I question and sometimes suffer from self-doubt. Am I right? Are they right? Is it even about being right?

As educational leader I have read various EYLF publications and looked at what is available online to support and guide educators. I can’t help but see superficiality. I have been guilty of this as well. I did the exact same thing. I would cut and paste learning outcomes into my observations and tack them on at the bottom, almost as an afterthought. I did the same with my program reflections. It was part of my learning process. But I don’t do that anymore. I have moved on from there. And I think, more than 3 years down the track, it’s time for us all to be moving on.

I have noticed that many educators are still using their old ways, but with new terms.  The programs are still in boxes which might be labelled Monday to Friday but with Learning Outcomes rather than “Home Corner” or “Block Area” as titles.  Instead of “follow-up” they are doing “extend” or “what’s next”.  Instead of writing an “observation” they are doing a “learning story”.  Instead of “evaluating” they are “reflecting”. Instead of linking to “development” they are linking to the “learning outcomes” and then writing in a theorists’ name to say that they’ve linked to that too. In reality, they are still doing the exact same thing they have always done but with added complexity and confusion, not to mention anxiety.

I’m not laying the blame at your feet, really I am not. You may not have any power over your practice as an educator. You may think you’re doing the right thing and ticking the boxes. Or you are simply doing as you have been instructed by others who have the authority to tell you what to do. Or perhaps you are doing as a consultant has suggested? But why?

I mean really, who gives us guidance? Firstly we have DEEWR with the Early Years Learning Framework and their Educators Guide.  The guide has a section on the framework in action which has given many educators the impression that that was how you had to do it. The samples in the guide are 1) samples of possibilities, not the only possibilities and 2) they were written years ago. I wonder if those educators who were the authors of the samples, are still working the exact same way they did back then, or have they too moved on?   What does their practice look like now?

You also have the state and territory government funded training bodies and the ideas that they are selling through their professional development workshops.  Then you have the booklets and books being published by the so called experts who also put their own spin on it. Then you have the box ticking free online websites that share templates and the online programs or apps that are an automated-cut-and-paste-no-reflection-or-thinking-required-product that make promises of exceeding and compliance. And don’t get me started on the self-proclaimed consultants who remind me of evangelical preachers. Follow me and ye shall be saved!

Then you have all those EYLF branded social networking pages and groups that also make promises simply by branding themselves with EYLF. The hundreds of questions that get posted to the wall, often anonymously, attract thousands of answers from educators. In some ways, these conversations do inspire and provide guidance, but in others they provide a space for people to inflate their own ego as an expert pedagogue. It gives space to bullies who want desperately to be right and better than everyone else. I see so much support in some of these groups, but I also see so much arrogance and animosity. Who made them an expert and why are you believing what they say anyway? Why do you give them the power to blindly inform your practice? In fact, why do we give our power away to everyone else instead of trusting ourselves as knowledgeable and experienced educators?

I think we are glossing over the EYLF and we are not engaging with the theoretical underpinnings. I think we are selling ourselves, our services, and even the children’s being, belonging, and becoming short by not thinking for ourselves. I think that is where many services and educators are falling down.  People are simply changing the terms they use, but not their practices. Some educators are simply reading the titles of the Principles and Practices and sticking them here and there without really engaging with them. What’s the purpose of that? So you can tick a box and say you’ve “done” Cultural Competence on this day? What does that even mean?

Where else do you go for answers? What do you do, when your educational leader and/or your manager says you have to do it this way because this way or that way is being touted as the right way? What do you do when you are told you have to do more on top of what you are already doing? What do you do, when you are confused and your educational leader keeps on making changes in their effort to understand and comply? What do you do when your educational leader has no idea what they are doing and how does this reflect upon you as a capable educator?

This is what I am seeing. I am seeing people being stressed out because they are being asked or instructed to layer more and more compliance complexities on top of their previous practices. I don’t think that this is what we should be doing, and I certainly don’t think that this is what the National Quality Framework is about. I think we really need to be working smarter, not harder, but not by necessarily lining someone else’s pockets or feeding someone else’s professional ego in the process.

Where do we find the truth, our truth, so that we can start smelling the roses again?

© Jeanne de Clisson aka The Lioness of Brittany

Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

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2 comments on “A Rose by any Other Name?

  1. Aunt Annie's Childcare
    September 30, 2013

    Now, this is where the process of ‘blaming the victim’ really comes into its own, isn’t it? There’s this monster eating its own tail- a good educator who becomes a bad educator because they’re so weighed down by trying to prove they’re a good educator.

    And it all comes back to administrative bodies who like to believe that paperwork actually means something, because paperwork is the basis of their employment. When you tick a box, all it means is that you ticked a box. It doesn’t mean you actually DID anything.

    The truth is that filling in the right pieces of paper has never made a poor educator into a good one. It just fills up the day with crap instead of learning experiences, and when I say ‘learning experiences’ I’m talking about the teacher as learner, not the child. Who the fuck decided that all this paperwork was necessary? Because they need to be sacked.

  2. Michelle Richards
    April 22, 2014

    Anything that eats into times of conversations as well as joyful and at times confronting interactions with the children is questionable. The children aren’t checking our paperwork they are meeting our eyes looking for the personal knowing of the connections we have with them.

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