Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
Interest-based planning is an intriguing beast. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how we create educational goals for children based on their interests. I have questioned how we ‘collect’ children’s interests. When I went to TAFE, we were taught to see and to hear children’s interests. If I see you doing something, can I presume it’s an interest of yours? If I hear you talking about something, can I presume it’s an interest of yours? Does our thinking consequently follow this pattern- “I see you playing with Lego. Therefore you are interested in Lego. Therefore this is what I have ‘planned’ for you.” Or do we ask children what they are interested in, what they wish they could do within the service, what they dream about doing within the service?
Then I began thinking about how services restrict or limit children’s interests. Perhaps the thing you are most interested in doesn’t exist at this service. Maybe this service has a policy that restricts you from doing what you are interested in? Maybe you like to play outside when it’s very cold or raining; maybe you like to take your shoes off; maybe you like to get very muddy; maybe you want to explore the world outside of the service; maybe you like to climb trees; maybe you like to play fighting or wrestling; maybe you like superheroes; maybe you like Barbies; maybe the thing you are most interested in is a toy from home, but our policy bans toys from home? I have worked at services that ban all of these things through their policies. What does this mean for interest-based planning? Are the “interests” the ones that I understand as pedagogically valuable and compliant with the policies and management I must work under? I recently heard of a service that bans ‘modern music’. What does that mean for interest-based planning?
I also thought about how educators limit children’s interests… a co-worker once anxiously told me that the children in my group were talking about zombies. ‘Are they allowed to talk about those things?’ she asked me. On what grounds do we exclude interests as not appropriate for our service? Whose interests do we include and whose do we silence? What are the standards and subjectivities we use to assess what we think are appropriate interests for children to have?
I was at a point where I questioned:
Whose interests are desirable and whose are not?
How do I decide what someone else is interested in?
Then I read this:
“Everything you do within your day should have come from the children, of course you extend upon this with your intentional teaching skills but the start must be child directed” (Sustainable Childcare Resources, 2013). Why must it?
The NQS states “1.1.2: Each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program” (ACECQA, 2011, p.10). But this doesn’t mean that everything must be initially child directed, does it? I read into the NQS further- it talks heavily about incorporating and extending children’s interests, but does not confirm that everything must start from children’s interests.
Is this just an offhand comment? I don’t think so. The current common assumption seems to be that everything ‘must come from the children’. Educators are becoming pedagogical slaves to ensuring they document and extend on every interest a child may ever express; in ensuring that these interests can be identified and crafted into a program. The NQS does state the need for “evidence that children’s ideas, interests and points of view are heard and respected in planning for and assessing learning experiences” (ACECQA, 2011, p.40). But this doesn’t mean that every activity or experience or event must originate from children’s interests.
I wonder if blindly following children’s interests negates my own intentions. What is silenced when ideas can only come from children? Giroux states that educators are “ethically and politically accountable for the stories they produce, the claims they make upon public memory, and the images of the future they deem legitimate” (2011, p.76). This responsibility is denied when the onus for creating ideas comes solely from children. I wonder what teaching could look like if we considered it as a political act or considered ourselves as politically accountable? What could that mean?
So I ask you…
How do you collect ideas about children’s interests?
What interests do you allow or not allow?
What is denied or silenced if children are seen as the only legitimate creators of ideas?
How could interest-based planning be reconceptualised to sanction the ideas of each person using the service?
Is teaching a political act?
Postscript: There is a couple of months lag between the time I wrote this and the time I uploaded it. My thoughts about interest-based planning have become more complex during this time. I’ve found myself further questioning this idea- and the understandings and other ideas it is building on. So I leave this piece as …. to be continued….
© Awilda Longstocking, 2013.
Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates.
ACECQA. (2011). Guide to the National Quality Standard. Retrieved from http://www.acecqa.gov.au
Giroux, H. (2011). On critical pedagogy. York Road, London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Sustainable Childcare Resources (2013, July 3). Quality area 1: Educational program and practice. [Facebook update]. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=378690672232863&set=a.238174806284451.39257.234727543295844&type=1&comment_id=865604&ref=notif¬if_t=like&theater