Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

Metonymy and the EYLF Program


The rich traditions of rhetoric provide us with many obscure words. Metonymy* is one of them. It means ‘the container for the thing contained’.

As I tour the seven seas of the internet, I keep finding people asking ‘can I see how you do your program?’ From the conversations that follow, this question is obviously taken to mean ‘how do you present a written plan for your program?’.

I confess I find myself perturbed by the frequent question about how to do this piece of documentation. Not because it is not a question worth asking. It is difficult to work out how to capture all the complexity of a busy early childhood classroom on one piece of paper. It is especially hard if we are being asked to plan well into the future, when we all know that herding cats is far more predictable than the twists and turns of a good day’s play.

The thing that bothers me is that there is not a raging and far bigger conversation going on about how to actually plan the program. Why are we more interested in talking about how to write down what we plan, rather than how to plan what we will do, or how to implement the plan? Why are we not talking more about what is actually worth doing?

Why does the question ‘how do you do your program’ mean ‘what boxes do you put on a piece of paper’. Shouldn’t it first mean ‘what do you actually plan for the children you teach’ and ‘what did you do’ and ‘how did it pan out in the end’ and (most importantly) ‘what learning did you see and how did it appear related to what you had provided’.

Shouldn’t it be about how we teach? About what we teach? About how we think children learn?

When I see the question ‘how do you do your program’ I want it to be a face-value question, not a metonymy. I want the question to be about the program, not the paper representation of the program.

I am also very bothered by the proliferation of templates and questions about templates. I fear that people see templates as not just one way a page can be divided into boxes, but as something quasi magical that will tell them what to teach and how to teach it.

A template cannot actually tell us how to categorise the activities we decide to provide. An educator has to do the analysis. Each program is unique and particular to that time and place and those participants. The layout of the page cannot tell us how we should be running this class this week.

A good bit of graphic design cannot solve pedagogical problems.

I wish people would stop using the word ‘program’ to refer to the way they publish their plans. I need another word; one that makes it clear we are discussing a stationery issue. Then perhaps we will will start to feel slightly embarrassed about how much more effort we seem to devote to discussing our stationery design than we do to discussing our teaching.

*Pedants may like to argue that it is a synecdoche. Be my guest.

© Grainne O’Malley 2014

Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates. Refuse, Resist, Rebuild.


2 comments on “Metonymy and the EYLF Program

  1. Aunt Annie's Childcare
    January 20, 2014

    Being of a rebellious bent, I worked out a system whereby my program was written on a whiteboard according to what we actually DID, after we did it, and with little bubble offshoots that I improvised as they occurred to me. At the end of the week- photograph the whiteboard and clean it ready for the next week, then add reminders of the little bubbles. That seemed to me the only authentic way to document play-based learning. No template ever worked nearly as well.

  2. JJ
    January 23, 2014

    Great read! Programming needs to be flexible and done by the individual in the best way for them. This is the only way the kids will truly benefit form the EYLF. Argh me hearties 🙂

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This entry was posted on January 20, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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