Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
I was working in a centre one morning and happened to observe an interaction between an educator and a preschool-aged child. He is about 5 years old and heading off to ‘big school’ next year. This particular morning, the child had just shared with his regular educator something important that had happened. He had seen a bee in the garden. He was telling her how he had touched the flowers and watched the bee. I could see the shine in his eyes and the excited crinkles in their corners.
The educators however responded to him with “You need to be very careful. You should never touch bees. If you see a bee you should move away from it. Bees can be dangerous and they can hurt you. You shouldn’t have touched the flowers. Next time you should walk away and leave the bee alone.” It continued along these lines for what felt like a very long time.
The educator at a later point talked to me about her “intentional teaching” and how she felt it was important to teach the children about the world and to tell the child to leave bees alone. I asked her if the child had an allergy to bees and she said no.
I have worked with this educator before and I find her quite challenging to work with. I think that she is very closed minded and I often see her exercising intellectual power over children under the guise of intentional teaching.
What I saw was a lost opportunity. I saw so much teaching and learning potential not harnessed.
I felt so sorry for the child. He had just shared an important discovery – a treasure – with his educator and she berated him for it. She lectured him in the dangers and harms that this creature could cause. Yes, I know that bees can sting. Yes, I know that some people and children have allergies to them. I’ve worked with such children and yes, nature, gardens and flowers can pose a risk. The National Quality Standards encourages us to take risks. Should a child have an allergy to a bee sting, they should certainly be encouraged to manage this risk and make wise informed choices. The Early Years Learning Framework encourages us to form strong connections with nature and with our world and environment. Children need to learn about the world around them and feel connected to it, and they need to learn to manage risk themselves.
How can we do this when nature is off limits?
My heart broke for that child in that moment. I observed his body language. I looked at his face. He looked sad and rejected, the light left his eyes and the smile left his face. His shoulders went lower and lower and lower the longer she talked at him. She certainly wasn’t talking to him or engaging in a conversation about bees. She was lecturing in a position of belittling. She stood over the child in a definite position of power. Telling him what he had done was wrong. I can still hear her weeks later in my head. What can he still hear in his own head? What is he still feeling? Does he look at bees the same way? Does he still revere a natural life or does he view it as a possible threat? I was merely a bystander, a witness, an observer. He was the receiver of the message. Who is he now, because of how she chose to speak to him?
And what of the missed opportunities? I love bees. If there were no bees, there would be no flowers, no plants, not fruit, no vegetables, indeed there would be no food. There would be no food for the animals, nor would there be food for the animals that some people choose to eat. Our world would fall apart and slowly unravel if it were not for the humble little bumble of the bee.
Where do bees come from? Where do bees go? What do you think bees are going to do with the pollen? I wonder what the bee is thinking? Do you think the bee is watching us as we are watching her? What flower would you like if you were a bee? Would you like to see if we can find some ideas about bees on the computer? How about we draw the bee and our garden? We could go and get some paper and a clipboard and pencils and draw our bees? I will be gentle with the bee because I know they have stingers and I don’t want to get hurt …
I would have loved to talk to the child about the bee. I would have marvelled with him over the engineering genius of nature in designing such an invaluable creature. I would have gone with my little friend to the garden, settled myself at its edge with him and pondered the flowers and the bees and whatever else should flutter, fly or crawl our way. I would have encouraged him to take photos, draw, paint, collage and construct what we saw. We could have written stories about bees and gardens. We could have done so much.
That would have been my intentional teaching path. The other educator’s ‘intentional teaching’ was that of judgement and lecture.
My heart broke that day. Why didn’t I intervene and support the educator in understanding intentional teaching a bit better? Well, I have previously offered support and guidance and my efforts were met with aggression and resentment, both to my face and behind my back. She knows what intentional teaching is and that is telling the children about the world and what the children should know. What can you do, when you are only there for a short time and the person is convinced that they are right and you are wrong?
At the end of the day, what harm was done?
Jeanne de Clisson
© Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates 2014