Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
I am an early childhood educator. I write reflections about what I am teaching the children, what they learning, what ideas we are working on together and the like. I link these things to the EYLF, to my personal-professional-political opinions and to research. These are accessible for families to read.
I am an educator who is passionate about teaching for equity and this means many discussions, activities, books and learning about gender, sexual, racial, linguistic and cultural diversity. Sharing my writings about my teaching puts me in a vulnerable situation.
I welcome the families to give feedback on these ideas. The reactions range from ‘I think you should do more work on breaking down gender stereotypes’ to ‘this work on gender is so unacceptable, I’m removing my child from the service’. The reactions range from ‘I really appreciate you teaching my child about gay and lesbian families because I didn’t know how to explain it to them’ to getting formal complaints about reading the book ‘King and King’. The reactions range from ‘my child knows so much about Aboriginal culture now and that’s amazing’ to ‘I want you to stop doing Aboriginal stuff now’.
Although this input is complicated, I still welcome it. It’s complicated because I am very happy and excited to pursue the ideas and suggestions of parents when they fit with my own personal-professional-political beliefs. And it’s complicated because I am frustrated when I feel like my teaching is being censored to the most conservative denominator. And so, who gets listened to?
A family left the service because they were unhappy with what I was teaching. My work on equity and diversity is very intentional and is informed by 14 years of experience working in early childhood education and care, the 4 early childhood education and care qualifications I have obtained, the Early Years Learning Framework, in-depth observations of the group of children I teach and care for, discussions with my co-workers and relevant research. I haven’t just thought ‘oh yeah, that will do, whatever’. It’s thought out, considered and purposeful. It makes me, and my commitments to teaching for equity and diversity, vulnerable when this is subject to the many and varied beliefs of the families.
The families hold a powerful playing piece in this. If they don’t like something, they can withdraw their child and withdraw their money. Early childhood education and care becomes a neoliberal game in which parents are clients who pay for what they want the teacher to do. And if the teacher will not and cannot do this then the financial relationship is thwarted. There are risks when formal complaints are made to management, who will management support- the educator or the paying consumer?
And so, which way to turn?
a/ not share reflections with families and be secretive in withholding the information about what we are doing and why?
b/ write different reflections that are ‘family friendly’, although I think this treats families like a homogenous group of morons who run far away from big words and deep thinking and I know this certainly is not true?
c/ conform to the most conservative denominator and surrender all hope of ever changing popular opinions about young children and diversity?
d/ rage-quit my job, find another job and find myself in the same predicament a few months later?
I believe that early childhood education and care can contribute to new social norms about gender, race and sexuality. I believe that this job is about educating children and often educating families as well. I believe that by sharing open, honestly and intellectually written reflections, I can provide the space for conversations around equity and diversity to emerge. If I write ‘family friendly’ reflections, then I lose this space and I retreat to maintaining the popular myth that early childhood education and care cannot possibly ever consider equity and diversity as relevant or important. And in this, I need to consider my own self-care as I find myself in vulnerable and fraught situations.
So, which way to turn?
© Ching Shih (Guest Pirate) 2015
Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates
Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.