Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

Trickle down water torture

I went away for a bit, and when I got back the world had gone mad.

It seems like not a week goes past now without someone asking ‘what does your school readiness program look like’ or ‘which literacy program are you using’ or ‘how are you teaching phonics’.

It is driving me demented.

How is it that we have spent 10 years improving quality, raising qualifications, and upskilling staff in order to have no idea any more what preschool teaching consists of?

My dear colleagues

  • The EYLF is a school readiness curriculum
  • It is delivered through play
  • It should provide an environment rich in the components that prepare children for success in learning to read WHEN THEY START SCHOOL

There is no need for a separate school readiness curriculum. The EYLF is already about preparing children for school. Those outcomes you are so fond of linking to are about – yes indeed – developing the skills children will need for school. School readiness is not some thing apart that we hitherto ignored. The people who developed the EYLF actually did understand that children would move on to school from these preschool settings. It is not something that was only discovered in 2016.

You have to understand that preschool education is a thing.

It is its own thing.

Some people seem to think the idea is to let children spend most of their time ‘just playing’ and then give them small doses of school cause, poor things they are only little and they can only do it a bit at a time.

They are not getting it.

Children learn THROUGH play.

That playing they are doing all day IS learning. They are not interspersing small moments of learning with long periods of rest. They are learning ALL the time.

Our task is not to interrupt their play with small doses of literacy. It is to find ways to subtly drop literacy into the play, so that literacy becomes one of the playthings. It is to acknowledge that a lot of what they are doing is in fact preparing them for literacy, even if it currently looks nothing like it to the untutored eye.

But you know this. You have been told a million times. It is in every course from Cert III to Masters. It is written into the EYLF. It is emphasised in PD time and time again. And still people are not getting it. In fact, they are getting it less and less the further we get into this NQF project.

I despair.

A while ago, teachers in this profession used to talk about ‘pre-literacy’.   Then it seems some philosophers got hold of the debate and pointed out that really there is a seamless progression and the early stuff is genuinely part of literacy too. The oral language those toddlers are working on is literacy too.

Well, fine. I get that. I can do pure conceptual thinking, when it suits me.

But, philosophers, I have to tell you, there is a real world out there, and it seems like that argument has gone well over their heads. And the upshot is that they think they should be doing literacy in the form of small doses of letter of the day, and which cursive font and phucking phonics.

You have confused them.

And maybe it would not matter. But there are children involved. And so it is not ethical not to challenge this trickle down water torture.

So I have to tell you to STOP.

Stop with the school readiness programs.

Stop trying to look like what you imagine a primary teacher might look like on an indulgent day.

You are an early childhood teacher. This is an honourable profession, with its own knowledge base and its own traditions. It is not primary lite. But you can make it that way if you are sloppy enough.

The teachers who teach children how to read and write work in primary schools. They have their own traditions. They too know what they are doing. In their own settings. But they don’t know what we know. So when you reach out to get to know your local primary school better, don’t think they should be telling you how to teach, and don’t think it means you should be trying to pick up tips about how to do what they do in small doses. It does not work like that.

Your job is to provide for learning through play.

Your contribution to literacy should mostly consist of:

  • oral language
  • reading picture books
  • drawing

and fostering all those dispositions for learning.

That much is like driving an automatic car. There can be more. But if you want to get your manual licence, first you need to improve your knowledge base. So don’t go beyond that until you can explain, with confidence, why phonics does not belong in preschool.

As for me, I think I will go back to talking about pre-literacy skills.

Yours in a huff

Grainne

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This entry was posted on July 28, 2017 by in Uncategorized.

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