Curriculum as Connection Through the Acts of Pedagogical Listening

By Rachel Phillips

This post was originally published on Rachel’s student blog in February 2020.

From the moment I leave my front door, I can hear the sound of the water rushing down, the sound is encompassing, and immediately connects me to its natural surroundings. I cannot recall the last time I was out for a walk on my own. Carving time out to allow for this escape into the woods, just beyond my yard, required my full intent. It’s myself, my dog Katie, and my thoughts on values I embody as an Early Childhood Educator: respect, relationship, connection, curiosity. 

My thoughts are inspired by the pedagogy of listening described by Carlina Rinaldi and foundational to the vision of the Early Learning Framework [ELF] (Government of BC, 2019): “Listening as sensitivity to the patterns that connect, to that which connects us to others; abandoning ourselves to the conviction that our understanding and our own being are but small parts of a broader, integrated knowledge that holds the universe together” (p. 48.). While I’m walking, searching for inspiration, and listening to the many streams, rivers, and sounds of rushing water, I realize that respect, relationship, connection, and curiosity are values that we share as educators that can only be achieved through the act of listening, our abilities to form relationships depend on it. 

The curriculum scholar and author Ted Aoki (2011) has influenced many educators in reconceptualizing curriculum. In Curriculum in a New Key he writes about what listening means for a teacher, suggesting her responsibility to the children: 

“But she knows deeply from her caring for Tom, Andrew, Margaret, Sara and others that they are counting on her as their teacher, that they trust her to do what she must do as their teacher to lead them out into new possibilities, that is, to educate them. She knows that whenever and wherever she can, between her markings and the lesson plannings, she must listen and be attuned to the care that calls from the very living with her own Grade 5 pupils.” (Aoki, 2004/2011, p. 161.)

Early Childhood must have educators who are listening. Children’s trust in us is cultivated through how well we listen. Listening to the child’s hundred languages forms strong connections, and opens new possibilities for learning. When children feel heard, valued, and supported they can connect to their learning through these relationships and meaningful work. Educators need to notice more about the child than what appears obvious, and what might be shared in verbal language. In a culture of research, educators can listen to the hundred languages of children, and (un)intentionally enact what they value by being compassionate and inviting a sense of wonder. 

“Educators are not imposing their ideas on the children, but truly recognizing the children and their efforts. In a way, it is like viewing a child through new eyes. It is challenging to really listen and get to know a child anew and to resist previous ideas of who that child is. Through carefully and intentionally noticing children and what they do, educators have an opportunity to wonder at what they are seeing and hearing.”
(BC Early Learning Framework, 2019, p. 57)


Aoki, T. T. (2004, 2011). Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki (W. F. Pinar & R. L. Irwin, Eds.). Lawrence Erlbaum, Routledge.                         

Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework (2nd ed.). Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group.

Becoming Co-teachers

By Antje Bitterberg and Summer Lin

In the Spring of 2020, soon after the announcement that most courses in post-secondary institutions would be moved online because of the pandemic, we had the opportunity of co-teaching a group of ECEC students from VIU’s Cowichan, Powell River, and Nanaimo campuses. With students from several communities, and the sudden shift from face-to-face classes to online classes, we wanted to focus on creating an online community for thinking and learning together. How might we cultivate collaborative, generative, and collegial modes of being teachers? 

We welcomed the invitation to think together and found much joy in the process of becoming co-teachers. We oriented ourselves toward this process of creating a space for co-teaching. On a day-to-day basis we committed to teaching together. As colleagues, we actively resisted the lure of efficiency. We did not divide the work among ourselves evenly allowing us to get things done. Instead we made time to slow down and to begin our days with dialogue. As roommates on zoom we lived and breathed the course together. 

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In our daily conversations within the context of our course and beyond, we became curious about the power of language. We wondered, ‘How might language shape what is possible/ measurable/ observable/  visible/ valued in early childhood spaces?’ To think about/with language, we introduced the concept of binary (paired) oppositions, where “[e]ach word…relies for its meaning on the other. We need the word fat to define slim. The same is so for straight and gay, black and white, etc. A pair always has two” (MacNaughton, 2005, p. 62). We have included more pairs below, some are borrowed from Glenda MacNaughton, others we brainstormed with the students. 

  • complete/ incomplete
  • predictable/ unpredictable
  • normal/ abnormal
  • boy/ girl
  • developed/ underdeveloped
  • rich/ poor
  • efficient/ inefficient

It is important to note that these “pairs are always ranked, so one part of the pair always has higher value in the ranking and is privileged over the ‘other’. So, using binary oppositions places some meanings in a secondary, subordinate position and often an aberrant position” (Mac Naughton, 2005, p. 63). Mac Naughton (2005, p. 118) offers the following questions: 

  • “How does binary thinking enter your everyday discussions in early childhood studies?”
  • “What is silenced or othered through the hierarchical thinking in these binaries?”
  • “What everyday words could you put under erasure to help you wonder new meanings and actions for social justice in your classroom?”

Rejuvenated and transformed by our process of thinking together, we invite you to join us by sharing your (in)complete engagement with these questions, your own wonderings, or connections to the Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019) by responding to this post! 


Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework (2nd ed.). Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group. 

Mac Naughton, G. (2005). Doing Foucault in early childhood studies: Applying poststructural ideas. Routledge.