The Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019) describes a rhizome as a plant that develops underground and buds in many directions and without a predictable pattern. Inspired by this image, I created this visual map of my learning connections on this wonderful, complex, and unpredictable path to becoming an early childhood educator.
Grateful for so much!
Government of BC. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework. Victoria, BC: Queen’s Printer.
What an amazing feeling it is to meet so many of my professors and classmates in the ECEC program for the first time in person after being colleagues and friends online for over a year. The feeling of being in a real life classroom with all these wonderful people is unreal. Being in the same space has enabled me to feel the energy of the group during discussions, and be moved by others.
When I got accepted to the ECEC program back in the beginning of 2020 I was so excited to meet new friends who had similar interests as me! When I found out that the program was going to be online due to Covid 19 I was very upset and worried as I had never done any online schooling before. Throughout the year I was convinced that I would probably never get to meet all the beautiful faces that I’ve come to know as rectangles on my computer. This year proved me wrong and let me tell you I’ve never been happier to be proved wrong!
Everyone in our ECEC cohort is amazing. We are supportive, kind, friendly and helpful. Something I have also noticed is I find it much easier speaking out loud and sharing my thoughts in a classroom, because I have grown to know and trust everyone in the program. We are creating a place to be vulnerable, knowing we won’t be judged.
Being in a class with all these amazing people gives my mood and energy such a boost, unlike zoom where I unfortunately leave the class feeling a bit drained most of the time. Yesterday a few of us decided to stay on campus after our 270 class and get some lunch before our next class! We all went and got Subway and came back to the ECEC classroom to eat it. Afterwards the six of us joined the next zoom class as a group. It was a lot of fun hanging out and getting to know each other outside of class.I am nourished by interactions.
Amanda Gillmore and Jade Felty are second year Early Childhood Education and Care Diploma students at Vancouver Island University. In April 2021 they both started their final Infant & Toddler practicum at two different locations in Central Vancouver Island and ended up being next door neighbours. All that was dividing them was a chain link fence.
Within the first few days of Practicum Jade had noticed Amanda and called out to her and waved through the fence. Before this practicum Amanda and Jade had never met in-person, but due to the Pandemic they met in 2020 through the transition of online courses with Vancouver Island University.
“Over the past 5 weeks I have had the opportunity to meet with Amanda through the fence at Practicum. It has been wonderful being able to make contact and connect with another student in my cohort during the isolating times of the Covid-19 pandemic. We exchanged thoughts and feelings about community, connection, our pedagogical narrations, and our lives. On our last visit Amanda and I exchanged letters.” Jade
“I fondly remember the first time that I met Jade in-person. I was outside at my new Practicum Centre, and I heard my name being called, but I didn’t recognize the voice or where it was coming from. I looked up and there waving and smiling through the fence was Jade- my VIU ECEC colleague. Jade and I had only ever met online through our ECEC classes through Zoom. We briefly had a conversation and with agreeance from our Practicum Instructor we decided to meet regularly outside of each of our centre’s sitting along the fence. I had one request that our conversations be organic and focus on each other, self-compassion and heart focused on what each of us needed on that day we would meet. Each week we would check in with one another, normally twice a week, ranging from 30 minutes to 1 hour. It was exactly what both of us needed and we maintained this weekly having our conversations through the fence.” Amanda
By Students in Practicum II, Ocean Kneeland, and Antje Bitterberg
Creating the event: The public event ‘Collaborative Dialogue – Learning together and building relationships: A professional development opportunity for early childhood education students, mentors, and curious educators’ is a series of three events imagined and created in collaboration between the VIU ECEC Program and three regional CCRRs: Cowichan, PacificCARE in Nanaimo, and Powell River. When we began to imagine this event, it was important to us to create a space for ongoing dialogue that could hold all of us – students, educators, instructors, and community members in and across our regions. We decided that a series of online events, rather than one, would allow us to nurture a space for dialogue and connections over time. We will share a definition of collaborative dialogue from the Early Learning Framework (Government of BC, 2019), our process for continuing the conversations after the event, and offer some traces of our conversations.
Collaborative Dialogue: “Collaborative dialogue means inviting comments, questions, and interpretations from children, families, colleagues, and community members to elicit multiple perspectives. This process opens avenues for discussion not to find answers but to explore the different ways of thinking about pedagogy, and to invite reflection on assumptions, values, and unquestioned understandings. Ongoing collaborative dialogue can enrich and deepen perspectives, and can challenge educators to consider new ways of seeing, thinking, and practising.” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 50)
Revisiting the event with students: To invite students to reflect on the ‘Collaborative Dialogue’ event, we (Ocean and Antje) visited the students in their practicum seminar a week after the event. We wanted to express our deep gratitude to the four first-year students who shared their pedagogical narrations at the event. We also wanted to acknowledge the students in the audience and their contribution to creating a lively and welcoming space for their peers. In conversation with all the students and their instructor, we learned that many of us embraced uncertainty and an openness to experiment together. Below are two images we created with students to describe what was most meaningful to them.
Students who offered their work at the event shared these reflections:
Students who listened and engaged in the event shared these reflections:
Continuing the Dialogue: We invite you to share your response to our post or the event by submitting a comment! You might also share your ideas and hopes for future events. What are you curious about and what kinds of professional development opportunities are meaningful to you?
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.
After watching the TED talk video, Reclaiming the Honourable Harvest by Robin Kimmerer (2012), I could not stop thinking about a statement she made. She said, ‘… a boy was raised by a river.’ And further questioned if there were two meanings in that statement – was the boy near or reared by a river? Now that I have reflected on that statement, with my own knowledge and experience, I would say that ‘a boy raised by a river’ was just as near it, as he was reared by it. If the boy had the time and freedom to wander and wonder… Where would the boy go to play? Where would he go when he was bored? Where would he want to take his friends? Where would he go to explore? Where would he go for adventure? Where would he go when his soul needed soothing? To the river.
My role as an ECE would be to create time and space for children to become familiar with the land. There is much excitement in the novel experiences, but there is depth, layers and the richness of the child’s own knowledge when they are in a familiar place. Only once this familiarity is there, do children begin to connect with the land, when they are influenced, loved, and raised by that space. In the Early Learning Framework [ELF] (Government of BC, 2019) there is reference to this idea, “Providing time, space, and materials rich with possibilities for experimenting, imagining, and transforming allows children to create and explore…” (p. 75).
There is depth to these questions once you start unpacking them. My role as an ECE seems clear, but what challenges are we facing? Children come from many different families and thus different cultures and perspectives, how do we connect children who would prefer to be connected to a screen or game? When it comes to Infants and Toddlers, how do we explain to families that they are capable of walking a trail, exploring a forest/beach/field/rocks/dirt and connecting with it meaningfully?
Robin Kimmerer spoke and wrote beautifully, and I really appreciate her nine responses to the gifts of the earth:
Never take the first one.
Ask for permission.
Take only what you need.
Use everything you take.
I am wondering how Kimmerer’s nine responses to the gifts of the earth invite me to think with/about the pathway “Every child is a gift” (Government of BC, 2019, p.66) as offered in the ELF’s Living Inquiry Well-being and Belonging? How might we meet and receive children as gifts? How might we give meaning to the statement, “every child is a gift?” in our daily encounters with children? How might we show our love, appreciation and responsibility to the children in our care?
With classes offered online this fall, the ECEC team wanted to create spaces for 1st and 2nd year students at our Cowichan, Nanaimo, and Powell River Campuses to connect. We introduced the role of student ambassador and are tremendously grateful to Jade Felty and Francis Racy for taking on this role! Their commitment to the role and to creating a sense of belonging was evident in the thoughtful events they imagined and created for their peers. Thank you from all of us!
“This semester we had the incredible opportunity to create a sense of community amongst all the individual’s part of the ECEC program near and far. We hosted virtual events, connected through online discussion activities, and were involved in supporting our second year peers and all those who have been new to the program.” -By Jade and Fran