Do unto me as you would have me do unto others
Educators of young children are expected to reward positive behaviour in children and to praise their efforts. We are expected to believe all children have great potential. We are expected to believe children are powerful and intelligent. We are expected to allow children to construct their own learning. We are expected to protect children from bullying. We are expected to have fair, non-judgemental approaches to behaviour management. We are expected to make it clear to children what the rules are, and help them learn to observe them. We are expected to allow children space and freedom to decide things for themselves. We are expected not to make capricious or unecessary rules. We are expected to reflect deeply on how we treat children.
We set the bar high for the respect we show the children in our care.
As an educator, I would like to enjoy the same respect. I want the people who have power over me to treat me with the understanding they expect me to show for children.
I want to be trusted as a professional to make intelligent decisions about my teaching. I want freedom to think for myself. I want access to first-hand information. I want constructive criticism. I want training and materials that reflect an understanding of learning theory. I want a say in the policies I work under. I want understanding that teaching is a creative act. I want to be inspired by the great work I see others do, and by the commitment I see in them.
I do not want to be steam-rolled. I do not want to be bullied. I do not want half-baked personal interpretations of legislation to be presented to me as rules. I do not want to be bombarded with long and incomprehensible policies that have little relationship to the real world. I do not want hierarchical decision-making. I want understanding that a negative comment weighs ten times as much as a positive one.
We have very sophisticated theories these days about how to create a good learning environment for children. We are dedicated to learning from children. But the same enlightenment is not always shown in how educators are treated.
At this time of great change in policies and structures for early childhood education, I hope our beliefs about how to treat children can apply to educators too.
I belief the EYLF* shows a high degree of respect for educators as dedicated professionals. The message of the EYLF is that good educational environments are created by well-trained, reflective educators who have freedom to inspire and be inspired.
Now we have to hope that the ideals that went into the EYLF can survive implementation. We have to hope that stultifying bureaucracy, and middle-management do not create a blanket of compliance documentation that fogs up the space between the educator and the EYLF. We have to hope we don’t get lost in a forest of acroymns, being preyed on by the Big Bad NQF Inspector or FDC Schemer.
I am really enjoying the professional conversations around the EYLF that are happening at the moment. I hope this is what the EYLF continues to mean. I hope it continues to be a point of inspiration and excitement in our constant quest to teach better.
I hope it continues to belong to us educators, to interpret for ourselves and for the children we don’t just teach, but also love.
*The new Australian national early years education framework, known (rather poetically) as EYLF.