This post for Connected Educators Month is related to the challenge around reflecting on my teaching practice.
Eight years ago I left a very successful career as an Orientation and Mobility specialist to be a Kindergarten teacher. I became a teacher at a time where the government began to de-professionalise early childhood education, where big corporations came in and the face of early childhood was changing. I got annoyed at people not valuing the role of the ECE teacher and sick of hearing "oh you must really like kids". I left and became a Resource Teacher of Vision and combined my previous career with my new one. I worked with ECE, Primary and Secondary students with a range of learning needs. But I missed my sense of belonging - about being in one place with a community around me. I knew I couldn't go back to early childhood so I decided to also do my primary teaching qualification.
I have been teaching in a classroom for 2 years now and teaching overall for 8 years in the Education sector. I have spent 14 years working with children. I am a fully registered teacher in the eyes of the Education Council and the Ministry of Education. Recently somebody referred to me at a beginning teacher(?). Quite often I defend the ECE sector to primary colleagues. I wanted to move away from it but now I have found myself connecting back to it.
From the very first lecture I attended I was HOOKED on the theory that would inform my practice. The person who inspired me at this stage was Diti Hill. Diti introduced me to the word pedagogy, she also re-introduced me to critical theory (I first learnt about this and kaupapa māori theory with Leonie Pihama in my undergrad) and before I knew it I was reading Bell Hooks (feminist writer) and other postmodern theorists and wondering how on earth any of this linked to ECE!! I never expected my mind to be so stretched, but it was and I loved it.
Over the course of the year I was also exposed to the ideas from Reggio Emilia. The approach (and city of the same name) had some wonderful ideas about the relationship between teacher, child, environment, family and community. Multiple literacies and the Hundred Languages of Children were drivers from this. Te Whāriki was this amazing curriculum that brought it all together.
Into my teaching practice
Kindergartens are Modern Learning Environments. You are team teaching in a larger space and focusing on learning dispositions. You are observing and responding to the children. You are providing provocation and reflecting in and on action. You are enabling students to create meaning through different mediums. You are fostering relationships that enable learning. Narrative assessment is used and it is authentic and informs teaching and learning. Teachers are adaptable.
I find that my strengths lie in my grounding in early childhood education. If people don't understand and value the teaching that occurs at this level then they will struggle to move into the mindset needed for innovative learning practice. There are so many parallels and perhaps I don't come from the traditional model of primary teaching then the change to this isn't as difficult? This could be why I am so passionate about Makerspaces in schools and why I view my students as co-constructors of learning with me despite their young age? And perhaps why I want to integrate everything rather than see subjects in silos.
So where to next?
I am going to explore more what the Reggio Emilia approach can add to my pedagogy/practice at a primary school level. I am going to reflect on what play based learning looks at for years 3-8. And I''m going to share with my PLN some really great articles and ideas from ECE. And I'm going to ask you this question:
- In ECE, learning stories (narrative assessment) allow students to revisit their learning. How do you allow students at your school to revisit learning and build on it?