“Childhood is a time to be, to seek and make meaning of the world. Being recognises the significance of the here and now in children’s lives. It is about the present and them knowing themselves, building and maintaining relationships with others, engaging with life’s joys and complexities, and meeting challenges in everyday life. The early childhood years are not solely preparation for the future but also about the present.”
Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework
(DEEWR, 2009 p. 7)
I have noticed a great many discussions over the past 12 months or so around multiple highly commercialised programs for teaching children literacy through ‘cute’ characters and catchy songs. I have also seen a great deal of confusion around what ‘Intentional Teaching’ means. I can quite easily reflect on both literacy and intentional teaching. But here I’m not going down that path today. Today I am reflecting on being and what it means for me as an early childhood teacher and what I think it means for children.
I try to think about times when I have been me, and I’ve been given direction or criticism or even guidance into a new direction that I knew I wasn’t prepared for. Do you know how I feel about that? I feel like I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough as I am at this time in this space. What my I hear is “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”. Now, whether that is the truth or not, it doesn’t matter. That horrible judging statement chips away at me.
Here’s a prime example. I was going to TAFE College in the 1990s part-time at night while working part-time as a live in nanny. I was doing quite well. I was getting As and Bs and I was happy. I enjoyed it. My father thought that since I was doing so well, that I should apply for university. I was happy with TAFE, but he was adamant that I should apply for Uni. I would leave my job, I would move back home and I would be supported in conjunction with whatever part-time work I did. Good deal yeah?
So I withdrew from TAFE and I went to Uni. I struggled. It was so technically different to TAFE and I struggled. My self esteem plummeted. It just spiralled lower and lower. I was miserable. I put everything I had into the subjects I felt I could do, and I passed. I went from excelling to passing in a short period. I failed the other half of my subjects because they were so far beyond what I was ready to deal with at the time, and I didn’t know enough to withdraw. I felt like I had not only let myself down, but also my family. I was low. I was defeated. I was shattered. I went into a very dark place, where I was telling myself that I was not good enough. This was the beginning of the dark times.
I was pushed. I let myself be pushed. I wasn’t strong enough in my being to say no. I wasn’t ready.
If I were left to be a TAFE student at a level where I was doing very well, who would I be today? It sure would have saved me a great deal of heart ache and turmoil. That decision to listen to someone pushing me beyond what was good for me, led me down a very dark path which lasted 3 painful years.
I want to say: “it doesn’t matter, because it has made me who I am today” but I look back at 19-year-old me, and my heart breaks for the hurt and pain and that 19-year-old me went through. It impacted upon my sense of belonging, I ended up interstate, essentially homeless and almost completely alone.
I eventually landed on my feet. I went back to TAFE and I completed my Diploma in EC. But it could easily have gone a very different way. I did even end up going to University. On my own terms, and when I was ready for that commitment.
I am who I am and I am travelling my own path. I also know now never to let myself be pushed. I now choose who pushes me, and how hard.
So, what does this have to do with children and their sense of being?
Imagine being a very capable three year old. And then imagine being re-directed and instructed into a different place. Imagine the message that you are giving that young person: You are not good enough at three. You can’t do what you enjoy freely. You need to be doing these things. You need to be here at four. The same at four, you are not good enough at four, you need to be five. And so on and so forth.
Imagine your interests – the things you love doing and playing, being used against you. The things you loved doing for the sake of doing, for the pure love of being you, turned into something else conveniently labelled as “Intentional Teaching” to meet some sort of predetermined adult decided outcome that you at three or four or five really aren’t interested in much less ready for.
I don’t think we are preparing them for anything but failure and heartbreak and fragile self-esteems that might seriously put them in harms way in the future.
Why have we lost “being”?
Why can’t we let them be. Let them be who they are. It’s not our job to push them, to prod them into another state of being. It’s not our right.
I think that it is so critical to be who you are and be supported in being YOU.
I think we need to embrace “being” ... I think we need to let children learn who they are and be proud of themselves. I think we need to support them in driving their own knowing and learnings. I think we need to support them in connecting with each other and I think we need to focus on empathy.
Children are confident and involved learners who “follow and extend their own interests.” (DEEWR 2009 p. 34). Why do they ‘need’ us pushing them? Especially when the learning framework tells us children have a right to be, but they also have the right to drive their own learning.
These are my thoughts on “being” and what it means to me as a human-being and what I think it means for the children in my life.
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