Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reflections on Documenting + Linking

Disclaimer: This entry is HUGE! I'm sorry ... Good luck!
When did teaching in early childhood stop being so much about the children and more about the paper work? You know the children’s observations, the daily reflection book, the program and the evaluations that follow? Then we mustn’t forget projects that we “must” do as well as perhaps documentation displays on top of that! Oh, and you must follow-up on what you did before. And don’t forget to link EVERYTHING into EVERTHING else so that you are meeting the requirements that the government has set for you. You’ve been told by so many people that you have to do this that and the other and you are doing them, but it’s just too much! You are drowning. I am drowning. How is that quality?

Tell me, with your nose in a portfolio/journal or your face in a computer, do you understand and know your students better? We are forever stalking the children from one moment to the next and then shoving a camera in their face.

Imagine how you would feel if there were people constantly following you around and taking photos of what you were doing. You don’t have any privacy in the bathroom because there is either someone going to the toilet with you or there are others standing around and watching you. Sometimes standing and staring. They remind you to wipe your bottom. You were going to, but you just hadn’t gotten to that point in the process yet. But there they are, telling you to wipe your bottom.  You were quite content having a quiet and ‘private’ moment to yourself thinking about what you wanted to play next, and someone interrupts you with “wipe your bottom” ...
Imagine how you would feel with people constantly following you around with a camera taking photos of what you are doing. Whether you are trying to read a book or serve yourself a wedge of apple, there are people watching closely with a camera in hand. Private conversations you have are overheard and then documented and either shared with everyone OR they are put into a file with your name on it and the file of all your associates. [I know, I’m starting to sound a bit paranoid – but I am just sharing what I have seen many times over!]
Imagine standing at an easel with a paint brush in hand (and it really doesn’t matter what colour paint nor does it matter what hand you are holding the brush in!). You are watching the paint work its way across the paper and touch the other colours. You notice that when one colour goes into another colour, it changes into a different colour. You are amazed and wondering about this when someone over your shoulder points to one of the colours and asks you “What colour is this?” So you oblige them and you say “blue” ... You wonder why this person, who is much older and more experienced than you is asking you what the colour blue is. Surely they should already know this? You get back into the groove of your painting when they point at your painting and quiz you again about what colour ...and again and again?  You really just wanted to paint. But that unique moment of wonder and magic is gone. The adult got what they wanted from you, and your painting, interrupted, unfinished, is hanging up to dry.
Everything you do is then analysed and picked apart and critiqued. People make assumptions about who you are based upon the information they have gathered and they then come to conclusion about who you are and what they think you should do next. You are then told that you have to engage in this activity, and again, they are there. Always watching. Always listening. With camera in hand. Always judging.
Where is the humanity in this? Where are the relationships? Where is the sense of community? As I started to write this reflection, the more I started to really question what the heck I’ve been doing all these years. Look, I know that just because we do these things, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t wonderful educators who know our children well. It doesn’t mean we don’t have genuine relationships with them. It’s not about that ... I just really started to feel uncomfortable about some aspects of my work that has been part of my practice for a great many years.
And come on you have to admit that really, we are acting a bit like paparazzi when it comes to documenting children’s engagement and learning!
So, why do we do this?
We are told that if we observe children and analyse their actions and development we will have a deeper understanding of children and learning in general. This will apparently then make us better educators, more able to engage with children and provide for their learning and development. We are told that if we can link our observations with theory and quality standards, then we will not only better understand the children in our care, but we will also be achieving a higher standard of care and education.  We are told that by better understanding children and relating their development to theory we will have a positive impact upon the understanding of children and their abilities as a whole. This will make the world a better place, because we can provide better outcomes for children.
I disagree. Strongly.
Our observations and what we link them to, sit at a service. They sit in a file or in a portfolio. These then sit inside a magazine box or basket on a shelf at a service for the parents to sometimes look through. Sometimes we give children opportunities to look at them. Sometimes they are individual. Sometimes they are so full of group observations where the child is not particularly visible as an individual because we are under so much pressure to pump out a certain number of “obs” that we start slapping in whatever we can.
At some point, they go home with the child and are sometimes cherished. Sometimes they are lost. Sometimes they held at a service until an account is finalised, and never go home. Sometimes they are even thrown away by families.
A copy is kept at the service that goes into a file and sits there until the child is of a certain age (depending upon your country, state and their particular regulations) ... then it is shredded, recycled and goes back into the paper making system. It might become an egg carton or kitty litter or photocopy paper or even toilet tissue. Your hard work today, might sit around for 24 years, be filed and stored, shredded, recycled and then be used to wipe someone’s nose. Seriously. How is this sustainable? How is this quality? How is this good for the environment? How does this serve children? How does this make us better educators?
This work does not go to a university to be reviewed by philosophical academics. It is not going to be used to design contemporary theories of teaching and learning. So please tell me how all this work ... how all this confused complicated energy goes towards substantiating learning and development theories?
I am not an academic.
I am not interested in substantiating theories.
Theories are also a collection of ideas and beliefs as explainations ... they are NOT 100% proven fact!
I am interested in working with children, families, communities and fellow educators in creating amazing learning spaces for all parties to learn and grow as people. I am interested in making a difference.
I am not belittling the academics among us who love theory and relating it to practice. But, I’m sorry that is simply not me. And you might argue that I am then in the wrong place, but I will argue that I am most definitely in the right place.
Everyone seems to be running around lost and confused as to what they need to do to survive in early childhood in an Australian context today. Yes, I know, *they* are coming! The Assessors! They are going to judge us ... I get that. I really do.
BUT, we seem to be going crazy with this linking! We are being told by someone who was told by someone who was in turn told that we had to link to this that and the other.
The reality is that if you start throwing about theory at people, who are not interested in it, they are going to shut off and disengage. We want engagement! We want an active learning community. The reality is that not every educator is university educated AND even the university educated educators (this includes me) are interested in theory! Confusing isn’t it?
This is already getting too long and its getting a little tiring standing here on top of my soap box ... but seriously ... we are going way over the top. Just like this blog essay of 1,545 words!
I’m currently reading the Standards and the Regs and the EYLF and other bits and pieces and I am planning on working out what we actually have to do. I really don’t want to plan and document according to gossip or misinformation. I will share. When I know what I’m doing!

© Teacher’s Ink. 2013



  1. Very well written and I definitely agree with everything that you said. It so unfortunate that we have to spend so much time writing things down and documenting everything where instead we could be actually enjoying these special moments with the children.

    I also agree about how it's an invasion of the child's privacy and I have thought about this on many occasions.

  2. Brilliant ! You are so right. Couldn't have said it better myself !!

  3. Thank you Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2! I'm impressed you made it through the post to the comment box! Well done! And thank you for your feedback, it is much appreciated!

    I know the numbers are rising, but its good to know there's people behind the numbers!

  4. you have certainly hit the nail on the head, i could not stop reading because i felt like you were reading my mind, and pouring it onto the page!! well said, thankyou

  5. Thank you Anonymous 3! ... I just let it all out and there it was! It's just gotten ridiculous! I'm glad that we've connected on this! I mean one day, after some reflection I might feel differently about theory and I'll wake up as a theory preaching academic! But I highly doubt it! I think we are losing the children in all this ... And ourselves! <3

  6. I am so glad that there is someone out there that feels the same way as i do , everything you have written is what i have been talking about with fellow workers. I was begining to think that it must be time for me to find another career as it is all becoming so overwhelming and seems to be so much more work with more time doing it all at home. I have enjoyed your blog spot keep up the great work and hoping to recieve your ELYF made easy that you spoke about keep up the fantastic work

  7. Another 'person' behind the numbers.
    Another whose thoughts are mirrored by yours.
    Well said.

  8. Thank you Anonymous4 and Anonymous5! I really do appreciate your comments and for reading my words! I think them, weave them together and then just sorta slap them up ... I am really starting to develop an appreciation that there are people behind those numbers. So MANY humble thanks!

  9. This is so well written and entirely true. What gets me too is that all of what is required with documenting, linking, obs, reflections etc cannot be completed in the short amount of programming time we get, but it has to be done and therefore done in our own time.

  10. All the hard workers - the actual people that work with the children all feel this way maybe the people that sit in their office and make these wonderful regulations need to come back into the field to see exactly how all this documentation is making our job less about the children and more about keeping the bureaucrats happy.......

  11. I will also agree with you. Our hard work getting everything done on time pushing ourselves to limits will end up in the box.
    EYLF was created and its guideline but its also kind of theory, so it will not be 100% true so why should we quote stupit lines just to make assessors happy? It doesnt change child care for better it makes it we will stop using our brains just follow the guidelines... i dont like the observations too as they are not truly represent who this child is because me and my assistants are a humans and we can be wrong so same we could miss judge what the child is doing especially the little one. Sometimes what we see its not really what is happening. But we will still write it down cause someone behind the desk in the big office who never worked with children probably dont even have own one ask us to do...