Reflections

The Essence of Inclusion

Image via Instagram/ThePlayProcess

​I almost cried reading Andrea’s story.

This page shines a light on the importance of inclusion. It reminds me of the movie Rain Man wherein “separating [people with exceptionalities] from the majority of the population [further] makes it difficult for both parties to understand each other” (Amigleo, 2016).

I love that “being confined to a wheelchair was not one of Katie’s outstanding characteristics for [Andrea]” (Eileen Allen, et al., 2015, p.16) due largely to her inclusive learning environment.

I believe that inclusive early childhood programs truly create a benchmark for quality early childhood education for all children. In making sure that the early learning environment is inclusive and supportive of children with all kinds of abilities, it provides quality care for each unique child who enters the program. It shows the children that everyone is capable and unique in their own ways, yet each has the same needs to be loved, accepted, and cared for.

References

Amigleo, C. (2016). Rain Man: A journey to acceptance and understanding. In The play process. Retrieved from https://theplayprocess.com/rain-man-media-review/

Eileen Allen, K., et al. (2015). Inclusion in early childhood programs: Children with exceptionalities, 6th Canadian ed. Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd

Professionalizing Early Childhood Education: Am I Ready to Be Part of the Solution?

A vocation is not a profession just because those in it choose to call it one. It must be recognized as such.

(John Goodlad, 1990)

At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue being a participant of the webinar by Stacie Goffin. I thought, “I don’t want to be involved in the political aspects of the ECE career. What I want is to spend my days as an educator in a classroom, directly interacting with the children–not sitting behind a desk rallying for something I may not care about. So what if the field of early childhood education is not professionalized? For the most part, I don’t care about my pay as long as it’s reasonable and I’m making a difference in young children’s lives.”

Was I so naive in thinking that.

Why ECE should become a recognized profession:

According to Goffin (2017), “By not answering what defines and bounds ECE as a field of practice, we are allowing children to spend their days in programs of uneven quality and effectiveness.”

She definitely got my attention with that statement. It was the biggest take-away I had from the whole webinar and what I still mull over a day later.

I always claim to be so passionate about working with children and wanting the best for them, but I never stopped to think about the significance of professionalizing the field of ECE. I mean, sure, I want decent pay for educators, universal care, and a standard quality of early learning programs across the board. Little did I know that that’s what defining the bounds of ECE as a field of practice will do.

Let’s back track a little bit and talk about what a profession is.

Goffin (2017) explained that “professions are a purpose-driven coherent system of preparation, practice, and accountability. . . . It rests on three pillars: (1) roles, scopes of practice, and competencies; (2) formal preparation or professional degrees (cf. academic degrees); and (3) self-governance tied to professional standards of practice.”

So in professionalizing early childhood education as a field of practice, “teachers and other roles in the profession will be consistently prepared and competent in their practice regardless of program setting; families will have authentic choices when selecting a program; and children will have greater prospects for reaching their potentials” (Goffin, 2017).

Doesn’t Ontario have the College of Early Childhood Education (CECE) that governs the field as a profession?

Yes, “[the] College is the first professional self-regulatory college for early childhood educators in Canada” (CECE), but there is still a long way for the field of early childhood education to be recognized and respected by the public for its specialized knowledge and practice.

To begin with, educators do not receive professional pay, with minimum wages at par with the province’s general minimum wage (that which applies to most employees). This means that in spite of the specialized knowledge of child development and curriculum in the early years, we may, for example, receive the same rate as someone who works part-time at a fast food restaurant.

Why does compensation matter?

Decent pay attracts individuals prepared and committed to the field of ECE and retains this talent. With a lack of support from the government for professional pay, there is a high turnover rate, affecting the quality of early learning programs.

[Low] wages and limited access to benefits and pensions mean that qualified and experienced ECEs cannot afford to stay in the career they love.

(AECEO, Professional Pay for Professional Work)

Goffin (2017) said, “Becoming a profession won’t happen unless we make it happen.”

So what’s next? Am I ready to be part of the solution?

I sure am.

As a start, I invite you to join me in supporting AECEO’s campaign: Professional Pay for Professional Work by signing the petition and sharing it with your friends and colleagues just as I have.

Professional Pay for Professional Work from AECEO on Vimeo.

Next step is to challenge the idea that early childhood educators are merely baby-sitters by doing our best in the field and showing them that we are highly skilled professionals. Additionally, by speaking up whenever the opportunity presents itself, we educate others of the importance of our role in society.

However, it’s important to note that in our journey to be recognized and respected as a profession, we need to live in two spaces.

Mending the Present and Creating ECE’s Future

There’s nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.

(R. Buckminster Fuller)

As mentioned we still have a long way to go for our society to completely accept the field of early childhood education as a profession. In addition to the compensation issue, the Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) program in Ontario brings about another matter of whether ECEs in FDK classrooms (Designated ECEs, or DECEs) should have the same roles and level of respect that kindergarten teachers (OCTs) have in the school. At present, there is a huge variety in opinion as to whether DECEs should be considered as equals to OCTs.

As we work for professional pay and towards equality in the FDK classrooms, we also face such questions as:

How would older generations of ECEs get up to par with new regulations? Would professional development programs be enough? What if they fail to meet the expectations of the College of ECE because they had a very different training? Would that mean they lose their jobs (and perhaps struggle to find something else after being in the field for so long)?

What does this all mean for the newer generations of ECEs? Would future educators be required to complete bachelor’s degrees before being able to register with CECE and call themselves ECEs? What would their field practice be like if they turn out to be more knowledgeable and capable than their mentors and supervisors? Would they apply this knowledge or would they conform to what is already happening in the early learning classrooms?

Separation Anxiety: What to do?

Recently, a child started at the child care centre I volunteer at.

It seems as if she has had no previous experience being at a centre and away from her family. On Thursday, her fourth day without her parents at the centre, she cried for the whole day and asked “Where’s Mommy and Daddy?”

As soon as she came into the classroom, one of the educators took the child in her arms as the parents left and the child cried. The educator tried to distract her by introducing her to me, but the child only wanted to be held. She reached out her arms to me and the educator passed her on. (As a volunteer, I had more opportunity to spend one-on-one attention with the children because I was not counted for ratios and I had less responsibility with the overall class.) I attempted many times to get the child down and play throughout the morning, but she seemed to feel so miserable that nothing took her away from her sadness.

I took her to the window and we watched the toddlers play outside. The child continued to look for her parents through the window and pointed to a car that she thought was “Daddy’s car”. She still felt sad, but her crying has dwindled down. As I started to feel tired carrying her, we sat down at the book centre and I read her some books. She cried again. I tried to take her to different areas of the classroom to play, but she still refused to do anything but cry. Eventually, I was advised to ignore the child’s crying. So even as I held her at the book centre and rocked her a little bit, I turned my attention to another child and read a book with him. Soon, I had to leave her to get the children’s coats and to help everyone get ready for outdoor play.

Outside, I did what I could not to pay attention to her crying, but I did my best to coax her to play. As I ran around the playground with other children, she followed us and ran along. She also smiled as she went down the slide a few times, which she did only if I went with her to the slide structure. She followed me as I walked around the perimeter and interacted with different children. She also showed me a purple ball outside the fence and asked if we could get it. Later, she played with a small hopper ball before asking if I can help her get on the large one. For a moment, she seemed to have forgotten her woes: she stopped crying and she engaged in play.

However, it was short-lived. As soon as the class headed back inside, she cried again. She continued to do so throughout lunch, nap time, and part of work time. She only hushed when an educator sat with her in the circle and reminded her saying, “I’m here.” Then, as soon as she saw her grandmother at the door, she bolted and hugged her.

Throughout this whole incident, I was not sure what to do.

I wanted to comfort the child, but I did not know how, considering my attempts at explaining to her that her parents will be back for her, I assume, were not understood. She also did not take well to having her attention diverted while inside the classroom. I thought that following the advice given to me was best. Or at least, I hoped that ignoring the child’s crying would help her stop the behaviour since only outdoor play has done it for her and I had no authority to take her or the whole class out for a longer period. I felt the child’s sadness but did not know how to make her feel better.

Miller (2016) says, “Children need caregivers’ patient emotional support to get them through the ordeal of separation anxiety” (p. 61), but I still wonder how I could provide this emotional support. Is ignoring the child’s crying appropriate at any point? Does giving her attention coddle her? In what other ways can I communicate to her that the child care centre is a safe place for her and that she will see her parents again soon?

I want to give her the extra attention she needs, but how do I do that without stepping on anyone’s toes (i.e. those of the educators’, who are in charge of the classroom)? What if she gets used to getting the extra care but the time comes that I am unable to give her that? What happens when I’m not around—would I be one of those people she cries for when she feels anxious or will she look for that extra attention from the other educators?

Each child is different and each educator is equally unique. I just hope that I could follow through what I think is right for the children when time comes that I have my own classroom to manage.

References

Miller, D.F. (2016). Positive child guidance, 8th ed. Massachusetts: Cengage Learning.