By Rachel Ho
We know that children come into this world primed for learning. Their natural motivation to know about the people, places and processes of the world drives them to explore, engage and experiment through what we know as play - the child’s innate curriculum. As facilitators of children's learning, we are asked to trust the knowledge within children to enable their innate curriculum to blossom.
- So what does it mean to really trust children’s knowledge?
- What does that look like in day-to-day practice?
- What does trust sound like in the way we speak to, and of children?
In acknowledging the importance of early learning during ELM Week, I reflected on how I can continue to grow my practices and pedagogy further. What can I do differently, change or learn to show up better for children? My reflections resulted in 4 main points that guide my philosophy and why early education and educators matter:
When I think about a child immersed in their innate curriculum I see a busy child, deeply engaged and thriving in a state of flow. What does it mean to be intentional when children are in flow? What does it mean to honour play? At what point does the protagonist of a ‘play-based program’ switch from the child to the adult?
The brilliance of the early learning space is that there is always so much room to adapt, evolve and shift practice in ways that honor the child's path of development. We are enabled to go against the grain of the prescriptive constructs of later formal education and also perhaps against our own idea of what education in the early years looks like. As a result, educators can embrace creativity and innovation in pedagogy and work outside the box of what it means to ‘teach’ and program for education and care.
Adopting ‘listening’ as a strategy and suspending judgement
In trying to understand children’s work through reflection and assessment Carla Rinaldi talks about a pedagogy of listening. She says,
listening is a sensitivity to everything that connects us to the others… a pedagogical strategy… a way of thinking and looking at the others. (Rinaldi, 2004)
A pedagogy of listening requires us to be aware of our own world views and suspend our judgement and biases. This encourages me to try and suspend my judgements and preconceived ideas as I listen to children’s ways of being; what I expect of children; and what children need from me.
Reconsidering what the curriculum means
Foucauldian critiques of early childhood norms help me to consider how my understanding of child development norms are based upon a set of expectations and ways of studying children that are not universally applicable but culturally limited and biased (McLaren, 2002; Mac Naughton, 2005). So, I keep coming back to this process of reconsidering what the curriculum means and is.
- What do I think should be included in an early childhood education and care program?
- Why do I value those things in a program?
- Who is it really for?
- Whose voices are privileged in the curriculum?
- Is the program reflective of how infants, toddlers and/or preschoolers learn?
- If I want to follow the children’s ‘innate curriculum’ then how will I be intentional in the way I facilitate or observe learning?
Early educators are called upon to value children as whole beings. We honour children's right to Be. As Loris Malaguzzi affirmed, our image of the child is where teaching begins. Every day educators advocate for renewed images of the child beyond education and care spaces through programs, research, documentation, ongoing training, partnerships, and cross-disciplinary approaches.
Early educators strive to help each child realise their potential. We have a responsibility to children to uphold their rights in what is a highly adult-centred society. Imagine a world where children are universally respected and understood. A world where children experience every interaction and encounter with the respect we desired as children and still deserve as adults. Where our internalised inner voices remain nourishing and encouraging. To truly be seen and listened to. That is the root of early learning.
Why recognising, supporting and valuing early childhood matters
What makes for quality early learning experiences are educators who strive for embedded critically reflective practice, who build upon a set of sophisticated professional and interpersonal skills, and are continually open to having their values challenged and minds changed. That’s why recognising, supporting and valuing early childhood educators matters. What emerges from high quality education and high quality care experiences are authentic humans who know themselves and have a deep sense of humanity and care for the wider world.
These are children, who grow into adults who are resilient, generous, bold, curious problem solvers, empathetic carers, and lifelong learners. That’s why early learning matters.
- McLaren, M. (2002). Feminism, Foucault and Embodied Subjectivity. New York, NY: State University of New York Press.
- MacNaughton, G. (2005). Doing Foucault in Early Childhood Studies. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Rinaldi, C. (2004). The Relationship Between Documentation and Assessment. Innovations in early childhood education: the international reggio exchange, 11(1). Retrieved from https://www.reggioalliance.org/downloads/relationship:rinaldi.pdf
Rachel is an early childhood educator working on Wangal-Gadigal Country at The Infants' Home in NSW. She is passionate about using reflective practice to drive curiosity, wonder and courage in pedagogical decision making. She is also a firm believer in advocating for care as curriculum and practicing respectful care pedagogy.