Take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, take care of what they feel.

Here in Aotearoa, we are a nation stunned. And in mourning. And sad. Angry, At a loss with how to respond to the news of a mass shooting in our own little country.

Late last night a friend messaged me, asking how people like us are supposed to deal with this news, and how can we help. The ‘like us’ I think she means is the kind people, the ones who celebrate diversity. The ones who want to raise their children immersed in love and safety. Parent ‘me’ came to mind instantly, but as the questions swirl, the me involved in ECE pops up too. In that immediate moment, I wondered if there is anything at all we can actually do. Over this morning’s coffee I realised there is. What can people like us do?

Growing moment by moment - be present to what is happening

We can view our teaching career in two different ways: as a series of roles, promotions, qualifications and upskilling, or as a story of pivotal moments that changed and shaped our practice.

The first way looks more at the big tangible moments, whereas the latter is in the smaller, but just as significant, human moments. They may not be as recognisable to others, and there mightn’t be a certificate to mark that growth, but it’s there all the same. We really do believe it’s the little moments, our lived experiences that matter most on our journey.

We matter too!

If you have been in the ECE sector for quite some time as we have, you may have noticed something. Have you seen it too, the formerly bright eyes of teachers have dimmed a little, more and more are feeling burnt out? Sometimes it seems as if the morale in our sector resembles one big deflating balloon. We come into our work so passionately at the start but become disillusioned and just plain exhausted on the way.

Be a creature of tradition - the known can be magical!

In a society where the ‘novelty bug’ is rife, Christmas offers us a beautiful opportunity to go for tradition instead.  Rather than brand new decorations every year we can have recurring ones that can be looked forward to each year. Seeing these back in the environment reminds everyone what time of year it is, while still being ‘special’ enough to light eyes up year after year.

Let Christmas in! - winding up instead of winding down

The tendency can be that we want to start winding down as year end approaches.  Several things start getting added to the ‘too hard basket’, where at other times of year they would feel manageable.  Our home lives are getting busy heading into the Christmas season and we’d quite like to just cruise through our final month, biding time until we can close the door for the year.  That would be ok if this work we did was about us. Sure we matter too, but we aren’t the focus.

Say YES to the season - put Christmas back on the menu

When you think of Christmas in ECE settings you may be thinking things like the tacky tinsel on mantels and sills, the ‘no-personality crafts’ where every child’s collage is the same, and some half-hearted kiddy songs about Santa.  We’ve probably all seen examples of this. And even though it’s supposed to be a joyous time of year, you can see how these ‘lifeless’ attempts actually take the joy out, for our teachers and our wee people. This is why some settings have left Christmas off their yearly menu, and we can see why if these are the only seasonal dishes they know can be served.

Preparing for Christmas - Will you be my Christmas fairy?

The festive season is exactly that - a season.  It’s a short space of time that comes and goes, built into the rhythm of the year.   For our children it is such a short window of time in their year but one that truly matters to them. They find this season exciting and magical, and it is up to us whether we leave the festivities at the door, claiming we don’t have the time or energy to ‘do Christmas’, or whether we say YES.  

Giving full attention and the act of multi-tasking

Here is an activity for you to do. Either at home or at a staff meeting! Get yourself a pen and paper and a timer/stopwatch. Time yourself or get some one else to time you whilst writing down the following on your piece of paper, from top to bottom, as fast as you can

A1, B2, C3, etc, all the way down to Z26.

The rule is to write each letter with the correlating number next to it, before you go to the next letter.

Pause the teacher - let the child lead

A passionate heart-centred teacher is one you have to search for when you enter a room. They are not a dominant force, and you certainly don’t hear their voices rising about the children’s hum of activity. Imagine if all teachers of young children had this same way about them? Children could grow and learn in a relaxed, peaceful environment that gave them time to think and be.

Embracing change - tools in our team toolkit

We need to find a healthy balance between being a “change junkie” and being set in our ways. Frequent change is unsettling, and change for the sake of it tends to only skim the surface before the next change is made.  This is not what our ECE settings need. The reverse is also not desirable - places that sail along, doing as they’ve always done and not ‘rocking the boat’ with any new thinking. What we really need is hearts and minds willing to embrace change if and where necessary.

A qualification of the heart - what’s in the heart matters more than what’s on paper

The company we keep has a huge impact on our experience and emotional well being.

The people we surround ourselves with can either lift us up with their presence, or bring us down.  We know this and are usually careful about choosing our friends. We look for ‘our kind of people’, build our tribe and enjoy our relationships.

Want to be a role model? - be a real model!

Perhaps the most influential tool we have in our ‘teacher kit’ is our own example.  Our children take far more from how they see us living, than from anything we tell them.  

How we interact, approach tasks, and manage our emotions all provide ‘lessons’ for our children.  They notice these things, whether we wish them or not, and build them into their own default settings.

Let them lead, let us follow - who’s in the driver seat?

Heart centred teaching asks for us to be humble, focus on the child, and leave our adult agenda at the door. It  ask us to stop ‘doing’ and focus on how we are with the children.

Let them lead, let us follow.  Both approaches call on us to really tune in to the children, really making them the teachers and not us.

Remove your adult glasses - ordinary moments can be amazing

Find joy in the ordinary. These wise words bring a sense of peace to us. They reconfirm what we believe and give us the permission to follow our hearts, and offer children what we really feel they need.

Young children need security. They need to trust in their environment. This feeling comes from familiarity and a sense of ‘same old’ so they know what to expect. In this way the daily happenings become the ‘ordinary’, the staples of the programme that the children come to know and anticipate. They feel empowered by knowing, ‘this is what we do here’.