There is a saying, comparison is the thief of joy. This is a real issue for our parents, and something we, as ECE teachers, can help them counter. Many parents are really excited by something their child has done...until they notice another child further along the developmental path, and their excitement deflates instantly.
Being part of a heart-centred team is a beautiful thing. This ‘tribe’ will support each other, have shared understandings, are good company, and notice ‘fuel tank’ levels and will take action to make deposits (in their own and their teammates) to keep them topped up. The energy will be positive and genuine, even in the challenging times.
The team is important, yes, but it is not the only heart-centred ‘set up’ available. Some heart-teachers or carers don’t have the team. They are perhaps working solo in a home setting, or work with others but at this stage are the first to take the heart path.
George Eliot said,
“what do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other”?
This is an interesting one to ponder as a team, as so often the least strong part of our entire practice is what we do for each other.
We may serve children beautifully, and be warm and responsive to families, but to the teachers and management we spend our days with? Whether we class these people as friends, or merely ‘colleagues’, sometimes there is very little that is collegial about how we treat each other.
The need to feel heard is a very real one. There is little that is as frustrating as when we pour our hearts out, or finally put words to a quiet fear, only to receive a flippant response. We don’t feel heard when what we communicate is shut down, brushed off, downgraded, or made light of.
This name we have for ourselves - teacher - makes us feel we must be ‘teaching’. You know, as in the transmitting of knowledge, the deciding, planning, ‘extending’. Then there can be some sense of a knowable, showable outcome for this time immersed in nature. But for children to really make sense of the world they need to explore it on their terms. They can and will grow in the environment just by being in it, following where curiosity takes them, and using their hands and play urges to try out this and that. They don’t need us to teach. They know how to be in nature, and they know how to play.
We get our families on board with our nature-fying when we invite them along on the journey, and involve them in our processes. No one likes to have things done to them, so dumping a nature programme on our parents with no collaboration isn’t likely to be received well. Even if we’ve established a lot and a family is new, immerse them in the journey from their get-go. Invite them and involve them. Be open to the possibilities that every single new community member can offer. Tha is why there is no end to this path we’re on. Every new relationship we make brings the chance for new learning and ideas.
Being passionate. It is something high on the list of qualities for an ECE teacher, and rightly so.
There is certainly a need for passion if we are to serve our children well, and to rise above the level of care that is called ‘good enough’ in our sector, but we know is not good enough. We want to offer exceptional care, and passion seems to be one of the major ingredients needed to make this happen.
A really powerful saying we love talks about how your energy introduces you before you even open your mouth. Your energy. Is that something you’ve put a lot of thought into?
Often during our training and first few years as a teacher we put a ton of thought into the words we use. We might put the same focus on what we say (and equally don’t) if we then find ourselves on a journey to being more heart-centred.
To care for the young child is to also care for their parents. They are so inextricably woven together that we can't do one without the other.
And if we are to care for our parents we need to leave out the judgements and embrace them for who they are and how they do things.
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.
The quiet pull into or away from what brings you deep JOY.
I have been pondering about what people are called to do and the difference in their life and the world at large when we do that which we are called to do.
Clearly the variety is enormous and what is right for one is not right for another.
To understand the context of this post it’s important to know the background that initiated the ‘birth’ of the following story.
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.
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.
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.
We talk a lot about heart centred teaching. We thought we will give you a short run down of what we conceive as heart centred teaching qualities.
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.
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.
"Teach me the art of small steps". These words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery are the key to how our own settings developed from small beginnings to a thriving community with its own unique character. What really stands out to others is not just what we do, but how consistently we do it.
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.