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.
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.
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.
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’.