In 2007, I began a journey with the Investigating Quality Project (IQ Project), at the University of Victoria. It has been an investigative journey that goes beyond the common Euro-Western discourses/ideas we hold regarding children and encourages us to examine the language we use for children, and the images that come to mind when thinking about children. It is a journey that has changed the way I think and the way I work, both as an educator and a parent.
I discovered that my child-centred and developmentally-appropriate practices limited my perspectives and perhaps excluded other ways of thinking. I realized that the early childhood environments I have contributed to, that I believed to foster choice and freedoms for children, are more often than not, the offerings of adult decisions, full of bias and discourse. Activities, materials, and environments created by adults, serving the adults perspective of what we believe to be the best ways to develop a child. Challenging my traditional ways of thinking is to recognize, “the image of child in not universal, but varies in response to peoples experiences, beliefs, and aspirations, and according to who participates in the dialog about childhood” (British Columbia Early Learning Framework, 2008).
This realization has led me along a reflective path, expanding my image of child and recognizing that the child is a significant contributor to knowledge, who is not separate from the contexts of family, community, and the world at large.
The greatest benefit from this shift in the way we think about children is, the opportunity to participate in dynamic discussions that explore our image of the child. It encourages us to view things from multiple lenses. When we are planning environments for children from multiple perspectives that consider social justice, culture, tradition and the infinite wisdom that comes from the generations and communities we live within, it only stands to benefit children. It takes courage to challenge our approaches and the perspectives of others but in choosing what is best for our children it is an expedition worth exploring.
How can this pedagogy (theory and practice of education) work for you?
When considering the best interests of the children I work with, I reflect on the desires or dreams of the whole family, and ask myself: "How can we invite our children and families to participate in decisions about programming and care?" I also wonder if early childhood learning and care can be a means of connection and capacity building within our communities, by connecting and engaging in conversations about our images of children and families. As a parent choosing childcare or any other programming for my children and/or family, I would ensure the educators, caregivers or program team are engaging me in this type of invitation and dialog.
I would encourage other educators not to separate their image of child from that of family, community and society as a whole and to challenge known truths (the societal norms), “realizing that any description of human beings (children) limits the possibilities that we as educators provide for them” (Cannella, 1998).
I would invite educators and parents alike to accept this uncertainty as an invitation to ongoing reflective practices, where we do not view ourselves as an expert, but rather as partners with children and families.