Social media interactions: curiosity killed the cat, but it kept our sector alive…
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Sector.
Social media has the potential to be the ideal platform for those in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector to live out two of the core principles of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) – respect for diversity, and ongoing learning and reflective practice.
Here, early childhood consultant Michelle Walsh explores the possibilities to be found in curiosity as a tool for transforming interactions – on- and offline.
Imagine for a moment that every time someone asked a question or shared their perspective on social media – or in ‘real life’ – that we all responded with curiosity.
What might happen if, instead of responding with “That’s crazy!” or “I can’t believe they would think that was ok!”, we sought to understand the perspective of the writer; “I wonder if they know about attachment theory?” or “What resources could I recommend to help them see a different point of view?”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about curiosity, and I’ve come to the conclusion that a counter perspective for curiosity is judgement. I know I’m not alone in thinking that sometimes our professional social media interactions are filled with judgement. I feel that being in this space of judgement isn’t helpful to the sector. It lowers the tone, and undermines the work being done in the sector to advance professionalism.
We expect the children we educate and care for to be respectful, kind, compassionate and inclusive, but often don’t lead by example when dealing with our peers. We contradict ourselves when we put forward a judgement or a closed perspective on someone else’s voice, while teaching children to be inclusive and welcoming.
When coaching professionals in the sector, I suggest posing questions or sharing their thinking with relevant online communities however, more often than not, the suggestion is met with fear of vilification. Why should we allow our ECEC online communities to have this impact on ‘our’ people? What if we thought of ourselves as one big team?
The Theory of Wellbeing by Dr Martin Seligman, is something close to my heart and is one which could be a driving force for change in our sector. So I’m taking this opportunity to use the Wellbeing model to re-think our online community engagement.
The elements of the Theory of Wellbeing are PERMA –
P – Positive Emotion
If members of our ECEC community are feeling negative emotion from our engagements with them, with our lack of wondering and curiosity, or even from reading about their company and seeing others suggest they are working in the ‘wrong’ place, are we supporting their wellbeing or hindering it?
I’m lucky enough to work with a range of organisations and service types, and it always concerns me when I hear conversations about particular companies or service types because ultimately our colleagues are working in a space where they have an opportunity every day to change children’s lives, improve families’ lives, and think deeply about what they do.
As long as they have a sense of belonging where they work, this should be celebrated and supported. Again being inquisitive about the different perspectives of others and what forms them helps us to stay open minded, and operate from a belief system where all perspectives are equally valid.
E – Engagement
There is a large body of work available that talks about courage, empathy and self-trust, and encourages us to think generously about others, including the amazing work of Brene Brown and BRAVING. In practice, this means that when experiencing an engagement where you would typically not feel comfortable, take the time to stop and think…
- What is the most generous thing I can think about this person?
- Did they intend to upset me?
- What meaning are they hoping I make from their communication?
- What elements of their experience or pedagogy formed their thinking and their commitment to their perspective?
- What if I was to let go of some of my perspectives and think in a more curious way about all of this?
When completing this exercise, I’ve found that the result is that almost always, I’m able to think completely differently about the other person’s intent. Imagine again now, if we all did this when engaging with each other on social media. Would your engagement on these forums be different? Would they build relationships? Would they hold more meaning?
R – Relationships
Relationships are incredibly important in our profession and we all know it! So I ask again, how can curiosity help us to build relationships more broadly in our sector? Luckily in the coaching work I do I’m able to build relationships with people from all types of services and realise that we all have similar challenges, successes and understandings. Sharing these successes, challenges and understandings may make our ECEC community even stronger.
M – Meaning
Thinking about our engagement online, what meaning are we searching for? What is the purpose of having this community? Why do we do what we do?
We all have meaning in what we do within our roles, but imagine if our online communities had a strong purpose, and our engagement in these communities contributed to that meaning. Imagine if when we posted questions, comments, and suggestions that we thought about the opportunity we have to inspire someone in their role, to create meaning for someone else, and to maybe even save a colleague who is considering leaving the sector.
A – Accomplishments
I put the challenge out there for all of those within the sector to pause, think seriously, and be an accomplished community with a sense of belonging, engagement, meaning and positive emotions.
Let’s draw a line in the sand, live and learn together, be curious about other perspectives, and keep our sector alive.
For more information about the Theory of Wellbeing click here.