2020 – Time for a pedagogical reboot?
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Sector.
The early childhood care and education (ECEC) workforce often places the welfare and needs of others above their own. Unique in its position as a profession where relationship building and firing up children’s neurons is a daily key performance indicator, the ECEC sector is a high pressure, high stakes workplace – one where those tasked with the care and education of young children often do not pay due diligence to their own wellbeing.
The end of the year often affords those of us who work within the sector the time to step back from the daily demands of our job roles and instead take time to focus on ourselves.
Even within that focused time, however, is a sense of being ‘on the job’. Working with children and families is a profession that is never off duty.
Whilst we may not be engaged directly with children and families, we are often thinking about them. We wonder about the child who has a volatile home life. We worry for the child who craves the stability and routine that ECEC offers. We ask family and friends to save wrapping and ribbon for the collage table – our minds are in perpetual ECEC motion.
Teaching young children matters, and the importance of the nuanced work we do can weigh heavily. I am reminded of the quote by the American Educator Todd Whitaker that says;
“The best thing about being a educator is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a educator is that it matters everyday”
This pressure can result in educators overlooking their own physical, mental and emotional needs. At the end of the year, when there are often extra demands of reporting and closing off in readiness for a new year, this can result in a state of exhaustion, stress and anxiety.
This does not bode well when the new year rolls around and we are again presented with new children, new families, new challenges and for some, new working environments.
In 2018 I wrote an article 8 ways to stay healthy in early learning that provided some strategies around how to pay attention to wellbeing, viewing self-care as a strategic plan and one that required constant surveillance. While these strategies focused on our physical and mental wellbeing, the end of the year should also give us cause to reflect on our pedagogical wellbeing.
What is pedagogical wellbeing?
Pedagogy is an approach to theory and practice and the strong recognition that these two things connect – it refers to the ‘act’ of teaching.
In order to think about pedagogical wellbeing we need to consider how our ‘act’ is connecting and working in harmony with our knowledge, skills, practices and philosophies.
We need to examine these components of our work through a wellbeing lens of health and happiness and check in on our competencies, health and happiness in what we do and how we do it.
When the balance is out
As 2019 draws to an end, how do we find our joy, our enthusiasm and excitement for the possibilities that the new year holds when we are tired and worn out?
We know that educators have to grow personally and professionally in order to support young children’s learning and development. As Carla Rinaldi reminds us “The competent and creative child exists if there is a competent and creative adult” (Rinaldi, 2005, p 94).
One way of supporting professional growth is to use the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 to really focus on what is important in your work with young children, and use these thoughts as a roadmap for the following year.
Taking stock, taking action
To work on exploring what 2020 may look like for you in the work that you do with children requires a locus of control. You have control over what type of educator you are going to be in 2020. So, what is working for you and what is not working for you?
Pedagogical wellbeing should be a career long focus and requires an articulated approach.
Strategies that support this might include:
- Read, listen to or watch something that shifts your thinking and supports you to become a subject matter expert. Maybe revisit a theorist, an idea or way of working that you are interested in but do not know much about.
- Develop a growth mindset. Learn something new to bring back in. This does not need to be related to early learning. Learn something that fires up your neural pathways! Any enthusiasm and interest educators have outside of work has inherent trickle-down positive impacts on children.
- Work in an environment you really believe in. Why do you work where you do? What still holds your interest about this job? Should you stay or should you go?
- Lean ‘out’ instead of ‘in’ occasionally. Let more things ‘go’. Choosing what and who to spend your time and energy on is vital. Teaching is a marathon not a sprint so choose wisely what you will get invested in.
- Get a mentor in 2020. Mentors can often see and understand things in our work that we cannot. Mentors do not tell us what to do but rather they can spark a belief in yourself.
A focus on pedagogical wellbeing supports overall educator wellbeing as it is empowering and supports professional engagement.
It is however very dependent on educators being able to ask themselves the tough questions and make necessary changes – both in thinking and practice – but when you consider that the very best educators can make the ordinary extraordinary it is worth the time and effort.