Reflect, connect, ignite – for joy
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Reflect, connect, ignite – for joy

Reflect, connect, ignite – for joy

by Dr Olivia Karaolis, Dr Cathy Little

September 07, 2023

Early childhood education is a sector in desperate need of reform, with an unprecedented number of programs unable to meet staffing requirements due to the large number of employment vacancies. Representation in the media and in research depicts a sector beleaguered by low salaries, lack of professional recognition and inadequate, if not unsafe, working conditions. 


Two years ago, researchers from the University of Sydney sought to understand the learning contexts of early childhood educators. Missing from the depiction above was the joy the researchers associated with the profession and the joy inherent in any work with young children. 


We sought the voices of educators working with young children and their values, to highlight their important role in the lives of young children and support the recognition of the profession in the wider community, all with the goal of rekindling joy.


Using a two-phase, mixed-methods research design, educators were invited to share their views about the factors contributing to the crisis in the field, the profession overall, their daily encounters with children and the moments, both big and small, that shape and guide their pedagogy. We wanted to better know their perspectives on the loss of an intrinsic sense of purpose and their need for wider recognition of their value and expertise.


Our initial survey, round table discussions and early findings from the second stage of the research personalise the dilemma faced by many early childhood professionals, in the value they perceive about their own work and the perception of their work in the eyes of others. In seeking to listen to educators, we realised that there is no ‘quick fix’ to solve this situation, but rather that society must hear the voices of early childhood professionals and be open to change. An unexpected finding was the impact of the research process and activities that provided participants with an opportunity to reflect on the research findings and connect them to the joy in their own practice. The guiding questions appeared to ignite joy and remind us of the place it has in our lives and the lives with children.


As one educator shared with us, the research focus provided them and their team with “permission for joy”. Many educators expressed a desire to continue their “journey to joy” with us. In doing so, we ask educators to engage in “joyful noticing” to observe the joy in their own practice or the joy they observe in the practice of others. This can be captured in a few sentences in which you document your own practice or in a few words shared with a colleague, parent, or child. Another idea may be to have a ‘joy journal’ or a ‘joy board’ that includes pictures of the moments of joy that took place in your centre.


We see this as essential to raising an appreciation of the joy that is at the heart of our profession.


We invite you to share your joy;

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