In your early education service, have you ever stopped to think that every time you move – you influence children? Children near you, children nearby, children far away. Your physical positions, the conversations, and the type of conversations influence how children see themselves in your setting.
The Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standards require and encourage us to consider Intentional Teaching, to be considerate and thoughtful and to reflect on how we move in and out of different roles. When I walk into a room or outdoor space each day, I pause and wonder where my next step take me.
What will motivate me to move in this direction or that? Is it towards a small group of children or a child on their own perhaps I stay away? What will my movements say to either of these children? When should I communicate, (verbal, hand signs, visuals, language used, silence) what should I say? What is my intention if I do communicate?
Often my peers say I think too much, but I wonder if we think at all when we ‘move’ into children’s spaces, how these “moves” influence them and influence me?
One day, I was sitting with two two-year-olds looking at a book about people from around the world. I spent time intentionally pointing and noticing body features, different types of skin colour then talking about our own skin colour (brown, tan, light brown, white) and then the skin colour of our peers. More Toddlers began to sit with us. I then intentionally move the discussions to language, and languages spoken within the centre. I then intentionally started greeting the children in different languages and they repeated: “Yasso”, “Bonjour”, “Konichiwa”, “Hello”.
Later, across weeks and months I would greet children formally and informally with the greeting we used. This then sparked conversation with families about what we were doing and some of the families began to engage with this too.
I reflected later on the skin tones/colours that were not visible in the book and the different languages I was not saying. I wondered how that too influenced the children and families in the Early Childhood Service.
I am consciously aware that theory guides my practice, and has for many years. I continue to read and refer to Anti-Bias, Social Justice theories and ask questions: “What does this mean for my work in early childhood? How do I expand and embed this into my work?” I’ve come to realise that different theories I learn and practice influences the type of conversation (verbal and non-verbal) I have with children. Where I sit and don’t sit, who I ‘choose’ to engage with, and ‘have’ to engage with.
My intentions change all the time during a day, even a moment! And many times there is more than one intention.
One particular day I walked towards a group of three and four year olds boys. They were very articulate, and were using conversation to display leadership in the group. After a few minutes of listening, I interrupted and intentionally commented, asking if they noticed the individual child in the sandpit on his own (as I had seen him on his own many times before). I then asked an intentional question: How could they include him in their conversation?
My intentions were twofold for the boys to notice ‘others’ and begin to think about adapting and modifying their ways to include another.
I use to think I would ‘fix it’ and by the end of the week, month, term, year children will have achieved outcomes, or understand equity, but it is not the case. Children’s awareness, attitudes change over time, slowly maybe a life time. What I have learnt is to be intentional about my practice, to become more aware of theories, to be conscious of where I move to and why and to keep asking questions.
Alicia Flack-Koné is the Early Childhood Teacher at the ConnXtions Early Childhood Program, operated by Northside Children’s Services in partnership with the CIT Yurauna Centre. Alicia is a long-time advocate for children’s rights and for social justice principles in early education.
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