"Statement: Early Childhood is not as rewarding as it used to be. True or False. Comment.”
Not only was I shocked to read this question on an Early Childhood Forum this week, I was equally disheartened to read through the comments, finding that the majority of post responders were in favour of this statement.
It is heart breaking to read so many adults working with young children are not enjoying their work, and if I am brutally honest, quite alarming!
Admittedly, we have had a very calm year. Just recently we shared the news of zero staff turnover for 2021. Given the heartbreak that we, like many services, experienced during the lockdowns and ‘Child Care Package’ that COVID19 dealt us in 2020, this we felt was an amazing achievement in a larger service with approximately 35 employees at any time.
Lockdowns and restrictions toward the beginning of 2021 made it difficult to organise as many team catch ups and professional development opportunities as we would usually, however somehow we have managed to really focus on our own team and planned spaces. Upon reflection, this has been a year whereby we have really embedded our ‘Across the Service’ program and practice. What a beautiful way to round out a decade of change, realising that the past 10 years of the continual pursuit of improvement have become the reality, and that our current benchmark is much, much higher.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” ~ T. S. Eliot
We have shared our space with many visitors over the past few years. Only last month we hosted a team from another local service looking to implement change. The reflections from our visitors were beautiful to read – with many comments about how calm and relaxed our team were, how happy and engaged the children were, and how wonderful it was to see children being able to choose where they played, who with, or with which educator they wished to share an experience with.
This led to us thinking about just how much we had achieved in what seemed a short space of time. Then the realisation that next year is 2022, and it has actually been a whole decade since the implementation of the Early Years Learning Framework, National Quality Framework, Queensland Kindergarten Leaning Guidelines, and basically all of the documentation of which we are guided by.
Oh yes, children! How amazing it is that we have been able to slowly remove physical obstacles for the children in our care this past decade. No longer are they confined by their age group. Children being able to choose whether or not to participate in an experience has helped increase the ‘reward’ for the adults. What is the point of trying to involve 10 of the same age child, who may not be interested in that particular experience, when you might have a mixture of 10 children aged birth to school age from the same service, who would actually choose to engage themselves in the same experience for a long period of time? That is not a trick question.
Do you know how rewarding that is for the adult? There are so many moments within our spaces whereby we learn something new about an individual child. There are so many times whereby a child chooses to engage in an experience away from their homeroom, and with an adult from another homeroom, and just happen across a new interest. With these realisations of new interests in other spaces, and with other adults, come new skills and knowledge.
Again, do you know just how rewarding this is for the adult?
In 2012, we realised we could once again venture out the front gate. Our risk assessment was humongous, and we almost didn’t go out due to a few clouds looming. We were only walking a few doors down to the plant nursery where we had always gone before. One of the children commented excitedly as he walked ‘THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!’
Fast forward to now, and we have provided thousands of ‘best days of one’s life’.
It usually starts with “Hey Harry, we are walking to the Mobile (Truck) Library this afternoon after lunch, would you like to come? Yes? Your little sister wants to come along too? Awesome! Would you like to hold her hand for the walk?” How good is that? Harry has just volunteered to look after the younger child along the way. How rewarding is that when the adult shares that story with Harry’s family.
There are so many other rewards that this past decade has provided. We have made many amazing friendships from like minded services through the phenomenal amount of Professional Development opportunities we have attended or hosted. Recently, one of our families has moved to Brisbane, however kept their space with us for the remainder of the year. A few weeks back we realised that they had not been able to find a space anywhere that they would be happy to leave their child and were waiting nervously on a small number of wait lists. Fortunately, we could recommend an amazing service who have attended every single Village Ways, every single Yarnin’ Up, and a handful of other opportunities we have hosted. It was so rewarding to hear a few weeks later that they had organised a tour and taken a position immediately. This kind of camaraderie between services has flourished over this past decade, something of which many of us have not had the pleasure of experiencing previously.
Whilst some of us have very fond memories from prior to the ‘trauma years’ (the ‘trauma years’ are basically the 10-15 years prior to 2012), before the years of over regulation, I still have to disagree with the statement. There is no way I would return to the years leading up to 2012, as what we are rocking right now has immeasurable reward.
... and the most exciting part...
“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” ~ Dr. Jonas Salk