By Roseann Murphy and Magdalena Palencia
At a time when education is increasingly focused on testable skills, policy-makers worry that young children are not prepared, everyone is discussing preschool “curriculum,” and many early childhood professionals are increasingly concerned about the rush to measurable outcomes. These so called curriculums are now finding their way into nurseries across the nation.
Stacie Goffin’s insightful book promoting the professionalism of Early Childhood Education (ECE) is timely and important if we are to keep the direction of ECE focused on what we know to be developmentally appropriate for children in our care. Ms. Goffin’s well thought out steps in this difficult challenge to move forward gives the reader a clear and succinct guide to follow in this age-old profession.
While reading Ms. Goffin’s book, we both felt the spark we have experienced so many times before; the spark to shake up the movement and continue working with colleagues with the intent of further professionalizing Early Childhood Education. The moment we saw Dawn Braa’s online book study we knew we had to be involved and quickly shared Stacie G. Goffin’s book with fellow educators. It became clear that we had to once again become involved with this important movement.
Our activism began in the late 70’s. Roseann’s career began in UCLA Child Care Services. The program was designed as a family child care professional training pilot. Those who were particularly familiar with in-home child care taught providers and educators while paying particular attention to the importance of the people doing the child caring. By developing specific training, support, and parent inclusion in the process, we were able to make this program a success. This program was a microcosm of the work Stacie Goffin is encouraging today. Magdalena’s career in education began as University level instructor. Together, we developed three early childhood programs and a school-age care program. Although our professional careers began on different continents, Magdalena and I realized immediately we were kindred spirits advocating for the recognition and professionalism of those working with children.
We were fortunate to be a part of yet another extremely powerful effort to professionalize the field of Early Childhood Education. Infant Specialist Magda Gerber, her organization known as Resources for Infant Educarers® brought together educators from around the world for the International Infant Conference. The Keynote speaker, world renowned pediatrician and researcher, Dr. Emmi Pikler discussed the importance of support, training and education of those working with the very young. The work of Magda Gerber and Dr. Emmi Pikler has been studied by the many who have continued this movement since the 1930’s. Magda Gerber’s Educaring® Approach taught by R.I.E. and Dr. Emmi Pikler’s Approach taught by Pikler/Loczy are two essential early childhood education models. Both Dr. Pikler and Magda Gerber have spent a lifetime organizing, training and supporting those caring for the very young.
Ms. Goffin’s willingness to share her positive outlook is intertwined with the intensity of the “time is now” mentality. If we are going to make a change, we must act now and the need to have educators in the field coming together with a common goal is extremely important.
After forty years in the field, working side-by-side with professionals, we have seen the impact that people less in-tune with child development have on programs and the children in care when they make decisions for the early childhood profession. To appropriately inform policy, we need to include only those specialists who are already involved in the field and parents. We work on a daily basis with the youngest, most vulnerable members of the community and our conversations must include the wide range of carers, educators and specialists but begin with parents. Parents must be included in this conversation, for without them improvements to the early childhood education field will not be accepted, as parents are our nation’s children strongest advocates.
Without a common goal among professionals in ECE, we are faced with inappropriate developmental expectations and may soon find ourselves in a similar situation as those educators and parents who are not satisfied with Common Core. “Developmental Appropriateness” has to be the buzz word of the day when it comes to our discourse, not who can read the earliest and who can sit the longest. To revamp a system that’s still so relatively new and compartmentalized, this introductory chapter advocates for unity, self-reflection, and acknowledgment of what needs to be changed (indeed what has to be changed) in order to make ECE a more consistent, unified field.
We must find a way to give our best teachers the autonomy of space, time, and freedom from most bureaucratic “must-dos” so they can build a community of learning with their children. While “on-the-job” for forty plus years, we have seen the effects of disjointed and compartmentalized Early Childhood Education and educators. Instead of leaving everyone who works in ECE to their own, independent groups, educators, and specialists need to be brought together to become a more organized, professional institution to draw on each other’s collective knowledge in order to inform policy. They can then share the most effective methods and tools for teaching children with parents so parents may advocate for change.
Creating “professionalism” is a very complex task in a society that does not consider its children a priority. If children were a priority, the field would already be professionalized and recognized as an industry worth improving.
The chapter also advocates against including outside influences in policy design. Ms. Goffin refers to this as “help that comes with a price.” In order to gain and uphold true professionalism in the eyes of the public and within the world of ECE, policy changes must be independent from the uninformed.
No matter how well-meaning a supporter outside the field may be, they will undoubtedly have their own agenda during the restructuring of ECE as a field of practice. We believe there is danger in this because to be shaped even partially by an outsider’s values could derail the much-needed reformation of the field. The potential risk of a set-back when the industry desperately needs to move forward is too great already.
ECE is a tremendously complex field which is still in the process of stabilizing into a cohesive form. There are no easy answers to the challenge of professionalizing and unifying the disconnected parts into a symbiotic system. We think the first step, recognition, are well-illustrated in Chapter One and must be our first priority. If society does not admit there needs to be change, any efforts will be lost. We must have very clear goals about the field and what changes we want to make. What are the things we want to unify and why do we want to unify?
We think it is important to keep in mind, beyond everyone’s different beliefs and different approaches, our ultimate goal is the same: to give children the tools, the environment, and the teachers that can help them learn and grow and live in the best way possible. It is critical that prejudice, preconceptions, and ego, are set aside so an honest and open dialogue can be established. Only then can real, lasting change be made to improve the state of ECE and professionalize the industry.
We spent a great deal of time reflecting on and discussing Chapter One. We discussed our impression with fellow colleagues and wrote this review based on our knowledge and experience. We are eager to know how you as educators think we should move forward. We would like to take this opportunity to ask- what do we want to professionalize and unify? Leave a reply below.
Elliot, Enid. We Are Not Robots. New York: State University of New York Press. 2007. (Page 37 Paragraph 2)
Gerber, Magda, et all. A Manual for Parents and Professionals. Los Angeles, CA: Resources for Infant Educarers. 1979
Pikler/Loczy. www.pikler.org. January 2016.
*New here? You can find all the book study details HERE. Happy reading!
This book study is sponsored by Redleaf Press