By Gayle Stuber
What would you keep? What would you change in this system?
Field of Practice: the purpose of the field in question revolves around performance of a specialized and shared competence. A ‘field’ is an invisible world filled with mediums of connections: an invisible structure that connects.
I have read and re-read both Chapter 1 and 2 to get started on this discussion—or, to use the author’s words, dialogue. Chapter 2 is truly a way to begin the reflection needed—in a collective manner!—first individually and then, thanks to technology, collectively, as one moves through Chapter 3. Chapter 2 provides a method of self-reflection through answering questions that have been designed to open our minds and loosen our grip on personal positions.
With the purpose of starting an ‘intentional conversation’, I have selected Question #1: What is my personal stake in restructuring ECE as a field of practice? to be the beginning of my part of the conversation.
I began to ‘mull over’ my own assumptions and positions by beginning with my identity within the field. I am newly retired from a State Department of Education. I have spent most of my professional life in the world of education – as a teacher, a professor, and a state consultant. Even though I am retired, I continue to have a strong connection to ECE, which is one of my passions in life. At the state level, it is easy to see how the field is often ‘shanghaied’ by those outside the ECE world through providing money or political support for ideas and practices that can sound good, but may not be what is often described by ECE as ‘good for children and families’ in the long term.
My work focus plus other personal experiences (I am the daughter of a professor as well) has prompted my strong belief that education has a place at the ECE table. Therefore, at least part of my personal stake in restructuring ECE as a field of practice, is to determine if my belief that ECE should require specialized competences or professional learning by requiring an education degree—in specific, a teaching license in early childhood—is an appropriate assumption. This has been a core belief and practice in my work for decades—is this an assumption that I should or must release? I hope not (to be honest!!!)—but I know there is a large group of fellow ECE-ers who believe that high quality professional ECE teaching/child care does not require a degree.
SO: my answer to Question 1 (at this point in time—it will change as this blog and the dialogue continues) is that I would like (really need!) our field of practice to include an assurance or requirement for members to have a shared and specialized competence that is defined by a formal license or degree. What do you think? And how should we define such a formal license?
This conversation led me to a Question from “Commitment to Personal Change” #7: What would be placed at risk if I let go of my ‘certainties’? What am I afraid of losing? How might I test my assumption(s) in this regard?
My certainty is that a teaching license in early childhood education (I can also live with some sort of formal certificate) is an essential component of an ECE field of practice. I believe that the requirement of a field of practice–a specialized and shared competence—is met by the need for a teaching license and would result in that ‘highly skilled workforce’.
But what does ‘highly skilled’ mean? And what is the result I want for the work that I believe needs to be done by ECE? (see—another question has popped up!) It is all too easy to fall into the ‘promote success’ and ‘enhance learning’ language that is used to define the ultimate goal of early childhood education. I think one of my fears (afraid of losing—risks!) is that if there is no formal requirement for ECE implementers/teachers, whatever we call ourselves, then the field will not ever been seen as anything but a bunch of babysitters who are replaceable and who really do not provide any value to society as a whole and to families and children in specific.
What do you think? Is letting go of professional requirements a good option for the field? Or is it taking the easy way out by allowing anyone and everyone to be an ECE practitioner? (I guess my question shows my assumption/bias, doesn’t it?) Perhaps a better way is to ask: Is letting go of my assumption that a teaching license should be required for an ECE practitioner going to improve the results of our field of practice?
Under Openness to Changing ECE as a Field of Practice, I chose Question #13: What are my aspirations for ECE as a field of practice? What is it I really want to create? The other questions (in particular #14—the ‘butterflies’ question) were very good and likely more to the point based upon the questions I have chosen to date, but I needed to go back to what I see as the foundation for my assumptions: What do I REALLY want from ECE?
This should be such an easy question—but it really isn’t! I should know that because I stopped typing and decided to wash dishes—which tells me, and you, something about the difficulty of answering it!
My usual response is that I want early childhood educators to be respected by community members, political leaders, and our colleagues—but I don’t think that is enough. I need to get more specific. For example—here are some beginning concepts that I think could be considered important (perhaps essential? That will need more reflection–)
- All members have the same set of assumptions that define their individual and joint ECE identity
- Coherence across all systems
- A systemic focus that includes all who meet the assumptions
- Truly collaborative within the field of practice
- Connections—within and across the internal ECE systems, but also with other systems or fields of practice
- An accepted knowledge base for teachers/providers—that is known outside of the field and helps us truly be seen as a ‘field of practice’
These are the beginnings of my thoughts. I need to work on them, and I hope that you will add, change, or subtract from this list!
Finally, from the section on Conversational Skills, I selected Question #20: How do I think others see me? How might this influence my willingness to expose my thinking during conversations?
I have always identified myself as an ‘educator’ and as a professional. I think that others see me as an educator who has a passion for early childhood education. I hope that others see me as someone who has integrity and cares for the field and promotes ethical practice. That said—practices are individually identified and could be somewhat subjective so having integrity is defined by my assumptions and beliefs and therefore my assumptions influence how I think others see me!
Overall, I think I need to review this book, Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era, again. Every sentence really has something to consider, contemplate, and add into the reflection that we all need to do in order to come together for the good of our field resulting in the good of the children and families we serve. What are the questions that you want to answer? Selecting the questions and working on answering them will help us, individually and collectively, move the field toward a formal Field of Practice and result, I believe, in restructuring the current system into one that better serves children, families, and society as a whole.
What I found, as I began to consider the questions in Chapter 2, is that my answers generated more questions—and more in-depth reflections! I hope that my thoughts are useful to ‘kick off’ your own reflections! I look forward to our dialogue below.
Gayle M. Stuber, Ph.D.
Independent Early Childhood Specialists
1057 Wellington Road
Lawrence, KS 66049
*New here? You can find all the book study details HERE. Happy reading!
Book Study Timeline!
(click on chapter or name below to access that content)
- 2/1/16 – Book study begins!
- 2/2/16 – Chapter 1 (Kyra Ostendorf)
- 2/9/16 – Chapter 1 (Roseann Murphy & Magdalena Palencia)
- 2/16/16 – Chapter 2 & Chapter 2 Cont. (Jill Bella)
- 2/23/16 – Chapter 2 (Gayle Stuber)
- 3/1/16 – Chapter 3 (Robert Gundling)
- 3/8/16 – Chapter 3 (Tracy McElhattan)
- 3/15/16 – Chapter 4 (Betsy Carlin)
- 3/22/16 – Chapter 4 (Susan Zoll)
This book study is sponsored by Redleaf Press