By Tracy McElhattan
The room is tense. You can feel the air being sucked out of the room. No one is listening, the conversation is going nowhere and everyone is staring at a phone or watch, wishing that time would stop standing still. We’ve all been in a situation like that and it doesn’t feel good, nor is it usually very productive. In order to create something new in ECE, we don’t have time to have unproductive conversations. Time is of the essence. Think we have plenty of time? I believe the time is now because while I’m energized that ECE is in the news frequently (just in the past week, I’ve read this, this, this, and this, plus others), I’m disheartened because commentary and loud opinions often come from sources outside our field- instead of within. It’s time for us to initiate our own conversations, to “foster conceptualization of ECE as a whole, and prompt collective inquiry and creativity” (p. 33). Effective conversations will take place when we implement the foundational practices described in this chapter:
Admittedly, these are tough things to do when we’re talking about our passion and life’s work. In Jill’s blog post, she told us of negative reactions to tough questions about professionalizing ECE from a conference session she attended just recently. We will do well to remember, as Stacie said, to separate our role from who we are as persons (pg. 37). Using the principles and “keep in minds” Stacie shared with us in Chapter 3, we won’t walk away from difficult conversations and we will learn to facilitate conversations together.
Why Do We Need to Think Together?
The past several weeks we’ve been able to think deeper on an individual level, and a bit on a collective level, given the nature of doing a book study. Hopefully you’ve thought through your own presumptions, and you’ve seen what your online colleagues are thinking about on an individual level. Now we’re ready to apply our knowledge and skills to answering questions that directly address structuring ECE as a profession. Let’s remember to “keep the main thing the main thing”:
Our purpose is to deepen understanding of ECE as a field of practice and explore options for its evolution to a professional field of practice; professionalizing ECE so that systemic capacity exists to consistently promote children’s optimum learning and development (p. 40).
This is the purpose of having “conversations with intent.” These conversations will push us to move beyond the ECE silos, which impede the flow of collaboration and innovation. We need to focus on “creating a compelling future for ECE as a field of practice and designing a system that brings the field’s desired behaviors to fruition” (p. 32).
What Do We Need to Think About?
A few years ago, I worked closely with Stacie as she facilitated conversations with intent with a specific group whose goal was a greater unification of their state’s early childhood programs. I learned a lot from helping her prepare for meetings, watching her work, and debriefing afterwards. Stacie has created this book to help ECE practitioners and constituents like us function in a similar way as if we were sitting in a room together. Following are two questions that I think we can explore online together this week that will steer our inquiry and creativity toward professionalizing ECE. Leave your comments and I will check in throughout the week. Remember that this is the beginning and we cannot know all the answers at the beginning. This is a journey we’ve chosen together.
- What should be ECE’s primary purpose as a professional field of practice?
- What do we think is the best starting point for structuring ECE as a professional field of practice?
Tracy E. McElhattan, Ph.D.
*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