By Robert Gundling
I am honored to be one of the people involved in the book study for, “Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era by Stacie G. Goffin. I want to thank Dawn Braa for her support and for the opportunity to participate in this discussion on her Blog. What a great way to begin to get people ready to facilitate intentional conversations, following the guidance Stacie provides in her book.
I have dedicated my career to making sure young children are valued and respected as capable and competent people who are highly motivated to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in school and life. I am proud to think of myself as a Practitioner who is constantly learning and improving my ability to serve young children, their families and those who work with them well. For the past seven years, I have had the opportunity to be a member of the leadership team of an organization in the southeast area of Washington, DC. The part of the nation’s capital considered to be of the most underserved areas of the city. This experience has deepened my understanding of the sense of urgency needed to professionalize the field of Early Childhood Education (ECE). Where a child lives should not be an indicator of whether they will succeed in school and life.
I assume you have read the book and followed the conversation on the Blog to gain a better understanding of the ideas in the book and how to apply these ideas to be able to organize a group of people to think about the ideas and engage in intentional conversations about the ideas and the questions in the book. I have read the book several times and am continuing to deepen my understanding of the ideas and the strategies presented to be able to lead a group of stakeholders who value young children and who want to make sure we are doing our best to meet their needs. I believe my understanding of the ideas and strategies is evolving, rather than needing to figure it all out first and then share my thoughts with others.
Chapter 3 is entitled, “Thinking Together”. Following the chapters to get acquainted with the purpose and use of the book, following by how to think alone about the ideas to help us get ready for a discussion, this chapter provides information and guidance in how to set the stage for conversations with intent and then think together to create a shared meaning about ECE as a Professional Field of Practice.
The Chapter begins with a quote from Robert Fritz, clarifying the result of thinking of situations as problems is to want to have something go away and the result of thinking of situations as an opportunity to create, we open ourselves up to take action to have something come into being. As I thought about this idea, I believe creating allows us to be curious about the situation and to open ourselves to what is possible rather than how to fix something that is broken. This creates a feeling of excitement within me as I imagine the possibility of moving forward to transform the field ECE from an occupation to a profession.
Having read Stacie’s book about the characteristic of professions, I have been deep in thought about what professions such as lawyers and doctors have done to become and profession and what can be used by us to help create the systems, structure and framework needed to create the ECE Profession that is valued and respected by ourselves and others. I believe it is very important that we take the responsibility to create what our profession looks like and how it functions to be considered a profession.
Returning to the information in Chapter 3, there is help to think about how to set the stage for conversations with intent. The conversations, at this stage of the journey to becoming a profession, are to create an initial shared understanding of where we are as a field of practice and exploring options leading to becoming a professional field of practice.
With an understanding of the information in the chapter thus far, Stacie provides three interconnected practices for effective conversations with intent. I believe these three practices are also important in our interactions with young children and their families. They are: listening, respect and suspending. As I thought about these three practices, I thought about times when I was engaged with a government official, someone from the world of business, a potential investor in the early care and education program where I was working and others who benefit from the work of those of us working in the field of early childhood education. I realized I sometimes focused on problems and rather than listening to the person. I was thinking about what I would say next to defend my ideas and to do everything possible to convince them of whatever the point was I was trying to make. I felt I needed to earn their respect, rather than believing we respected each other. I realized I brought my assumptions and past experiences with external stakeholders, rather than suspending my past and being present in the conversation, eager to listen to what the person was saying to me and opening myself up to think about how their ideas might help me advance the field of ECE to becoming a respected profession. I also thought about times when I was discussing ideas with other people in the field of ECE and rather than listening to their ideas; I was more concerned with making sure my thoughts were convincing, so as to control the conversation. I believe what is proposed in this chapter, challenges me to be present in the conversation and curious about what others are saying and thinking about how what they are saying can benefit the work to move ECE from a field of practice to a profession.
I believe the remainder of the chapter provides ideas to help learn how to facilitate the conversation and what to keep in mind to insure the intent of the conversation is achieved and people feel respected and valued resulting in their becoming engaged in the conversation and open to new ideas and new ways of thinking about where we need to go to become a profession.
I am looking forward to finding the time and the opportunity to facilitate an intentional conversation, using the information and strategies included in this chapter. As an advisor to the Board of the District of Columbia Association for the Education of Young Children (DCAEYC), I am hoping we will use the information, questions and strategies in the book, to guide the intentional conversation of the Board to successfully choose the best option for the affiliate as NAEYC continues with the process to transform the association.
I had the good fortune to serve as the Affiliate Council Representative for DCAEYC and participate in the meeting with the Council made the decision to dissolve the Council and create a new structure to support, what I believe, is the transformation of NAEYC. As I reflected on this experience, I realized how important it was for me to be open to the ideas during this meeting and to respect what others were saying and then think about everything said to come to a decision whether or not to dissolve the Affiliate Council.
I hope some of the ideas I have shared are helpful to you. Please know these ideas are still forming for me. I look forward to responses to what I have presented and thank you, in advance, for your ideas. I am sure to learn from them. So, let the conversation begin.
*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