1 Mar

Beyond The Pages ECE Book Study: Chapter 3 (Week 5)

By Robert Gundling

Robert GI 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.

Robert

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BeyondthePages ECE book Study

28 thoughts on “Beyond The Pages ECE Book Study: Chapter 3 (Week 5)

  1. John, you’ve given us a beautiful opening for this conversation: humble, personal, and instructive. I have struggled with a tendency to dominate conversations with my enthusiasm: excuse me, arrogance. I told my wife some years ago that a survey had found that men interrupt women on a seven to one basis. Her quick reply was, “That sounds about right.” I’ve worked on it since, and I’m down to a two to one basis. Accepting these issues–that are a product of our own social-emotional educational background–as you point out so clearly, will be crucial regarding the success of professionalizing early childhood educators.

    1. Thank you very much Jack for your kind and thoughtful message. I believe as we listen to each other, actively and being present, we will inspire each person to express their thoughts and benefit from the collective wisdom, rather than the ideas of one or two people.

  2. Robert, I enjoyed your post, and agree that transformation depends on being able to listen. Finding some common ground to begin a conversation is also important. Stakeholders, teachers, families, communities and administrators all want children to be prepared for life and to become lifelong learners. If we listen for the common points and we can better build on those as strengths.

    1. Thank you Robin for your message. My hope is our common ground is a commitment to make the world a better place for young children. A world where they are valued and respected and encouraged to become the unique people of the future.

      I am looking forward to the dialogues we will have to find our way to be a recognized, valued profession.

      1. My hope is that everyone wants a better world for young children. My question/concern is this. If/when Early Childhood Education is seen as a professional field of practice what price will the average family pay? While I want to be seen as a professional and make wages associated with that, I fear that quality childcare would be limited to only families who are financially able.

        1. Thank you, Mitzi for your thought. I respect your sensitivity to the cost of quality care and education for families. I found the recent report about the state of teacher compensation interesting and informative as to the effect of the compensation of teachers in ECE programs on them and those they serve. I hope the conversations we have about becoming a profession include your perspective, as well as the perspective of others.

        2. that’s the hard thing about it.
          there are many daycares where the families pay a guaranteed number of hours, pay when the provider takes a vacation and if the family takes a vacation. I don’t get that many guaranteed hours. definitely no vacation time .

      2. I really like that this chapter focuses on having conversations with intent. I especially like the discussion about shifting from problem-solving to CREATING a “compelling future for ECE.” When I was a director it was a challenge to not get lost in the perceived problems and to keep the vision for where the program was going in its missions of offering quality early childhood.

  3. Thank you for the reminder to be in the moment, truly listening rather then preparing a response in our heads. This is a practice that takes time to develop and a lifetime to perfect but is so important if we are going to work collectively. I wonder how much information and good thinking I have missed over the years because I was trying to develop a rebudule before the other person was finished speaking. Listening then pausing to think before reciprocating with a thoughtful response is not only respectful it will allow our conversations with intent to be dynamic and productive.

    1. Thank you Betsy for your message. I also wonder how much I missed because I was more concerned with my response to someone, rather than actively listening to what the person was discussing with me. Fortunately, I am a lifelong learner who is always challenging myself to improve.

  4. I have tried discussing this with several coworkers and am so surprised at the wide variety of response. I think that this topic does need to have a lot more discussion and definitely, like has been said, a lot more listening. I have noticed how I am so busy thinking of a response I hear only part of what others are saying. Short of taking notes I’m afraid my response will not be accurate.

    1. Thank you, Mitzie for your response. I think a benefit of the conversation about ECE becoming a profession might be more consensus of ideas and less of a wide variety of responses. I believe coming to consensus will take time and persistence. However, ultimately I think it will be worth the time and effort. I also believe resources like the Worthy Wage Report dealing with teacher compensation will help us with conversations about compensation. The report is available at http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/cscce/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ReportFINAL.pdf

      I found this report to be helpful to me to update some of my thinking about compensation.

    2. Mitzi,
      I read a great quote on the internet yesterday and your comments reminded me of it:

      We can “listen to respond” or “listen to understand.”

      What a better response we would have if we first made sure we understood the person speaking.

  5. How can we create an opportunity where “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?” Our conversations with intent can encourage and inspire more sophisticated efforts in laying a foundation for learning. Through listening, respecting and suspending we can work together to gain deeper insight and explore our role in helping children receive quality care and education. By keeping our focus on helping ECE meet the needs and challenges of today’s children we can fashion a future for children to become life-long learners and eventually leaders in the field.

  6. I found this chapter very interesting and thought-provoking. I found myself stopping my reading to think more about what I had just read. The listening, respecting and suspending should come easier for us because if we are doing our job we should be listening and observing the children in our care. From listening and observing we learn where they are in their development and what we have to do and provide for them to advance. But I also find that when us as adults get together and try to have conversation with intent some go to the defend mode. The ideas and comments made by others are sometimes lost to the outspoken defenders of their personal agenda. We have to get over this way of thinking so we can get ECE of a field of practice.

  7. Being the type of person that I am, I tend to listen more to the conversation and then during the conversation, I am thinking of how I feel about what is being said as well as what I am going to say. As I have aged, I find myself initiating conversations, throwing out my opinions/thoughts and then letting the person/persons give me their ideas and we continue to discuss from there. The personality type that I have has never led me to have any bad or negative conversations with people. I’m not confrontational and if someone is confrontational with me, I don’t tend to get too worked up over things that are said.

  8. Seeing a new comment on this site led to my reviewing all of the comments, and I would like to respond to the March 6 comment of Mitzi about the cost of childcare if it is professionalized. In my decades of experience as a licensed psychologist I have had many experiences with the problem of cost. Of course, there is insurance, if you can afford that, to pay for some experiences with professional mental health providers but even that has been frustrating for me. I did mostly short-term cognitive behavior work, but too often someone needed more when their insurance ran out. That situation, and seeing a need to outright see people who couldn’t afford even the insurance, led to me doing a majority of low-cost and free work. It made me feel good about myself, but it didn’t support my family very well. I think we will need lots of government support for childcare, because we do need professionals in the field.

  9. Betsy, thank you for sharing that great article. It made me wonder what it will take for congress to take this information seriously. The information is so clear it makes me wonder if the problem of government caring for children is blind in a way similar to racism: i.e., that the idea of children being important threatens their status quo some way. Seeing the power of early childhood education may threaten the concept of individualism and judgmental comparison. Early childhood education also raises the specter of epigenetic determinism, which also threatens the arrogance of individual accomplishment We’ve had individualism and competition since the Agrarian Revolution 10,000 years ago, and it was strongly reinforced by the Industrial Revolution. It will be hard for many to give it up. Only a few of us understand that we are not responsible for who we are in the moment, only for what we can become. What we can become brings us back to the essentials that can be learned before we are five. Sorry, your article has really got me going.

    1. Jack,

      I truly appreciate your thinking and response. I am glad I thought to attach the article here.

      It is hard to undo enos of competitiveness and the need for power over “others”. All the more reason to strive for high quality early childhood programs that are accessible and affordable for all. Each baby step forward will eventually help to change the world……

  10. Thanks Robert for your post! I think of myself as a pretty good listener, as in usually am pretty good about not interrupting another person. But after reading this chapter and the post above, I, like Robert and others who have commented, often find myself not actively listening, rather thinking about what I’m going to say next and usually not focusing on the other person’s points and explanations fully. It’s hard to do that sometimes though because you want to be ready with a response right away, but I like what Stacie says in that we shouldn’t be afraid of natural and reflective pauses in conversations which is when we can gather our thoughts and respond more appropriately.

  11. My wise mother always told me, “Think before you talk”. Your comments and this chapter take this a bit further. I am not a good listener (working on it) and to have a list of things, like Stacy Goffin’s reflective questions, to keep in mind and refer to as I begin to have these conversations with coworkers, mentors and supervisors, is very helpful for me.

    This idea of professionalizing ECE needs to encompass so many different experiences, viewpoints and attitudes, that we must ~listen~ in order to understand the challenges and the possibilities for the future of our industry.

  12. I think one of Jack Wright’s earlier comments essentially calling us out as a government and as a culture as to the value we place on our children is compelling. We have children in this country that do not have healthcare or hardly see their parents because their parents are working two to three jobs to make ends meet. This should not be happening. I think at the heart of all of these issues are living wages. If we want to support children, we need to support families.

    As an undergrad studying International Relations we studied whether education was human right. The public and policymakers must believe in the inherent value of children and the human right of education in order to support reform and improvements. I feel strongly that we have to hold our policymakers and political representatives accountable for the action or non-action they take with regard to children and families and the action or non-action they take that affects our field.

    Lastly, if change is going to be made, we need to know how to organize toward it. If people are not engaged, there won’t be change. Learning how to engage others is crucial. It’s also crucial and necessary to challenge those that resist change simply out of self-interest.

  13. As educators of young minds these are great lesson to learn and to be reminded of. I took this to heart and plan to set a better example for the kids. If we, as adults, can learn to respect one another and to really listen then perhaps the next generation will learn this skill also. As Robert pointed we need to listen instead of taking that time to think about what our next statement in the conversation should be.

  14. Listening, respecting, and suspending are important and require lots of practice. In my opinion, there are very few people who actually practice these skills. I definitely struggle with this when it comes to defending my own opinion. I will be keeping this chapter in mind next time I find myself in a debate.

  15. One of the skills I have had to really hone in the last 3 years is listening…not just to respond but to actually hear what someone is telling you. I use “What I’m hearing is….” after listening to make sure we are both on the same page!
    If the goal is to professionalize early education we need to be able to engage others to get their support. Listening, respecting and suspending are all important aspects of this. All of us ultimately want the same thing…to ensure that children are prepared and (hopefully) become life long learners.

  16. This is a great chapter as fI needed to reread it and really let it soak in as both a parent and provider. To sit and listen to hear, actually hear what is being said and to respect it. To take it in and repeat what you heard. This is a lesson I will surely take form this book and use in my everyday life more and more.

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