My name is Vikki Moore and I am an Early Childhood Educator.
I am also many other things, I am British, I am honest and I am a 30 year old (almost 31!) woman. Being an ECE is just one of the ways in which I define myself. I choose to define myself as an ECE as I see it as part of who I am. (Notice how I didn't say 'daycare worker'). It's not a job title or a persona that I step into on a Monday morning, to me it is more than that. It is a way of being, a way of acting and I have been this since I was 18 years old.
I was born in England and grew up in South East London. I believe that growing up in this place installed a 'never back down' mentality and ensured that I never let anyone push me around. I remember being alone a lot as a child, I liked to play alone as I had a very active imagination and this kept me more than amused! I also remember that I always knew when something was 'right' and when something was 'wrong' and if anyone was going to try to get me to do something which I felt was 'wrong', it was NOT happening. Call it by it's positive name 'strong' or by it's negative name 'stubborn', I certainly have had this trait for as long as I have known myself!
I started formal schooling at age 4 (Yes this was young I know! I used to fall asleep in the afternoons on a regular basis) but I have a strong memory of one particular incident. I have a different way of spelling my name and one day a teaching assistant was helping me to try to write my name. I saw that the paper was blank and I said to her 'I don't remember how to write my name', I knew what it looked like but did not have the cognitive ability to remember it and use my fine motor skills to write it out! (It was the 90s where we did not attend preschool and I was 4 so I had not much practice) The teaching assistant told me to go and get my name from my labelled tray and copy it. So I went to where all the children's trays were (I think the equivalent in Canada is called a 'cubbie') and I did not see my name there. I went to tell the teacher, in a slight panic, that my name was not there and she snapped at me 'Of course it is!' and pointed to a word which was NOT my name. It said 'VICTORIA', my name is 'VIKKI' it looks completely different and I knew what my name looked like - I clearly had letter recognition down!
That day at 4 years old I argued with two teachers and refused to write 'VICTORIA' as my name - as that was wrong!! I got in trouble for not following the rules and for not having a piece of paper to show that I had practised writing my name, but I didn't care. I knew my name and I was not going to let anyone, not even a teacher, make me do something I knew was not right just to follow the rules.
That day I learnt an important lesson about people )and teachers) I realized that I was not respected as a person , I was seen as a child, a secondary importance after an adult. Children were not supposed to have a voice or show that they had knowledge, teachers wanted to be right and be above the children they taught. I learnt that there were rules and people wanted and needed to follow them even if they caused harm (intentional or unintentional) to others. At the end of that school day I have a vague memory of the conversation the teacher had with my mother and my mother confirming that my name was indeed 'VIKKI' and not 'VICTORIA'. I guess the teachers were embarrassed as no one ever mentioned that I got in trouble at school that day. Silent Victory.
Luckily I saw this incident as playing the game, the game of SCHOOL. School was where they made you read boring stuff, write exams and bow down to the power asserting teachers. I knew that there was school and then there was 'Real Life'. Real Life was were I was left alone to play, to create my own world, to use my imagination and to question things that either I did not see as truth or I did not understand. I learnt so much more in 'Real Life' as I ever did in the school game.
The world and our society changes more rapidly than we think it does, everyday over 300,000 babies are born. Each day we say hello to the 'new generation'. The 1990s was almost 30 years ago and a lot has changed - but still a lot has not changed. I always felt very uncomfortable with the deemed 'teacher role' asserting power of children just for the sake of 'that's how it's always been done'. I chose to care for children as my vocation as I knew that I would and could challenge the social norms, I felt children deserved to be treated better and should not feel powerless in their lives.
Ever since I was 16 and chose to complete an Early Years Diploma I have been asked 'Why did you choose childcare?', I have given many different answers over the years but there is not really one simple answer why. I had a feeling (I still do) that this just was something I needed to do, I was put on this earth at this time and no matter what other jobs I went in to I missed caring and educating young children. I have a strong desire to teach them about the Real Life but this has to be experienced and discovered rather than taught. Over the years my style as an Educator has evolved and still is! I am proud of the fact that I relate to how children feel and want to provide the best care I can for them when their parent is not around. I am also proud of that fact that through everything, the low pay, the stress, the conflicts with co-workers and the severe lack of respect and recognition - I STILL CARE.
As I get older and maturer I am really understanding what it means to care from the heart, this often means going against the rules sometimes. I now find myself in a position to make an impact and possibly even incite change in the system. I have worked in many daycares both in England and in Canada, in all of them I felt the same. Stifled, squished, stressed out and that somehow we are doing it all wrong. If we were doing it right surely the days would be easier, simpler, calmer and the children would be content, happy and free to be who they want to be. To me this is not the case the amount of contradictory rules, policies and procedures make it very hard to get through the day without feeling like you have done something wrong. As an educator I constantly worried I was not doing it right or that I was breaking a rule, so much so that this impacted my decision making with the children. I made decisions based on written polices rather than feeling and observing each situation and making a personal judgement call. I can give you a quick example ...
A child is crying and they vomit, if we are following policies and procedures to the letter then this child's parents need to be called and they need to go home. They potentially can have a contagious illness and they are to be kept away from daycare for 24 - 48 hours according to most daycare policies. So a good member of staff following the rules would do just that. However what if the child vomits when they get upset? They are not necessarily ill but according to the rules have to stay at home for up to 48 hours?? All you get is an annoyed parent at home for 2 days when their child is perfectly fine! Now the parent is annoyed with the daycare teacher and the daycare teacher is annoyed at the parent for making comments about this situation. The daycare teacher never wins as if they did not follow the policy they are essentially braking the rules.
I have always given rules a weary look. I understand the importance of having them to keep order and to keep children safe but once there is a black and white rule, there is always a barrier which can change peoples perceptions and behaviour. When there are barriers and restrictions in early childhood settings we are setting children up to accept oppression. ... Let me explain... imagine you are 3 years old and you had to get up early every day, get dressed, eat breakfast - even if you're not hungry and travel to daycare (sometimes even all before 7.30am). At daycare the day is all decided for you, when you eat, when you sleep, when you are allowed to play and when you must sit still. You have to line up and be lead outside to a gated area to get 'outside time' and often this is for 30 minutes a day. This is the only time you are allowed to run... but not too fast as you may fall and hurt yourself!! Your daily life is regimented and controlled, the stricter daycare routines always reminded me of little prisons. The children are not really there by choice, their parents have to work so they have to come and abide by the routine and rules. At the very least it can be seen as an oppression of spirit - if there is absolutely no room for child led expressions. I always felt exhausted working in theses types of daycares - this is how I knew that there must be better ways.
We now as adults rely on the rules rather than feeling what is the appropriate action, this is why it can be really hard for people to act ethically or with good morals as the rules are often contradictory in the name of 'professionalism'. Luckily I see the world evolving and people changing their views, there is hope - ever so slightly people are recognizing that children are people, they have rights and should be able to have some say over their day. Children under 5 do not need a prison like setting, they need freedom. Freedom to play, freedom to be creative, freedom to use their imaginations and autonomy to allow them to be who they want to be. But how do we achieve this in a daycare world full of rules and regulations?
By knowing in our hearts that we as educators can create a happy, fun and collaborative learning by discovery setting for the children we care for. We may have to use our right sided brain to go around the rules sometimes but it can be achieved. There will always be rules but it is how we choose to follow or challenge them that makes the difference. If you mould your life and work practises around the rules how do you discover new things?
I define myself as an Early Childhood Educator as I feel in my bones and in my heart that I can make the lives of children better. Many daycares now are offering more relaxed child centred programs where the children have extended play time or outdoor centres where children actually get to play and experience nature, let's support and protect these programs by choosing to work in a centre which supports the healthy expression of children's rights. There is a whole variety out there now, so if you find yourself working in a 'prison' daycare please self reflect and ask yourself 'why did I choose childcare?'.
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!