The Playful Podcast Episode 4 – Glorified Babysitting

In this solo episode I reflect on the fight that ECEs are in to professionalize our work and gain respect by leveraging away from being considered as glorified babysitters. I wander through wonderings about different types of care and education across time, space, and cultures, and ask questions that feel unsettling to my own identity as an ECE. Note: this episode was recorded at the beginning of Sept 2021.

A special note: some of the information I shared in this episode came from being present at events and listening to Indigenous activists share their stories. I tried my best not share information that I would have had to ask permission to share, but I still don’t know how to appropriately cite this kind of knowledge. Therefore, my message to you, if you find this knowledge insightful and motivating, is to get out and physically or virtually attend events run by Indigenous communities to learn about the local knowledge that they hold and that they are willing to share with you.

The statistics I shared about residential schools can be found here:

The book I reference by Kim Anderson and Jessica Ball can be found here (but, if you can, I beg you to find another place to buy it).

The Two-Row Paddle of the Grand information can be found here:

The history of self-care and black panthers; all information I shared was from here:

Carol’s Garboden Murray’s Illuminating Care book and facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=illuminating%20care%3A%20the%20pedagogy%20and%20practice%20of%20care

#boringselfcare posts can be found by @makedaisychains on insta: https://www.instagram.com/p/CHDqLdUBTJn/

Feminist Ethics of Care articles:

  • Langford, R. (Ed.). (2019). Theorizing feminist ethics of care in early childhood practice: Possibilities and dangers. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Powell, A., Johnston, L., & Langford, R. (2021). Equity Enacted: Possibilities for Difference in ECEC through a Critical Ethics of Care Approach. Equity as Praxis in Early Childhood Education and Care, 65.

Pay Caregivers Fairly episode on Call Your Girlfriend: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5EIAn1QAR4oDothi3T279x

Instagram posts discussing the suspension of systems of interdependence: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTFBmEBH3Ww/

Ladyweb epsiode on Call your Girlfriend: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0glfXLvhEmLGP70yZyTW9p

Braiding Sweetgrass (Kimmerer)
“Through unity survival. All flourishing is mutual”

How We Show Up, Mia Birdsong: http://www.miabirdsong.com/how-we-show-up

Ontario’s changes to support rec and leisure more: https://www.ontario.ca/page/before-and-after-school-programs-what-parents-and-providers-need-know

Carol Garboden Murray quote about babysitting: https://www.facebook.com/carolgarbodenmurray/photos/a.124546839303044/327023165722076/

Educators as co-learners and researchers: https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-does-learning-happen-ontarios-pedagogy-early-years

#ichosepreschool: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTTVAUrsTgM/?utm_medium=copy_link

The Playful Podcast Episode 3 – Play! (pt. 1)

Brief summary of shownotes and references:

The Playful Podcast Episode 2 – Prerequisites to Play

In this solo episode, I introduce a mini-series that I intend to continue called Pondering Pathways, where I take a walk around my neighbourhood while reflecting on what is required to access play. I follow up from my questions about Treaty 3 from my first episode and then I contemplate some systemic limitations related to ability, race, socioeconomic status, and culture. I take a deep dive into some thoughts about music in early learning, seasonal outdoor play, and what is required to engage with sophisticated environments and tools. This episode is a little bit of an experiment… it’s a bit choppy or distorted at times and includes some input from the more-than-human world.

  • In this episode I start by following up with my action item from the first episode and share some information I learned about what Treaty 3 is. I stumble my way through discussing an article written by Dr. Brittany Lubby and Dr. Alison Norman about Treaty 3, their history class, and Anishinaabe culture. Here is the full quotation: “Caroline Bridge: Due to the large bodies of water being dealt with in Treaty Three, we can speculate that input from the Nation’s women was important. Women in Anishinaabe culture, of which the Mississaugas are a part, are considered “Keepers of Water,” meaning that when it came to the usage of water, their word was likely to have been considered invaluable in 1792.”
  • I briefly mention my reflections on water as a white settler begin with this Instagram post, and the time of writing this there are 7 total posts documenting these reflections, plus a few others in there that are clearly related.
  • As I stepped outside and started discussing outdoor play and nature-based learning, I reflect on the quotation “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. I had no idea who initially offered this quotation, but with some digging it seems that most people attribute it to Alfred Wainwright although that appears debatable. I need to also say that my reflections about expensive clothing and sensory integration are not my own. I wish I had kept tabs on where I first learned about being critical about this quotation, but I can only track down a few references that I consulted prior to recording this episode:
  1. Regarding how sensory integration occurs outdoors, I learned about this whenI attended a talk by Jon Young and Kathleen Lockyer put on by the Guelph Outdoor School. Kathleen’s website is available here.
  2. I started reflecting on Canadian winter culture after reading this article. Some of the international differences in outdoor play that I referred to are likely discussed here, although I haven’t yet read it (I’ve just read other work by the authors).
  3. A few inspiring resources for playing outdoors with children include the book There’s no Such Thing as Bad Weather, Balanced and Barefoot and Last Child in the Woods,
  4. The clothing library I discussed was from Outdoor Play and Learning as discussed at a Conference by the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario.
  5. “..long periods of uninterrupted play” is a concept that is discussed in Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years
  • When I talked about the affordances available in wild spaces, this comes from authors like:
  1. Dr. Mariana Brussoni
  2. Dr. Zahra Zamani
  3. Dr. Helen Little
  • When I reflected on what counts as musical play, I speak from a place of being really inspired by Dr. Susan Young’s work. Here is an example of some of her work related to playing with music in early childhood.

Thanks for listening!

Stay playful

The Playful Podcast. Episode 1 – Playful Pedagogies and Podcastings

Welcome to the podcast! In this solo pilot episode, I introduce myself and my orientations toward play, share some ideas about my intentions for this podcast, and try my hand at defining ‘pedagogy’ from the ECE perspective. After disclosing some of my own playful journey into podcasting, I try answering some rapid fire questions I created for future guests. Let’s hope my dream list of guests will manifest!

  • In the first 4 minutes I introduce myself, discuss my positionality, and share information about the land from which I’m chatting on. I talk about living in a city in Ontario known as 2 Rivers and the historical and contemporary relationships that Indigenous groups have had with the land, which reflects the City of Guelph’s land acknowledgement.
  • Next, I try to define pedagogy, but I noticed I forgot to include to say that it’s the theory and practice of teaching and learning, which is literally in the Wiki definition of pedagogy.
  • I also oooze appreciation for Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. If you haven’t bought the booked or got yourself onto the hold list at a local library, seriously, you’ll want to start the process. That book is life changing.
  • The graduate course I talk about around the 13 min mark is called Interdisciplinary Approaches to Family Relations and Human Development at the University of Guelph and the book that I read a quote from is called Research and Reconciliation by Shawn Wilson, Andrea Breen, and Lindsay Dupre.
  • I touch on how this podcast can resemble pedagogical documentation of my learning journey. If you’re not familiar with this terminology, trust that I will explain it more in future episodes. But also, if you are as curious as I am, I’d recommend checking out these resources:
  1. Making Learning Visible
  2. Habits of Documenting
  3. Technology Rich Inquiry Based Research

As always, you can reach my at @playfulpedagogies on instagram and facebook; @playfulpod on twitter, and at kem@playfulpedagogies.ca for feedback or to collab!

Educator-As-Community-Keeper

This post is a bit of a brain dump as I’m unwinding a cognitive knot. It is the result of my participation in a few book studies, both personally and professionally. The books we read were Braiding Sweetgrass by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer and How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong.

My personal reading of Braiding Sweetgrass led me to some deep reflections and contemplations about my relationships with plants (in addition to animals). Kimmerer’s words really slowed down my experience outdoors and allowed me to focus on small moments.

How We Show Up challenged me on a deep personal level. As an introvert who values my independence and singlehood, I found myself questioning what it means to live alone. The chapter about queering friendships, specifically, got me in the feels.

But it wasn’t until I discussed these books in their respective book study groups that I truly felt transformed by the knowledge gifted in them. I’ll share a few examples of things that we questioned and the new understandings I have come to.

Through a conversation about Braiding Sweetgrass we got to a point where we were talking about gifts, and how when you give a gift you shouldn’t expect a gift in return. One person shared that if they were to give money to someone sitting outdoors, they would do so without strings attached, meaning that they trust the person would spend the money on whatever they need, not expect them to purchase food or clothes or save it. They said that there shouldn’t be an expectation of return within our reciprocal relationships. But as a group, we lingered on that, because is that not part of the point the reciprocal relationships? If we are in two-way relationships, can we not trust that we both give and receive? I felt stumped by this for a second and I didn’t see a way out. But then another person offered a path forward: aren’t we still talking about being individuals rather than being truly interconnected? An systems of interdependence mean that what we give, we do get back. In interconnected systems-thinking, we are constantly giving to each other and ourselves. This also means that survival occurs through unity; all flourishing is mutual. In this way, giving money is act of perpetual, unconditional kindness, but it also questions and resists the ownership and hoarding of money. To give is not necessarily to expect to receive, but it is to know that people around you and before you are looking out for you. If we all take responsibility for our part in a community, we all survive and thrive. So ow does this relate to being an educator? My explanation requires a reflection on my next book study: How We Show Up.

This book is a critique of the racist and heteronormative American Dreamism culture and a reimagining of family, friendship, and community. Early on in the book the author makes a point of how family units are a replication of our toxic individualist culture in North America, whereby we exist separately from our neighbours, and things like relying on friends for childcare is considered a shameful last resort for many people. For middle-and lower-class families, paying for childcare seems to be the dominant idea of “what is best for the child”; yet, this rationale reinforces the idea that early childhood educators know what is best for children and that somehow other adults like family and friends do not. I’ve been trying to challenge this notion because, despite our specialized knowledge and years of experience, we are not more knowledgeable than parents, elders, and generational or cultural wisdom. Our collective vision of parents is to see them as capable and competent; therefore, our role becomes slightly challenged when we shift to viewing our livelihood as interconnected communities rather than supporting toxic individualism. If we don’t have the expertise we think we do, then why are we demanding higher pay? If we are as capable and competent as parents and families, then why should we be asking for better occupational conditions, when this is straying further and further away from the home-life experience. How might we lean into these questions, rather than been threatened? I’ve provided a consideration from the book Illuminating Care to demonstrate this notion:

In our conversation about this book we talked about our differing perspectives on individualism. Myself and another person shared that we experience intimacy as threatening, whereas another felt that they had always had friendships that pushed boundaries of intimacy. We discusses our experiences of living with or feeling connected to family, but then realized that family to us, is something that tends to feel permanent whereas friendships can feel transient. We were sensing agreement that the transientness of friendships came with grief, protectiveness, and a resistance to change. We talked about what it means to move, to leave behind communities, and how some folks can feel quite angry when our good friends move. This is especially relevant given our current life stage, not quite 10 years into our careers when moving can happen frequently. But I recalled something that was getting called upon within me: Mike’s wisdom of how home is created and recreated on our paths throughout life, with new people. It’s not about the structure and it’s not about who is kept in or out of a space. It’s about community, bringing people together with the struggle of food, survival, and hard work. I think he would have liked this book a lot.

So again, what does this mean as an eduator?

To that I would ask, am I not recreating home indefinitely? Am I not embracing the transientness of children temporarily being in my care? Do I not enter into very intimate relationships with families and children, even becoming part of families? Am I not empowered and humbled by this, rather than threatened? Do I not operate within a community hub, bringing families together, supporting children’s young friendships, and fostering dispositions for lifelong learning? Do I not uphold community through my responsiveness to both individual and group needs? Don’t I turn local wisdom and familial cultural practices into sacred, shared experiences for all children to benefit from? Do I not prioritize my relationships above almost all else? Am I not a reciprocal partner, ally, and co-conspirator in children’s lives? Defender of wonder, play, and joy in ways that invite children into relationship with humans and the more-than-human world? Do I not resist toxic individualism almost as a job requirement, whereby I use systems-thinking to understand, extend and support the many interlocking relationships I have entered? Am I not a keeper of this community knowledge, resources, and connections?

I think am and I do. And this is how I am choosing to reframe myself. I’m not just a researcher, co-leaner, play partner, care mentor, and nurturer; I am a community keeper.

When Children Ask “Why” Part 1

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I have two major sources of inspiration: Ann Pelo and Margie Carter’s From Teaching to Thinking, and my outdoor education experience in high school with the late Mike Elrick. I’ve been returning to their wisdom in the past few months with a refreshed lens, and I am taking away new insights.

I often think about the way Ann describes her experiences outdoors with children, in-particular the stories of the skunk and the trees in Chapters 1 and 2 of FTtT. While I read some of her writing this morning, I was prompted to think about how I could bring these attitudes into the workshops I’ll be facilitating over the next few months. How can I translate some of this inspiration into digestible prompts for diverse groups of educators?

While reading Ann’s story, I imagined myself in her position. What would I do in response to children asking ‘why do the leaves change colour?’. What have I done in the past? I can’t quite remember. I thought about how some educators would say that they would reflect the question back to the child “I don’t know…why do you think they might change colour?”. Another might say that they would discuss the changing seasons or the amount light during fall. Another might say they don’t know, so they would engage in research to bring books into the classroom to answer the question. Another might say that, since there are filling many other roles while outdoors, such as counting children, putting on mittens, and watching for parents, they are unlikely to feel like they have time to appropriately answer this question and do it justice. Someone might say that in their culture changing colours of leaves holds particular significance. There are so many beautiful ways to respond to this question as well as systemic factors to consider.

I contrast these answers to what Ann did in her experience, which I elude to below. And then I re-thought what I would do again: what would I do if I had enough time, space, and resources to respond in a way that aligns with my pedagogical commitments?

When young children ask “why”, as in, “why do the leaves change colour”, I doubt they are searching for an answer.

I honestly believe, instead, they are reaching for guidance on how to think about this perplexing concept. They might be looking for how to build their skills to follow their curiosities. They might be asking “how do I respond to this inquiry?” or “what should I do when I feel this sense of wonder” or even “this feeling of reverence is powerful! Am I okay?”.

Our job as ECEs is not to be a first responder in these moments. It’s not to react with answers, wisdom, or solutions. I believe, instead, that our job is to take our training and use it to linger in these moments of questioning. Rather than answering in-the-moment, how might we slow down time for children and think though these dilemmas with them. If our job/training/philosophy is to scaffold children’s schemas in meaningful ways, then it’s clear that providing quick answers does a disservice to children’s learning. Instead, I wonder, how might we answer this question slowly, over time? How might we collaborate to think about our own answers to this question? Is a scientific fact really what is being asked for here? Or is it a larger life question about birth, death, and transformation as Ann suggests. Thinking in this way, my role as a co-learner might not even be to think in scientific terms about this. Nor is it to bring in books about trees and seasons. Perhaps, instead it is simply to commit to watching the trees more, learning from our senses, and creating our own language to articulate what we experience here. What do we call it when we feel the exhilaration of noticing a leaf fall, twirling from branch to ground?

Ultimately, I am currently thinking about how children are seeking guidance on their own learning, rather than factual answers, when they ask why. Providing provocations through engaging environmental set up, the use of open-ended play/learning materials, and the intentional use of questions can extend these curiosities through scaffolded guidance, support, and co-learning.

What Would Mike Say?

A friend messaged me today out of the blue. She was in CELP when I was in Headwaters, in 2009. She said she was thinking of her next steps and asked “what would Mike do?” We exchanged a few messaged reminiscing about Mike’s mischievous ways, his smile, and sense of peace and optimism with life. It reminded her of the book Why is God Laughing? (because he gets the joke). It reminded me of the book The Music Lesson (where a music teacher, Mike, makes a journey out of the point of music). These connections to literature remind me of quote Paul pulled from Halfway Man about weaving landscape and narrative. I felt deeply moved by this brief conversation, and, naturally, it sparked a flurry of memories for me. I re-read the 2010 Pathways issue, Zocalo’s blog post from 2015, sifted through photos, only to arrive here, my own journey through writing.

I have to admit, I’ve never stopped to ask myself what a conversation with Mike might be like today. I have been so focused on finding my own mentors, carving my own journeys, and creating my own communities that I never really thought about what he’d have to say about it all. I feel like he’d probably tell me to have more fun.

“So… what’s in the news?” he’d say, with a smirk and arms outstretched, briefly, only lowered to pull one leg over the over and sit with his hands clasped. He’d wiggle his nose, blink, and then tilt his head to the side and wait for one of us to speak up.

Mike, the news right now is wild. I had to stop tuning in daily because it feels like a constant crisis. I think if you were here during this pandemic you’d be in full force to get people outside. More access to trails and rivers and trees, I’d think.

I wonder if you would have made a new trail somewhere in Arkell/Eden Mills since they are getting so busy. Perhaps maintain the popular ones. Or spend time in a tent somewhere.

I’m sure you’d have things to say about the whole stove-in-the-winter-tent issue that came up last year. Warmth, after all, was the point of a hot-tent.

You would not believe that the other day I told my friend about The Hero’s Journey. It came up naturally in conversation and I probably butchered the description. But the wild thing is that the next day she read about it in the book she’s reading. That prompted me to get the audiobook. I feel like you’d tell me to find a physical copy somewhere.

I returned home, Mike, 10 years after we embarked on our journey to The Source. But I’m still returning. I think that this is the fourth story that you told Paul hadn’t happened yet. It’s all your students returning home, in their own time. We trickle back, one by one, to visit the old places that were so sacred. Edgewood. The boathouse for ice cream. Your solo spot. Sacred places from sacred journeys.

I live by the river now, by the way. Close to the mill where we did our interview. Imagine I could interview you today?! You’d give me such fantastic prompts, challenges, and insights to wrestle with, I’m sure. You’d probably tell me to be a musician instead of a scholar. Music was important to you. I think you’d like the role of pedagogical consultant though. I get to mentor other people, hopefully. And I think you’d like what’s happening in early learning in terms of emergent curriculum, pedagogical documentation, and risky play. We would have some fascinating conversations.

I’ve learned so much wisdom from Paul, you know. He doesn’t carry your relationship lightly. He is moved, deeply, by his love for you. We all are.

“We were so in love with each other”. That rings in my ears from time to time. It’s something my friend said to me a year ago, at an Outdoor Ed conference, as we reminisced about you back then. That was the magic you created for us in your programs. It was beyond community and activism. It was poetry. It was belonging. It was transformational.

I wonder what you’d think of this blog and my writing. My songs. My presentations. My research. My work ethic. My break down a few years ago. I wonder if I would have ever attended COEO in 2020 or if it would have happened at a different time. I wonder if I would have never failed Uni Geography. I wonder if I would have gone to Queens. I wonder, if you had lived longer, when I would have returned home. I suspect it would have been so much later.

Noticing my own sense of wonder makes me proud. I feel like it would make you proud, too.

Your sense of wonder is one of the things that sustains me today. Alongside your hard work was your visionary style, compassionate leadership, and commitment to reflection and documentation. Reading your writing today demonstrates how deeply you had journeyed with your ideas. You showed us that at 17 we could get published, noticed even, if we journey to the source and offer something meaningful for our community. You showed us that we had the strength, ideas, and endurance to create innovative solutions to the world’s problems. You made us into the farmers, engineers, entrepreneurs, partners, architects, teachers, nurses, and community partners we are today because, to you, were always those things.

Thank you for showing me the power of an authentic educator, father, lover, and community dweller.

Scared Journeys

“A turkey vulture!” I gushed, the bird surfing in the wind above the trees. “Uhh…that’s totally a seagull,” my friend said. “No way, it has that v-shape and a huge wingspan,” I mused in reverence with its majestic confidence. “Seagull, Kim.” said my friend, giving me the side-eye. “I love that we interrupt each other for nature.” she added with joyful grin. “Me too,” turning my attention back to her. “Anyway,” she continued, “my therapist has been discussing with me how in the dark night of the soul…”

My friend and I have been walking and talking together at least once a week for the past 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s one of my most meaningful connections I’ve had with another person. We live about 500 meters apart and we fell into a routine of calling each other up, meeting at the bridge, and walking along a path by the river.

What started out as me dragging her to the oldest and most intricate trails around has evolved, such that lately we walk a paved path, people-watch, and admire our local neighbourhoods. We started this ritual in winter months, with me reminding her to put on wool socks, to pull her hood on when she was cold, and to take her boots off in the car if her feet were wet. I would opt to hike the large wooded areas, just outside the city, with no sounds from traffic, and only the tracks of living beings and the chance to encounter a deer. These days though, it’s different. She has prompted me to tune in to urban nature. I now notice our various local bird species, the bloom of the magnolias that line our sidewalks, and when the dew sparkles in the light.

Our walks are also different because what started out as us discussing our individual journeys has become an intertwined adventure, inseparable in our shared decisions and knowledge. Together, our wisdom and experience reveals many answers to larger life questions than our mere individual perplexing puzzles. It’s a kind of intimacy that I cherish.

When she was discussing her dark night of the soul conversation with her therapist I was struck by how similar it sounded to the elements of The Hero’s Journey. This is a concept I am loosely familiar with from my time in a high school outdoor education program. I feel connected to honouring the processes of transformation, evolution, and regrowth. So I mentioned it to her in that moment. “This reminds me of the threshold to the ‘special world’ in the hero’s journey” I said. “Have you heard of if?” I wasn’t sure if this idea would land with her. It’s a bit mythical and not exactly something I imagine is aligned with a therapists’ scope of practice. I did my best to briefly explain. And then went back to listening to her describe her embrace and enter this dark and twisty part of herself. I followed along, closely, as much of what she said resonated with my experience seeing a psychiatrist 5 years ago. I knew some dark and twisty places, and felt I had returned home from them.

Today I woke up to a text from her saying that her favourite book, Sacred Contracts, discusses the hero’s journey. Ha! Of course it does. It makes perfect sense since she’s told me that it is about 7 archetypes. This was one of of the most powerful texts I’ve received from a friend. Not only had my comment landed, but how serendipitous that it was inherently tied to her own intimate reading journey.

Serendipity, I believe, is the result of deep listening: to our friends, to our mentors, and to ourselves. It’s a response that arises from listening to and following an instinct, or many instincts, that lead us to the same multi-dimensional space (theoretical or literal). I often describe how my “worlds collided” when I worked in a child care program that valued nature-based and arts-based pedagogy. Yes, a collision, in some ways, but also a decision, or rather many decisions, that brought the universe into alignment for me. The collision was within my mind/body when I realized that the world doesn’t operate in disciplines, industries, or silos in the way that we typical come to know it. Instead, I experienced a tiny explosion, a light bulb moment, a realization that all things in life are so very deeply connected. The symbiotic, interconnectedness that is the universe, ecosystems, and reciprocal relationships are all still such a mystery. But one to be trusted instead of scrutinized. What tender support comes from participating in, relying on, and contributing to this vast and expansive web of life, past, present, and future.

That text message shifted something in me this morning. I realized that for my friend and I, our inner worlds have collided too: my passion for embarking on journeys, spending time in nature, and being curious interlocked with her commitment to making authentic agreements, honouring her embodied knowledge, and avoiding poisons. Only together have we create our shared sacred journeys.

Lately I’ve been wondering if thriving in this life has to be complex as it is marketed to be. The constant self-help messaging from psychologists, mental health practitioners, education experts, neuroscientists, dieticians, economists, epidemiologists etc., make us into growth junkies. And while I spent years studying psychology, learning neuroscience and being baffled by biomedical science only to move on to social sciences, cultural studies, and humanities, I’m still not convinced the colonial structures of scientific rigour and research can capture the intersectional realities of our lives. I’ve both lost faith and moved beyond science, if that is possible, only to return to a simplified understanding, one of story and art. At the end of the day, I feel like our experiences have already been reflected back to us through stories and art (of all types), and that these modes of creation are far more complex and sophisticated than any science. Conversation, intuition, and faith in sacred journeys, are the things that move us and heal our soul wounds within our human experience.

More likely, and yet again, maybe it’s a both/and (of medical intervention and relational connection).

Meta-Reflection

Here I will be reflecting on my experience over the past semester, especially near the end as my knowledge became synthesized, how I created some concrete next-steps for my pedagogical practice, and my reflections on the process of creating and listening to our podcasts.

Podcasts

What I learned about my own teaching practice after creating and listening to our podcasts.

The process of creating and editing my podcast was incredibly enlightening. First, by reviewing literature on the topic of Indigenous Pedagogies (the general topic of our podcast) I came to better understand the current state of the literature in this area (i.e., focusing on decolonizing academia, Indigenizing campuses, and not just inserting Indigenous history or cultural knowledge into a curriculum). Second, reviewing the information from the studies for the purposes of sharing the information prompted me to enter into relationship with this knowledge, preserve its context where possible, and better understand what I know and don’t yet know on this topic. The many conversations that Anna and I had before doing the podcast helped me feel like I was doing the topic justice and flushing out some of my own ideas as I grappled to better understand Indigenous Pedagogies on a personal level, by way of decolonizing my own mind. Anna mentioned so many new concepts to me, introduced me to new language, and reminded me of additional perspectives I would have never thought of. For example, Anna described a kind of elasticity that feels present in the processes of unlearning/relearning the settler-colonialism of educational processes and how despite any “progress” that is made in terms of unsettling Anna’s understanding or worldview, how it returns to default, colonial, capitalist ways of operating. This was an experience that feels very true for myself as well, and so I referred to it as a “snap back” that happens (in our podcast). By including this in our podcast, it felt as though we were making a case that understanding and discussing Indigenous Pedagogies in higher-ed is not the same process that may occur with disseminating other pedagogical strategies, because it is a personal process for everyone and the knowledge is highly contextual. Considering the ways in which this knowledge is moved from person to person is part of understanding and respecting Indigenous pedagogies. Next, having the 1 hour conversation with Anna for the podcast was so illuminating in terms of how we spontaneously found ways to fit our knowledge together and how we realized the ways in which our articles complement each other, contributing to a larger conversation of SoTL.

Then, listening back to my podcast to begin editing it revealed so many of my remaining biases and mis-steps; I called them cringe-worthy moments with Anna because it felt like I said things that I didn’t mean or that could be misinterpreted. These revelations are one of the biggest take-aways from this process because now I can concrete topics to continue gaining understanding on and to better understand before I speak about them. It also helped me to further synthesize the information into a story that can be followed by listeners, which, is helping me continue to build my ability to articulate my rationale for why academia must prioritize Indigenous pedagogies where appropriate.

Finally, shifting our podcast from the editing stages to the final product brought out so many feelings of pride for me. It felt like Anna and I created a landmark in time, marking our current understanding of Indigenous pedagogies. Regarding my own teaching practice, this represents a catalyst from which I can now be transformed as I now move into deeper relationships with the specific areas of knowledge we excluded from the podcast. I for-see myself circling back to many of the articles we used with a new lens, seeking cues for how to introduce Indigenous pedagogy to undergraduate or graduate students while I try my hand at prioritizing some of the strategies that I have already mentioned in my SoTL snap shot, micro-teaching session, and in the podcast with Anna. A main next-step I have for myself, since I am currently a TA and not an instructor, is to support students in self-pacing their learning where possible. There are three ways I do this: negotiating with instructors for no late penalty for students in the majority of scenarios when students reach out to request extra time, providing students with resources that scaffolds their learning by either giving next steps for how to improve their grade or higher-lever resources that go beyond the parameters of a course, and by advocating for grading assignments by way of accounting for student growth, rather than meeting objective expectations. For this semester, this has worked well, but I imagine these goals taking on new forms in the future.

How the content of the podcasts related to or informed my teaching practice.

From listening to my peers’ podcasts, I learned about effective, evidenced-based teaching practices that support students’ motivations. In the podcast about effective teaching, they discussed one study about teaching of foreign language and the effectiveness of inductive, active learning, and interactive or integrated techniques that include the use of technology and visuals to support the shift in teaching from teacher-centred to student-centred. Regarding the study with 7 strategies for effective teaching, I learned something new: that communicating high expectations can be really effective for students’ learning. Both articles discussed active learning, respecting students as individuals with unique skills, preferences, and motivations, which, are all strategies that are reflected in the Papp (2020) article that I used throughout this semester. Papp’s article discussed student-centred pedagogy that supports students holistically by offering self-paced work opportunities, promoting Indigenous culture, and providing financial and familial support where necessary. Finally, my peers mentioned that the role of reciprocity and collaboration needs more attention – this is something that I the Papp article also discusses and something I modelled in my micro-teaching session.

Regarding the podcast about student motivation, I loved learning about the ABCRM acronym of autonomy, belongingness (something that connects with Indigenous pedagogies and that is well-documented in early learning pedagogies), competency (highly connected to early learning), and relatedness/meaningfulness (something that is also highly discussed in early learning through the use of emergent/responsive curriculum. This acronym is something I will keep in mind in my teaching practice because it already aligns with my teaching philosophy statement. Additionally, the idea of students using RRP and a whole class performing at once sounds so fun, which reminds my of the play-based pedagogy that I am so familiar with. It is no wonder why this increased feelings of autonomy that was mentioned, because that is part of the aim of play-based learning, since it is self-directed and voluntary. The role of co-operative learning in student motivation is something I feel like we have experienced a lot this semester with shared google docs and other methods of collaboration, which I plan to continue to use in my own teaching practice since I saw how effective it was.

How I can use SoTL literature to inform your teaching practice

I have already begun to consult SoTL literature to inform my teaching practice. I have been curious about the role of self-reflection in learning because I noticed how some spaces have prompted transformational change. In our last class I asked for how to learn more and was prompted to consult Mezirow’s work. From here, I learned of the stages of transformational learning: disorientation, self-reflection/examination/assessing assumptions, planning next steps including what resources are required, and building experience and confidence in trying out these new roles. Patricia Cranton adds to this conversation the critical role of consulting additional perspectives and the role of each learner as an individual. This demonstrates my comfort with exploring and understanding new areas within SoTL that are of interest to me in building my teaching practice. I plan to use what I learned from transformative learning in my teaching practice, but this has also taught me that I can now search the literature to find strategies or concepts that meet the unique needs of my students and support the situations in which I am teaching.

Challenge: one limitation I have noticed when I consult the SoTL literature, is that I would like to continue to engage in conversations with others about how to effectively use the strategies in various contacts and realities. It’s one thing to read about the use of these strategies in ideal situations or in different parts of the world, but I feel that it is important to continue to engage in considering how it can be applied in particular institutions.

My comfort with evaluating SoTL literature and understanding its relevance to your own teaching practice.

I have an emerging ability to evaluate the SoTL literature, and I have certainly seen this skill improve over the course of the semester. In my first draft of my SoTL Snapshot, I misinterpreted what the researchers did in the study (I think because I was not used to reading qualitative summaries of teaching strategies, rather than an evaluation of the strategies). This represented a poor ability to identify the key information in a resource, analyze its accuracy, and evaluate its relevance and appropriateness for the purposes of my snapshot/ use of the article. It took me some time to get oriented to the lingo and culture of the SoTL literature, and navigating several articles for the purposes of creating our podcast, communicating our information about pedagogy effectively, and making a meaningful contribution to SoTL conversations elevated my comfort and confidence in being able to wade through information related to SoTL. I have come to place in my journey where I now prefer to read about innovative strategies that support reimagining and decolonizing learning spaces rather than that quantitatively evaluate strategies in order that have broad, generalizable results. I am more interested in unique experiences that will help me navigate more specific problems or situations that I encounter in my teaching practice.

Future Plans. I have realized through writing this reflection that another thing I took away from the Effective Teaching Practices podcast was the reminder to evaluate the methods, analysis, and interpretation of SoTL articles. Being reminded that I can critically appraise SoTL literature supported me in using my graduate level training to determine the effectiveness of the strategies that were evaluated in the articles. I have been told that I have strong literature searching and synthesizing skills by my advisor, and I have therefore been wondering if I should take on a project in which I do a literature review on a SOTL concepts such as Indigenous pedagogy and experiential Learning, or the overlaps between early childhood education pedagogy’s and higher education strategies. I also have an emerging interest in starting a podcast about pedagogies. This interest was born from my experience in creating a podcast for this course, but further activated when I listen to some higher-ed podcasts. I immediately felt compelled to contribute to this kind of conversation with my own perspective, as well as to elevate other people’s voices and to use my skills of active listening, audio editing, and and literature searching to mobilize knowledge in society.

Learning goals

I adjusted my goals slightly in order to make them more aligned with the parameters of this course. They are listed here.

Goal 1: By the end of this semester, I will be facilitate a 10-minute interaction lesson with students through zoom. To achieve this, I will implement activities in my micro-teaching session, including menti, jamboard or kahoot, which ask the learners to contribute collaboratively to answering questions or reflect upon the information that is being discussed. If I can implement these tools, receive student engagement through their use of these tools, and if I am able to respond to my peers’ answers, I will feel I have achieved this goal.

Goal 2: By the end of this semester, I will improve my confidence and self-efficacy in terms of implementing one teaching strategy that is culturally responsive by being aligned with Indigenous pedagogical practices. To do this, I will review three peer-reviewed articles on Indigenous pedagogy and teaching approaches, and discuss them with my project partner for the podcast. I will feel successful in this goal if by the end of the semester I can describe, in detail, one teaching strategy that I can use virtually that is rooted in Indigenous pedagogy and that is appropriate for me, a white settler, to implement in a University class setting.

Goal 3: By the end of the semester, I will be able to discuss the considerations for creating assignment instructions that are rooted in universal design for learning and/or universal instructional design. For example, I will be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of including student choice in how they create/present their assignment, in order to support the engagement and expression elements of UDL. I hope to learn more about universally accessible learning strategies through this course (such as the “late bank” article from SoTL snapshot). My will keep a list of ways of strategies that I learn about, including how and when I might want to use them, can be incorporated into assignments that I have an influence in creating.

Meeting my goals.

I met my modified goals, but I also recognize I still have a long way to go before I feel like I can really use these skills in reality. I modified each of my goals slightly to better fit with the course expectations and assignments, and this allowed me to meet all three of these goals. I have documented why I couldn’t reach my goals in a previous reflection, and after getting feedback from Jessi I decided to adjust them to better fit the course, which is reflected above. I am now leaving the class with a high comfort in using collaborative technology to facilitate active learning (e.g., jam board or google docs), with one Indigenous pedagogical strategy I can describe and implement (prioritizing student knowledge and culture by supporting self-reflection in lessons), and a list of strategies that we discussed in class, read about in our readings, and/or learned from guest lecturers (as well as some advantages and disadvantages to know when and how to use each strategy). I have realized that there is value not only in evaluating my progress towards a goal, but keeping a goal a living document that can flex with the needs or resources available to me. It was really valuable seeing how I couldn’t reach my goals, but the logical next step was just to adjust these goals to be more achievable and realistic so that I can feel successful.

Challenge. I am left wondering how I can then scaffold my learning and maintain high expectations for myself and my learning journeys. Since I’ve met these goals, I feel like I need a challenge to continue forward in my learning journey. Therefore, I would like to create 3 new goals that I can work on over the summer semester that will extend the learning that has occurred in this course.

Future plans:

Goal 1: By September I would like to gather 10-20 articles that will help me draw connections between Indigenous pedagogies and experiential learning concepts that are captured in SoTL, with the purpose of working towards creating a literature review with a peer. I am particularly interested in place-based education, significant life experiences, and the role of the whole person in these pedagogies.

Goal 2: By September I would like to gather 10-20 articles that will help me draw connections between early childhood education and care practices and post-secondary education pedagogies. I am particularly interested in the role of belonging, how visibility can be brought to learning processes, hands-on/active learning, and responsive or emergent curriculum.

Goal 3: Decide if I have the resources to start a podcast about Play and Pedagogy whereby I would interview many educators and “experts” to discuss their pedagogical approaches, how they learned what they know, how they think learning happens, and what “knowledge” even is. I would like to linger on the boundaries of education, recreation, and occupation. My first barrier to doing this is understanding if there is funding available to produce the podcast and whether I can manage doing so during my Masters. This kind of journey would push me to learn about many areas of SoTL well beyond my comfort level, to evaluate many competing theories and practices, and to integrate this information into digestible content for listeners. Whether or not I end up starting a podcast is less important to me than the process of mapping out which topics and educators I would like to continue to have conversations with about SoTL, pedagogy, and playful learning, and deciding in which capacity I want to connect with them.

Overall, my plan is still applicable to me and I think by progressing into these three goals I will be able to extend my learning about Indigenous pedagogies, better understand how many instructors and educators facilitate active learning in various settings, and how educators strive for inclusive assessments in their many iterations over their career. This leads me in a slightly new direction than I had intended, but changing course when it feels right is an important part of my learning and research process.

Micro-teaching lesson: Changes I noticed and next steps to elevate my teaching practice.

As I reflected on in a previous post, I made many changes that resulted in the learners being able to meet the learning objectives. I also reflected on the role of practice, feedback, and how to support reflection during in-class activities. From these reflections I have realized I would like to commit to maintaining connections with peers as a way of having a Community of Practice to continue conversations about our teaching practices. Continuing to seek constructive feedback and help from others who are also interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning is how I hope I can continue to refine my pedagogical practice and continue to learn from the meaningful experiences that occurred during this semester.

Next steps to improve my teaching practice.

Some of my next steps are captured in the goals I listed above, but when I integrate these steps into the reflections I’ve had about my micro-teaching, I realize that pedagogy is not a private endeavour. I deeply believe that learning happens in healthy relationships, like in communities where individuals feel supported to active experiment with their knowledge and take risks/be wrong/grow from discomfort. This has deepened two of my pedagogical commitments: one, that I must continue my development through discussing pedagogy with peers, and two, that as an educator I can support student learning by providing opportunities for students to build long-lasting and meaningful connections to one another. I am still feeling unclear about how communities can be supported across a variety of classes regarding discipline, class size, and method of delivery, but I feel grounded in figuring this out as I go as part of my teaching practice.

Lessons learned that I will take into my future teaching practice.

I feel like I have identified and described many lessons learned that I will take into my future teaching practice. Most of these lessons involve an interest in delving deeper into the scholarship of teaching and learning, participating in research in this area, and acting as a researcher about my own teaching practice. I plan to gather many sources of evidence, as we discussed in week 11, to analyze my own teaching documents and methods as well as the learning that students are demonstrating – and whether the tasks and assessments I create even support students in making their learning visible. I was really inspired by our chat with Gavan, and I have started reading his posts on Twitter and his 3 teaching things newsletter. This course is a bit like another catalyst for my learning as an educator because I am now equipped to continue my learning journey about SoTL through the higher ed podcasts (I’ve been liking Teaching in Higher Ed), I started reading a copy of the Spark of Learning, and through many reflections I’ve realized that I might be interested in starting a podcast about some of the connections I see. Continuing to reflect through this blog will hopefully continue to extend and expand my learning and development.

Are Games Play?

Forgive me, this may seem like a pointless question. And if you regularly spend time with children over the age of five, you’d likely whole heartedly say “yes”. But I’ve spent the last year thinking deeply about engaging with children under the age of four. In all honesty, mostly about toddlers. And I can’t help feel discomfort when I think of the purpose of games. Pedagogically. Developmentally. And meaningfully.

These thoughts are the result of being a teaching assistant (reading and evaluating pre-service educators programming ideas for young children), a previous practicum student in Quality Initiatives for early years programs (where I heard supervisors reflect on their quality goals), and a masters student studying early childhood educators’ workplaces. It is likely also because I am reading From Teaching to Thinking and The Goodness of Rain by Ann Pelo, and I am being challenged in my thinking about what are quality, meaningful, and transformative early learning experiences. Why are we replicating the use of games? Is there a purpose beyond developmental appropriateness? It feels like there is a difference between experiences with routines and games. For example, I feel that shared routines (e.g., I chase children with a puppet before we begin our morning meeting), action songs that are requested again and again (e.g., “baby shark”), or even experiences of sharing informal rules and patterns (e.g., watching two children run back and forth in a space and copy each other) then formalized games that have one way to be played.*

This feels like the difference, in my mind, between informal games with rules, and well-known games passed on my generations, such as duck duck goose or musical chairs. When I read Ann’s stories, and I think about the time I’ve spent with children, the use of games with toddlers feels so incredibly useless to young humans. I would so much rather use myself as a tool to facilitate wonder, spark inquiry, visit a forest, observe an inset, or inspect a crack in the sidewalk than pass on knowledge of childhood games. I just feel so much resistance to spending my time and energy on these things. I don’t feel like there is an authentic purpose to many of these games, often they are exclusive in nature by eliminating someone each round, and I don’t see how they support the development of dispositions for lifelong learning. I also don’t see a clear connection with Ontario’s early learning framework, which is centred on the foundations of wellbeing, engagement, expression, and belonging. Are games even engaging if it’s not your turn?

I should probably back up here and provide some context for my opinions. As a child, I did not like games and I found most of them intimidating. I was fairly sensitive and the “thrill” or excitement of a game was easily mis-felt as anxiety. As an adult, I still don’t really like games. I love to share experiences with people, and when and if we come up with a game spontaneously, I love it. But I hate entering into a kind of dynamic that is arbitrarily designed, easily forgotten, prescribed for strategy that I can’t yet forsee, and that plots me against my loved ones. I just don’t find most games enjoyable. They’re up there with not understanding social rules in certain spaces/places. Which, I might add, is not because I don’t value cultural norms, routines, or rituals. I’m someone who actually enjoys things like silly small talk, the awkward “hello” passing someone in the street, and the game of how long to I hold the door for the person behind me?!? Those things have value and meaning to me.

I should also consider that perhaps I don’t like games because I’m not good at them. But, that wouldn’t be correct. I actually am often good at the games I do try, even if I’m new at them. I’m often called “smart” (which I could spend a whole other post deconstructing), and I know how to feign a good time, joke about what’s happening, and poke fun at my own mistakes. I don’t think it’s that I’m too serious or too awkward. I think it’s just that games are SO random to me, and they often are not introduced in a gentle, meaningful way. They begin abruptly and it’s a sink-or-swim mentality that I know I do well with. Why waste this skill on a game, when I have grad school to survive? Anyway. I digress.

Beyond my own perspective, I have started to wonder about the developmental significance and appropriateness of games even for preschooler aged children and beyond this age range. How can you determine when children are developmentally able and interested in playing Duck Duck Goose? On one hand, I can think of many developmental skills that can be facilitated through participation in these games. Like gross motor skills, expressive language, sharing space and resources, learning social rules… But on the other hand, I feel that these games are so incredibly arbitrary, unauthentic, and, in some cases, a result of lack of adult imagination to partner in more spontaneous versions of play. There are probably well-outlined answers to these perplexing thoughts, so I likely need to just do some googling. But before I did that, I wanted to document this naive disorientation in case any readers wanted to join me in this journey.

*Note: as I type this I begin to feel that the lines between these examples of what is a “game” and what is a routine or pattern are becoming more and more blurry for me. Perhaps I can actually see a rationale for when, how, and why to include games, and their pedagogical importance for demonstrating relevant concepts. Of course, the intentional use of games can be quite useful for creating a sense of belonging, understanding social rules, and for creating healthy experiences of joy, competition, and how to respond to all of the feelings that arise from things like not winning, working hard, being exhausted, and anticipating your turn. I get that.

But are games play?

Play, as I know it, is voluntary, purposeful, and done for its own sake or enjoyment. I don’t understand why there is an emphasis on gamification within play. I briefly consulted the Right to Play website, and the first image is a child with a backpack, and the second are two photos juxtaposed: one of children kicking a soccer ball and one of professional athletes playing soccer. These suggest to me that the purposes of play is for either school-readiness or professional-level entertainment and skill. Neither of these reflect play for its own sake, nor do they represent why play is meaningful and useful to children during childhood. Even when I read the UN right’s of the child, the elements of play are focused on games. Childhood is so much more than preparation for the future and deserves its own quality of life. Have we forgotten what play looks like outside of games? Beyond rules, there is so much room for playfulness, rigor, competition, and measurement of excellence. I wonder if in this reliance and focus on games and rules, might we forgotten the value of spontaneity, engagement without reward, and crafting our own journeys. In higher-ed I often hear that undergrads don’t have skills to self-direct their learning, to chart their own course, and/or to manage how to meet competing priorities. But learning processes are disorienting and knotted, and they require so much inner navigation to begin with. Do we train children to learn rules of specific games and then punish them later in life for not learning the larger games of life, learning, inquiry, and love? That’s a question well beyond the limits of my knowledge, but something I am pondering.

All of this, of course, must be contextualized based on each group of children, what their shared interests are, and what developmental skills they currently have opportunities to engage with. Should I ever have a group of children asking to play Duck Duck Goose again and again, I will (and have) honoured that. And I have participated whole heartedly in the joy and journeys within games such as this one. I think in writing this, though, I have realized that questioning the use of games is entirely appropriate, fair, and necessary. They have a (clearly) place in childhood, but they may or may not meet every purpose in my care, pedagogy, and exploration of interests with children. I likely won’t be able to look at games the same, and would like to be quite intentional and where, when, and how I encourage the use of games with children. I plan to consult a few more resources on the use of games in early childhood to better understand in which situations games are a valuable approach to supporting children in their play/learning/development.