“As Music” – A Spoken Word Poem

I’ve decided that I wanted to more openly share some of the journey I’ve been on in terms of questioning, shedding, and challenging the colonial frameworks that I operate within the systems of oppression that I benefit from. One path forward that felt accessible to me was to start by looking at knowledge. Whose knowledge counts as credible? Where has discipline knowledge come from? I started this journey many years ago but became conscious of it during a graduate course about interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge. During this course I created a spoken word poem to mark where I was on my journey at the time. It’s now been a year since I created the poem and I’m feeling ready to share it, unedited. The poem is a winding reflection on knowledge, research, what I believed to be ‘reconciliation’, and music. The poem is purposely long, with little regard for time or efficiency.

Here’s a short rationale about writing and sharing the poem:

“This poem was created to help me gain confidence in presenting academic ideas through art. It is not a destination, but a landmark on my learning journey of decolonization and reconciliation as a scholar. It is both a call-to-action and a self-reflection that is intentionally non-linear and redundant, representing my current feelings towards academia, knowledge, efficiency, and rightness.

I have a more refined sense of where I am, who I am in relation with, how I engage in knowledge seeking, and who I am not….. In the poem I consider the things/beings I am in (shared) relationships with, and I speak directly to/with fellow graduate students, faculty, Indigenous individuals/communities, and myself. I also introduce myself to “all my relations” in an effort to identify where my personal and professional commitments lie.

“Finally, this poem pledges that my knowledge-seeking endeavours will not be completed in isolation. They will be playful and expansive and equity-seeking all at once, as I listen and contribute simultaneously. They are, in part, communal acts, two-way conversations, with all involved relations, through call-and-response engagement, expression, and communication.

As is reconciliation.

As is music.”


“I knew it!” I’ve said, only to feel regret,

once I find out I’m wrong.

have I been wrong all along? How do I respond?

and how do I shape this to song?

knowledge as rightness, determined by whiteness

and colonial structures of college

I ponder my wrongness to resist in honest

attempts to unsettle and resolve this 

the trust in precision, is stifling rhythm, 

fixation with facts is so loud

turn it down, I’m not proud, it overpowers the crowd

we’ve forgotten how to play with sound

we discuss, relate, debate, agitate

and approve whose knowledge is true

we read books and papers dissect the layers

to decide whose knowledge gets moved

do you feel the groove?

is this even good science? tby rightness?

how can I make a transition?

from regurgitation to conversation

how can I learn to listen?

what’s my role in this, am I complacent, worse – 

my developing praxis

co-opts ways of being so I don’t stop reflecting 

on each of my actions 

do you hear this?

yet I put my head down, say nothing out loud

settle into the academic 

ways that exist in mentorship process,

calibrating to scholarship

“grad schools lonely! But never boring!”

is what I have heard all year. 

but I thrive on my own (see my first canoe solo!)

so… won’t I shine here?

only to find that again I’m not right,

so how do I relate to this sense? 

of place and wonder and stories and blunder

perhaps all pretense and nonsense. 

I feel like a starving solo artist.

to reconcile my feelings of intuitive believing 

with not always being correct

is an act of resisting the structures and systems 

that regulate knowledge as fact

where’s the music in that?

what we know grows, it comes and goes 

and flows in a rhythm we prose

as conversation, tiny revelations, 

that never exist alone

and spark revolutions in each institution

to reimagine our futures

and ignite something fiery to undo the binary 

and provide some resolution 

can I make a musical contribution?

you know that feeling when time is twisting

and you’re so engorged in the process

plans become abstract, bending to match

a rhythm undistorted by facts 


we need more of that 

there’s no finish or start to this, stop rushing knowledge

these paths are winding and infinite 

no linear progression in life lessons

they’re just interconnected

to think in relations means intimacy and faith in a

two-way conversation (Breen, 2019)

a dance of equity and accountability

with edits of refinement and persuasion 

sound is much more than entertainment

my knowledge is one piece, you may have another, 

and neither alone may be whole 

but together we weave a cohesive story 

that creates a little home 

maybe I’m not playing solo

hah, but home, you see, that’s again where we’re wrong

we’ve been telling lies all along 

home is the problem, only some beings blossom,

when we’re singing a stolen song

this predisposition to ask questions

of ownership and acquisition

unsettle institutes and dig up the roots,

to unoccupy the settlement of wisdom (Tuck & Yang, 2012)

remain responsive, relocate as wanted

reposition again and again 

be slightly nomadic, flexible by habit

home is created and recreated when 

I pick up and move, unearth my roots,

maybe I’m meant to pass through

I see where I have harvested, exploited, and marketed

in places that I am not native to

while there’s no place like home, and I can’t do this alone

who I am to think I’m of service,

to groups I’m not part of, I don’t hold the knowledge

and to think otherwise is a disservice

so I recalibrate, reroute, and migrate

to some space in-between

comfort and a front door, my thirst for more

means I find new ways of being

‘cause I won’t play along, when I don’t like the song 

and nothing really resonates, 

it’s too big or too small, doesn’t fit at all, 

then it finally it begins to dissipate

rodent models of schizophrenia 

my lived experience with mania, 

my research and knowledge converge

from big data privacy 

to interview anxiety

new interests mean I feel heard

nature-based pedagogy to Mad Studies

self-compassion and musicality

these things I know, although I may outgrow

my learning it emerges indefinitely

knowledge comes as we need it (Breynton, S, personal communication, December 3 2020), 

no need to master it  

just trust in the process 

it is a forest (Interdisc Class, 2020), no need to engorge in it

let curiousity be your compass

while unlearning is unnerving, unsettling, disturbing

it’s birthing new ways of being 

a yearning for learning that trusts in the journey 

of investing in our shared meanings

I hear a tune in building

my ears can’t yet decipher such sophisticated cultures

of beings all interconnected

that linger in dependence a fermata suspended  

to know who we are is all relative 

so to all my relations, future generations 

and ancestors, it’s so good to meet you.

I hear your songs: can’t wait to sing along

in a tune rings true for you too.

so who am I? and what do I do?

I’m Kim, not Kimberly, except for my family 

and I play/work/live on the lands

of Dish with One Spoon, an Educator who

belongs to tributaries of the Grand 

and what does it mean for me to be an ECE

and occupy space as student

my roles have oppressed, and I feel unrest

in honouring that I am still human

while I’m no soloist I try to make the most of this

seeking serenity in solitude

a recovering positivist (Akers, T. personal communication, Dec 1, 2020), 

wanna-be psychologist

exploring alternative avenues

extending towards my energy source 

what’s my connection to land

“Through unity – survival, all flourishing is mutual” (Kimmer, 2013, p. 20)

(there’s) no sustainability in a one-woman band

for as far as I can see, when I die my body

will feed many more beings (Elrick, 2010)

may my creations outlive me,

through interdisciplinarity

art, music, and stories

you can call me creative but I kind of hate it 

the romanticization of novelty

to know it by heart is part of my art

seeking the free flowing, softly

yet with the pressure to achieve, 

I am constantly wondering 

what this means for my own identity

to share ideas liberally, 

am I still appealing

to the academy? 

my aim is to deviate but also celebrate,

those who have allowed me to be free

to make space for more changes and liberation and

know my positionality

by disrupting discourses and dominating forces

and offer restorying lessons

a retelling of history, new ways of thinking

and address ongoing abjection

in this conversation 

I ask that we widen 

the range of human responses (Barton, 2020)

considered normal and not just neoliberial

understandings of concepts

intentional erasure of experience and nature

don’t think it’s beneath us

to centre research on whiteness is an act of violence 

the silencing is so insidious 

so how do I collect, analyze, and protect

complexity of researching communities?

recomplicate play through a commitment to name

experiences are not captured through binaries

maybe thinking in metaphors (Kimmerer, 2013), expressing through symbols 

& narratives not to just benefit me

to investigate connections and the 100 languages (Edwards, Gandini & Foreman, 1998)

of experience captured through story

literacy of place at a poetic pace 

and grace for BIPOC students 

and new immigrants and research participants 

and the more than human

mindbody spiritual and the emotional (Kimmerer, 2013)

cultural teachings and sovereignty 

I cherish your company offer space for exploring

there’s always time for tea with me (Imai, R., personal communication, November 29, 2019)

well-being expression engagement belonging (Ministry of Education, 2014)

how to foster these but not police 

From Teaching to Thinking (Pelo & Carter, 2018), listening to possibilities

that’s my commitment within the academy

that is not to say that we’re all the same,

or that we can melt the past away

but if we can at least play in the same game 

or maybe in the same key

then, I imagine we are all just passionate

players in floral orchestras

choruses of dissonance, can you hear us?

aligning in harmonic performances

I think… I may not be right, 

I’ve been so protected by white,

I aim to know things differently, a gesture that learning 

is never ending in life

it’s symbiotic, entrancing, melodic, expansive

with evasive solutions

synchronicity, in many of ways being through

research as reconciliation (Wilson & Dupre, 2019) as music

so we dance and we play, listen and create

in rounds that build in crescendo

conversing through harmonies, like little symphonies,

in call and response like a tango

and I stumble my way down pedagogical veins, 

admiring roots and leaves 

I follow, I lead, everything in-between 

as I realize that knowledge is breathing

it’s coming and going, ebbing and flowing

iterative and evolving

sense-based and spiralized, enduring over time, 

it’s living, too, so be kind

it’s alive (Breen, A. V. personal communication, Dec 3, 2020) 

and it’s mighty, 

but I must tread lightly,

for it is not mine

it’s passed down by folks

I’ll never dance with or know,

so, I must know, responsibly. 

just like rightness and wrongness 

not binary opposites 

neither are unknowing and knowledge 

both oppressed and oppressor 

student and professor






Barton, K. [Kim Barton]. (2020, Oct 27). Kim Barton family theory presentation [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1dQrrVUw1A&feature=youtu.be

Breen, A. V. (2019). You do not belong here: Storying allyship in an ugly sweater. In Wilson, S.,

Breen, A. V., & DuPré, L. (Eds.), Research and reconciliation: Unsettling ways of knowing through Indigenous relationships (pp. 49 – 59). Canadian Scholars.

Deane, P. (2018, May 22). A guide for interdisciplinary researchers: Adding axiology alongside ontology and epistemology. Integration and implementation insights [Blog post].

Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (Eds.). (1998). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia approach – Advanced reflections (2nd ed). Greenwood Publishing Group.

Elrick, M. (2010). Dwelling Where I Teach: Connections with Friluftsliv. Pathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education22(3), 4-10.

Hooks, B. (2006). Love as the practice of freedom. B. Hooks. Outlaw Culture. Resisting Representations, 243-250.

Interdisc. Class (2020, Sept 15). Metaphor assignment and poems [Class Assignment]. FRHD*6340.

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. Milkweed Editions.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2014). How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/howlearninghappens.pdf 

Pelo, A., & Carter, M. (2018). From teaching to thinking: A pedagogy for reimagining our work. Exchange Press.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, education & society1(1).

Wilson, S., & Hughes, M. (2019). Why research is reconciliation. In Wilson, S., Breen, A. V., & DuPré, L. (Eds.), Research and reconciliation: Unsettling ways of knowing through Indigenous relationships (pp.6 – 19). Canadian Scholars.

Music in Early Education and Care: A Call to Find Our Voices and Reimagine Music Within Pedagogy

Throughout my training as an early childhood educator (ECE), I have been provided with the necessary tools to reflect on my experiences, better understand and question how learning happens, and advocate for the rights of children, educators, and families. This training has taught me not only to continuously acknowledge my own social location but to critically assess scenarios and address injustices. I have been extremely empowered and honoured to learn with the community of educators that I know.

One of the most delightful parts about entering the ECEC field at this particular point in time, is that I see the potential for (and utmost respect for) arts education and artistic play. I see the shift from crafts to art. I see the value of and standard for young children’s expression. I see art being considered fundamental to wellbeing and as a tool to foster belonging. I see art being used to engage and invite children and extend their interests. I have witnessed the power of an art studio. But herein lies a discrepancy I noticed: we study and document children’s visual art is such extraordinary ways. But we don’t yet do the same with music.

I started asking educators and teachers around me why they thought that music is not given the same acknowledgement and respect as art. The responses have ranged from “we already sing all day long with the children – it is great for transitions, for routines, for extending interests, and for setting the mood,” and “children are too young to engage in formal music education,” to “well, encouraging fine art makes more sense because children have to be able to hold a pencil once they go to school.”

None of these responses satisfied me. I envision something different: Investment in music. Music studios. Sound exploration materials that are accessible to children at all times. Musical instruments that are both real and designed for children. Opportunities to play with sound the same way we play with other learning materials.

But in order for this to be imaginable, I believe we first have to challenge our understanding of music, as adults. The auditory patterns that we consider to be songs, our personal comfort levels with singing, our ideas about children’s musical competence all may require critical reconsideration. Consider, for example, the competent infant’s rhythmic kicking that we swoon over, but the toddler’s persistent tapping of a toy that we discourage (Young, 2003). Further, when we begin to sing the alphabet song in our lower register: can children’s ears hear the low frequency so similar to our speaking voice; what do you notice when you sing it a higher range/key? (Young, 2016) Moreover, if visual art is so critical to holding a pencil in school, then aren’t skills in auditory discrepancy, self-regulation through movement or humming, and the rhythm, cadence, and auditory discrimination skills so fundamental to hearing and speaking in conversation?

Further, music has long been linked to developmental outcomes and is inherently connected to the skills that are considered to be essential for school readiness (Barrett, Flynn, Brown & Welch, 2019). But, I digress. Simply put: I believe music deserves more recognition. In order to quell my curiousity and to better understand this discrepancy, I embarked on a literature review (not to further highlight the benefits of music for developmental outcomes, but,) to investigate the value of music and approaches to its use in the ECEC field.

Here is a summary of what I found: training programs do not sufficiently prepare educators to competently or confidently include music in their practice (Niland & John, 2016). Yet, educators value music and often deliver it well (Ehrlin & Wallerstedt, 2014) but are not well-equipped to engage in improvisation and informal learning and have to get over some fears before being able to do so (Wright & Kanellopoulos, 2010). Further, the ways in which children currently tend to experience music in ECEC programs is through educators’ singing, there is often very little provision of music-making materials for children, and the use of recorded music tends to lack diversity (Vist & Os, 2019).

In an interview with Maria Cabal (MSc., RECE; acting Pedagogical Leader), she echoed what this literature revealed: there is a startling reliance on recorded music and unnecessary controlled access to instruments, but the reliance on singing might actually be a good thing: children hear our voices in real life, and doing so calms the nervous system. Maria also highlighted that music use is inextricably connected to the four foundations of How Does Learning Happen, but moreover, a fundamental component of simply being and existing in this world. Not to be confused with music enhancing quality of life, Maria said “You only have to reach for your chest to feel the beat… We are alive because of a rhythm.” Moreover, music is neither solely a developmental tool nor a topic of content learning to master in ECEC, but rather, part of our commitment to fostering the development of strategies and dispositions for lifelong learning.

So I ask, how have we gone this far and evolved in ways that has removed the importance of music for living with children? How have we moved from, at one time educators being required to perform piano (Ehrlin & Wallerstedt, 2014) to educators stating “I’m just not a good singer”? How can we help create more just practices that do not deny children the importance of music but also ensure educators’ comfort (within already inadequate working conditions and uncompensated expectations)?

Through my own critical reflection on questions like these, I discovered that not only do I hold music with extremely high regard, but I do so with some formal music training – meaning that I have some musical knowledge but not so much that I solely rely on this training to guide the music use in my practice. Additionally, I developed a professional opinion which essentially posits that educators should be supported in their development of musical confidence and competence as a prerequisite for entering the field – the same way that we must learn to assist in serving food, changing diapers, and reading stories out loud. It may be uncomfortable, but in the best interest of the children, it is necessary and required.

In response to these learnings, I wanted to call on educators to take it upon themselves to critically reflect on their own use of music, and begin to reimagine what music could look like within ECEC. The following are some considerations to review:

  • Educators can feasibly request and attend music trainings that best support educators in understanding children’s musicality, offered by trained musicians, and that also support educator’s development of improvisation skills. Trainings should be taught by music educators who are trained in music and who have the knowledge of children’s musicality (Ehrlin & Wallerstedt, 2014).
  • Educators-in-training can prioritize taking music courses at the college/University level until such courses are mandatory.
  • If you have a rationale for your use of music, I ask: who benefits? Do the children benefit from hearing human voice in person? Do you benefit from avoiding feeling vulnerable? Do children have access to sound-making learning materials in the same way that you offer visual art materials? Do you feel that it is used as a content learning, a developmental tool (avenue for other learning), a supplementary consideration, or as a required element of programming? I would argue there is no better way to explore your own musical abilities than genuinely engaging as a co-learner with the children in your care.
  • Consider how you use rhythm, pitch, and melody in your voice when reading, guiding routines, and engaging in conversation. How does this facilitate closeness, sensory regulation, and intrigue?
  • What kind of music repository of children’s songs do you have at this point in time? Does it represent and reflect appropriate diversity considerations? Can you use it to support a range of programming?
  • What are the implications of Ontario’s “avoid singing” clause in the re-opening plan?

Additionally, here are a few books and music programs to consider:

Research-Based Books:

  • Burton, S. L., & Taggart, C. C. (Eds.). (2011). Learning from young children: Research in early childhood music. R&L Education.
  • McPherson, G. (Ed.). (2016). The child as musician: A handbook of musical development. Oxford University Press.
  • Young, S. (2003). Music with under-fours. Routledge.
  • Young, S., & Ilari, B. (Eds.). (2019). Music in Early Childhood: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives and Inter-disciplinary Exchanges (Vol. 27). Springer.

Music Programs for Educators of Young Children:

Additional Resources for Educators and Parents (at home):


Barrett, M. S., Flynn, L. M., Brown, J., & Welch, G. F. (2019). Beliefs and values about music in early childhood education and care: Perspectives from practitioners. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 724. doi: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00724

Ehrlin, A., & Wallerstedt, C. (2014). Preschool teachers’ skills in teaching music: two steps forward one step back. Early Child Development and Care, 184(12), 1800-1811.

Niland, A., & St. John, P. A. (2016). Special issue on early childhood music education. Research Studies in Music Education, 38(1), 3–7. DOI: 10.1177/1321103X16641855

Vist, T., & Os, E. (2019). Music education through the lens of ITERS-R: Discussing results from 206 toddler day care groups. Research Studies in Music Education 42(1) 1-21. DOI: 10.1177/1321103X19828785

Wright, R., & Kanellopoulos, P. (2010). Informal music learning, improvisation and teacher education. British Journal of Music Education, 27(1), 71-87. DOI: 10.1017/S0265051709990210

Young, S. (2016). Early childhood music education research: An overview. Research Studies in Music Education, 38(1), 9-21. DOI: 10.1177/1321103X16640106

Additional Research to Consult

Hallam, S. (2010). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. International Journal of Music Education28(3), 269-289.