Respecting Childrens voices in Early Years Education Children are our future. We as educators get to make an influence which allows us to bring out the best in children in all aspects of their early years. So why wouldn’t we help the future aeronauts, doctors, electricians have their say in how they want to learn? why wouldn’t we want to help children grow and evolve based on what they are interested in, that could be their future roles and dreams?
Allowing children to voice their interests and ideas brings about many opportunities for confidence, independence as human beings and allows children the right, to be heard and to be part of the world in which they live in. Throughout history there has been many theorists and pedagogical theories that benefit childrens development. Each one posing different concepts on how children learn and what is best practice. Loris Malaguzzi, I believe was a theorist who trusted in the voice of children. Using the three critical views that, Parents are a Childs’ first teacher, Educators are their second teacher and the Environment being their third.
All qualities being crucial to allowing children to be competent and capable learners, to be able to use communication through play and actively direct the way in which they want to learn. Malaguzzi stated that ‘Children had the right to fulfil and also expand all of their potential, describing them as rich and competent and not beings with needs but beings with rights….. Children have the right to be recognized as the bearers of important rights: individual, social and legal. They both carry and construct their own culture and are therefore active participants in organization of their identity, their autonomy and their capabilities.
The construction of this organization takes place through relationships and interactions with peers, adults, ideas and objects, as well as both real imaginary events of a communicative world. (Malaguzzi, 1994, pg. 1) The Reggio Emilia Approach believes heavily on the technique that children learn and express themselves in many different ways. We as educators provide and ‘acquire different avenues for children to do so through painting, dramatic play, music, drawing, various materials for use (sticks, leaves, bark, rocks, wire), debates, problem solving, negotiating, singing, musical instruments.
This Approach is call the 100 languages of children. ‘ (NAREA, 2007) Within Australia the Inspiration of Reggio Emilia Education principles in South Australia (Re-imaging childhood) follows the same principles as the Reggio Emilia Approach and has implemented the practices into the south Australian Educational setting, putting their own grasp of the concept. Carla Rinaldi believes that ‘The competent child is in Australia, in South Australia, in every culture. The competent child is amazing if we are able to make it visible.
The competent child, the competent teacher and the competent parent can and do exist in South Australia. They are waiting for our pedagogical, cultural, social and political decisions. ‘ (Rinaldi, C 2013) Carla Rinaldi is proof that within Australia we have grasped the concept of listening to childrens voices, believing in their autonomy of being active learners and contributors of their world, we need to continue to spread these approaches and practices to better facilitate for children and respecting their voice.
The difference between Reggio Emilia approach and Early Childhood Educational practices within Australia is that the Reggio Emilia approach is not an early childhood method or set curriculum, but rather a ‘deep knowledge in theory and community- constructed values that have been and are continuously being translated into high quality early childhood practices. ‘(NAREA, 2007) This is where | believe Australians Educational Early Years system fails and children suffer. Early years education in Australia is too directed and structured.
Educators have protocols to follow, we are guided by government documentation and national standards along with frameworks that we are accredited on and given a ranting. Resulting with us being categorized from excellence to working towards. So I ask the question, why are we subjected to such restrictions and limitations within the educational settings and practices? Why do we have these pressure? Is it so that everything works smoothly within the government? Or society?
Why are our practices put into a box, not allowing our potential and possibilities as educators to be explored? In my experience | have seen a lot of teacher worry about the expectations of observations and evaluations of children that they forget to actually integrate with the children in a meaningful manner, where children feel as though they are heard. I know this is not always the case but for the amount of years I have done placement and have been working within the educational setting I have seen this within one or more teachers.
So why do I praise the Reggio Emilia Approach, because I believe this approach best respects the voice of children. We pride ourselves as being role models, encouraging children to be whatever they want to be and be interested in whatever they want to be interested in, but we as teachers are restricted in this regard, as we become too overwhelmed with the expectations of our society in every way possible. It is here that we hinder the possibilities and opportunities for children to have the right of say.
In order for children to have a voice and for children and adults to construct learning together and find meaning in the world around them, reciprocal dialogue, interaction must be established and maintained throughout the school community. It starts with all educators, staff, stakeholders and the community itself parents, guardians and grandparents)’ (NAREA, 2007) Managers, president and active participants within the educational setting share decision making and need to come to an understanding of the value of children and the rights that they have to their own say in the curriculum and implementing this into the educational setting.
It is then as a whole, communicating this throughout the educational setting through the Centre philosophies and procedures. NQS 7. 1 Effective leadership promotes a positive organizational culture and builds a professional learning community, where educators, coordinators and staff members work collaboratively and affirm, challenge, support and learn from each other to further develop their skills and to improve practice and relationships NQS 4. 2. 2. anagement have to continue to strive for a better future for children always looking for more ways to better their practices, for the benefits of childrens future. (National Quality Framework, 2012) Proposal: Plan/ strategy for moving forward: Encouraging educators to implement Reggio Emilia inspired practices and theory within their planning. Implement slowly over time practices that critically involve around child initiated learning. Incorporating the 100 languages into the education and planning.
Collaborate with children as global citizens in learning about our shared responsibilities to the environment and humanity. (Code of ethics, ACECQA, 2006) This can be done by; – Music and dramatic play – Offer more painting and creative activities – Deep discussions with children on worldly topics, society and community. -Actively ask children what they would like to learn, how they would like to be observed and documented. – Child let projects (project approach) where plans emerged based on childrens interest. NQS 1. 1. 2.
Each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program. Strive for change within the educational program from outside of the educational setting ‘Promote the value of childrens contribution as citizens to development of strong communities’ (COE, ACECQA, 2006) Getting the community involved. – This being, parents, grandparents and guardians along with the community and allowing them to express their ideas and gain feedback on how to better excel in the educational setting.
Working together within their community on how better they can make children contribute more to their community. – When educators and the outer community work together in the rights of the children then they feel as though they are being hears and valued within their environment. – The community can also include the environment in which the children live in, sources resources to be able to use in the classroom for projects or play. – Use the community for actively contribution into their program, cultural day, cooking classes with elders, musical play with guardians.
Outcome 2 of the EYLF: Children are connected with and contribute to their world: children develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities and an understanding of the reciprocal rights and responsibilities necessary for active community participation (EYLF, 2009) Design and implement an environment that is Reggio Emilia inspired enriched with materials, resources for children to learn and play with. ‘Create and maintain safe, healthy, inclusive environments that support childrens agency and enhance their learning. ‘ (COE, ACECQA, 2006) – Emphasise on the interests of the children. This can be done through project approaches, intentional teaching where they are learning about something they are interested in.
– Group discussions on topic of interests where educators can plan from here and implement within their planning and programming. This will actively show children that educators invest in them, we care for them and are hearing what they are saying and putting that into practice. – Offer various materials for dramatic play, musical instruments, painting so we can encourage children to use these materials for expressing their thoughts and ideas and imagination. Outcome 4 of the EYLF: Children are confident and involved learners’ NQS 3. 2. 1. Outdoor and Indoor spaces are designed and organised to engaged every child in quality experiences in both built and natural environments.
Critical reflect on my educational practice and gain further knowledge on theories and practices that voice the rights of children Engage in critical reflection, ongoing professional learning and support research that builds my knowledge and that of my profession. COE, ACECQA, 2006) professional development and reflective practices help educators grow and develop extensively on their own practices, it opens their eyes to doings they may not have thought about or considered which is part of the growth of an educator. If educators can do this then in return we’ll be able to listen to childrens needs and what they want from us within the educational setting. Readily understand how children express themselves and how we can better have various materials and resources to encourage children to be expressive and confident learners.
NQS 1. 2 Educators and co-ordinators are focused, active and reflective in designing and delivering the program for each child. (National Quality Framework, 2012) If we can minimise the pressures and expectations educators have due to the high demands of the early years’ curriculum and organise our educational practices so that centres and educators’ practices are influenced by the Reggio Emilia approach, this will allow children the freedom of choice, the freedom to have a say within their educational setting and that is what I believe is most important for the future.
I’m not saying that it is not already being done within educational settings but I believe it needs to be talked and implemented more within the educational setting for children to have a greater chance of being competent learners. Educators need to be made more supported when it comes to being inspired and influenced by theorists. We need to be more conscious of the possibilities and opportunities that come with children having the right to their education, in all developmental aspects of their early years.
It effects everyone involved within an educational setting as each member plays a massive role in implementing these changes. I believe that childrens voices need to be heard, we need to believe that what children become in the future is based on their influences from themselves, their parents and the environment in which they live in, if this can be achieved then we can look forward to a greater future.