Sit down & Shut up

Bec Carey

Excuse me while I gather my thoughts and pick my brains up off the floor, they have just exploded with mixed emotion of anger, shock and complete disbelief. I can not believe some Educators are still stuck in practice where children are expected to sit down, shut up and be present at mandatory group times developed by and for educators convenience. What benefits does this practice promote- apart from the obvious time it allows for educators to pack away everything out of children’s reach to make their end of day duties easier. No play = no mess, right? How do these said Educators force children to sit for extended periods of time? Feed them biscuits? Read them continuous stories? Physically pull them back into place? My heart bleeds at the thought. My head screams NO! Physically my whole body would become mute at the shock of utter disbelief. My brain will definitely explode.

I have worked in Early Childhood for over 10 years. I know too well the pressures it creates. The constant juggle between keeping on top of the abundance of work, daily chores such as cleaning and meeting the high level of expectations from families, colleagues and business owners. But I would never dream of forcing a child to sit on the ground at my feet while I read endless stories from a comfortable spot on the lounge so my colleague can clean up. Story time for me looks and feels a lot different…. It usually begins with a child requesting me to read them a book or to tell them a ‘magic story’, a known specialty of mine. We find a comfortable place to sit together, a lounge, floor cushions or under a tree. At times, after the story has begun, more children may curiously join in if they wish. There’s no mandatory crossed legs, no superior teacher above the children’s height, looking down and forcing children to listen. Actually there is usually body parts everywhere, entangled in an wonderful mess of comfort and belonging. Children come and go as they please and if they chose to sit upside down, back the front or lie down, they can. Others like to listen from a distance, multitasking as they paint, draw and play. It’s fun, it’s relaxing and it works. Books hold a very special place in my heart. I love them. So naturally story time for me is such an important time to promote an enjoyable atmosphere. I was so excited the first time I saw my 5 year old daughter smell the pages of a book, “ahh I just love the smell of books” she cooed dreamily.

I am completely dumbfounded as to how educators to this day could turn such a natural instinct into a forced expectation and experience. It’s 2016 people! Research and time has allowed us to evolve our practice for the benefit of the children.  We’re moving on and up, please don’t be the one left behind. If someone pulled your arms down and demanded you sit, how would you feel?  How can children find strength to assert their feelings and rights if they aren’t given opportunity to have a voice in the first place? Is this practice shaped from an outdated image of the child, incapable, inferior and helpless? Is it that these Educators forget that children have rights? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a universal agreed non-negotiable standard for the rights of children. Along with  a right to shelter, education, health and more, it states children have a right to play (Article 31). So, why do some think it’s ok to take away this right? The UNCRC doesn’t say, “children have a right to play as long as it’s not messy and inconvenient for educators” Perhaps these educators have closed minds, they’ve done it the same way for years or perhaps they aren’t mindful of their own practice.

   

Mindfulness allows you to subconsciously stop and be aware of your actions, words and practice. It will provide you with time to critically reflect on yourself before you critically direct children.  Educators need to ask themselves ‘why’ they are giving direction to a child, especially if it’s taking away a child’s free choice. Better still, they need to stop directing  and start connecting. Relationships form a strong foundation to understand someone, to see the world through a child’s eyes. To be mindful you need to channel your own sense of being. You need to be comfortable in your practice with children, no matter how big the mess becomes. You need to understand children’s rights, including their right to play. The sooner you realise that play is messy, the sooner you will find inner peace.

 The perfect place to read

For more information on the UNCRC, Early Childhood Australia has provided links on their website to the original document as well as providing links in various language options. There is even a simplified version, for those who like it clear and concise.

 Early Childhood Australia- http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/learning-hub/educator-resources/childrens-rights/

UNCRC Original document in full- http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/crc.pdf

This post is a tribute to Bev Bos, a true advocate for play and children’s rights who sadly passed away this week. 

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