Tuesday, 21 November 2017 05:16

Re-imagining Childhood Conference

Wow, such an amazing collection of perspectives shared at the inspirational Re-imagining Childhood conference!

From the start of day one I was captivated, I laughed, focused intently, actively listened, shared and even shed some tears.

Jack Buckskin’s welcome to country with his young son Vincent epitomised the importance and influence of a child’s connection to their own culture and family. Professor Rinaldi’s raw emotion was evident as she took the stage to share the wealth of knowledge she has accumulated through her research with others and hands on experiences. Her video sharing how children process and begin to understand war and peace filled me with such emotion.

Professor Rigney stood with a presence, his education revealed in the tone of his voice. This incredible human was shaped by a powerful culture and his knowledge and respect of cultural responsiveness was inspiring. He presented facts and truths that activated the connection between an active listening pedagogy and supporting children to thrive in education. The higher challenge concept that was repeated throughout this presentation linked back to all children being capable learners, listening to them, knowing their strengths and interests and having high expectations of what they can achieve on their own and with support.

Martin Westwell connected to me on a whole other level, mainly due to my interest in brain development and my role as a single parent. His research and videos pulled at heart strings as I watch the impact of actions, words and emotions. I cried watching the run like a girl video as I imagined my own three year old potentially being tormented by the idea of not being good enough as a ‘girl’ in the future. I hope that my role modelling, the environment I provide for her, my own achievements and daily empowerment are enough to help her make her own dreams a reality. His videos were a great self reflection tool and something I will share at Margaret Ives to help question practices and our expectations of children’s learning.

Considering I come from graphic design and art background, I was inspired to see the importance placed on Caterina’s role at St Peter’s Girls ELC. Seeing their own journey unfold was impressive and they shared some great insights into how to begin and follow a true process of reflection and discovery. Watching their project come full circle in relation to the children’s thinking about millipedes, their level of empathy and their respect for the environment was a true testament to their teaching, research and responsiveness.

Day 2 really connected to me and where Margaret Ives is at at the moment. We are reworking our idea of authentic documentation and changing our mindset to “value what we measure not measure what we value” as Professor Dahlberg put so eloquently. I loved her construction of a documentation network as a collaborative approach with other children’s centres and preschools to discuss and analyse documentation.

She has inspired me to stand at each door and really absorb the environment with all my senses to reassess our image of the child and ensure we provide a stimulating environment that can challenge all children’s theories. Only when we challenge dominant discourses can we actively listen to children’s theories.

Luca Vecchi mesmerised me with his beautiful native language and his translated messages hit home about how important it is to have a whole community that continually celebrates the freedom and democracy of all citizens. His address had my mind generating ideas of ways we could collaborate more with our community.

The Pennington Kindergarten session was another emotive presentation as they showcased their responsive relationships with children and families and how that can be seen in their documentation. They struck a cord with me when talking about prioritising time and looking at which languages are privileged, helping to determine who is missing out.

Once again Professor Rinaldi focussed my attention on children being world citizens from birth and rights being encased in that fact. Children’s understanding of their own rights should be evident in the centre and documentation and child learning should relate to the whole world. It made me think about how we attempt to protect the rights of unwell children without compromising the health of others.

Professor Mantiovani placed emphasis on relationships and open dialogue to support individual children, include parents, develop common rules, build a community and celebrate identity. I loved her idea of exploring theories and concepts in multiple ways. She was so open to interpretation but created awareness of real conversations and real communities full of passion and pleasure.

Day 3 exposed the politics of early childhood. Professor Peter Moss called bull on government claims of early intervention reaping economic success, stating that injustice and inequality can’t be solved by quality early childhood education alone. We need to focus on child rights and creating a culture and community that respects, accepts and supports diversity.

The South Australian Museum session in conjunction with the South Australian School for Vision Impaired was inspirational and emotional. From the get go I was captivated as I was asked to draw with my eyes closed. I loved the concept of echolocation as a way for all children to explore through this addition to the 100 languages. The sensory exploration was outstanding and a right for all children as was sourcing resources that make connections as real as possible. I can see how important it is to reach out to experts in the field as well as doing your own research with the children to make learning experiences authentic.

The St Peter’s College ELC session role modelled language for competent children with it’s learning power rainbow. By finding common interests within the children and utilising individual staff strengths they found a unique form of documentation that really showcased the process of the learning journey.

Professor Carla Rinaldi’s presence throughout this conference has tied all of these perspectives together. The passion and research shared by our speakers has been overwhelming, as too the sheer number of delegates attending. If these delegates have been inspired even half as much as me, then our children will have amazing success as co-researchers and co-learners as we support the realisation of their theories, their identity and their rights, with quality education.

I have been inspired to work with my colleagues to seek out any disconnect at Margaret Ives and create change, to inspire my colleagues and engage in more readings about child rights, relationships and time.



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