Even though it is great to know that there are others wanting to improve/maintain quality for children I felt a little sad that many did not come and share the experience. These are BIG thoughts, BIG plans, BIG hopes we have for our children. We need to work together if something is to happen. We cannot simply moan about the increasing size of preschool/school groups etc, we need to work together to work out HOW we can ensure that groups are not the size that will overwhelm both children and teachers...
So, here I am with a foot on both sides - one foot stands as a parent and the quality I want for my own children - and the other foot as a teacher and the quality I provide. I think I can confidently say that I will be marching in the same direction with both my feet - they are not at odds with one another - because what is quality for children is also quality for the teachers and vice-versa.
But what is quality?
Today is not the day to take THAT discussion, but no doubt I will get there soon.
In the morning we listened to Sanna Nova Emilia ( http://www.sannanovaemilia.se/ ) about how we can strive to create a more humane society with more focus on the needs of children and less on the needs of the economy. "If everyone made themselves feel good and did what made them feel happy (not at the expense of others) rather than doing what has to be done to survive" - a thought that we spend much of our time doing things that we do not want to do just in order to earn money to live, eat... How many of us are doing the job that we are really passionate about? Thankfully I can say that I AM passionate about my work - I have joy for my work and I think that is crucial as children are smart and can soon see whether or not you really want to be there, if you are really interested in them. BUT can we say that about all those working with children? Can we say that about parents? Does society allow us live our lives to the fullest? Do we have the choices that we really want?
Just throwing out some radical questions there.
Ken Robinson (http://www.ted.com/speakers/sir_ken_robinson.html), Alfie Kohn (http://www.alfiekohn.org/index.php) and others talk about creativity as an important tool for the future ... as Sanna said "We have no idea what the future has in store - the most sought after careers in the world did not even exist ten years ago - so how can we prepare children for the future?"
Are we providing environments where our children have the opportunity to think creatively?
After lunch there was a workshop where we discussed what areas we can be a part of to improve/work with.
The following points were raised in the final discussion after two areas were chosen to consider - parent/preschool/school co-operation and the well-being of individuals in preschools/schools.
- it's strange that at school conferences parents are not represented.
- there is a need to return to the school law and see if the areas of home/school co-operation can be clarified - some areas can be interpreted differently which causes confusion about parents rights in their involvement in their children's education.
- expectations - there needs to be clear guidelines about what is expected of teachers, head teachers and parents to enable good co-operation.
- what is a "föräldraråd" (parent council)? And how does it function?
- to meet children's needs - but are we really aware of what these needs are?
- create a checklist for preschools and schools - what makes a great preschool/school, so that all settings can refer to and see what they need to work on
- to not run preschools and schools for profit.
- to describe what would happen if all preschools and fritids (after-school care) closed for a day - if all pedagogues made a stand for creating a sustainable and creative working environment for children and pedagogues.
- creating a telephone helpline/advice-line for pedagogues who feel they are not in a quality setting and do not know where to turn - and to be able to do this anonymously if they choose to.
I left the meeting feeling empowered but also feeling small. I am just one little person - and this is such a big issue that it does feel somewhat overwhelming. But I guess this is why I started a blog. To reach out to others passionate about working with children. To share ideas, inspiration - to hopefully get feedback. I read about experiences from around the world and realise that maybe some of the "problems" in Sweden might seem insignificant compared to problems elsewhere. The fact that Sweden has a maximum fee means that preschool is accessible to all families and not just those who can financially afford it - so the discussions about poverty and preschool access is not one that is anxiously discussed here. In Sweden children do not start grade 1 until the year they turn seven - this means there is more time to focus on learning through play.
Sadly, though, all the wonderful project work we do in preschool working from the children's interests and natural curiosity still ends up being squashed into a traditional school form of "one size fits all" which of course suits some children but not all.
BUT that does not mean that we should not make a stand for quality here in Sweden - to create together learning environments and possibilities that are meaningful for all our wonderful, curious and unique children.
So I will end this post like Sanna ended her talk
You can make a difference...
so what are you going to do?