This is just going to be a quick post... as I sit working on a small guideline to participate in a project with democracy, equality, diversity and inclusion being the cornerstones as part of my work as pedagogical consultant/guide for a preschool.
Communication is such a huge part of this...
How we communicate with our bodies, our tone and our words... how we allow our own prejudices communicate, often without our own awareness. This is why it is so important to discuss these with your colleagues...
You need to discuss what are the principles for an inclusive culture in your setting - what does inclusion mean, and how do you achieve this... who do you need to communicate and collaborate with to gain the tools you need to create this inclusive culture.
We need to embrace diversity, equality and integration/inclusion - seeing it as a rich source of learning for all the children rather than a problem.
How do we see what the children communicate as a source of learning rather than as a problem?
We need to critically reflect on our own personal attitudes and values and how they impact the children... this means not only looking at how you view the child, but also how you view the teacher... but also other values about language, ability, religion, sexuality etc etc - how do your opinions impact the children... as I do not believe that we can be objective, and I don't think we should be, but what we should strive for is an awareness of how our own opinions impact others... as communication is so much more than words... all attempts at saying the right thing and trying to be objective will not work if body language is communicating another story to the children...
For instance when my children were young I had other parents come to me and tell me that their children said that one of the teachers did not like my son... Despite the fact that this teacher always strived to be professional and say the right thing her body and tone were communicating so clearly something else that not only my son was picking it up but also the other children in the group. How aware are we of this kind of communication? This is why it is so important to personally reflect, and also reflect as a team about the "challenges" of working with children. I mean sometimes the chemistry is just going to be wrong, and often we can ensure that other adults can do more of the interacting with that child until you have dealt with the chemistry and make the communication less toxic (for the child or yourself) - I have worked with children that have pushed my buttons (as all educators will do) and I have made the personal decision to always be honest and say to a colleague when I need a pause from a child in order to keep the communication positive - often it is due to patience running out, and batteries need to be recharged, but sometimes a child can just get under your skin in an irritating way, and you just need the time to reflect why, and also to talk with others so that you can refocus.
I am grateful that in the Swedish preschool system we are more than one teacher to a group, this means when I am having an issue with a child I can hand over responsibility to another adult for a while and seek help (through reflection, reading and looking for strategies, and talking with colleagues about how they interact and what strategies they use... and often see the child in a new light). I am honest with my colleagues, not just myself... and this then allows me the time to work out how to interact positively with the child. If we are always trying to kid ourselves that we get on with all of the children all of the time then we are not giving ourselves the time to evolve as a human and educator... it also means the children get to pick up on that story you are trying so hard not to communicate.
By being open with colleagues, we can learn about their struggles too... and learn from them and offer advice, that can help you in the future too.
We need to be active in testing out creative ways to be inclusive. To share ideas and test them out, evaluate them - sometimes just amongst colleagues, sometimes with the children... we need to play and test ideas not just talk about them. Theory into practice... otherwise it just is mouth-service... it feels like you are getting things done, when there is no real impact for the children...
We need to be constantly discussing, and evaluating.
So, How do we learn to become comfortable with difference?
How does education impact the fundamental values of children?
How do you carry and communicate your culture? What is your culture?
How willing are you to listen to the cultures of others? And in what capacity?
How do you communicate between colleagues in front of the children? Is this a role-model for good social interactions or is it fraught? How does this impact the children? What can be done about it?
What is the diversity in your setting? Language, religion, race, culture, gender, age, ability, family structure etc etc... there is always diversity. How is this included and valued? Does everyone feel included? Do some get more space to talk, play, be noisy, participate... why? Why don't the others?
I think these are enough questions for this post to get you thinking about how you communicate based on your own personal fundamental values... how do yours relate to that of colleagues, the children and their families and the rest of society?