It was early December 2023, and I was talking with a colleague, a Tertiary Supervisor visiting student pre-service teachers on their first ECEC placement. The student she had visited that day was experiencing a challenge.
As with most practicums, the student was required to observe and document play and learning and then develop and evaluate planned experiences from their observations—this is the planning cycle, something we should all be very familiar with and engage with each and every day, making links to the EYLF V2.0 (or other recognised state curriculums), and ECEC literature.
The challenge was that this was in early December, and contrary to what the student had been learning in their course, there was no child-directed play happening in the setting, no intentional teaching or planning, and any learning occurring was questionable.
The Tertiary Supervisor understood why—during her visit she witnessed first-hand the student’s challenge, which was happening every day of this (their first) practicum experience.
The children were spending long periods of time standing and waiting in line. When the children weren’t waiting in line, they were being directed by their teacher to practise putting on their graduation hats and gowns, and to parade across the front of the room. They had to wait until their name was called—only then could they move from their place standing in line.
After the children had followed the teacher’s directions to stand and wait in line, to dress up and walk across the front of the room, then take off their dress-
The student’s and Tertiary Supervisor’s observations this day were of children with their eyes glued to a screen for well over an hour* and children rolling around on the floor listless and bored.
As I began to write this post, I googled ‘kindergarten graduation’, and these were the top responses I found:
- 30 Adorable Kindergarten Graduation Ideas
- 88 Best Kindergarten Graduation Ideas on Pinterest
- 136 Top ‘Graduation Speech Kindergarten’ Teaching Resources
- The Ultimate Kindergarten Graduation Idea Guide for Teachers
All these results are from commercial websites with no background in or understanding of early childhood pedagogy (or basic educational pedagogy for that matter!) The issue with these ‘Wikipedia-style’ websites pervading our ECEC programs and knowledge base is a whole other blog post for another time—but suffice it to say they make no informed connections to the EYLF V2.0, or to published ECEC literature or research, or to any ECEC teacher training courses, or to ECEC professional development workshops.
We need to reflect here on why—why do we have graduation ceremonies in ECEC settings?
If the answer is, ‘because this is what we’ve always done, and parents expect it’, we need to go deeper in our reflection and connect (firstly and always) with our professional training and learnings.
‘Do the best you can, until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’
Throughout my own teaching career, I have always kept these words from Maya Angelou close, firstly as a way to show myself kindness when I look back on my early career (and some elements of my later career, too), but also to share with other colleagues, teachers, and students I mentor.
But these words do not create a free pass for us. We have a responsibility as professionals to keep striving to ‘know better’, to keep learning by reflecting on why we embed certain practices and rituals; evaluating if our practices meet the needs and interests of the children; if our practices are informed by recognised sources on early childhood pedagogy and research; and lastly, what collective wisdom and insights we are passing to our next generation of early childhood teachers. What practices and images of children as competent, capable and creative learners are our pre-service teachers observing and learning from us?
- Graduating from what? – Early Childhood Hub
- Another way to celebrate the end of the year – The Spoke – Early Childhood Australia’s Blog
- *Too much time on screens? Screen time effects and guidelines for children and young people – Australian Institute of Family Studies
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