I had to switch work placements halfway through my training due to my family moving to another town, an hour’s irregular bus ride away.
In my time at my first work placement, I recognise that there had been a number of occasions in which I found the responses of certain members of staff to be inappropriate.
One time a ECCE practitioner had shouted at a two year old for hitting a fellow two year old. The second time, a different ECCE practitioner had intentionally withheld and instructed me to withhold affection from a child who had misbehaved, as well as excluding him from the activity he had misbehaved during (contrary to their code of behaviour management). The third time, two different ECCE practitioners had looked on inactively while a different two year old in their care cried for 20 minutes, uninterrupted. A fourth time, another ECCE practitioner had insisted a three year old in their care dress in a way which prioritised her presentability over her physical comfort.
Upon review, it is clear how, in my insecurity as the newest and least experienced member of the team, I did not assert myself nor successfully correct the situation at hand. Upon further reflection, I conclude that, whereas the first two times I said nothing to defend my viewpoint (or the correct and adjust the treatment of the children in question), the third time such an incident occured, having reflected on the two prior incidents in the interim, I did actively suggest and encourage the two ECCE practitioners in question aid me in my attempts to distract and comfort the distressed two year old (they refused, insisting that it was useless and that she was “always like that.”) The fourth incident saw me actively yet respectfully defend the right of the three year old to dress in a way which suited her comfort, although ultimately the ECCE practitioner in charge of the room overruled my advocating.
I conclude that assertiveness is a trait I need to work on – although I may have less practical experience in caring for children in a professional capacity, I do have nearly eight years experience caring for my own daughter and her friends, and a defined personal trajectory towards nonviolence and justice. I should not allow myself to become intimidated by the prospect of being looked down on by people who are supposed to be mentoring me.
In my future placements, I plan to assert myself with respectful insistence should the need arise and the wellbeing of the child be in jeopardy, and to appeal to the managers of the establishment if necessary. I have been concerned that doing so may cause problems for the advancement of my career in childcare, and that it would be more prudent to get to a place of relative security before challenging how those already in such a position are conducting themselves.
However, I further foresee that if I get to a position of relative security by prioritising the advancement of my career over the wellbeing of the children I have a duty to protect and care for, the end will not justify the means. Additionally, to paraphrase Julian Assange,
When we witness an injustice and withhold our measured response, we train our character to be passive in the presence of injustice and thereby risk losing the ability to defend ourselves and others.
Furthermore, I plan to challenge any future insults to the emotional, physical or psychological wellbeing of children which I come across in the workplace in such a way which communicates the utmost respect towards
- the discipline of being an ECCE practitioner,
- all children,
- the people I work with and
- the setting in question,
and any establishment which fails to respond dynamically to tempered and constructive criticism is not one by which I care to be employed.