The new wave of theory in NZ ECE | Culture of Kindness
18 July 2019, by Jitbug
If you work anywhere within the NZ ECE sector you would have most likely heard the term “Culture of Kindness.” It’s become a prominent turn of phrase among industry leaders and teachers alike.
We all know the ECE sector has had a hard time of late – pay parity issues, lack of funding from the government, overworked educators and a lack of support in special education. There’s also an increasing expectation to continue an up-hill rise in quality (which is great!)…however without additional funding or time. It’s been a tiring and trying time.
Out of this, however, has risen a beautiful culture full of dedicated professionals who are implementing a ‘culture of kindness’ within their teaching practice. Almost like rising from the ashes, this new mindset allows educators to continue working passionately in the field of education, growing their practice and values as teachers - all while providing wonderful, heart-felt learning opportunities for children.
Teaching with a culture of kindness is about teaching with heart. It’s about remaining open and passionate, despite what is thrown at us. It’s about keeping the heart of NZ ECE alive, growing and strong.
What this means for ECE educators
Embracing a culture of kindness as an individual teacher and a team means the beginning of a new journey. It means opening our hearts to a practise where relationships are central to everything we do; opening doors of learning for ourselves as well as for children.
Creating a practice where this is possible starts with creating an environment where educators feel supported; free to be themselves, full of peace and positive energy so they can continue to give of themselves.
How can we embrace a culture of kindness? Where do we start?
Being kind to ourselves and to those around us in our teaching environment is the best place to begin.
Understand you are human, with failings, bad days and inconsistencies. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be passionate every day.
- Take time off when you are sick. Rest and heal your body.
- Bring little touches to the staffroom and your classroom that make you happy - whether that be a photo of your family, a bunch of fresh flowers that you love, a scented candle that always puts you in a good mood, or your favourite cardigan to snuggle up in on a cold day.
- Show empathy to yourself – don’t expect to give “your all” all the time. Have a slow day where you read, bake and relax with the children.
- Make the centre feel like your home as well – does your staffroom encourage rest? Does it need flowers or calming music? A snuggly couch or delish hot drinks? What about the classroom – are you at peace when you walk in, like when you walk into your home? What can you add, or remove, to make it feel homely for you?
- Eat well - nourish your body during work with fuel that will heal, restore and give energy.
- Bring what you love to your teaching practice – are you an avid artist? A gardener? Do you love to sew, to cook, to design? Perhaps you are a writer at heart. Think about how you can bring this to your daily practice and implement it.
- Understand you are human, with failings, bad days and inconsistencies. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be passionate every day.
- Be present – celebrate victories when you can, and learn from opportunities when they present themselves.
- Be mindful of each other. Show love and compassion through supporting each other in practical ways. Embrace what you are good at, and do the same for others.
When teachers can keep compassion for themselves and those around them (whatever that may look like for each team and individual), the energy that they can then bring to their partnerships with children is one of kindness, love and empathy. They are full of positive energy, and it then weaves naturally into their teaching practice.
We’ve put together a list of the top minds in NZ ECE who are working to help guide teachers in their journey of a culture of kindness; leaders who understand that connection, relationship and the beauty to be found in teaching is never lost.
Inspired by the work of Dr Emmi Pikler and Joseph Chilton Pearce, “Dance With Me In The Heart” is one (of many) pieces of work by Pennie Brownlee that embraces loving and open partnerships in early childhood. Though this book is for parents and teachers alike, many educators have found it tremendously helpful in their practice.
Penny Brownlee’s teachings are based in the simple practice that teachers can follow their hearts in a partnership connection with the children they care for. This ‘heart intelligence’ is what Brownlee believes creates a warm, loving partnership between adults and babies; and the first partnership lays a blueprint for every relationship to follow. Adults lead the dance, and children follow to get the steps of the “heart dance” right.
Books can be found here.
Crisp supports teachers in all parts of their teaching journeys, by inspiring adults to think about their presence of ‘being’ with children that they work with. Crisp herself journeyed four times to the Pikler Institute in Budapest, Hungary Summer Course, and also attended the Advanced Level Courses on the Piklerian Approach of Early Childhood Education. She is driven to bringing the profound principles and practices she learned to as many adults as possible (and is doing a brilliant job in doing so with professional development courses, workshops and modules).
Crisp also co-founded “The Nest”, a centre that is simply a stunning exemplar of the Pikler approach in action, where teachers can visit with guided study tours.
Learn more about Kimberley Crisp here and The Nest here.
Co-founder of Childspace, Christie has written a number of books that support a culture of kindness. Resources include ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T’, a guide to respect, free movement, and primary caregiving for infants and toddlers. Another much loved book from Christie is ‘Leading with Heart and Soul’, which focuses on values within ECE leadership such as courage, honesty, grace, gratitude and respect.
Learn more about Toni Christie here.
The Heart School
Created by Anja Geelen and Kimberley Crisp, The Heart School is a wonderful resource for all ECE teachers looking to expand their practice into one with heart. With beautiful online articles and musings, workshops, professional development and practical resources, it provides an online base for teachers who “believe in following the heart in their teaching, rather than following a guide book or the latest craze.”
There are lots of practical and philosophical ideas alike about how to create beautiful, homely environments in ECE, and how to keep the heart at the heart of teaching.
Sign up to their newsletter here.
Approaching a culture of kindness from a neuroscience point of view, Wallis provides wonderful insight into how the human brain works and develops in infants. With a focus on dyadic relationships and the first 1000 days, his teachings, guidance and professional development take a scientific approach to partnership with babies and children.
Check out his Facebook page here.
To begin your refreshing journey into teaching with kindness and an open heart, we highly recommend looking at these leaders and their resources. The Heart School in particular has refreshing and supportive articles and musings, perfect for a cuppa and a light read to reinvigorate your soul.
You can also read more about leading with the heart and soul on one of our latest blogs, or pop on over to our Jitbug Facebook community, share your ideas and find inspiration!