NEW PATHWAYS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

A joint project of the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society and Early Childhood Education British Columbia, New Pathways seek to explore and develop moves toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through a common concern, and love, for the support of young children and their families.

 We hope that sharing struggles in specificity will inspire new conversations, new inspirations, and new ways forward from a troubled past.

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Linda McDonell

On the territories of the the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group and Tsawout First Nation of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, Linda McDonell was an early childhood educator (ECE) and administrator in ECE for eighteen years, before coming to teach early childhood educators at Vancouver Island University, including with the First Nations Partnerships Programs.  Linda has also been the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Aboriginal Early Childhood Development at Vancouver Island University and is a two-time past president of Early Childhood Educators of BC.

This Pathway follows Linda’s story of her journey through the encounter of Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures and peoples in supporting children, families communities and cultures in the wake, and continuing struggles, of colonization.

It is not meant to be prescriptive to anyone, nor does it purport to speak for any group of peoples. Instead, through Linda’s story of her experience it documents and clarifies elements of an important struggle internal to non-Indigenous people—educators policy makers and administrators—in early childhood education in contexts of colonization.

As an invitation to thought and action in the name of reconciliation, this Pathway presents an internal dialogue within non-Indigenous approaches to some of the contexts and challenges of Indigenous ECE and also, separate and different, of non-Indigenous ECE in histories of colonization.   From Linda’s experience and eloquence, this Pathway is a staging of that searching non-Indigenous dialogue with its own histories, one that we hope will invite the non-Indigenous in ECE (and elsewhere) to new dispositions adequate to assuming one’s own side of a common history, one shared in such profoundly different ways.  As such, the dialogues, tensions and revelations of Linda’s journey are shared and elaborated here as an exemplary non-Indigenous path of becoming worthy of something that may become reconciliation.

For, as Elders have told us, “revitalization now, reconciliation in twenty years maybe, if you’re lucky…”

On this journey, ECEBC and BCACCS want to acknowledge with gratitude that we are lucky to have Linda, and are privileged together to share her words here.

As you will find below as you scroll down, Linda’s story is developed in four moments, or ‘steps’ on the Pathway, developed in a sequence under these organizing themes:

1. Origins & Realizations: “How might it be different…?”

2.  Encounters:  “I need to learn a different way of being…and I need to ask you for help.”

3.  Transformations:  “Its very challenging on a number of levels.”

4.  New Understandings:  “I learned then about colonization…”

Whether in private or public life, in organizations or community gatherings, in professional development or education, we encourage people to come together to consider Linda’s experiences along with her.

To help when viewing the videos of the pathway, questions have been developed for discussion and follow the videos.  Often conversation in small groups can be generative, especially when groups then share with each other.  The diversity of responses and questions can be staggering in richness and challenge, so it is important to be on the journey together, to share, in what must be called leadership, the difficult questions of ‘complicated conversations.’  Often what is unexpected and unfamiliar to us in the past is the key to what could never have been expected in the future.

So, together we thank you for joining us on this journey, and raise our hands to Linda for her leadership and courage.

1: Origins & Realizations: “…how might it be different?”

In the first step on this pathway, Linda discusses her background, its strengths and omissions with respect to First Nations cultures and her first introductions to working with First Nations students in ECE after an 18-year career as an early childhood educator and administrator.

The First Nations Partnerships Program was an initiative instigated in the 1980s by First Nations unsatisfied with mainstream early childhood education. They reached out the University of Victoria who then co-developed and implemented with them an ‘emergent curriculum’ model for First Nations ECE education. Linda was one of the early instructors in that program.

Discussion Questions

To think with Linda’s thoughts, in relation to your own and your colleagues’ experience, and what you can together or each imagine about yourself, after each video discussion questions are offered. We would love to hear your questions, and happily include them here, as a growing resource for our communities (please see mail link below).

Origins & Realizations Discussion Questions

 

Step onto the Pathway:

What is your reaction to this video?

What leapt out at you?

 

Take a step further:

What comes to mind when you think about what Linda shares in this video?

How does anything Linda said in this video resonate in your context?

What in this video fits or doesn’t fit with your experience?

What further questions do you have about the issues and experiences Linda shares? (please feel free to share them with us here)

 

Why stop now? Further questions to consider (and add to these too please):

How did you learn about Indigenous peoples?

What blind spots can you identify in your culture (especially about itself where First Nations may be concerned)?

When have you had to “get your head around a very different way of thinking” in your personal or professional life? What did you learn from that experience?

In your experience, how does education trade in the idea of ‘need’ (for which it commonly provides remedies…) and how might ‘making needy’ be further complicated in a context of colonialism?

What do you want or need to know more about colonization?

2: Encounters: “I need to learn a different way of being…and I need to ask you for your help.”

Linda discusses approaching her first year of working with First Nations ECEs, letting go of “feelings of needing to know” and opening into the reciprocities of emotionally charged and often painful encounters, where all of Linda’s preparations “didn’t work.”

Encounters Discussion Questions:

 

Step back onto the Pathway:

What is your reaction to this video?

What leapt out at you?

 

Take a step further:

What comes to mind when you think about what Linda shares in this video?

How does anything Linda said in this video resonate in your context?

What in this video fits or doesn’t fit with your experience?

What further questions do you have about the issues and experiences Linda shares? (please feel free to share them with us)

 

Why stop now? Further questions to consider (and add to these too please):

How can you imagine familiar ideas of diversity can fail where Indigenous cultures are concerned in ECE?

How can ideas of “being responsible” as an educator prevent change and transformation in education?

How do you imagine ECE education for First Nations students could become “very emotional” and “painful”?

Have you ever been in a situation where how you understand and undertake communication no longer “work”? As an educator, what did (or would) you do?

What questions arise for you about how Linda describes changing her educational practice through encounters with First Nations students? What would you ask Linda, if you could?

From this brief video, what new knowledge about First Nations cultures has become present to you?

3: Transformations: “It’s very challenging on a number of levels.”

Linda reflects on resistance to change in working in across cultures in First Nations ECE education in the continuing wake of historical injury and trauma, how she changed and had to overcome, why…and what happened.

Transformations Discussion questions:

 

Step back onto the Pathway:

What is your reaction to this video?

What leapt out at you?

 

Take a step further:

What comes to mind when you think about what Linda shares in this video?

How does anything Linda said in this video resonate in your context?

What in this video fits or doesn’t fit with your experience?

What further questions do you have about the issues and experiences Linda shares? (please feel free to share them with us)

 

Why stop now? Further questions to consider (and add to these too please):

In what ways do you identify with Linda’s statement that she doesn’t “let go of knowing very easily”? How is knowing important to you?

What does it feel like to “set aside” what you know? When and why have you done it? Why is it important, in your view of human relations, and particularly in education?

Can you recall, and share about, a time when “not knowing” was “totally transforming” and changed what you “thought was important”?

Linda discusses success in a rich, generative, and historically charged educational encounter in terms of her reluctance in “letting go of a need that I had.” How else might we think of colonialism in this manner, or of decolonization arising in an individual or personal release of certain needs and desires?

Where in ECE might this commitment to “let go of need that I had” be liberating in your view?  For whom? What hopes could this approach bring into view for you?

 

4. New Understandings: “I learned then about colonization…”

Linda discusses changing expectations in post-secondary education with First Nations students, how ‘responsive’ ECE education can develop through dialogue in sharing about families and communities, and learning about the devastating impact of colonization and the remarkable strengths of First Nations in ECE in overcoming it.

New Understandings Discussion questions:

 

Step back onto the Pathway:

What is your reaction to this video?

What leapt out at you?

 

Take a step further:

What comes to mind when you think about what Linda shares in this video?

How does anything Linda said in this video resonate in your context?

What in this video fits or doesn’t fit with your experience?

What further questions do you have about the issues and experiences Linda shares? (please feel free to share them with us)

 

 Why stop now? Further questions to consider (and add to these too please):

Where do our expectations of education come from? Why, as educators, is it important to engage this question?

In your experience does practices and thinking in education usually depart from diverse ideas about families and communities, or instead from decontextualized ideas of children, and other socio-economic contexts?

Historically, how do you imagine or understand “different” ideas of families (especially Indigenous ones) have been treated in European settler societies?

In what ways can you imagine early childhood education that supports moves toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples?

 

Please share your inspirations and questions by email.  We will be honoured to support (and share about) your own new commitments to reconciliation.  We are eager to develop this platform further with the strengths of additional voices, shared resources and common (and not so common) struggles.

In this we salute you, and join with you in deep gratitude to Linda in saying:

Huy chexw a!