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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
11 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • WINTER 2015 - ISSUE 59 Understanding Our Sense of 'Being': Reflection, Narrative and The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) Jessica Horne-Kennedy Tell Me a Story It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are. They do their work in silence, invisibly. They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self. They become part of you while changing you. (Okri, 1996 as cited in Perrow, 2008 p.xvi) " Mum, tell me the story of how I got this bed!" were my three-and-a-half year old daughter's words one evening at bedtime. So the story was told about how we had set off on an adventure, early one morning, to find a 'big bed'. There are many fine details in this story that we shared, like: how we got lost and had to ask a friendly man walking his dog for directions, the vegemite sandwich that was eaten on the way, and the big trees in the park that we walked past. These and other details were included each time the story was retold, and if I forgot one my daughter quickly reminded me of the missing thread. For me, this moment of connection with my daughter highlighted how important stories can be for supporting children's emerging sense of self-identity. Stories and storytelling are transformative and stories are an important part of who we are. We each hold within us a particular narrative that is unique to our identity: who we are, where we have come from and the direction we are travelling in. Our personal and professional 'story' holds the essence of our 'being' -- of who we are as educators work- ing with young children. In the Rudolf Steiner early childhood environment, story telling is a fundamental practice (Long-Breipohl, 2012). A story is a bridge from the outer world of social relationships and experiences to the inner world of emotions and feelings (Perrow, 2008: 10). Every day, in the Steiner preschool, a story is told using simple hand-crafted puppets, objects from nature, and coloured cloths made from silk or other natural fibres. Stories are also brought to the children in spontaneous ways like on daily walks when we notice the seasonal changes in the world around us. The emerging blossoms on a previously bare winter tree or the new shoots of broccoli in the vegetable garden are ways a story may be inspired and shared with the children. Stories are seen as a way of bringing children into an awareness of the world around them. As a mother, educator, and researcher stories are an important part of my beliefs of working with young children. For this reason narrative has informed the design of research I have undertaken as part of my Masters study at the University of New England (Horne-Kennedy, 2014). Identity and 'Being' as Starting Points for Storytelling In all stories there is a beginning point, and an important beginning point in my research involved a process of reflection where I asked: • Who am I in this work as an early childhood educator? • What does it mean to ‘be’ an early childhood educator? As an emerging researcher these questions helped me to position myself in order to understand my role and the influence that this role would have on the study. My 'being' as a researcher and early childhood educator were intertwined and layered with other facets of identity such as my 'being' as a mother, storyteller and Rudolf Steiner educator. When I uncovered these aspects of self I could see clearly the starting point of a personal narrative that wove through the research. By standing in the present (like the moment where my daughter remembered the story of her bed) the experiences from the past cumulate and work together in a process of meaning-making and new understanding. An example here are the experiences I had when returning to work, after a period of parental leave following the birth of my daughter. Before becoming a mother I worked as a Steiner preschool educator in a metropolitan area of Sydney, Australia. When my daughter was nine months old, I began working in a non-Steiner preschool in a rural New Zealand setting. These experiences brought forth many questions for me -- questions about forming relationships with children and about personal philosophy. Central to these questions was a process of seeking out my professional identity. This identity was embedded in the mixture of contrasts that described the specific time and place I was experiencing. The way that I had worked to enact my beliefs and philosophy as a Rudolf Steiner educator felt different to the way that I worked in the non-Steiner setting. This feeling of difference led me to ask new questions about my practice and ways of working with children. I questioned why my interpretation of the Steiner philosophy was at times different to the interpretations of my colleagues who worked with the same philosophy.
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015
Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015