November 20, 2019 | Society
Jody Merrick (Early Learning and Child Care, ’13) stands in front of a corkboard plastered with brightly coloured sticky notes and photos of infants and toddlers. Individually, the items on this “living wall” represent small moments – a child discovering themselves in a mirror, unscrewing the top of a tiny bottle or showing an adult how to beat a drum – but together those moments have very big implications.
When that nine-month-old kisses herself in the mirror, she’s discovering her sense of self. When the almost-two-year-old opens that bottle for the first time, she is problem-solving and when that little boy beats the drum, he sees himself as a teacher.
Elevating the learning in those small moments is Jody’s job as curriculum facilitator at Terra Centre for Teen Parents.
“Children are mighty learners,” says Jody. “They are competent, resourceful and already have theories about the world and opinions on matters that affect them – we don’t always need to construct that knowledge for them.”
Looking at learning and care for very young children as something done with and alongside them rather than to or for them, is a relatively recent – and radical – shift. Today, early childhood educators across the province are no longer simply caregivers; they straddle the worlds of adults and children, co-learning, co-discovering and co-imagining.
Supporting those educators is at the heart of Jody’s role as a curriculum facilitator – a job that didn’t even exist five years ago. As she coaches educators through concepts, philosophy, values and research to effectively implement Alberta’s early learning and care curriculum framework, Jody is helping to capture and shape the many important, but often overlooked, moments in children’s lives.
“Curriculum really begins with children,” says Jody. “When I meet with an educator who is excited or unsure about something that is happening with a child, we dig deeply into the meaning of what that child is doing, their wellbeing and their daily experiences. We look at how we can support them in seeing themselves as capable, as citizens.”
It’s complex, professional work rooted in pedagogy. And it’s fun.
“To do this work, you need to have a playful spirit, be willing to get involved in children’s experiences and use their language,” says Jody. “You need to be curious about what they are doing and why, and you need to want to understand and advocate for children and their families.”
Even though Jody loves supporting educators in doing that work and already has her dream job, she’s not finished learning. This fall, she plans to return to the classroom as one of the first students in MacEwan University’s new Bachelor of Early Childhood Curriculum Studies program.
“It seems like a natural next step,” she says. “There is incredible momentum in our field right now. Educators are coming together as a community around Flight: Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework, we’re supporting one another and making the learning that happens in our centres visible so that people can truly see the way it benefits children and families.”
Our children have something important to say. Will we listen?
When adults fail to recognize children's capacity for real, complex thinking, we risk missing out on their incredible potential, says Dr. Tricia Lirette.