Happy New Year from me!
The stretch between Christmas and New Year is a funny blend of spending time with family, catching up with old friends, and losing all sense of our daily routines. I find this time productive, disrupting our normal rhythm of life provides space to reflect on what has gone well and what we are looking forward to as we approach the New Year ahead.
This has been an interesting year for me and my work in the early years, and I want to put pen to paper, highlight a few things that have happened, and share some of my optimism for 2019.
What’s pleased me
From a relatively niche cause in the public sphere, I find myself increasingly engaged in many positive conversation about the need for men in early years – but, importantly, for all children (not just boys). One of my greatest frustrations with addressing such an issue is that the more traction the idea gains in the public sphere, the tougher it becomes to ensure the message is both clear and concise.
As many have wrote, more men in EY is beneficial for all children in modelling a ‘gender flexible’ approach, and I’m pleased that the 3rd National Men in EY conference, hosted by the Bristol Men in Early Years Network was such a success in getting this message out. Two notable book releases from David Wright and Simon Brownhill, and Jo Warin, were also published this year, along with a multitude of media interest (including my brief appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire Show!) highlighting the cause. Finally, The ESRC funded research project‘ Gender Diversification in Early Years Education: Recruitment, Support and Retention’ will go some way towards keeping the fire alight well into 2019 and beyond.
What’s inspired me
This quote from Graham Harman has been stuck in my head for a while now, he writes:
“On perhaps two or three occasions in a lifetime, we read something that strikes us as not just powerful and intriguing, but as harbouring a crucial paradox that contains the secret to so much else if only we could make sense of its riddle”.
This book for me has been Kehinde Andrews ‘Back to Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century’. I’m hesitant to describe this book in too much depth, you should really read it for yourself and make your own mind up, what I will say is that this book has radically changed the way I think about race and racism in the twenty-first century.
It has inspired me to shift my focus from gender to race in the early years, where I wrote my Masters dissertation on ‘Black Educator in (White) Settings: Making race and identity visible in ECEC settings’, I interviewed six Black practitioners about their experiences within the early years and tried to move the conversation past simply ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ rhetoric. Yes, I am aware this is a well studied area in later education – but I truly believe we are not doing enough to address race in the early years. This issue will remain close to my heart for a long, long time. I look forward to delivering workshops and speaking on this issue in 2019.
What I’m looking forward to
Much of this festive period has been spent trying to explain exactly what I am researching, and why I am researching it! Part of the difficulty here lies in the fact that I myself am unsure of the eventual direction this research will take, and the pub is rarely the time to try and explain dominant conceptions of childhood and sexualities (despite my best efforts!).
I have an introductory blog in Early Years Scotland I look forward to sharing soon, and ultimately I am confident my research will ripple out past academia into practice and pedagogy with children and reverberate around the early years community.