In the wake of sadness…..

For some time now, I’ve been quite uncomfortable with where the world of Early Childhood sits.  In my position these days, I have quite a lot of influence over how the very small intrinsic world that I work within is constructed.  Meaning this – I get to interpret and ensure that our direction, philosophies and visions are geared towards what I believe and a lot of research points towards, is a powerful and desirable practice for children.  And increasingly, I find myself having to justify and fight for this way of thinking.  I find myself on a crusade to advocate for children……. for the things that are supposed to just be a natural course of development.  But thank goodness I have this capacity!…….  thank goodness that is – for the children who inhabit that world.

Today I sit here – reflecting on where my journey leads to.  A couple of days ago – the world lost a true hero for children.  Many people I’ve since discovered, had never even heard of Bev Bos.  So now it is my position of privilege to help counter that, by spreading her “gospel” as far and wide as I can.  Let me tell you what this woman meant to me……  Bev Bos is not necessarily the most influential person in my professional growth – but she was the FIRST person who made me stop and think about the world I worked in.  And it was this clip that was to be the game-changer for me.  Bev Bos 1991   It was this video that started the cogs turning, and created images in my mind that were powerful and strong.   I would urge anybody who has not seen it, or heard of Bev, to make sure they watch it – and then go and find some more!

At the time I first watched Bev Bos, I was working under high structure in Early Childhood.  Consumed by working towards quality “education” for young children.  Building in strongly guided lessons for children, lots of group work, books full of templates and workshits (I can’t even use the correct terminology for them any more!)…….. pretty much focused on churning out a little army of compliant soldiers who were being as topped up with learning as possible.  To every single one of those children, I apologise.  My one and only saving grace is that I did truly love them all – and I cared.  The fact is – I cared.  And so just one viewing of Bev’s video turned everything on it’s head for me.  Nobody had ever presented a different view to me, other than the one I was trained under and was living.  In some ways, I was also a compliant soldier.

I spent several years after this, searching for something more.  Trying to work out how to make things different for children.  It seemed that at every turn, I was to be disappointed.  After a long initial employment, I began bouncing around a fair deal.  Elusively searching for the place that my soul would align with.

During this whole time – I upheld my righteous status as a “Professional Development Junkie”….. soaking in information from as many places as I could, as a supplement to my own formal learning via qualifications.  Much of the time, I think the value of workshops I attended was far superior.   Eventually I came to the conclusion, that I was not going to find that place, and also that I could not effect change from where I was.  And so I sought out a position of leadership in my first Directors position.

Even still, I seemed to be pushed back into a powerless place, through the rigid accreditation and licensing processes – that blocked my attempts at change at every crossroad.  Of course, working in the private sector – image was also important……. it was of much higher importance to receive a high grading during accreditation than it was to question the status quo, and think about what actually might be best for children.  And I’ll admit – as a natural “overachiever”, it was my priority also.

My frustration increased, until I was once again forced to think about my position, and how exactly I could effect change.  By this time, we had been gleefully dealt a new agenda for ECEC in Australia, which included documents giving far more scope to exactly how we might display quality care for children.  And it was here that I found my refuge.  Pouring through and interpreting words, to find that the little embers still glowing inside of me, had some fuel.  And a vision for children started to form.  Not unlike the visions that had etched themselves in my mind – of the uninhibited joy akin to that I imagined children in Bev Bos’s service, Roseville Community Preschool might experience.

It seemed that the small private service I worked within, was not going to be the space in which I could bring those visions to fruition…… and so once again, I cast my heart out.  And I found the space I now call home – another small private service, but one with owners who shared the passion and vision I have.  And so it has been from here, that I have been able to take this journey I am now on……  which has been inspired and informed from a great many places now……..  but from where one small bright light instituted the metamorphosis.

For many reasons, I find myself in a position of privilege.  I have been able to form a network around me, that is nothing short of incredible.  I am well sourced with contacts, and people who have helped me grow on the journey so far.  And I say so far, because I believe this journey to never end and have a destination.  I have met some wonderful mentors, and have built very special relationships with many of them.

Several months ago, while on Facebook – a post popped up from out of the blue – and there amongst it, was the name “Bev Bos”.  A wonderful opportunity to arise in April this year – just two months from now.  A gathering in Maryland, USA.  The other side of the world for me here in Australia.  BUT – here would be my chance, to be in a space – face to face! – with this woman who I name my champion and hero.  And perhaps I’d even get to talk with her, and to let her know how far her influence had reached.  But……. two days ago, almost to the minute for me right in this moment – a dark cloud came over my world, as I read in shock, as I’m sure did many others – that this woman who had lured me around the other side of the world – had departed our Earth.

And I cried tears for this woman I have never met.  Part of me cried because of my own lost opportunity I’m sure.  But the bigger part of me cried for the loss to not only her own community, not only to all of us who have been touched by her greatness, but to those she had not yet touched.  I’d actually bet that she never saw herself as great – but only as a champion for children.  As somebody who understood and fought for childhood – as it should be in all it’s natural joy and glory.

And now I sit here – faced with a burden.  But not a heavy cumbersome burden – a burden which is just placed on my heart, to ensure that I act on it.  There is no need for devastation to reign now.  Because Bev Bos did it all already.  Nothing has changed.  Children are still children.  They still have the same need to be a certain way in this world.  And so now – in the face of grief – all those who understood her word, are faced with the possibility to stand up and fill out the void.  To stand united in advocacy for children.  Around the world, we can hold hands, and spread the word. For the woman who came before us, gave us what we need.

While I’m still so very sad that I will never meet Bev Bos in person – my excitement grows that in less than 9 short weeks, I will be standing in company with many others who HAVE known her personally.  And with that amazing group of people, I will be able to pay tribute to the life of one who affected MY life, and consequently affects the lives of many others – adults I work with, adults I network with, and most importantly – the children in our lives.  I get to be a part of something that I know will be a truly life-changing experience for me…….. in a different way than was originally intended…….. yet one which I do not believe will be any less than…….

And so, with this humble post – I pray the new ripples begin outward.  In honour of one of the most special people that have graced this Earth.

Bev Bos – I know that the light you shone on this world, will be picked up by many of us.  And your word for keeping the joy in childhood will be taken and spread out even further.  May you smile from above as you see your work continue.

In the wake of sadness…….. let there be joy!  Let the play go on!