College Professors: Actors¹ in Early Childhood Education

Kathleen Kummen (Ph.D, ECE) is the Co-Director of BC Early Childhood Pedagogy Network and the Chair of the School of Education and Childhood Studies at Capilano University .

Barbara Pytka (RECE) is a College Professor in the School of Early Childhood Education at Seneca Polytechnic.

¹ The use of the term “actors” was inspired by the Actor Network Theory. Tara Fenwick writes extensively on the use of Actor Network Theory in education. She suggests that our realities are an enactment of many actors working together in assemblages. For further exploration of Fenwick’s work visit Fenwick (2010). 

Barbara: In his book “The Burnout Society,” Byung-Chul Han (2015) suggests that our society is preoccupied with achievement and productivity. The obsession with the never-satisfying drive for optimizing achievement and performance leads us to a level of a pathological state. This state includes burnout, depression, hyperactivity, profound boredom, sameness and becoming “achievement-subjects” (p. 8). We willingly challenge ourselves to become the best we can be and there is never a finish line. These dispositions are amplified by the lauding of agreeableness and positivity so much so that we have become accustomed to responding with “yes, we can” to all our life’s demands (Han, 2015, p. 8). According to Han, these dispositions are internal rather than external forces that propel us toward becoming “entrepreneurs” of ourselves (2015, p. 8).

Undoubtedly, the culture of achievement and productivity has found its way into early childhood education preparatory programs. It is true, now more than ever, that college professors are pressured to ensure that their “yes, we can” capacity is unlimited. From my experience, in their already abundant lists of responsibilities, college professors believe that their success depends on their continuous positive response to the pressure to achieve. For example, today’s college professors agree to work longer hours to learn to use constantly changing technological tools to teach students in various delivery modes, such as in-person and online, both synchronous and asynchronous. They push themselves to better support the overwhelming number of international students studying Canadian early childhood education.

As achievement subjects, college professors in early childhood education urge themselves to learn and innovate their assessment methods in response to ever-changing societal technical developments, such as the introduction of ChatGPT. They also willingly exploit themselves in consulting many students who leave the early childhood program after experiencing the current state of post-COVID-19 programs for young children in their practicums.

How do you think a culture of achievement, productivity, and entrepreneurs in early childhood education programs contributes to the formation of students’ professional identity, and what influence may it have on the future of the field? 

Kathleen: You have asked a critical question that requires all of us in education to consider the current conditions that necessitate starting a conversation around the education of future educators and thinking about a culture of achievement, productivity, and entrepreneurship. This is an important reminder that early childhood education and the education of future educators are deeply related to the social, political, and technological conditions of our times. A recent article written by the Early Childhood Pedagogies Collaboratory (2023) problematized the narrative that investment into early childhood education is essential to ensuring the growth of the Canadian economy. Their concern is that when the dominant public conversation around implementing a Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care program privileges economic concerns instead of educational issues, we neglect to think about early childhood education as a project of world and citizen-making. When focusing on economic growth, early childhood education is reduced to an instrumental economic endeavor, ignoring the field’s rich possibilities. 

In 2014, Cristina Delgado Vintimilla wrote about how she was often questioned by her colleagues and others for introducing students to neoliberalism in early childhood education classes. Her response was to make visible how neoliberalism functions in and regulates early childhood education conditions that make possible very particular ways of being an early childhood educator. Your question requires us to carefully think with Vintimilla to articulate how the economic constructs of neoliberalism and its social consequences permeate early childhood education and produce educators that understand education from that perspective. Once we have a clear understanding of what occurs when education is an economic issue, we can work to make space for pedagogical matters in education. We can then ask more relevant and urgent questions, such as how we might co-construct curriculum that responds to the conditions of 21st-century educators.

Barbara: I agree that we need to clearly understand what is jeopardized when conceptualizing education as an economic issue. For me, we first need to identify and acknowledge the important roles of the many actors involved in the universalization of the present early childhood system. In particular, I would like to discuss community colleges as preparatory institutions for educators and powerful actors in the field.

As you know, in Ontario, in accordance with the College of Early Childhood Educators’ 2021 report, 95% of educators working with children and their families enter the field with only a two-year college diploma. There is no incentive for educators to continue their education above the basic preparatory level and pursue opportunities to enhance their academic dispositions (attitudes associated with commitment to lifelong learning). Focusing only on the college diploma in early childhood education is problematic, as community colleges are “focused on meeting the needs of the economy” (Cox & Sallee, 2018, p. 74). This is manifested in aims to produce registered early childhood educators as quickly as possible, to meet shortage demands within the field. In this way, students’ learning is dependent on establishing quick and efficient processes that move students through schooling into the field as quickly as possible. Unlike the structure of university programs, in college programs, professors are pressured to produce workers through whatever means necessary (Dennison & Gallagher, 2014. p. 77), which often translates to making theoretical concepts “accessible”. For example, this might look like providing short and easy articles to students, using quizzes for testing, creating ready-to-use educational tools, such as checklists, templates and step-by-step directions, and constructing assignments rooted in memorizing standards, rules, and procedures.  

What are your thoughts on the consequences of these instrumental, reproducible approaches to pre-service education for early childhood educators? 

Kathleen: The assertion that teacher education merely recycles technical practices is not a recent concern. George Counts, in an editorial written in 1935 for the Teacher College Record, strongly criticized the increase in the length of teacher education from two years to four if the mechanistic emphasis on practicality over transformative practices were to remain. Over ten years ago, Kirylo and McNulty (2011), in their introduction to a special issue of Childhood Education, asserted that early childhood and elementary teacher education programs are facing unprecedented demands for change to meet the needs of children in the 21st century. They express concern that, unfortunately, this call for change is often met with practices that reflect “a belief that teaching is a technical skill—a belief they feel ignores “the complexity and political nature of teaching” (p. 316). 

The consequence of a neoliberal approach to the education of future educators is that post-secondary programs are at risk of being implicated into practices that contribute to the deskilling of early childhood educators. I use the term deskilling, to imply the reduction of the knowledge, dispositions and skills that are considered necessary to work as an early childhood educator.  As difficult as it may be, post-secondary instructors must come together to consider our obligations to our students and the young children they will work with. The knowledge, ideas, values, and beliefs privileged in post-secondary classrooms make possible the pedagogical practices that provide children with the types of educational spaces they deserve – or not. If we want students to become educators that respond to the conditions of 21st-century life, then we, as their educators, need to create classrooms that nurture specific student dispositions.

As the educators of educators, we should be asking: what are the practices of our post-secondary classroom that contribute to our students engaging in practices that are ethical, situated, or meaningful when they become educators? How are we taking up the practice of critical reflection in our own pedagogical choices in the post-secondary classroom and collectively as departments when we are making curricular decisions?  For example, let’s consider a course that has, as a learning objective, to consider how societal values and beliefs (e.g., gender, race, and culture) affect educational practice. As educators we need to reflect on how we are taking up this objective in pedagogical practices that make visible and disrupt the taken-for-granted assumptions all of us hold around children and childhood. Dahlberg, Moss, and Pence (2013) argue that if we disrupt these dominant discourses of children, childhood might more easily be recognized as a social construct and children might more easily be seen, not as universal entities, but as complex, diverse, and, at times, contradictory. This recognition would make space to open the possibility of multiple ways to provide early childhood education programs for children and families. The question, then, is how might we as educators curate the conditions that will support students in an inquiry to displace or unhinge taken-for-granted notions of children and childhood. How do we create the pedagogical conditions so that students can engage in a process of collective learning, that like any inquiry worth its salt, makes spaces for new questions and curiosities that are unexpected, and disrupt our thinking in unanticipated ways?

As professors, I think we have an obligation to create early childhood education programs where students can conceptualize early childhood as a space to create more livable worlds for children rather than a space to ‘prepare’ children for kindergarten or keep them safe and occupied so that parents and caregivers can work. We are responsible for creating the conditions for students to become those educators. 

Barbara: Let’s discuss now the relationship between neoliberal logic in education and anti-intellectualism. I am referring to practices and structures that focus heavily on ingraining limited traditions (e.g., developmentalism) and policies and regulations established by external governing bodies; practices that limit the role of educators to the application of technical and scientific conceptions. As Vintimilla et al. (2023) suggest, such existing structures in early childhood education not only strengthen anti-intellectualism, but also create barriers for educators to envision and explore approaches that can influence the ways we think and do pedagogy. If we accept the view that the purpose of early childhood education programs is to produce skilled, technical workers, then it follows that the approaches used in preparatory education don’t promote intellectual work or creativity. Here I am referring to both what students deem as relevant for their education and also the specific theoretical underpinnings college professors choose for their courses, acknowledging that there are specific governmental and institutional parameters they must adhere to. Based on my experience working with about 80 college professors, I have seen the pressure they face to structure early childhood education curricula to promote technical and reproducible objectives rather than a curriculum that promotes students’ intellectual curiosity. This technocratic curriculum is something that Bezaire and Johnston (2023) problematize when they talk about pre-service educators needing to learn through experiencing “complex, multifaceted, even contradictory roles” (p. 436) if they are to be prepared to respond to contemporary complex social issues.

What do you think is needed to shift in the work of college professors so students can strengthen their dispositions in becoming creative and innovative thinkers? 

Kathleen: First, I would like to acknowledge that college and university professors work within complex governmental and administrative relations. As people who care deeply about children and families, they are aware of the unprecedented challenges to the field of early childhood education, such as the lack of childcare spaces and recruitment and retention issues. However, I strongly believe that as professors, these challenges should not take precedence over creating curriculum that pedagogically responds to the conditions of our times. I believe faculty need to attend to Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s (2006) argument that “the model of teacher development as training and retraining is retrograde and is inconsistent with contemporary understandings of teaching and learning” (p. 687–688). Acknowledging this requires us, as the educators of future educators, to engage deeply with literature, knowledges and practices that will support the reconceptualization of the education of future educators. 

For me, the issue of concern in the education of early childhood educators is how to live/teach/research in a world of competing and contradictory discourses. How can we invite students to expect teaching (and perhaps life) to be what Jackson (2001) describes as a “wrenching, uneven experience” (p. 388)? We, as teachers of early childhood educators, need to create learning spaces that explore what it means to teach, live, and practice in an unstable, unpredictable, always emerging world. 

For example, my colleagues Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Denise Hodgins have been involved in a project in British Columbia called the BC Early Childhood Pedagogy Network, where part of our work is with student educators. We have introduced the role of faculty pedagogists, who work directly with educators in practicum sites and with students. The faculty pedagogists support educators and students to engage with children and families in innovative, critically reflective practice and extend the practice of the educators and the children by introducing new ideas and materials (Government of British Columbia, 2019, p. 7). This work is supported by current research in the education of future educators that calls for intentional and guided opportunities for students to reflect on their observations of and practices with young children in early childhood education settings (e.g., Avgitidou et al., 2013; Bowne et al., 2010 Brown and Englehardt, 2016). In an article, Denise and I wrote, we talk more deeply about the process of creating the conditions for students to build relationships that create the conditions to think together about ideas and theory (Kummen & Hodgins, 2019). 

One of the things that has emerged from this work is the importance of practicum for student educators. Practicum is often considered secondary to the theory courses or other courses taught on campus and positioned as sort of a means to an end for students to meet requirements to successfully complete the program. Suppose we truly want to reconceptualize both early childhood education and the education of early childhood educators. In that case, we need to conceptualize practicum as one of the most significant courses in their education as future educators and one that is deeply connected to curriculum and pedagogy. Within the ECPN, we have expanded the Dedicated Practicum model developed at Capilano University in North Vancouver, British Columbia, in what we call our Post-Secondary Stream of Pedagogists. 

In this model, students experience practicum at the same practicum site for one academic year, which is quite different from other practicum structures, where students are encouraged to have multiple practicum sites so that they can see a little bit of everything. By working in the same early years program, not only do the students develop long-term relationships with children, but they also come to know and be part of the life of that centre. By working with the same mentor teachers and faculty, students have the time and opportunity to engage deeply in curriculum with children and educators. The Dedicated Practicum model allows students to think with educators and children to curate experiences, select materials and so forth so that there is deep engagement with ideas and concerns that matter in that centre. This model helps students see pedagogical work as more than providing activities that keep children busy and safe while their parents are at their place of employment. By becoming immersed in the life of a centre, students can engage with pedagogy as life-making (Vinimilla & Pacini- Ketchabaw, 2020). 

Barbara: Recruitment and retention of early childhood educators have created new challenges for the field and for colleges and universities. As McCuaig et al. (2022) pointed out in their report, 82% of child care operators in Canada have been experiencing difficulties with recruiting qualified educators. In Ontario, “licensed child care has the lowest retention rate of any employment setting” (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2021, n.p.). For that reason, there is a push to graduate more students to meet the demand for educators in the field, so much so that full-time domestic students receive bursaries of $2,000 per semester to complete the program (Seneca Polytechnic, 2023). 

The retention and recruitment issue has also contributed to increasing numbers of international students in early childhood education (Admission Hub, 2021). The research on international students learning in Canadian colleges is limited. However, what we have learned from the early childhood education community in Australia is that, in addition to adjusting to the cultural differences in pedagogy (Rouse & Joseph, 2019), students are being challenged with navigating a new lifestyle (cost of living, linguistic differences, etc.) (Dai, Matthews, & Reyes, 2020; Yu & Wright, 2016). International students in early childhood education talk about being stressed, overwhelmed, and struggling to connect theory and practice (Rouse & Joseph, 2019). This is important, as educators’ capacity and attitudes, engagement, and emotional warmth are linked to children’s positive outcomes in future academic performance, behaviour, and health (McCuaig et al., 2022).

How are we to create spaces that welcome the diversity of students in our programs, and create the conditions to support their well-being and nurture the dispositions that allow them to meet the complex and situated needs of the children and families in the 21st century?

Kathleen: I am working in the province of British Columbia; I can attest that my colleagues at Capilano University and other post-secondary institutions are seeing an increase in pressure to offer accelerated and other programs that work to quickly put adults in early years programs. Often this involves programs in which adults receive an assistant certificate or a short training so that they are considered responsible adults. Also, with the introduction of our degree 13 years ago, we saw a rise in the number of younger students entering our program directly from Grade 12.  However, education is a profession that obliges us to always be responding to the current conditions in which we find ourselves. This means that we need to attend pedagogically to the increase in the diversity of our students. 

First, we need to celebrate that we are having more diversity and difference in our field. This increases the possibilities for young children to work with adults who share their language, have similar culture experiences and so forth. The last thing education in the 21st century needs is to perpetuate the ghost of Lady Bountiful (Ford Smith, 1993, cited in Harper & Cavanaugh, 1994), who haunts the elementary classroom and is also present in early childhood education, and who works to keep children innocent and pure. Harper and Cavanaugh (1994) describe Lady Bountiful as a representation of the white lady missionary or white lady teacher who emerged during the time of British imperialism (p. 42).

It also means that we, as educators of educators, need to recognize how our students’ geo-political position in the world shapes the ways in which they understand childhood, education, families and so forth. In our own classrooms and with our colleagues we need to seek to bring to the forefront the complexity of teaching that results from taken-for-granted understandings that mask the political, historical, and changing meanings of discourses. How are we ensuring that all early childhood students understand the genealogy of child development and its relationships with racism and colonization? How do we ensure that the colonization and the ongoing legacy of colonization are discussed in our classrooms in ways that don’t have settlers recounting the narrative? We need to ensure that as educators, we are meeting our obligations to the students in front of us in ways that will support them to undertake the complex work of the early childhood educator. I think the words in the Early Childhood Educators of BC Position Paper on The Role of the Early Childhood Educator might be generative to our discussion:  

Current research asserts social policies and narratives maintain our profession as gendered, racialized, marginalized and positioned as a secondary market force. However, we know that early childhood educators are not limited by these narratives and images. Educators are leaders and hopeful for a better future, without knowing the shape of that future. Educators are emboldened to disrupt the legacies of the past in order to activate transformative change for the future. In relationship with children, families, communities, materials and places, educators engage in intentional pedagogical work in response to the complexity of our current conditions. Early childhood education is a space to co-create new worlds with alternative narratives.

Barbara: In addition to reconceptualizing practicum in the ways you outlined above, what specific actions can college professors take to counter current practices in programs that limit Ontario’s early childhood education field? 

Kathleen: I am unsure I can respond to your question with specific actions that faculty should take in their classrooms because I am hesitant to offer suggestions that might lend themselves to instrumental practices. Instead, I encourage faculty to come together to engage in radical dialogues to think deeply about how they understand early childhood education; to unpack the discourses they hold around education, educators, and children so that they can critically reflect on their pedagogical practices. I use the term radical dialogue to refer to a style of conversation that Moss and Dalberg (2005) describe as dialogue that fosters conditions for the participants to work with an idea or concept in ways that unpack, disrupt, analyze, and question taken-for-granted assumptions so as to collectively reimagine alternative understandings. Doing this work means moving beyond sharing ideas to negotiate a consensus. Rather, it requires a commitment to labour collaboratively, to use the words of Vintimilla, “in the name of something” that is beyond the opinions and desires of the individual. As educators of future educators, it is critical that we formulate, reformulate, and negotiate pedagogical commitment for the post-secondary classroom.

Many of my colleagues at Capilano University were fortunate to work with Cristina Delgado Vintimilla, who, as a pedagogista, curated dialogues that helped us to come together to collectively articulate our image of the student educator, the educator, education and the child. Collective thinking is far from easy work and is often filled with challenges and tension. However, it was necessary for us, as educators, to nurture, individually and collectively, the dispositions to engage in radical dialogues to think pedagogically. For example, words such as neoliberalism, globalization, colonization and racism enter our classrooms in the student’s first term. Thinking with the work of Vintimilla (2014), students are introduced to education as a political project. We ask the students to think deeply about the concept of pedagogy as a form of life-making, and we collectively commit to working with the concept of education as a political project, to think together about the language, theories, and knowledges that we work with within our classrooms. When students are introduced to education as a profession that is not innocent and neutral, they understand that they have an obligation to consider what materials and experiences they would offer to children—recognizing that what happens in the classroom makes possible particular ways of being and knowing and silences or marginalizes other ways of knowing and being. Thinking with Barad (2012), I believe that what is needed in the education of future early childhood educators is a curriculum that attends to “how values matter and gets materialized, and the interconnectedness of ethics, ontology, and epistemology” (as cited in Juelskær & Schwennesen, p.15). Therefore, we need to think beyond activities and skills so that the education of future educators is taken up as an ethical and political project.

For me personally, I am inspired in my own teaching by the words of Rinaldi (2006) who asserts that the child requires an educator who is a “‘powerful’ teacher, the only kind of teacher suitable for our equally “‘powerful’ child” (p. 125). This powerful educator, Rinaldi explains, is open to the unexpected, is one who engages in learning with the child as a researcher in order to be open to possibilities in education. Perhaps this statement by Rinaldi can be a place for faculty to start a process of collectively reimaging the education of future educators.  It is my hope that we as the educators of early childhood educator engage in what Lenz Taguchi (2010) refers to as ethics of immanence and potentialities to “transform educational practices so that they can be about challenging children’s, students’ and teachers’ potentialities and capacities to act and be inventive in the process of collaborative experimentation and production of concepts and knowing” (p. 177).

Barbara: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the critical role professors play in the field of early childhood education. I hope this discussion will create a space for college professors and those involved in the construction and implementation of early childhood education programs to see why continuously reflecting on and revisiting their teaching methods, as well as making tangible changes that promote deep intellectual and pedagogical thought is important. I also hope that your provocations will serve as a catalyst to start disrupting old habits that normalize taken-for-granted practices in early childhood education to create space for new possibilities in the field. I would like to close with Nietzsche’s idea that a teacher’s role is to “learn to see, to think, and to speak and write” (as cited in Han, 2015, p. 21). 


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Editors’ Note

“No time passed is good enough for my living,” Dionne Brand – a Black poet and essayist who lives in Toronto – contends, in response to Indigenous poet Billy-Ray Belcourt’s question “what if any, is the relationship between nostalgia and poetry?”. Unfolding on an episode of the Between the Covers podcast hosted by David Naimon, Brand continues: “I can only think of the future, the place where we might live, which would refute all that we are living; negate and tear up all that we are living. I am always living in the future…my work is to live in the future”. When we listen to Brand’s words as a pedagogist might, we are struck by the emphasis on ideation as a world-making tactic: to envision a future that refutes the neoliberal, settler colonial pillars of existing early childhood education because the future must be imperceptible; it is a requirement that the future be illegible to the white supremacist, humanist, developmental grammars of the present. A pedagogist, learning with Brand, is uninterested in creating a “better” future where better is simply a synonym for status-quo with a slight social justice flavour. A pedagogist is, instead, interested in discerning how and why different questions and concerns matter differently to specific educational experiences and responsive curriculum-making such that we might generate situated, responsive pedagogies grounded in the ongoing rhythms, politics, ethics, and flows of an early childhood or post-secondary education space.

Continue reading “Editors’ Note”

Returning as/with Post-Secondary Pedagogists

What modes of returning matter to post-secondary institution (PSI) pedagogists as they return not just to the college or university institution, but also to the ethics and politics that cohere early childhood education together as an institution? In autumn 2022, post-secondary institution pedagogists are taking on a unique project: they are returning to their role as educators of pre-service teachers and they are returning to their role as a pedagogist intent on agitating the developmental and instrumental logics that underpin much of what counts as pre-service teacher education. To linger with the tensions that come from such a return, Cristina and Nicole participated in a conversation with three post-secondary institution pedagogists: Paolina Camuti, Marah Gardner Echavez, and Cory Jobb. Paolina and Marah work as pedagogists in Ontario and Cory is in British Columbia. We began our conversation with a simple question: do we want to return – and how? We then turned to questions of methodology, where, if we have a desire to return, how do we then do the work of returning well? Finally, we point toward some of the tensions that have emerged through each pedagogists’ responses, wondering how returning might also be about uncertainty and disjuncture, and not the confident and slick return to learning advanced by contemporary neoliberal discourses.

Continue reading “Returning as/with Post-Secondary Pedagogists”

On Inaugurating and Sustaining the Work of a Post Secondary Institution Pedagogist: Collectivity, In-Betweens, and Having a ‘Why’ – an interview with Bo Sun Kim

In Issue 2 of the PNO Magazine, we – Cristina Delgado Vintimilla and Nicole Land – interviewed two Ontario post secondary pedagogists, Paolina Camuti-Cull and Olga Rossovska. As we spoke about during our conversation, a pedagogist situated in a post-secondary institution works to reimagine practicum as a space for reconfiguring how the education of future educators unfolds. Post-secondary institution (PSI) pedagogists are in ongoing discussions with early childhood educators, students, and faculty members. In their conversations, PSI pedagogists are concerned with how, together, this gathering of people, histories, and intentions might create innovative practices relevant to both children and students’ relations and responses in a situated education space. The role of the PSI pedagogist is a complex and often difficult one as it requires the ability to think pedagogically within an in-between space: in-between the context and situations of those who are being educated to become early childhood educators (future) and the context of those who are already established early childhood educators who, alongside children and families, inhabit the everyday practices, modes of thinking, and rhythms of early childhood spaces (inheritance and present). In this in-between, a PSI pedagogist works to creates an ongoing and emergent dialogue between inheritances, presents, and futurities, and – through that dialogue – PSI pedagogists are called to activate collaborative processes that can create situations and experiences that engage students and educators with the proposition (and inherited reality) that early childhood education is a pedagogical and creative space, rather than simply a service or space for compliance. This in-between asks post-secondary pedagogists to constantly navigate how early childhood education becomes a pedagogical space, where students’ lives and responses are inseparable from children’s lives and responses. This nourishes a special kind of collectivity and a commitment to understanding and enlivening pedagogy as a layered, complex, and extremely consequential shared undertaking. 

In this interview, Cristina Delgado Vintimilla and Nicole Land speak with post-secondary institution pedagogist, Dr. Bo Sun Kim. Bo Sun is the first post secondary pedagogist in Canada, as she started her role seven years ago. In this conversation we engage with Bo Sun’s thoughts around the question of beginning this kind of work, and what pedagogical and curricular considerations and situations she had to work with as she began her practice. 

CRISTINA AND NICOLE: Bo Sun, can you please share with us your views on how the role of the post-secondary institution pedagogist is concerned with creating otherwise possibilities for practicum? We are thinking in particular about how you began this work many years ago and how you continually negotiate many beginnings as your work shifts and changes, where you are both figuring out the contours of your work and getting to know the relations and practices that currently surround how practicum happens in a particular space. What did you attend to when you started this work? Why? What inheritances were you working with or interrupting? Why?

BO SUN: I began my work as a post-secondary pedagogist in 2015 at a university institution located on the unceded territories of the LíỈwat, xʷməθkʷəỷəm (Musqueam), shíshálh (Sechelt), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and SəỈílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) nations of what is currently known as British Columbia, Canada. This university has a closely connected child care centre where many education students participated in practicums under the mentorship of experienced early childhood educators.

At the beginning of my pedagogist work, I turned to the question, ‘what constitutes normal?’ and, ‘what legitimates a truth in our practice?’ With these questions, I began to discern how the educators that I was working with perceived pedagogical practice as it should be, rather than taking time to ponder why. Amid these understandings of ‘good’ practice, I noticed that how a teacher, children, lunchtime, curriculum, and pedagogical narrations should be are all examples of so-called, status-quo rigorous practice. These instances create a particular way of living and relating to each other.  

When I joined this space, there were already ongoing curriculum projects where each teacher was working on their specific curriculum project. At the time, a curriculum project meant working on the curriculum topics in which children should be interested. The central role of the educators was to follow the children’s interests and make visible children’s understandings on curriculum topics. Pedagogical documentation merely represented children’s ideas and how much they knew about the topics. There was an assumption that everything had to come from children, and ideas that come from the children were good and important. In this romanticized way of seeing children, the curriculum was understood simply following children’s lead and their interests. Making comments on each other’s work and ideas among the children was not encouraged unless complimented. The collaboration among educators was not asked for or sought. I wondered what may have inspired everyone to work in such an individual and isolated approach. The educators’ withdrawal was rationalized in the name of independence, autonomy, freedom, and respect for one another’s work. Nonetheless, this was problematic to me as it prompted an unhealthy separation and isolation among educators and increased pressures for individual achievement.

I soon recognized how much this understanding of both ‘rigorous pedagogy’ and individualized ‘curriculum inquiry’ had influenced the way educators perceive the practicum students and their relationship to the student teachers. Student teachers were required to do their own inquiry project independently of the project already taking place in order to demonstrate their competency of being independent and autonomous.

Therefore, mentoring practicum students was frequently perceived as an additional and burdensome task to carry on top of educators’ regular obligations and responsibilities.This emphasis on thinking pedagogically as a singular, dispersed, egocentric project created disconnections among the educators and the student teachers, and discontinuity in how curriculum inquiry unfolded in the space.

I invited the educators to reflect on their pedagogical approach to curriculum because pedagogy activates curriculum, and their relationship with practicum students, and then ponder on the aspirations of this sort of practice. I emphasized that the intentions of our educational practice revolve around how everyday decisions and orientations intimately correlate with the particular dominant discourses around the teacher’s image, and culture, of early childhood education that we inherited at this institution. 

My intention, in pulling our attention toward ongoing insular practices and status-quo dominant discourses was to disrupt the image of a teacher as an expert who ought to demonstrate that they can work independently to be qualified as an exemplary educator. Instead, I wanted to offer the idea that we might challenge outdated normative assumptions and implications about curriculum approach (child-centred and individualistic) and practicum – and the relations between curriculum and practicum.

I asked: “What does it mean to work with curriculum inquiry?”, “What does it mean to collaborate with others?”, ” How can we work differently with practicum students?”, and “How can we cultivate continuity in curriculum rather than breaking up an inquiry topic into developmentally appropriate bits to leave the topic intact?”

CRISTINA AND NICOLE: Bo Sun, it seems that you were working hard in attending to two situations. On one hand, you were trying to disrupt notions of individualism and autonomy as ‘best practice’ and on the other hand you were provoking an understanding of a kind of epistemological hierarchy between educators and practicum students. It seems to us that both situations were intimately related to the questions of recognition and legitimation you spoke about at the outset of our conversation. We wonder, how, as a post-secondary institution pedagogist, did you understand and initiate initial, intentional steps to rethinking how collectivity matters and happens with educators and students? What has to be put at risk, and why, so that we might be able to think in the company of others within a practicum context? As we read your response to the first question, it seems that you were inviting educators to think outside logics of recognition and compliance and to consider pedagogical work as collective acts of re-invention. Along these lines, we wonder: When we hold collectivity as a pedagogical intention, what must we re-invent and refuse in the academy (both in terms of placement classes and non-placement classes, and within a child care centre closely connected to a university)? 

BO SUN: To my educators, I proposed the significance of rethinking how we engage the work of curriculum inquiry by asking “how do we understand curriculum inquiry?” To think carefully about how we do curriculum inquiry requires different pedagogical approaches from curriculum-as-plan conceptions, and refusing these mechanistic, routine, lifeless understandings opened up an initial conversation regarding how educators and the centre (and institution) understands curriculum inquiry and educators’ pedagogical relationships, including those with practicum students.

Through the conversations I had with educators and a program director, many things became of urgency to us. One was our recognition of the long history early childhood education has of representational logic, the tradition of representation and reproduction, and the practice of transmission in curriculum (Olsson, 2009); the second is how this representational logic is deeply embodied in our practice. To abide by representational logic is to uphold the separation between the subject as the knower and the world as the known. The world becomes the object of perception and discovery as if knowledge of the world pre-exists apart from us. Approaching curriculum based on the search for pre-existing and self-evident information implies that the role of the teacher is to transmit this knowledge and to dictate who and how children and educators can be amid a world that values the certainty, predictability, and universalizations of representational logic. Educators are to stress scientific ‘knowledge’ to children – this  the reproductive function of status-quo education in Canada. 

As Liselott Olsson (2009) argues, the logic of representation has remained very prominent in Euro-Western early childhood curriculum. It depicts a way of thinking that perceives the world as an independent cosmos. The (stable, instrumental) curriculum encompasses all ‘worthwhile’ knowledge reflecting the world. From this perspective, curriculum topics become substances for children’s learning which children come to understand when seeking to grasp the actual world. 

Akin to many other poststructuralist scholars, my pedagogical ethos (the pedagogical approach that I commit to) concerning this idea of representationalism is firmly against it. To concede having a valid and objective representation of reality can be the primary cause of many restrictions. The educators and I discussed how this logic (intentionally) limits a myriad of ways of knowing the worlds and our existential possibilities. 

The idea of a child in terms of development theories formulated within the discipline of developmental psychology sets forth universal age-related stages that continue normal child development and suggest that every child learns in a predictable, linear progression regardless of context. It represents a certain kind of subject who has the inherent potential to pursue one’s separate development, and education is reduced to the pursuit of individual development. The curriculum is carried out in such a fragmented way based on the areas of development, so learning becomes a separate and isolated activity. To break away from this logic of representation which names a separation between the world and ourselves, educators and I pondered how we could displace the solitude and docility that currently governed curriculum inquiry in the space by centering solidarity and multiplicity at the heart of our work. I proposed that educators might acknowledge curriculum as not something previously determined but, instead, as an invention. Curriculum as being composed with the material and social worlds of which we are already a part—seeing the life of the curriculum topic continually in flux.

resting thought by Sarah Hennessy Ⓒ 2021

To speculate how collectivity matters and happens in our curriculum, I brought my educators to think with David Jardine. Jardine underlines the vitality of curriculum as choosing a rich and generous topic to encompass all those who venture in, despite differences. His scholarly work on curriculum values what every participant brings into this venture of doing situated curriculum. With Jardine, curriculum’s potentialities of becoming value the multiple, various questions and experiences that individual participants express as enrichment and articulations to this work of curriculum. Educators, student teachers, a pedagogist, and families are also part of this venture as each person’s work is taken up as appending to the richness of the topic. In this regard, Jardine considers a curriculum inquiry topic as a place where we all find ourselves living in.

Jardine’s (2006) profound insights into the curriculum aroused further dialogue on abundant curriculum possibilities. He reminded us that approaching curriculum in abundance is a “way we carry ourselves in the world, the way we come through experience to live in a world full of life, full of relations and obligations and address,” (p.100) evoking us to seek and cultivate the kinships that connect us. Rethinking our pedagogical relationship through kinships opened up a different way of living and engaging with each other. I began to notice educators’ growing desire and curiosity about the pedagogical opportunities possible when working and thinking together as a team, as they realized that each person could bring a different way of seeing the world. The challenge was learning how to work together with differences without seeking an ultimate consensus; we resisted ultimate consensus because we have learned that complete harmony often conceals and silences tensions, disagreements, and divergences that nourish what it is to think pedagogically together (Delgado Vintimilla, 2014). 

Although most educators seemed to be motivated and excited about working collectively on curriculum inquiry, in the beginning, some educators shared difficulties expressing or offering different ideas or perspectives, feeling troubled that it might offend or upset colleagues, students, management, children, or families. It seemed that there was already a pre-established ideal relationship they wanted to pursue. I often heard from the educators stating, “we need to build our relationship first and then we can do this together”, “it is hard to work with her because I don’t have a relationship with her yet.” Or, “we cannot start creating a curriculum before we build a relationship with children,” as if everything could be or should be done only once the relationship is built. 

Rather than assuming that creating a relationship is not a prerequisite for what must happen before, I wanted educators to see relations as generative encounters with others or shared events with reciprocally transformative influence. It is through these connections with others that we become and continue to become who we are. To think differently about our relations with others we turned to Donna Haraway who writes of refiguring relationships through the idea of relationality; relations as a process of “becoming with.”

Some educators and students also shared that they struggled to think through engaging with each other’s thoughts, as they did not have much experience working collectively and responsively in a dialogue where they encountered their differences, which sometimes creates tensions, discomforts and disagreements. Here, we heard reverberations of the individualist, monotonous, application-oriented approaches that representational logic declares in education. We also noticed the influence of “rigorous” teaching meaning the implementation of pre-set curriculum and consensus meaning the at-all-costs absence of difference. Taking inspiration from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (poststructual philosophers), and Taylor and Miriam Giugni (common worlds scholars), I addressed collectivity as an opportunity to assemble or bring together, highlighting the reconstructive desire of our thinking and gesturing toward the productive potential of what we collectively composed in our messy work of thinking curriculum and pedagogy. Being responsive to each other’s ideas and thoughts was the process of taking risks. It took courage because, occasionally, it put educators in vulnerable situations. After all, being together/bringing together requires responsibility and responsiveness. This means that we might disagree with each other from time to time and need to work with disagreements and conflicts. However, slowly, educators started appreciating each other’s company and the opportunities of thinking and working – and sometimes agonizing – together as they began to experience that relationships are constituted and reconstituted in an exchange of ideas, perspectives, and stories. Haraway mentions how negotiating differences is difficult and risky emotional work, and we wanted to hold her assertion that thinking collectively is also a place of productive tension based on differences, where working in the muck of these differences might generate innovative thoughts and potentialities. 

Working collectively with each other and having a space for pedagogical conversation and engagement also changed the way educators related to practicum students. Practicum students often joined in curriculum meetings with educators and were invited to participate in each space’s curriculum inquiry. The educators seemed delighted by their contribution to the inquiry project. The educators often shared how much they appreciated different ideas and perspectives the practicum students brought to the curriculum inquiry and how children and educators missed them when they finished their practicum. Practicum students are no longer seen as people who just come and go just for the practicum to be done. Instead, they become co-participants who live and work together  with us on living, ongoing, unfinished conversations to which we are venturing together for better and richer understanding of the topic. Educators and the practicum students often asked if the student could go back to the same centre for the next practicum, which results in creating a back-to-back practicum to embrace continuity in curriculum and relationalities among the practicum students, educators, and the children.  

CRISTINA AND NICOLE: Thank you Bo Sun. There is so much that you are offering here and that we would like to relate to and think further. As a pedagogist you are inviting educators to unsettle taken-for-granted ideas regarding the ways we come to know and the ways we relate to each other. Through this unsettling, you have invited educators to consider and engage with ways of knowing and relating that might be less based in egocentric practices, sovereignty, and control (we think these are themes intimately related with what you shared in the above questions). We noticed that you are carefully working with thinking  and activating pedagogical processes that take up relationality from a variety of perspectives. In doing so, as you have shared with us, you have been thinking with multiple companions in curriculum theory and beyond. We appreciate such diversity and at the same time we find ourselves wondering about it. We wonder because we find ourselves having an ambivalent response: on one hand, we appreciate such rich conversation, on the other hand we wonder if one needs to be careful with how we relate to our conversations with educational and interdisciplinary interlocutors. How do we enter in interdisciplinary dialogue so that such concepts can actually be read pedagogically? Or, so that those concepts can activate questions and processes and not risk falling into a kind of rhetoric or empty intellectualization? With this in mind, we are wondering what it is about these scholars’ thinking that draws you to them in this work of building collectives with students and educators? As a post-secondary institution pedagogist, how do you relate to these bodies of work when creating an interdisciplinary conversation that is first and foremost a pedagogical conversation that will involve educators and students? 

BO SUN: As a post-secondary institution pedagogist, I believe that education needs to engage with real-life, moving beyond acquiring skills and developing competencies. In that sense, education needs to be concerned with the pedagogical transformation of the self (Todd, 2015). With this in mind, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work are inevitable if we seek to work with real-life matters and concerns, as our languages of education activate what we value and enact in education. To think with interdisciplinarity calls for us to critically reflect on the languages that are present and privileged in both the overarching and situated early childhood context, and think about whom we want to bring into the conversations to produce other possibilities in the early childhood curriculum.

For example, while inheriting dominant configurations of curriculum as children’s  acquisition of more and more skills and knowledge from a developmental psychology perspective, to think curriculum as responding to and being responsible for the worlds is about manifesting who you are as an educator and where you stand to enter a social-material fabric that is entirely relational (Biesta, 2006). Thus, early childhood curriculum must be understood as bearing and creating educational and pedagogical values and engage with philosophical questions such as what we want for our children, ourselves, and the worlds of which we are part. I often ask my educators and students to engage in a question, “what is the purpose of education?”, “what is the purpose of early childhood education?” Taking an invitation from Biesta (2006), without engaging with values and the task of education corresponding to our current time and place, it is impossible to come up with pedagogical visions and values that would orient ourselves for the educational task that we collectively want to pursue. A pedagogist needs to draw attention to how our relations and dialogues might perceive and respond to ongoing ethics and politics of education. In line with this, I refuse to draw on conventional ethical norms and instrumental relations with a predetermined notion of correct or appropriate relationships. Instead, I pay attention to creating conditions and situations where educators explore the curriculum with children to respond to the world in singular, situated ways. This means that educators need to work with various theories and philosophies that might make not taken-for-granted conversations and curriculum approaches possible. This means that we need to acknowledge the ethical consequences of presencing different theories because reality is invoked and materialized depending on what ontological and epistemological position we take (Jones & Jenkins, 2008). As pedagogists, we need to take seriously how different ways of understanding pedagogical practices offer further planning and other unfoldings with very different ethical implications.

For this reason, as you mentioned in your question, we need to be careful about how we enter an interdisciplinary dialogue, considering the purposes and intentions of those involved in contributing to any interdisciplinary piece. And the pedagogical process is “intimately related to pedagogist’s subjective dispositions towards the worlds” (Delgado Vintimilla,n.d). For me, the conversation starts with asking why a particular theoretical concept matters in this context and what it means to work with the specific theory in this particular situation. We also see ourselves, a pedagogist and educators, as one of the organisms intra-acting (Barad, 2003) with other organisms in a pedagogical event, paying attention to what we compose and generate together. In other words, interdisciplinary dialogue is necessary for new possibilities and relationalities. This makes interdisciplinarity a companion on thinking pedagogically because first, it puts in question our taken-for-granted way of practice and what is familiar, a linear path of following a principle of dichotomy that plays a repressive role in education. Second, it provides the opportunity to create otherwise, inventing and experimenting with what emerges from the interdisciplinary conversations.

For example, a few years ago, I worked on an inquiry project, Hello,Oopsie!, with educators and 3 to 5 year-old-children. Our Hello, Oopsie project presents what might be possible, what emerges, and what can become when we shift our pedagogical and ethical approach through interdisciplinary dialogue. The project was first initiated as educators shared their concerns about a fish who came to the center as a gift from a parent. The children were excited about the presence of the fish and showed a great deal of attention, and even gave him a name, Oopsie. The children gathered around Oopsie, watched him swim around the volcano in his little aquarium, observed his movements, and fed him. However, as time went by, their initial excitement and interest started to fade. Oopsie would still swim around in his little aquarium, as he has always done since he first came. Eventually, Oopsie’s aquarium had become more of a background or a decoration of the classroom. Oopsie was not recognized or remembered most of the time, and it seemed that no one was responsible for Oopsie being excluded. Only the educators paid attention to Oopsie from time to time for feeding and maintaining the freshwater. While the rest of the educators felt it was not a big deal since it happened pretty often, one of the educators expressed discomfort at how quickly Oopsie became invisible. This conflicting feeling towards Oopsie sparked a heated conversation among the educators concerning our relationship with Oopsie to human relationships with fish. 

We recognized that fish had been part of humans’ life for a long time, being bound together with the lives of other beings. We encounter fish in a dentist’s office, department store, restaurants, pet stores, streams, rivers, or oceans. It is impossible to disentangle and separate human and fish entangled lives here on the west coast. As Meyer (2010) writes, “we routinely consume and use as part of our daily experience. Everything that we come in contact with turns immediately into a condition of our existence” (p. 85). We recognized that these entangled relations with a fish called for more responsible and responsive pedagogy in our context. I often heard educators and practicum students saying, “we don’t want to continue on this because the children are not interested in the topic anymore” or “we are following children’s interests,” as if everything has to be based on what children want and their interests, rather than considering how our ethical responsibilities entangle with life and pedagogy, and name what is pedagogically and ethically valuable for pursuing. As a pedagogist, I thought it was essential to engage with the children-fish relationship to disrupt this child-centred pedagogy deeply embodied in early childhood education – and, I wanted to search otherwise for other ways of responding with Oopsie and his newfound neglect.

In that sense, the inquiry project with Oopsie was “to present a proposal intended not to say what is, or what ought to be, but to provoke thought” (Stengers, 2004, p. 994) in order to consider our (educator, student, child, community) ethical possibilities and responsibilities within this early childhood pedagogical context. This is what marks our project as a curriculum inquiry project and not a different kind of project: we paid attention to what emerged from encounters, connections, intra-actions, and situations that create otherness in curriculum, rather than relying on our prior knowledge or discovering an eternal truth about worlds. The inquiry with Oopsie was concerned with us in the process of mutual engagement and transformation as we affected and were being affected by everything else. More than anything, the presence of Oopsie provoked us to recognize and contest exclusions inherent in our relationships between human life and the lives of more than human agencies, reimagining inclusion, and thinking “beyond a celebration of individual children’s differences and individual children’s experience of awe and wonder” (Taylor, 2013, p. 78). Introducing the work of Affrica Taylor and Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw helped us to work hard to avoid to falling into doing something according to “prescribed moral codes” (Taylor & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2019, p. 6) but to pay attention to ongoing relational practices with the fish and our children. In this inquiry project, we wondered what might happen if we think about Oopsie through the concepts of responsibility and responsiveness. We asked: what story(ies) we might be able to offer through our relations with the fish, challenging essentialist ethical norms and generating new forms of ethical responsibility beyond humans?

Todd (2015) argues that encounters with others (human and non-human alike) bring transformation in us. Acknowledging the interconnectedness of our lives to others, human and non-human like, we started our inquiry project with a question proposed by Todd (2015), “could we not start to rethink what it means to live well together without a blueprint of what counts as the common good’ produced prior to our actual encounters with others with whom we share the world?” (p. 54). 

In drawing attention to the trouble that existed with Oopsie as part of a curriculum inquiry, we encountered uncertainty and unknowability of where this would lead us related to our thinking of pedagogy and curriculum. We knew that, with Oopsie, our inheritances of representationalism, individualism, universalism, continuity, and consensus failed. We focused on how we might live differently with Oopsie in ways that offer new ethical possibilities in our pedagogical context. We turned to scholars both in and beyond curriculum theory, choosing who to think with by following how the provocations they offer might contribute to or complexify our pedagogical or curricular commitments. The quotes and questions from interdisciplinary scholars, such as Affrica Taylor, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Gert Biesta, and Sharon Todd, called us to contemplate the specifics of how we would approach and respond to humans and more-than-humans relations, and to nourish pedagogies situated within everyday life interactions which broaden the possibilities of existing with others – a question that reciprocally grounds our curriculum inquiry work with educators, students, children,and families. 

Working as a PSI pedagogist means bringing transformation to our pedagogical life, committing to the creation of a space of plurality and difference where being different is not seen as inferior to what is dominant (constituted as normal) and of a space where the encounters with otherness and difference is a real possibility. However, working with plurality does not mean that all pluralities are good or worth pursuing; it is not about making collage or bricolage by just adding different pieces, which might make us fall into relativism that creates more isolation among ourselves. Instead, working with plurality means, as a pedagogist, placing a dialogue at the center of pedagogy. It is a process of sharing experience and being connected with other beings who cannot work without taking the liveliness of others into account. Concerning this, a pedagogist should pay attention to creating those situations in which one shares or participates in creating a shared pedagogical commitment. However, a shared understanding should not be seen as a condition for making collective commitments. It is not that we first need to come to a shared understanding, and only then can we begin to coordinate our actions for dedication. On the contrary, it is the dialogue and collaboration in motion that produces collective commitment.


Journaling as a Choreographic Practice

When a pedagogist, who has inherited situated stories from education, encounters the concept of journaling, particular thoughts might emerge as to what this practice is allowed to be in the company of developmentalism and neoliberalism as dominant discourses. Journaling might be known as a mode of nurturing a familiar culture where learners begin to reflect and write in companionship with decorous and ameliorating logics as a means to become successful neoliberal subjects who are fluent in society’s language of capitalism.  Journaling might also be known as a dwelling to conceal one’s inner, most personal thoughts that tell the story of this writing practice as a mere means to work through feelings and document gratifying experiences with hopes to increase neoliberal happiness. As a pedagogist writing this essay, I wonder if I can set in motion an unknown, yet hopeful trajectory for journaling to become something else, a vibrant place to respond and move in rhythm with contextual, curricular encounters alongside educators within the space between what should be private and what could be public?

As a pedagogist, my journaling practices have evolved in response to encounters and exposures over the years. For me, journaling has become a process of creating micro-documentation pieces each day (Delgado Vintimillia & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2021) that work with the particular concepts that I encounter in my work. I cling to this daily pedagogical practice as I experience tension when neoliberal temporality seeks to tell me a story about how journaling is too challenging to commit to in response to a world that values logics of productivity and easiness. I respond to this tension by thinking about journaling as an alternative practice that creates pedagogical space to reveal other alternatives that complicates the taken-for-granted in our collective lives within early childhood spaces.  

Within this essay, I propose the possibility of thinking about journaling as a choreographic practice. To think about journaling alongside choreography, I offer the concept, correspondence as a triplet: co-respond-(da)nce, to think about the intimate and collective encounters that can unfold in response to a conceptual journal. Co as noticing the Other and thinking alongside a collective presence.  Respond as taking up particular encounters with hospitality and intentions to dwell with the almost or what could be. (Da)nce as moving in rhythm with what is encountered by complicating its existence and responding to tensions to set particular curricular trajectories in motion while being in relation with the present.  I also invite us to dwell with the concept of choreography as a means to begin a conversation as to how journaling can become something different. The word, choreography, comes from the Greek words: khoreia meaning “dance” and graphein meaning “to write” (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2021). In the ensuing thought provocations that I come to as a pedagogist who thinks alongside early childhood educators, I attempt to create space for us—educators, pedagogists and scholars who choose to come into companionship with this archival process —to encounter the beauty and tensions that can come from taking up journaling as a choreographic practice.

To begin this conversation, I want to acknowledge that I take up the process of journaling as a political venture. I am not called to take up particular concepts because they simply resonate with me and provide space to entertain those who read my offerings. Rather, I am called to take up these concepts because they address something in response to my pedagogical orientations which situate my gaze to attend to particular noticings. According to Manning (2009), “concepts are events in the making.  An event in the making is a thought on the cusp of articulation—a prearticulated thought in motion” (p. 5). I take up concepts in my work not to achieve a dominance of understanding, but to grapple with what is potentially living within the pedagogical unfolding and its unrecognizable existence as it comes forth. Therefore, concepts are not responded to out of familiarity, but when I notice a tugging, a potential shift or a flickering of an alternative life that responds to the multiplicities of temporality and creates space to interrogate what is allowed to exist within the realm of normality, so that otherness can not only be imagined as an alternative, but also a possible, worthwhile reality. Journaling then becomes a nourishing place to reciprocally encounter and complicate what is seen, heard, or felt in curricular processes.  These processes live within being and moving; being in relation with botherings and hopes for livable futures and moving when there are openings to enact ethico-pedagogical micro-movements. Journaling becomes an act of resistance in the presence of developmental and neoliberal narratives because of its archival capacity to hold onto and remember alternative stories that make it possible to imagine different ways of thinking and living. 

Journaling also becomes an act of invention that has the potential to incite curricular processes where ways of living otherwise are coaxed beyond the cusp of existence and perceptibility; an otherwise that creates space to think about fluid identities while dismantling fixed perceptions of who the Human is allowed to be and what it means to live a life well. Taking up journaling as an act of resistance asks us to hear unfolding conversations between encountered moments and our pedagogical orientations. Are these moments seeking to fracture and erase our situated commitments? If yes, we come into relation with tension as we wrestle within this space of the in between. It is in this dwelling that inventive movement is conceived by this union. This inventive movement does not necessarily work with elimination of such discourses, but rather creates space to insert inventive disruptions that have the capacity to tear apart threads of dominance in collective life.     

After a particular concept creates a pedagogical marking on my existence as a pedagogist and collective work with educators, I begin to thoughtfully choreograph an arrangement that entices the concept to continue to become.  This choreography is not a blueprint of future dance steps or what is known, but rather a labouring process as I think with what is unknown, sometimes through the process of un(knowing). Manning (2009) invites us to think about how

the appearance of choreography signals a reaction to a movement that seems to have been known in advance. Yet nothing here is known in advance.  What moves is a feeling more than a direction. The feeling can be harnessed into a repetition—a choreography of sorts. But what emerges in the first instance is an openness toward moving, a movement moving. (p. 14)

My desire to activate, disrupt, and implicate is what moves me within the conceptual movement. This desire for movement creates conditions for ruptures in my thinking to unfold as the dance with educators is about to begin.   

In the process of pedagogically perspiring to nurture my pedagogical gaze, I am gifted with several conceptual journals to share with educators, at the end of each week. From here, I grapple with making a pedagogical decision as to what journals to offer. What compositions work with the tensions and uncertainties of the educators? What composition is most significant and capable of enacting a shift? I take up our centre’s in-the-making collective orientations to guide me in making the decision as to what arrangement(s) to gift back to educators that work with co, respond and (da)nce in a more complicated way.    

Sharing a particular conceptual composition creates conditions for educators to implicate the choreography with the concept.  As an opening for the concept to be put into conversation with other concepts and encounters that are pedagogically potent to educators emerges, I attempt to situate the myriad of contextual connections and tensions that begin to come forth, with the intent to orient the concept to a particular becoming. In complicating the responses that emerge from educators, our correspondence can continue as we grapple with what that concept does and can do within the making of our collective life. As this collective life lives within the making, fragments of thinking, unfamiliarity, images envisioned by differing orientations and their uneasy presence become known to its dwellers. Tensions begin to exist in the decision making when deciding what to nurture further within the emerging correspondence.  Ideas are taken up over others, creating messy relational moments alongside the juxtaposing notion that all voices should be sought and heard. Encounters with perceived impossibilities might stall this slow work and provoke a revisiting of the correspondence’s initial conception. 

In a way, the relation between educators and a pedagogist can be similar to that of a relation between dancers and a choreographer. In response to a conceptual provocation, a choreographer may begin to craft a piece with the intent to implicate those that come into relation with the dance or art. I wonder if this process is similar to the process of arranging a journal piece as a pedagogist?  After sitting with the composition in the making, choreographers might offer it to dancers or colleagues, giving space for the very ethos of the dance to be exposed. The dancers may implicate the arrangement with their own orientations and ways of moving their body. This dance then becomes a conversation much like what can unfold when pedagogists and educators come together to work with a particular concept. This conversation brings messiness and tensions to the relations.

Manning (2009), offers us a seemingly distressing and perilous, yet generative image of pedagogical dependency within unfolding conceptual choreography: 

We take a step. My step leads me forward, but before I can step I must call on you to move almost before my own displacement. It is this almost-before I must communicate. This silent question takes the form of an opening. (p. 14) 

Within moments of dance disequilibrium, vulnerability is revealed, creating conditions for courageous acts of co-labouring (Delgado Vintimilla & Berger, 2019, p. 189-190) to become incipient and for weaving struggles together. As thoughts of fragmentation are spoken, others are called upon to take up these loose stitches by working at weaving what is present, yet unfamiliar. In this grappling, the limits of language are pushed, creating space to think about relational dance possibilities within this dialogue. An attunement to the following questions can nurture our emerging dance in curriculum making as a (de)activating process: In the name of what are we dancing together? What are we seeking to activate within displacement? How will we encounter what lives beyond the initial choreography with gratitude? In other words, how will the unfolding dance implicate the choreography? Taking up these questions creates space for pedagogists and educators to make decisions as to what concepts can continue to be danced with and choreographed into their collective life. Slowly attending to what is influencing these decisions creates openings for ethical and political conversations to contaminate the unfolding process. In this process, we risk overlooking what demands our attention and taking up concepts that have little pedagogical significance. To carry forth these ethical and political conversations, a labouring culture must be nurtured where fixed identities can become dislodged, concepts can continue to become in response to contextual encounters, and status quo grievances can be spoken to set in motion a new imagining of the otherwise that can exist in early childhood education. Within this labouring culture, an attuned gaze makes it possible for me to notice a particular concept’s reemergence within a different packaging of dominant discourses or ways in which lively, pedagogical concepts can become arrested by these narratives of dominance.  Oftentimes, situating conceptual journals alongside others, offers me provocations to put concepts into conversation with each other, which adds layers to their (co)existences. At the same time, concepts might not continue to be nurtured when they become pedagogically stale and are unlikely to incite generative movement. Delgado Vintimilla & Berger (2019) urge us to think beyond this precariously invigorating image of work always in motion and call us to think about the possibility of dancing in the absence of movement: “Laboring demands that we collectively experiment and work at it, as well as let ourselves be disappointed, troubled and even exhausted in the birthing of the multiple possibilities that a common project might bring” (p. 192).  This act of labouring then creates space for movement to be responded to and exhaustion to be taken up in the name of something. 

From the dance of ballet, we are offered the concept of adagio, “a music term used for slow, sustained movements” (APTA, 1998).  This concept creates space to labour within the slow work of living the dance and nurturing space for it to contaminate the curriculum, ethos, and relations, much like the process of thinking with pedagogical documentation. Manning (2009) calls us to think about how this actualizing and curating process might invite less micro-movements in relation to the concept and require nurturance from novel conceptual choreographies. Manning offers that

In the preacceleration of a step, anything is possible. But as the step begins to actualize, there is no longer much potential for divergence: the foot will land where it lands. Incipiency opens up experience to the unknowable, follow-through toward concrescence closes experience on itself. Of course, this closing-in is always a reopening toward the next incipient action. (p. 7)

Within such closings, there are always new beginnings; beginnings that have already begun or beginnings on the cusp of becoming that call us to dance within the messiness of togetherness alongside a particular concept when journaling as a choreographic practice lives within pedagogy in the making. Taking up the imperfections of a fragmented, conceptual dance creates space to weave together new realities and engage with the performative nature of journaling as movement with others that nurtures the beginnings of (un)doings and what could be possible within collective life.


I would like to acknowledge that taking up journaling as a choreographic practice is possible in companionship with others.  It is here that I would like to acknowledge the educators with whom I work and my past and present managers for co-creating a studio with me where we can dance together.  I would also like to acknowledge with sincere gratitude: Cristina Delgado Vintimilla, Nicole Land, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Randa Khattar, Erin Manning, Justine Chambers, Carlina Rinaldi and the Pedagogist Network of Ontario for complicating and enriching my image of journaling as a choreographic practice.


Sweating the Fact(s) of my Body (+Mermaids) as a Pedagogist

In this essay, I talk about depression, self harm, suicide, and medical procedures. Please continue to read only if thinking with these experiences feels safe for you right now.

I learn a lot from the brilliant, bold, and generous activists and artists who bring Instagram to life. As I navigate through my feed (curated by Instagram algorithms) as a pedagogist, it matters to me to move slowly; to read the full caption of a post so that my thinking echos the energy an author has poured into their words, to try to notice all the complexities an artist weaves into their illustration, and to follow the histories, tensions, and moments that bring posts into (often difficult, sometimes adversarial) conversation with one another. From Aubrey Gordon (@yrfatfriend), a writer who, through profoundly sharp critiques rooted in fat people’s lived experience, envisions just ethical and political possibilities for relating with fat beyond status-quo medicalized and pathologizing paradigms, I have learned a short assertion that constantly treads around in my brain: “the fact of my body” (Gordon, 2021, para. 6).

Gordon wields this phrase in the context of believing, affirming, and holding space for fat people when they describe how they inhabit their flesh and how their fat bodies travel through their worlds while inventing, nourishing, and defying particular relations toward fat liberation. ‘The fact of my body’, as I understand it, is a proposition grounded in a political commitment to get to know bodies differently, beyond the neoliberal criteria we inherit (like body mass index, body image, food consumption, physical fitness, or blood sugar levels – and, in early childhood education in particular: child development). This is also an unapologetic assertion that bodies matter: they make and take space, they function and malfunction, they interject and can go unnoticed. To declare a body – and its unceasingly (re)living muscles, membranes, neurotransmitters, and skin – as a promise and a project is a pedagogical commitment that I hold close as a pedagogist and as a researcher. I care about how we relate and live fats, muscles, and movement with children. For me, what is especially compelling in thinking ‘the fact of my body’ is that Gordon is intentional in never jumbling her words to declare a body as a fact, where to be a fact is to be composed of certitude and stability. Rather, in upholding a body as a bundle of facts – materialities, experiences, politics, ethics, relations – fused together, Gordon brings bodies to life in the intervals between actuality and gospel, certainty and infallibility. 

Gordon’s proposal of ‘the fact of my body’ is deeply tangled, right now, with how I might engage in my work as a pedagogist confronted with the fact(s) of my body. I also need to emphasize that the context within which Gordon builds ‘the fact of my body’ is resolutely anchored in fat activism and fat liberation. I am a straightsize human and to think with Gordon’s proposal, I need to continually cite and answer to its ethical and political edges; ‘the fact of my body’ is not a benign concept to think with, but rather one that asserts the difficult existence of bodies within worlds intent on marking particular fleshed lives as unlivable. As I carry ‘the fact(s) of my body’ with me and begin to imagine what I might put into motion with this provocation while thinking pedagogically, I am reminded of Sara Ahmed’s (2014) work on ‘sweaty concepts’. “We need ‘sweaty concepts’” Ahmed explains, “because we need more descriptions of the patterns that are obscured when bodies are received by spaces that have assumed their shape. We might have to insist on giving these descriptions” (para. 8). This means that ‘the fact(s) of my body’ is a practice of sweaty, demanding endurance in continual conversation with pedagogy, a dialogue of repeatedly pushing the details that make my body into the public, taking seriously the questions my body can ask of education, and refusing to allow the situated facts that manifest my body to be subsumed into a more easily palatable category or colloquialism. For Ahmed, “a ‘sweaty concept’ might be one that comes out of a bodily experience that is difficult, one that is ‘trying,’ and where the aim is to keep exploring and exposing this difficulty, which means also aiming not to eliminate the effort or labour from the writing” (2014, para. 4). To sweat the fact(s) of my body requires that I resist resolving the messes of my body: the scars, the weight, the acne-prone skin I refuse to cover with makeup. It means knowing that to type these words on a screen asks something of my finger muscles, which need calories to maintain their motion and carbon to embody their existence. It means understanding the fact(s) of my body as a pedagogical question and patiently tracing how sweating the fact(s) of my body shapes how I might ask questions of curriculum-making as a pedagogist. As I turn toward sweating the fact(s) of my body as a pedagogical process, I want to share one final quote from Ahmed, which she offers in ellipses: “(I suspect not eliminating the effort or labour becomes an academic aim because we have been taught to tidy our texts, not to reveal the struggle we have in getting somewhere)” (2014, para. 3). The struggle, the hard work, of sweating the fact(s) of my body is never meant to be a ‘final’ project nor a straightforward one. What I share here is my attempt to sweat my body here, now. I hope that Gordon will not mind me tugging her words into conversation with Ahmed, and toward questions that I want to ask as a pedagogist with a body in early childhood education in what is currently known as Canada. 

My first instinct in sweating the fact(s) of my body into conversation with pedagogy is to ask questions of living well: how might we live well with fats in early childhood education? What is it to live well together with muscles and memories? What are the facts of my body that already shape how I can ask and respond with questions? This inclination toward ‘well’ as a tangible ethic for relations with human and more-than-human others is, to the best that I can trace of my own citational life, an orientation that I learned from the Common Worlds Research Collective. In particular, I have come to know ‘well’ within Donna Haraway’s work on my way to thinking with feminist science studies and pedagogy. For Haraway (2016), “each time I trace a tangle and add a few threads that first seemed whimsical but turned out to be essential to the fabric, I get a bit straighter that staying with the trouble of complex worlding is the name of the game of living and dying well together on terra” (p. 116). From Haraway I learn that ‘well’ is an ethic nourished by complexity; to simplify or instrumentalize a ‘well’ relation is to strip it of its wellness. ‘Well’ is also a relation of precarity and risk, where ‘well’ does not ensure equity nor nirvana but instead functions as a verb that we must continually take the risk to participate in. I have also come to know ‘well’ through curriculum theory and collective projects (including the Pedagogist Network of Ontario) to support the role of the pedagogist in Canada. Living well is an absolutely critical question for a pedagogist to get to know over and over again. 

In 2020, Cristina Delgado Vintimilla, Kathleen Kummen, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Randa Khattar, and I presenced questions of ‘well’ by offering that “pedagogy, we want to propose, asks questions that work in the name of living well together: how do we create more liveable worlds for all?” (para. 6). Here ‘well’ grapples with creating more liveable worlds. This ‘more’ feels important to me because it underscores the situatedness and ongoing work of ‘well’. More does not function as a triumph, happening instead as a marathon. That ‘well’ and ‘liveability’ overlap in asking these particular pedagogical questions is a concern I want to spend time with as I sweat the fact(s) of my body. If liveability stumbles do well fact(s) of a body become unimaginable? If a fact of a body is unwell-ness, what possibilities for liveability survive? To action ‘unwell’ as a diagnosis, constraint, or obstacle to be tackled is a gesture that I refuse. Cristina Delgado Vinitmilla (2020) details how “pedagogy, for me, is interested in the creation of a life—not as a model or an ideal, but as an everyday practice that puts thought into action, that is interested not in prescribing a life but in working at a life, becoming studious of it, being interested in its different forms and formations in what it does and what it invites and in how we become of it. A life that is life-making” (para. 12). ‘Working at a life,’ as Delgado Vinitmilla proposes, sounds to me like a sister pedagogical project of sweating the fact(s) of my body. I want to carry the untidy struggle (following Ahmed) of sweating of the fact(s) of my body in their collisions with energetic pedagogical questions of living well together. 

How might I sweat the fact(s) of my body as a pedagogist? And even more pressing for my current worldings: how might I sweat the fact(s) of my unwell body as a pedagogist? I turn now to picking up this second question. I want to emphasize that where this essay travels next is not purely autobiographical. This is not a narrative recounting an illness nor a story that wraps up with a recovery milestone. It is grounded in the fact(s) of my body that have become fact(s) in the last two years. Some facts of my body are that I have major depression, I hallucinate, I have an unpredictable circulatory system, I needed help with nutrition, and I had an abdominal ligament surgically severed. I have cat scratches up my arms and my legs remember what they could do when I played hockey. I can eat all the kale I want but my body hates broccoli. I am a cisgender white settler. There are many facts of my body, but only some collide with pedagogical questions of living well together. These bodied pedagogical questions differ from autobiographical inquiries intended to diagnose an illness or understand a survival story. Instead, in thinking how the fact(s) of my body ask me to sit with particular pedagogical tangles, I am interested in asking questions about how my body orients me toward specific concerns, tensions, or politics. I want to deliberately attend to the fact(s) of my body that make questions of ‘well’ in ‘living well’ feel impossibly foreign and irrelevant. Put differently, I want to ask questions, as a pedagogist, with my body when living itself – remaining alive as a human bundle of cells – runs counter to my body’s numbness, actions, and ideations.
In her essay on life and ‘new ways of dying,’ Rosi Braidotti (2010) proposes that we need to reconfigure how we get to know moments near to dying. Asking why death or pain encounters some of us but not others, Braidotti offers “for no reason at all. Reason has nothing to do with it. That’s precisely the point. We need to delink pain from the quest for meaning and move beyond, to the next stage. That is the transformation of negative into positive passions” (p. 214). Getting to know my unwell body beyond logics of ‘reason’ (beyond self-growth or character building or nihilism), I understand Braidotti’s call toward ethics, to understanding processes of pain and unwell-nes as questions oriented toward affirming and inventing, as an initial mode of responding to questions of how I might sweat the fact(s) of my unwell body as a pedagogist. As I try learn how to sweat the fact(s) of my unwell body, there is a poem I re-read over and over, titled “so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid…” by Sabrina Benaim (2017).

so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid…

& I’m like, GIRL. I saw The Little Mermaid. even she did not want to be a mermaid. so, I guess my question is: is it just easier to look at yourself in the mirror if you are not human? does that make it easier to pretend you don’t have depression; because depression is exclusively human. if so…shoot…maybe i am a mermaid too. if being a mermaid means you’ve cried enough tears to drown your grasp of reality. if being a mermaid means you truly believe the grass is greener than the blue you are surrounded by. If being a mermaid means you never walk away from a person you love, because you can’t, because you have a fin. then yes, I think I am definitely a mermaid & every song I’ve ever sung has filled my lungs with sea, but I am not drowning – not like I thought I was, when I was human. (p. 45)

This poem changes the rhythm of my heart beating in my chest. In a good way – in a way that helps me to shake off the heaviness of the pinnacle of ‘wellness’ or ‘normality’ that I often feel is asserted as a goal for my body. Benaim teaches me that I do not have to become the idealized subject who traverses a ‘health journey’ toward becoming fully functional, productive, and inspiring in a capitalist world. There is nothing aspirational about being a mermaid; it is a sharp survival strategy. A way of living together with the sea without yet knowing the shape of living ‘well’ with the sea. A practice of re-inventing relations with my own body, muscles, legs, and lungs, where there’s a glimmer of a future made through the work of getting to know my body differently. To think like a mermaid is to ask questions of bodies and pedagogies that work like an errant semicolon in a sentence: requiring an unfamiliar pause as we trip over the strange cadence of the sentence in order to read the sentence for what its uncommon grammar creates. Reading Benaim’s poem alongside Braidotti’s writing on life and death, I learn that to sweat the fact(s) of my body requires disrupting the ‘quest for meaning’ that so often populates our stories of illness and instead intentionally resisting the neoliberal tropes we inherit around wellness, sickness, and healing. It requires refusing status-quo humanist narratives that profess personal resilience and courage, and working hard not to see my body as a failure or my life as a commodity. Braidotti (2010) suggests that “life is experienced as inhuman because it is all too human, obscene because it lives on mindlessly… Are we not in awe of this piece of flesh called our ‘body,’ of this aching meat called our ‘self’ expressing the abject and simultaneously divine potency of life?” (p. 208). What Braidotti names as the ‘divine potency of life’, I hear as Benaim’s drowning; the chasms between situated muscling bodies and the status-quo structures of subjectivity that prescribe our relations with biological flesh. Here I find a rift that sustains collisions of bodied vulnerability with being ‘well’. A mermaid, Benaim shares, cannot drown in the humanist scope of dictating how a body can be “well”. This is a very particular mermaid that Benaim casts and that I get to know in conversation with Braidotti, one who is intimately familiar with struggling to breathe within the ruins of the waters that surround her, and who finds practices of breathing that become possible when she resists knowing what it is to breathe. I want, now, to think with mermaids alongside my questions of sweating the fact(s) of my body. How pedagogists and mermaids become friends in getting to know bodies? How are mermaids and pedagogists already companions in conceiving bodies?

Returning to Ahmed’s (2014) sweaty concepts, “I want to write from the examples up, without following the concepts where they go” (para. 7). I want to sweat the fact(s) of my body as a mermaid pedagogist might. I want to think from the fact(s) of my (unwell) body up, pulling the pieces of my skeleton apart and balancing pieces upon one another to build a different backbone, a different heartbeat. I want to sketch and follow the very particular questions I might ask of “well” in education. Braidotti (2010) reminds me that “an ethical question has to be adequate in relation to how much a body can take. How much can an embodied entity take in the mode of interrelations and connections, that is, how much freedom of action can we endure?” (p. 215). This is incredibly important. This means that the questions I offer are grounded in a commitment to ask only what a (my) body can take. The stories, scars, and speculations that I think with are deeply bodied in that they write with the fact(s) of my own unwell body. In figuring out my practice of sweating the fact(s) of a body, I want to stress, with pedagogists, a proposal that our bodies matter as we think pedagogically. We cannot think pedagogically without the fact(s) of our bodies and how we sweat the fact(s) of our bodies steers us toward bodied pedagogical concerns and processes. Universalizing or decontextualizing the questions I offer will not succeed, and I invite readers to feel how these questions take up a life in conversation with the fact(s) of your own body. What I share now is a series of short questions that try to sweat the fact(s) of my unwell body as a mermaid pedagogist – or at least, as a pedagogist with a mermaid best friend. 

My body has seven horizontal scars on my left thigh. There are two blob-shaped scars as well. I created these scars by cutting and burning my skin, an act that psychiatry has taught me to name as self harming. Scars are amazing. Scars mark processes of collagen production and maturation, as my body repairs its skin from the marks my hands have made on it. Scars enact repair, and in their materialization scars inhabit my skin, getting to know both internal and outward layers of my body. Sweating my scars as a pedagogist makes me pay attention to the bodied terrain made within the work of repair – if to repair is to populate a bumpy keloid scar boundary, does that enact repair as a process on-the-brink; repair as a practice of edge-making and taking up residence in relations that traverse a seemingly human contradiction or border? If I ask how repair happens in a classroom, what modes of repairing might be perceptible? What if repair is not always a curative dance of tying insides and outsides together? What happens when we get to know repair as the work of building a mark, a mark that is made possible through an act that disrupts how an inside is demarcated from an outside? What are early childhood education’s scars, its acts of repair? How do we notice, ignore, or brush over these scars, and how they are sustained as scars? What scars matter in curriculum-making – and how?

A PICC line is a catheter that runs from a person’s upper arm through to their heart. I had a PICC line for many months, as we used it to carry nutrients to my body when I was unable to sustain my body through my digestive system. Each day, I received TPN (total parenteral nutrition) for hours and the proteins, sugars, fats, vitamins, and minerals that TPN ferried into my body kept me alive. This means that I was fed directly through my arm’s veins, a process I still think is incredibly provocative. All around us, in the medicalized and individualized ontology of bodies that dominates neoliberal worlds, is a discourse of nutrition as an act closely partnered with eating by chewing, swallowing, and digesting. My PICC and TPN require logics of contamination (a term I have learned from Alexis Shotwell, 2016) and travel that are imperceptible to dominant ways of nourishing a human body. This raises, for me, questions of entrance: the PICC entered my body in an unfamiliar way and then TPN relied on the pathways cohered by my PICC to enter into my body with nutrients. Entrance here is a collaboration, a coalescing, that functions only because it both holds together and is held together by the body it functions within. Entering is an act of sustenance. This differs from thinking entering as a performance of a singular entity arriving to, or announcing their presence within, an existing (even if it is changing) space. As a pedagogist sweating the fact(s) of my unwell body, this makes me care about the work of making an entrance. What modes of entry dot the borders of early childhood education? How do we pay attention to entrances? Where have we infiltrated early childhood education’s borders with a catheter that spans these same margins (whether this be an ethical catheter or an instrumentalized one)? What do we do with the scars that catheters leave? What knowledges, relations, and politics might enter into a classroom – and how? If entering is made in the collusion of materials and pathways, how can we answer to the ways we do and do not enact and support entering as a pedagogical proposition? And if entering is an offering of sustenance, what does it mean for a pedagogist to enter into the ongoing flows of life in a classroom?

Lithium, as a medication that I take each evening, has been in my life for 12 months now. Through at least five changes in antidepressants and antipsychotics, three involuntary admissions to a mental health hospital, and hallucinations that insist on lingering, lithium matters to my body as a dependable element that is in conversation with my neurotransmitters. My dose has not changed, nor has my ritual of ensuring that I give my oral lithium capsule a nice bed of carbohydrates for when it meets my stomach. Lithium augments my antidepressant, reminding me that the molecular complexities of my body are in constant and complicated relations. Sometimes lithium makes me sick. My doctors remind me often that psychiatric medications are finicky and it is not unusual to take a calculated gamble with many different combinations before the ‘right’ medications are found. As a pedagogist, sweating lithium as a fact of my body makes me tune into questions of promise. Lithium does a frustrating dance over the pledge of a promise, oscillating between promises of uncertainty, precarity, and patience made by psychiatric medicines, and the hope that, in an uneasy alliance with medications, I might one day gather together a different relation to life. Lithium makes a promise that declares no guarantees and that disrupts any teleological assurance of ‘wellness’ – and that refuses to understand the craters between an unwell or well body as black holes but rather understands this as the space of negotiating and bodying lithium’s promise into my life. With lithium I want to ask what the promises that zig zag through early childhood education are: what promises do we inherit, trust, and make? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we make these promises? Put differently, how do promises work in education and how are we implicated in the promises we proffer? How do our pedagogies promise? How does our curriculum-making converse with promises? Are promises an apt practice for envisioning a future in education? What modes of coming together in the name of pedagogy might the relational commitments of promise-making ignore? How does a pedagogist promise – or not? 

 Sweating the fact(s) of my unwell body as a pedagogist (who will not give up on living as a mermaid) is a project that I can build many more questions with. Whenever I hear a metaphor of stitching as a curriculum-making practice in education, I think of emergency room visits where doctors sewed my skin together from the cuts I had made. I am distrustful of the poetic beauty in stitching practices when my leg is always numbed before stitching to chase away stitching’s pain. As a pedagogist, this makes me think about anesthetizing – what flows of life do we make numb or dull in early childhood education? How? Why? I think many times each day about dying, seriously and curiously speculating what it might be like to no longer be breathing in this world. I have learned that publicly wondering about dying as a near, comforting possibility compels a conversation drowning in discomfort. Many of the familiar conventions we rely on for anchoring our conversations are imperceptible or fall apart when we refuse to skim over death as something abstract, destructive, or pathologized. I understand that in this Euro-Western, humanist neoliberal society, (human) death is a taboo topic, but when I sweat the fact(s) of my body dying as a pedagogist, what is most interesting to me is to notice how thinking with dying is profoundly disorienting: what questions might we ask when neither the living or well in ‘living well’ is trustworthy? What if we resist the desire to know pedagogy only through questions of living and instead follow the troubles dying interjects in the work of thinking pedagogically? How are living and dying in endless relation – and what do these relations lend to thinking life and death with pedagogy? (I want to acknowledge that this question is not new and owes to the work of researchers in the Common Worlds Research Collective and Climate Action Network who attend to and respond with precarity, pollution, extinction, climate change, destruction, and decomposing with human and more-than-human others in education). A final fact of my body that I want to sweat is that my brain has undergone ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation). Both treatments for depression mobilize pulses of energy to disrupt activity patterns and chemicals in my brain. They also made me forget five months of my life. This foregrounds questions, for me, of remembering – how do we remember in early childhood education? What do our modes of remembering make possible and unimaginable? 
I hold so much gratitude for Benaim’s (2017) poem, “so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid…”, and I want to conclude by re-collecting my experiment in sweating the fact(s) of my unwell body as a pedagogist alongside her words that punctuate the poem. Benaim writes, “then yes, I think i am definitely a mermaid & every song I’ve ever sung has filled my lungs with sea, but i am not drowning – not like i thought i was, when i was human” (p. 45). Perhaps as I do this messy, lived work of trying to sweat the fact(s) of my unwell body as a pedagogist, getting to know my body for the ways that it shapes how I need to ask questions of education might become a practice in not drowning. Maybe, in revisiting Braidotti’s (2010) caution that “an ethical question has to be adequate in relation to how much a body can take” (p. 215), I might wonder how mermaids ask pedagogical questions. What happens if a mermaid questions what pedagogies ask of us when the ‘well’ of our bodies is murky or the criteria with which we have been taught to understand the wellness of a body becomes unlivable? I want to continue to work to begin to create a speculative practice where sweating the fact(s) of my body orients toward fleshing the pedagogical questions that I, and my unwell body, propose toward finding ways to live together in education. In picking up this practice of sweating the fact(s) of a body, I am extending to pedagogists a proposal that our anatomies bleed into our pedagogical concerns and the pedagogical processes we participate in become possible only with our muscles.


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Benaim, S. (2017). Depression and other magic tricks. Button Poetry. 

Braidotti, R. (2010). The politics of “life itself” and new ways of dying. In D. Coole & S. Frost (Eds.), New materialisms: Ontology, agency, and politics (pp. 201-220). Duke University Press. 

Delgado Vintimilla, C. (2020). What is pedagogy? Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine, (1). Retrieved from

Delgado Vintimilla, C., Land, N., Kummen, K., Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., & Khattar, R. (2020). What would be possible if education subtracts itself from developmentalism. Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine, (1). Retrieved from

Gordon, A. [Your Fat Friend]. (2021). It’s time to retire ‘your’re not fat, you’re beautiful!’. Self. Retrieved from

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Shotwell, A. (2016). Against purity: Living ethically in compromised time. U of Minnesota Press.

On Becoming a Pedagogist: Brief Thoughts on Pedagogical Documentation

In January 2020, we gathered together with a group of pedagogists for three days to intensify our attention towards pedagogical thought and curriculum making, and to enrich the possibilities for the role of the pedagogist. To do this, we created a series of pedagogical and curricular processes that enabled us to collectively and actively think with the concepts and metaphors that shape the pedagogists’ emerging understandings of their role. We also invited a poet, a photographer and a visual artist to intersect their artistic processes with our thinking, as well as share their work, metaphors, and interests. Through these encounters, our interests and intentions were to intensely enact interpretative and trans-formative practices.

During the gathering, we created spaces for provocative and collective thinking and doings, carefully documented these thinking and doings, and curated provisional narratives that propelled further thinking and doings. We submerged ourselves in collective listening through visual note taking, photographing and videotaping the different processes, projecting those images on the walls, writing detailed individual fieldnotes, and sharing and collectively interpreting fieldnotes1. These different trajectories moved us to create the documentation below.

In the documentation and during the gathering, we used the metaphors of stitching, as acts that form and deform pedagogical and creative processes. Pedagogists placed their pedagogical energy in the processes of collectively making and doing, inserting something that is threaded by a living memory within a present. For us, stitching was not only a language to think pedagogy. It was also a way to: thread some of the loose ends that remained from a year of virtual meetings, make a mark in our collective (and challenging) journey, and create new lines to bring texture to our dialogues, and insist on what emerges as significant. In other words, stitching gave way to ‘compose around the specificities of becoming a pedagogist.’ Inspired by textile artist Susan Brandeis (2019), stitch by stitch, mark by mark and line by line, we created contours and temporary outlines to our collective and pedagogical orientations:

Lines that bend or curve with sufficient angle or curvature, or overlap in their pathways, eventually cross and enclose space, forming shapes distinguishable from the surrounding space. Each shape has expressive potential, largely determined by the combination of its external boundary (outline or contour) and its interior markings, shadings, or coloring (fill).

(p. 101)

Digital documentation design by Tatiana Zakharova and Malvika Agarwal

We approach the practice of pedagogical documentation as the driving force of inquiry and curriculum making. As a practice, documentation is shaped by a generative and ongoing dynamic between the traces of what we have defined as pedagogically significant within a process (Rinaldi, 2005), and the different propositions ideated on the basis of that which we found significant. In other words, as pedagogists engage in pedagogical documentation, they are moved by a set of pedagogical questions, concerns and orientations that help discern and give value to what happened at the same time that they propel into cultivating new forms of knowing, acting and living (through questioning, experimenting, fabulating, enacting, inventing trying out, daring, figuring out, stumbling to name a few). Hence pedagogical documentation is both retrospective and prospective.

The retrospective aspect of documentation, as Italian pedagogista Carla Rinaldi notes, can sometimes be misunderstood as a representation of what happened. However, pedagogical documentation is not simply a final narrative of what was done; it is instead a narration of the different trajectories and processes that are thought through and partially interpreted.

The prospective aspect of documentation engages the practice of projecting via ideation. The intention is to purposefully activate certain ideas/possibilities through material, interpretative and speculative processes of curriculum making. Acts of ideation compose situations that stich something different in the curricular fabric of an early childhood centre. Pedagogists ideate because they are pedagogical projectists (a translation from “progettisti in Italian) who are interested (as being in the midst of things) in curriculum making as that which enables new and alternative relational fields (ones that are less based in managerial logics, less human centric and less individualistic).

Finally, and as a way of insisting, documentation, for us, enables and enriches our abilities to pedagogically envision. This means a practice that proposes inventive processes within an educational setting without fully knowing, without fully seeing, yet, moved by pedagogical prospective(s) that face and engage with a future that we cannot predict, and yet, a future that we can story.


Brandeis, s. (2019). The intentional thread: A guide to drawing, gesture, and color in stitch. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Books.

  1. Sarah Hennessy, Tatiana Zakharova, Malvika Agarwal, Adrianne Bacelar de Castro, Maureen Cullen, Kelly-Ann MacAlpine, and Rocio Gujani co-laboured with us in the enactment of each encounter, in gathering the documentation, and in stitching this pedagogical documentation.

On Becoming a Post Secondary Pedagogist: Working with Students, Faculty, and Institutional Realities

Continuing the collective work that has been ongoing since 2018, post-secondary institution (PSI) pedagogists with the Pedagogist Network of Ontario work within programs that educate, initiate, and think with early childhood education students as they begin to get to know the contours and inheritances of pedagogy, curriculum, and relations in education. In particular, pedagogists in post-secondary institutions work to reimagine practicum as a space for reconfiguring how the education of future educators unfolds and how early childhood educators, students and faculty members might create innovative practices. This role is unique as pedagogists must grapple with and disrupt the taken for granted structures of both early childhood education and a post-secondary institution, and occupy what is made in the collision of these two structures. Importantly, a post-secondary pedagogist centers questions of pedagogy in the collaborative work of re-creating practicum: what orients our ideas of the intentions and purposes of practicum? What relations are possible and impossible in practicum? How might we co-construct alternative ways of realizing a practicum experience?

In the interview that follows, Cristina Delgado Vintimilla and Nicole Land speak with post-secondary institution pedagogists Paolina Camuti-Cull and Olga Rossovska. Our intention for this conversation is to trace how we are each in different – careful and non-innocent – relations to some of the pivotal concepts that we ‘do’ or enliven in the process of becoming a post-secondary pedagogist. We hope that you will notice the intricate and risky ways that Paolina and Olga do the layered work of noticing how concepts work in the status-quo, offering some questions and practices for unsettling these concepts, and turning toward thinking alternative possibilities for coming together in practicum and post-secondary institutions.

CRISTINA AND NICOLE: Beginning in 2018, you have been engaging in processes of becoming a post-secondary pedagogist. You have been exposed to an array of theory, concepts, and ideas throughout this time. We have thought with “reading” these concepts as a pedagogist might: attuned to the connections, tensions, overlaps, and disjuncture between concepts as we put them to work thinking their possibilities for curriculum-making and pedagogies relevant to our places and relations. Can you please share one or two ideas or concepts that are sticking with you within your process of becoming a post-secondary pedagogist? How do you see these concepts enlivening or provoking your thinking and practice within your institution?

PAOLINA: I have been most stirred by the concept of finding meaning in “empty space,” in the silence that is found lingering “in-between” the language used in text(s); propelled to uncover meaning that is unnoticed (Aoki, 2009). As a pedagogist, I am interested in considering what is not made visible and what is absent. I am motivated to look beyond what is evident. This creates tension, uncertainty, and discomfort. This process disrupts how I experience language. As a pedagogist, in this “becoming” I find myself increasingly attuned to the absolutes used to define and describe our practice. I am made to sit inside words and phrases such as “child centred,” and “teaching;” to dismantle their meaning and consider their implications. Historically, I have associated myself with specific models of pedagogy, asserting that these applications are based on theoretically sound rationales, and applying the language associated with these models. In this “becoming” a pedagogist I bring to question, in such absolutes what is being created or recreated? What then is missed? What possibilities are lost or silenced? How does this influence our humanity? Our exposures suggest we think with these questions in mind in our curriculum making.  

In this becoming, I come to realize that it is in the “in-between” space of such absolutes that we come to uncover new possibilities. In this entanglement, I am compelled by Derrida to consider how meaning is constructed with “other” (Tarc, 2015, p.7). Foucault brings intensity and urgency to this thinking as we consider the role of socio-economic systems in affecting language, especially in post-secondary education, with colonial and neo-liberal intentionality.

With a gentle approach, we sit with students, faculty and other pedagogists to think together about the language we use to bring meaning to our curriculum making and the relations that are created within this context. We search to uncover the hidden, quiet, silent meanings that remain unavailable and unnoticed. We seek using inquiry, what we have not thought about rather than what is visible and considered known. We are encouraged to read, to learn, together so that our insights can be deepened, and to know our history and its relation to our “now.”

OLGA: Thank you for this question. Always being-in-question (Vintimilla, 2018) is a concept that has become a part of who I am and how I am thinking as a post-secondary pedagogist. For example, something that I have repeatedly been going back to is the meaning we, as a society, as faculty and as independent individuals, place behind ‘quality’ in education. When unpacking this seemingly easy question as a pedagogist, I arrive to more questions than answers, with these creating tensions and challenging what I and others are used to – an instant and satisfying response. With our faculty group we are constantly thinking about who the student in our classroom is, who we are as faculty, whom are we thinking with and what stories we share – questions that do not always have straight answers, questions that expose our vulnerabilities, our professional tendency of romanticizing education, and our struggle to have a democratic classroom in a neoliberal society. From there we arrive to more questions, those we often think with in our pedagogist network gatherings, questions of whether we are consciously privileging certain ways of thinking and being in education and how this puts us on the path of producing a particular kind of Early Childhood Educator, most often the one with an overwhelming desire to comply, to do, and to be good (Osgood, 2006). However, being in question is not simply or thoughtlessly questioning our ways of being and doing in education, of planning curriculum and striving to graduate a particular kind of professional. Being in question means that I, as a pedagogist, am entangled with thoughts of others – fellow pedagogists, theories, provocations, and always the pedagogical commitments of our program. Therefore, in being in question I am creating conditions in which we ethically and critically think about the meanings and possibilities for curriculum and pedagogy we place when interpreting, for example, quality in education. 

CRISTINA AND NICOLE: You both referred to two different, yet key concepts, that have been part of the discussions with PSI pedagogists: inhabiting “in between” spaces and “being in question”. These are very generative concepts and, at the same time, their praxis is not easy. Being in question can be uncomfortable and vulnerable. In between spaces can ask us to face tensions. We are wondering about how, as PSI pedagogists, you work with and through these two concepts? For example, to be in question means that one might need to take distance from discourses of mastery and control. Creating in between spaces might invite us to move beyond questions that focus on the teacher or the child. To enliven the in between and ground your work in question often requires putting the status-quo at risk while concurrently envisioning alternative ways of coming together with students and colleagues in your institutions. What does it look like, for you, to engage with such praxis as a faculty working with students?

PAOLINA: In this “in-between” space I search beyond the language used to find meaning that remains unnoticed (Aoki, 2009). As a pedagogist I am motivated to bring to question that which is not visible and perhaps not accessible using our existing language. I am interested in bringing to consciousness what Shel Silverstein refers to as our “Forgotten Language” (Tarc, 2015, p.34). Robertson equates this dynamic to an epiphany, a “psychic event” where we “re-find the contours of our internal lives” (Tarc, 2015, p.40). It is in this entanglement that we come to locate the tension between theory and practice (Pinar & Reynolds, 2015). As a pedagogist, this is where I sit with students and faculty to contemplate, evaluate, and discover together what is unnoticed in an effort to build depth in understanding and intentionality. This engagement moves our “curriculum making” beyond the “knowing” as defined by outcomes. It propels us to bring a renewed value to the notion of “experiencing.”  As a pedagogist, I have used a variety of pedagogical insights to document what is understood; to uncover what is perceived, to identify contradictions, determine what is missed, and consider new possibilities. We are encouraged to enliven concepts by painting, drawing, stitching, sculpting, story making, poetry, drama, music and movement. It is in the essence of these storylines that are built with students and colleagues through taking these contradictions and tensions seriously, that new questions, ideas, possibilities are formed: meanings that move beyond what is prescribed. This prospect is enriched when language that is absent is realized. It is in this space that we think together and build inquiry. Such exposures are deepened when “experiencing” is layered toward documenting the journey and recording a new history. 

For me, to actualize this work, I propose that students and faculty must be aware and open to their own conscious and unconscious discourse. Recognizing with empathy, that we all in varying degrees carry trauma and the experience of oppression. Such prospects can only be realized when there is a strong bond and trust within the student and faculty team. Where each member of the team feels valued, safe, a sense of belonging. We share our readings together and use strategies to encourage thinking outside of what might be considered the “status quo” using non-threatening technological tools like Miro Boards to begin our conversation. We are sensitive to the vulnerability created by the “new” and that which is unknown. 

OLGA: Our faculty team meets monthly for pedagogical gatherings where we engage in pedagogical discussions alongside various thinkers, elders, pedagogues, and community members about teaching and learning. During these gatherings we reflect, think critically, and we challenge, for example, our comforts with content we teach and being seen as an expert. We discuss our discomforts with stepping outside of our comfort zone and student reactions to these. Based on the discussions during these pedagogical gatherings, our colleagues seem to have moved away from the notion of mastery quite a while ago and our faculty has a strong focus on co-learning and co-teaching, therefore, collaborating with students. Of course, being in control and being perceived as an expert of content is comfortable, often desirable for both faculty and students, and as a faculty I am very much tempted by that notion. In my experience, when I offer space to students to take control over content or provide flexibility in choosing how they express their thinking most students feel uneasy, and while some readily accept it, they come back with a plea to “now tell us the right way to think and do”. Many are frustrated when I ask “the right way according to whom or when?”. To me this is yet another example of neoliberal transaction-like practices. The views of the role of post-secondary institutions are engraved from early on in life as places of knowledge deposition and learning about how to survive in the real world, places where educators and students voluntarily accept the role of passive mechanical beings transmitting and disseminating information. This is not unique to Early Childhood programs. Freire (2000) mentioned this concept of ‘banking’ and ‘receive, memorize, repeat’ cycles in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and he urges us to think about knowledge and learning as a process of inquiry rather than reiteration of what is already known. As Friere (2000) shares, “knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other” (p. 72). 

In education we are so deeply rooted into dominant ways of thinking, doing, and being and it will take us time to create conditions for doing curriculum otherwise in post-secondary ECE classrooms, and this means that we will continue to be in tension with others and our own thinking. Something I discuss with faculty are the stories of dominant and alternative discourses. When we think of our time together with students and the content we teach and explore with students we consider: how might one challenge something one does not understand or know about? Even the dominant discourse stories contain someone’s truths – truths one might feel comfortable with because of desire to fit in or because it fits their current conditions – and they are convenient or dominant because one does not know something else is possible… there are other ways to tell our, and other, stories. The issue with dominant stories such as content expertise, skill mastery, etc. is that these status-quo stories of childhood and education are viewed as universal truths and sometimes a two-year college diploma only scratches the surface in challenging these truths. We definitely have a lot of work ahead of us, but what I as a pedagogist am really excited about is that we are not afraid to let go of some control and try what we discuss in our pedagogical gatherings with our classes, with an intention to expose students and ourselves to tensions we are in.

CRISTINA AND NICOLE: Through practicum courses, a post-secondary pedagogist works with students and established early childhood educators to unsettle familiar, reductive, and controlling stories, theories, and relations as they matter in a particular institution, while at the same time working to set in motion alternative possibilities for being together in that institution and that answer to situated concerns, histories, and relations within that institution (university, college, child care centre). ‘Comfort’ and ’new’ can act as buzzwords within neoliberal institutions – they can be made to work as competitive contemporary jargon, as practices that continually bolster an institution’s power while carefully dictating how those within that institution must become subjects who actively contribute to maintaining the institution’s neoliberal expectations. Practicum is often conceptualized as an apprenticeship to building a student’s ‘comfort’, where a student can learn the expertise needed to thrive as an educator within education as it already exists. As a PSI pedagogist, how do you understand how ‘comfort’ works in practicum courses in your institution (through, for example: specific relations, discourses, feeling ‘good’, trust, convenience, reciprocity, living well together)? As a post-secondary pedagogist, how do you grapple with ‘comfort’ and ’new’, in conversation with practicum students, established ECEs, your institution, the PNO, and your pedagogical commitments? 

PAOLINA:  I am deeply motivated by this inquiry, and eager to consider examining the language often associated with the practicum experience from a pedagogical perspective. Commonly used words like “comfort” and “new,” are important to disassemble, particularly as they influence institutional power; they affirm the “status quo;” create a certain kind of “subject” (Mac Naughton, 2005). In my “being” with students, institutional “influencers” and within our pedagogical exposures, I am made to consider what lies in the “in-between” space and to apply a political lens to what sits visible. What happens when we consider what it means to be comfortable in the practicum and within our institution? What then does it mean to be uncomfortable?”

In our being “human,” we have learned to attach the word “comfort” to describe a state of being in all our relations. We strive to be in this state of “comfort,” in our interactions with others, with content, materials, and within environments. We need to recognize the reciprocal nature of this dynamic. Drawing on pedagogical insights, I am compelled to think together with others about the “subject” being unknowingly created and recreated. In the practicum and in our institutional dynamic what does it mean for the “subject” to be with “comfort?” Often the result is to be passive, to conform, to avoid that which is unsettling and tension provoking. To be in the world as it is. To avoid unsettling the “status quo.”

In our “living” together in this pedagogist space, I am made clearly aware that discomfort is a critical part of all “experience.” Being uneasy is vital to our practice. I am motivated as a pedagogist to bring to light the notion of finding “comfort” in discomfort which is fraught with tension, conflict, and disruption. In our pedagogist discourse we purposely “unfold” and sit with tensions to consider other ways of looking and being together. Considering, in this pedagogist engagement, what the implications are to existing ways of being and to “systems.” It is in this discourse that we come to reconsider meanings assigned to words such as “new.” In this fluid dynamic discourse, we sit “in-between” “comfort” and strive to bring to consciousness what is unnoticed, and to uncover another way of being with and outside of the status quo.  Using a range of strategies including artifacts, transcription, and storyboards that are used for reflection, in this becoming a pedagogist with others we bring to question what meanings are evident and what is missing. Through such interpretive practices using inquiry, I as a pedagogist with others deepen existing narratives and story lines and create texts that bring to life more active, dynamic, challenging opportunities to be together. We participate in new ways of thinking of the human within a power dichotomy, where disruption and challenge is seen as a catalyst for change and innovation. 

OLGA: In my classes I often address the educators’ (including myself) comfort with routine, stability, and discomfort with the new or different ways of thinking and being. I also caution that the comfort makes our profession static and the convenience of routine becomes inconvenient and quite annoying. Our conversations then shift to focus not on creating something new, but rather to engaging in reflective practice. Similarly to the post-secondary classroom when I engage with my colleagues who are Early Childhood Educators, I encourage them to see their mentorship experiences with practicum students not only as time to teach technical skills, which in my professional opinion are needed to function in a busy classroom of infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, but also as opportunities to engage in pedagogical conversations. When we value the personal and intellectual growth of ourselves and of others, and engage in reflective practice as part of ongoing professional learning, that is how we become dynamic in our practice. By creating conditions for pedagogical development I cannot say that what we as a collegial group are putting in motion is something new, but I can say that we are choosing to be part of culture of early childhood practice (Kummen & Hodgins, 2019) that considers perspectives we haven’t considered in a while or haven’t considered alongside others.


Aoki et al. (2009) Curriculum in a new key: The collected works of Ted T. Aoki. Routledge.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed). Continuum.

Kummen, K., & Hodgins, B. D. (2019). Learning collectives with/in sites of practice: Beyond training and professional development. Journal of Childhood Studies, 44(1), 111-122.

Mac Naughton, G. (2005). Doing Foucault in early childhood studies. Routledge.

Osgood, J. (2006). Deconstructing professionalism in early childhood education: Resisting the regulatory gaze. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 7(1), 5-14.

Pinar, W. F., & Reynolds, M. (2016). Understanding curriculum as phenomenological and deconstructed text: Educators International Press.

Tarc, A.M. (2015). Literacy of the other: Renarrating humanity. State University of New York Press.

Vintimilla, C. D. (2018). Encounters with a pedagogista. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 19(1), 20–30.

Editors’ Note

We are pleased to release the second issue of the Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine. This magazine is a space for encountering ideas and experiences that relate to pedagogists’ educational practices, and serves as a living archive of work that takes place at the intersection of pedagogy and early childhood education.

Issue 2 includes four distinct, yet akin, articles that engage with three of PNO’s threading concepts: curriculum making, becoming a pedagogist, and situated relations. The articles not only touch upon each concept but also activate them from and towards different locations. Through these activations, the contributing authors urge early childhood education to endure more, commit to more and enunciate more than what the field currently breathes, actualizes and speaks.

Curriculum making is a central idea for Cristina Delgado Vintimilla and Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw. In their article, they narrate the creation of pedagogical documentation alongside the composition of curriculum. For them, curriculum making and pedagogical documentation work in tandem, feeding one another. To bring to life this intimate connection the authors attend to the metaphor of stitching. They stitch with pedagogists; they insert inventive and responsive processes as a form of curriculum making. Through this slow stitching they also encourage readers to attend to the temporal aspects of pedagogical documentation – not only do we work retrospectively, they say, we are also projecting towards what is not yet known.

Delgado Vintimilla and Pacini-Ketchabaw also put to work the concept of becoming a pedagogist through documentation they created following a PNO gathering in 2020. Similarly, post-secondary institution pedagogists Paolina Camuti-Cull and Olga Rossovska, in an interview by Cristina Delgado Vintimilla and Nicole Land, provide a thoughtful narration of the vulnerabilities and (dis)comforts of reconfiguring their relations as post-secondary pedagogists with students, educators and colleagues. Camuti-Cull and Rossovska share how, in inhabiting an in-between and always-in-question becoming, they problematize the postsecondary institution’s neoliberal inheritances. They describe how their roles as pedagogists are opening up generative possibilities for beginning to notice, reimagine, and recreate practicum and classrooms conditions and experiences. In questioning the pedagogical purposes and intents of practicum, they propose possibilities to set into motion alternative ways of relating and coming together in early childhood education.

How a pedagogist asks questions of pedagogy, lives pedagogical questions, and performs pedagogical acts also come through in Nicole Land’s Sweating the Fact(s) of my Body (+ Mermaids) as a Pedagogist. Land’s provocative, intimate, rigorous and poetic piece threads pedagogy with the concept of situated relations. Situated within a body, Land “sweats and muscles” pedagogical questions and, in turn, makes her body a space for interrogation, provocation, and invention. She lays bare what it might mean to think pedagogically from within a body; what it might do to ask pedagogical questions from an unwell body; what it might actualize when addressing a body in a pedagogical way. We believe that Land wants us to read this essay pedagogically – she is not looking for a sympathetic reader (although it might be impossible not to ache for the suffering and distress that her unwell body brings), rather at every turn of her prose she seeks and demands a pedagogical engagement.

Entering through a different axis, Fikile Nxumalo’s podcast also activates the concept of situated relations. Situating herself within multiple geographies of racialization, she interrogates how Blackness is activated through pedagogical and curricular events – for instance, through descriptors such as ‘from preschool to the prison pipeline’ used to refer to young Black children’s educational trajectory. From this space, Fikile thinks with feminist Black theories to make early childhood education accountable for reproducing anti-Blackness, and for its seduction with Canadian multiculturalism. Yet, Fikile not only challenges early childhood education, but she also offers a new pedagogical lexicon to think differently about what might be possible through environmental early education.

The articles in this issue are kindred, yet distinct offerings, and ask what must be endured to remain in the midst of pedagogical engagement. We hope readers not only linger with the individual visual, aural, poetic, and narrative forms, but read them in relation with one another, and as an activation of work that is reconfiguring the intersections of early childhood education and pedagogy.

On Early Childhood Education Encountering Pedagogy: An Interview with Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw

In this segment Cristina Delgado Vintimilla interviews Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw. The interview takes place as Pacini-Ketchabaw is embroiled in the midst of two projects she is leading in early childhood education in Canada.

Cristina Delgado Vintimilla (CDV): This interview takes place in the midst of two projects that you are leading in early childhood education in Canada. Both projects inaugurate the professional figure of the pedagogist. This figure responds, among other things, to the growing interest to think about early childhood education as a pedagogical project. Indeed, the term pedagogist connotes an intimate connection with pedagogy. As these projects unfold, we have experienced that, thinking about pedagogy and engaging early childhood education as a pedagogical project is a complex endeavor. What intrigues you about this project and why is it important to you? I imagine we can think of this encounter between pedagogy and early childhood in many ways. What comes to mind for you and what are their challenges and opportunities based on your view of the work, so far?

Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw (VPK): Thank you for these questions Cristina.  Let me begin by clarifying that the two projects that you are referring to are the ECPN (Early Childhood Pedagogies Network) and the PNO (Pedagogists Network of Ontario).  What is important for me is that these two projects, as you said, insist that early childhood education needs to engage in pedagogical conversations, and in doing so challenge the pervasive developmental discourse that early childhood education continues to perpetuate.  I don’t think that I need to say too much about why these projects aim to bring alternative narratives into early childhood.  As Peter Moss and Gunilla Dahlberg reminded us more than a decade ago, developmental psychology as a dominant discourse allows for early childhood education to be constructed as a service for families and as a producer of predetermined outcomes.  Like these authors do, the projects that you mentioned are proposing that we think about early childhood education as a “public forum situated in civil society in which children and adults participate together in projects of social, cultural, political and economic significance” (p. 73).   What intrigues me is how the role of the pedagogist might allow us to open up these kinds of conversations in early childhood education.   What might be possible in early childhood education when we attend to pedagogy rather than child development?  Of course there are multiple challenges.  The main challenge is that Canada might not yet be ready to have this conversation.  Engagements with pedagogical thought require that Canadian early childhood education invents another vocabulary… Yet, I continue to encounter (especially now during the pandemic when early childhood education has been a conversation in the media and political circles) troubling references such as ‘early childhood education as an essential service’, educators as ‘workers’ and members of the ‘workforce,’  and the field as a ‘sector’.  This factory-like lexicon creates certain expectations and moves us away from engaging in early childhood education as a cultural and political project.

(CDV): As I am listening to you, and I think about early childhood as a cultural project, I think about the tension between, on one hand, education as a system that perpetuates particular structures of interpretation and socializes children into a stabilized state of affairs, and on the other hand, education as what creates the conditions for thinking otherwise futures and for inserting something different into the present. This,  seems to me, to be the tension that you are describing. I would propose that this is a tension that is becoming acutely present as a provocation that pedagogy brings to early childhood education.  In your view, what might early childhood education in Canada need to consider to generatively respond to such provocation? Particularly when considering that– in the broad social imaginary– early childhood is thought in such constraining and instrumental ways as  those described in your example?

VPK: Yes, that is the tension that pedagogy offers to early childhood education.  There are many things we need to consider.  The main (amongst many) that comes to mind right now is how to work with pedagogists in creating the conditions for thinking otherwise futures.  I often worry that this side of the tension is completely dismissed.  Somehow we have had opportunities to engage in the critique of hegemonic structures within early childhood education.  In my experience, we have become quite skillful at unpacking and unsettling discourses with pedagogists.  The challenge now is to work with pedagogists to create conditions for other futures.  I am thinking about the pedagogical work that we have been doing in the Common Worlds Research Collective.  I have learned so much through my work with you and other fabulous colleagues to challenge myself to dive into the question ‘what could be otherwise?’    I think it is important that pedagogists do not become too comfortable with critiquing educators’ practices.  I am not saying that critique doesn’t have a place in the life of a pedagogist.  It does.  But critique needs to be deeply entangled with the ‘otherwise’, the ‘what if’, the ‘yet to come’.  I want to stress the idea that these two movements are indeed entangled. One does not come after the other.  Like you said Cristina, it is a tension that as pedagogists we need to constantly live in.

CDV: Indeed, generative tensions need to be cultivated in early childhood education and this is not because early childhood education lacks tensions, but because the tendency might be to ‘master’ and even try to avoid those tensions in the name of protecting what we already know or the familiar ‘how to’ that mark early childhood in Canada.  What do you think might be some of the conditions and dispositions that a pedogist needs to nurture as a way to move past mere critique? And could you share some thoughts about how it would look like if early childhood practices and curricular propositions were driven by the generative force of the “what if”?  I am particularly interested in this  last question because I think that thinking “what if” or the “yet to come” requires much of our attention. As a pedagogista, I consider thinking “what if” as a complicated and demanding mode of engagement with the world.  “What if”  is  at the heart of what I refer to as ideation which, as you know, it is one of the abilities that defines the work of a pedagogista, in the Italian tradition.

VPK:  As you know, we started to think about some of the conditions that a pedagogist needs to nurture in an article that was just published in Contemporaries Issues in Early Childhood.   Let me address just one here.  In my work with pedagogists in the PNO and ECPN, I have come to realize that interdisciplinarity is one of those conditions that a pedagogist cannot live without.  By that I mean that a pedagogist has to be able to attend to the conditions of early childhood education not only by drawing from a multitude of disciplines (anthropology, sociology, geography and so on) but also be able to encounter these conditions through different theoretical frameworks.  A pedagogist thinks with poststructuralism, feminist Black studies, and/or feminist Indigenous theorizings to challenge the narrow discourse of child development that organizes early childhood education.  Phenomenology is a language that a pedagogist thinks pedagogical documentation with. Feminist environmental writings help a pedagogist to think early childhood education in viral times. Yet, it is not about moving in and out of disciplines and theoretical frameworks.  It is about working transversally with multiple languages.  These languages intermix so that the pedagogist can offer educational proposals that move beyond the monopoly of developmentally appropriate activities.

To address the second part of your question: I agree that the ‘what if’ requires careful attention in the education of pedagogists (and early childhood education as a whole).  Early childhood education suffers from literalism.  We lack imagination of what might be possible.  This is dangerous because pedagogy needs to be able to think ‘the otherwise’ in order to avoid being squeezed into neoliberal capitalism.  A pedagogist needs to embrace what Loris Malaguzzi called creativity (not psychologically defined).  I think I want to think about this disposition as speculative practice – that is, a practice that is committed to an idea of worlding that keeps the world going in more-just-ways.  I might even say that what makes a pedagogist is to be able to embrace the ‘what if’.   Yes to the idea of ideation, of invention, of creative projection!

When sharing this piece, please include the following citation: 
Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., & Delgado, C.V. (December 2020). On early childhood education encountering pedagogy: An interview with Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw. Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine, 1(1). Retrieved from