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.

BOSUN-PD-REFERENCE

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.

Acknowledgements

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.

References-PD-Prudom

Recollecting Practices of Attending and Creating Exposures: Conversations, Estrangements, Movements, Affected Intentions, and Risks

Exposures were introduced to us within the pedagogical project of becoming pedagogists through The Pedagogist Network of Ontario (PNO; formerly the Centre of Excellence for Early Years and Child Care) and the British Columbia Early Childhood Pedagogy Network (ECPN). Within these projects, although exposures might have seemed new to us, they were not a practice without a vibrant biography. Exposures emerged through the history of Cristina Delgado Vintimilla’s work as the pedagogista of the Centre for Excellence, and exposures were created as a concept in an earlier course taught by Cristina, the Role of the Pedagogista, at Capilano University[1]. We were invited by Nicole Land, Cristina Delgado Vintimilla, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Randa Khattar, Fikile Nxumalo, and Kathleen Kummen to write an essay to re-enliven our experiences of past exposures. We were asked to think about exposures creatively and pedagogically by drawing on the connections that we noticed between the exposures that we participated in. 

As a group of past regional coordinators and research assistants who participated in projects that enact the role of a pedagogist in the colonial nation state of Canada, we situate ourselves in work that puts dominant practices in education into tension. We have seen how taken-for-granted practices seek to simplify, and to make educational processes less complex and more oriented toward implementation. As participants in these projects, we worked to amplify complexities towards envisioning contextual pedagogical processes that respond to our specific places and times. Specifically, as regional coordinators we worked alongside pedagogists to craft pedagogical projects that were grounded in their own and our shared pedagogical intentions, and that traced the histories and presents of particular organizations and places. When we began our roles as regional coordinators, many of us encountered the practice of exposures for the first time; we now sense our way backwards and forward through these memories of beginning to practice exposures.

When we use the term exposure, we attend to the living history of this practice as instantiated through Cristina’s thinking and pedagogical experimentation. In this essay we meet exposures and explore some of the ways we try to think with their practice. We think this practice through vignettes and imperfect remembering. We are attending here to the invitation of the practice of exposures as described by Cristina on the PNO website:

“Estrangement, refiguring, altering, being called by a sensing that can’t yet be made sense of are the generative instantiations that exposures offer to pedagogists, and that in turn pedagogists offer to their milieu.”

For this essay, we have come together again as current pedagogists and past regional coordinators to write about some of the exposures we attended and that we have (now) organized through a mixture of prospective and retrospective narratives. This collective retracing and recollecting of our experiences with exposures lead us to write this essay in a series of vignettes. For us, these vignettes are not narratives that add context to a point that we are trying to make. They are instead how we actively remember and how we move through these memories to make meaning of how we have come to know exposures. The way these vignettes read might at first seem strange. In a different way, we were surprised that this was the first time that we had collectively paused to revisit the exposures. In this essay, we try to move through some exposures in particular ways. One of these ways is through language. Each vignette has a form of beginning and we think that in reading, you will also meet us at a beginning where we were still holding onto an instrumental language that could not yet speak to the complexities of exposures. We first tried to evoke some of the naive movements of entering different vocabularies and experiences. Each vignette, then, in some ways sits with the discomfort and uncertainty of becoming as we move through those beginnings towards the questions and propositions that we now want to think with. We begin with the awkwardness of not knowing and trying to meet a  pedagogical experience even when we might have entered through more naive starting points such as preparation, necessity, frustration, anxiety, and busyness.

In relation to the time that has passed since the exposures took place, our recollections of these exposures convey the exchanges, moments, and encounters of these events in imperfect fragments. Thus, early in our discussions we moved away from revisiting exposures as documentation[2], as an archive, as an exposition of what we might have learned, or as an argument or set of intentions for engaging with exposures.Therefore we recognize the importance to delineate that we are not offering a definition of what an exposure is or what it should be (and we have come to understand that no discussion of exposures could follow from a logic of what exposures should be). In other words, we stay with both the messiness and discomfort of exposures themselves, and with what might emerge when we remember these exposures collectively. How we take up the series of events shared below is therefore more akin to how philosopher of ethical and political action, Alexis Shotwell (2016), proposes we think memory:

“we should think of memory as the relational and situated process through which we collectively determine the significance of the past for the present as a form of forward-looking responsibility”.  (p.48)

The vignettes that we think with throughout this essay revisit our exposures through memory, but also do something more. Instead of propelling the facts or experiential accounts of any exposure into the present, each vignette ends with propositions that re-work these memories as proposals for the present. Through these propositions we think about the conversations, estrangement, movements, affected intentions, and risks of being exposed. We hope to put these vignettes forward as a way of thinking towards how propositions make networks and how we engage exposures in the contexts of the PNO and the ECPN as projects for forward-looking responsibility that propose other pedagogical and curricular processes – and therefore other possible futures. 

In our experiences, exposures are events that complexify and broaden our imaginaries for thinking education, and necessitate that we craft different ways of enacting these imaginaries in our work with educators.  For us, the destabilization of familiar educational landscapes as the root of pedagogical experience creates the tethers of a network; not in homogeneity or comfort but through webs of questions that ask how we come together as pedagogists. Because an exposure can be an encounter with estrangement or unifying in how it alters, we wonder how, in our coming together and our divergences, we enact answerability toward our pedagogical and social imaginaries.

In this essay we wonder: What is it to be exposed?

How do we Attend to What an Exposure Proposes?

The Pedagogist Network of Ontario (formerly the Centre of Excellence for Early Years and Child Care) and the British Columbia Early Childhood Pedagogy Network have crafted various kinds of exposures over the past four years. Some have been local invitations extending the regional conversations and projects of a group of pedagogists already in close conversations. Other exposures have been large events for all pedagogists to come together across (what are often separate) networks. Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 Covid-19 pandemic, many  events organized by other institutions and in other disciplines have been shared with us from our networks as invitations that might be of interest to pedagogists. When these invitations from the directors of the PNO and ECPN arrive in our inboxes, for us, they invite us to step outside early childhood education and remind us that pedagogy cannot be fostered and inspirited as an isolated discipline. 

Although some events trace outwards from the conversations and projects that the pedagogist networks have already proposed, when an email invitation for one of these ‘might be of interest’ exposures arrives we find it can sometimes be hard to immediately recognize precisely how it fits within a commitment to pedagogical work. This vignette begins with this moment because we think unrecognizability conveys some of what an exposure does and can be. Unrecognizability, we feel, traces the implications of exposures for pedagogists and students of pedagogy, through the experimentation of exposures, which Cristina has come to describe as “incorporating an idea into the present without repeating the present”.  Starting from a place of non-recognition  allows us to begin not from what we know or might expect, but rather from the uncertain. Other events that are shared by the PNO and ECPN trace outwards from the conversations and projects that the networks have already exposed. Here we might meet familiar concepts in strange ways or we might put the questions we hold dear at risk in the face of unfamiliar explorations of what our questions and concepts might do. 

As we began to revisit the series of exposures we participated in for this essay, Meagan and Lucy decided to think together about how we receive these invitations, what they ask us of us, and how they get taken up in daily life. We came to wonder, in the move from being exposed to the uncertainty of exposures, how, without careful attending to, exposures perhaps too quickly become another part of the narrative of busyness that often permeates educational contexts. Rather than first recognizing an opening of not knowing, it is sometimes the demand and too-muchness of pedagogical work and all that it is connected to that dictates how we respond to an invitation to be exposed.   

In coming together again as regional coordinators, through our conversations about engaging with exposures, we explored our responsibility to ‘show up’, to engage with and be vulnerable to those we are listening to and watching speak. As pedagogists, we must do more than take quotes and ideas and find places where they fit into our work, and instead ask ourselves, what can I do with this, how can I think this concept in ways that invigorate my pedagogical work? We (Meagan and Lucy) both recalled events that we could not find time or energy to attend. We recounted being overwhelmed with the amount of online content that had flooded our inboxes since the summer of 2020, when the academic world started experimenting widely with how to continue on when the majority of us were confined to our homes. In these times, we both remembered instances we had tried to make time for the compelling events shared by the PNO and the ECPN  as “might be of interest” exposures. I (Lucy) recalled unexpectedly finding time to attend an exposure at the last minute, by listening on the go with headsets, being struck both by the talk and the feeling of too-muchness that did not go away. I (Meagan) remembered deciding to go to one exposure invitation, but with earphones in while attending to piles of dishes and laundry. I was quickly reminded that this is not the disposition of a pedagogist when engaging with ideas. Within minutes, I abandoned the housework and began to actually listen to what was being offered.

As I (Lucy) have been thinking back to the various invitations to events that the PNO and ECPN have shared as part of the practice of exposures, and as I have been talking about these more with Meagan, I have been struck by Meagan’s proposal of what it means to think with a concept. In the above little vignettes on the thorny questions of pedagogical invitations entangled in multitasking and too-muchness, from similar starting points, we both engaged with exposures differently and our experiences in some ways put at odds what it means to attend to the proposal of each invitation and the unanticipated proposals of each event. This discord of experience, I want to suggest, offers an idiosyncratic proposal made from our two different ways of engaging with this event that is not instructive of how we attend or do not attend to pedagogical work. Rather it suggests the lived and messy ways that, as Meagan writes, we meet concepts and, as I would add, we come into contact with the proposal of a body of work or mode of thinking that is not recognizable in the terms of our own projects. What both of these remembrances of exposures and their invitations don’t quite reveal is how and why we have been affected by exposures, and why we might see the need to return to think with the nature of community, living together, and responding to proposals of other disciplines, projects, and places through the moment of an event, after the event has long passed.  

To answer this, we turn to a particular exposure through a shift in narrative. In other words, our interest is not to now look at a moment when we engaged with an exposure with proper and full attention and the ways we were affected. Instead we want to turn to a larger question introduced to us through the poetic, historical, literary, political, and pedagogical project of Dionne Brand where the public nature of the exposure brings us into the unavoidable intimacy of the work of thinking a concept.  

In December 2020, the PNO forwarded an invitation to the 2020 RWB Jackson Lecture: Dionne Brand with Rinaldo Walcott. We (Meagan and Lucy) remember this talk for the ways it spoke in a new register to the questions of what is attended to in public spaces and enactments, and how it addressed this work through problems of public memory. As we revisit this event together, our intention is not only to speak to ways of attending as ways of being affected because we think this skips over much of what Brand proposed we consider on that day. We also think it suggests the trouble of revisiting events only in terms of what they exposed us to personally. To work towards creating fissures in the dominant ways of doing education, as pedagogists and students of pedagogy, requires that we trouble some of the subjectivities that are created and (recreated) such as individualism and utility. Although often thought in terms of what is captured, known, or defined about a subject or their place in official narratives (history and state building), memory can be a work that destabilizes those dominant practices, as the quote from Alexis Shotwell in the introduction suggests and as we found and find in our conversations, as we took up memory as a social practice. For this reason we want to instead share a little more about where this conversation has taken us. We want to tell you a little about the proposals that emerged for us and a little more about the talk—about how Brand invited us to interrogate positions of innocence and what is protected through modes of forgetting. Putting these moments into conversation does not expose the ways we are affected by an event; yet, does it evoke some of the ways we continue to live with this work? On that day, in the conversation after her poem essay written in the voice of a black aesthetic, Brand (December 2020, emphasis original) as she does in this quote, spoke about the pandemic and the way she “never used [the word normal] with any confidence in the first place” (July 2020, para. 2). In this way, Brand links the problem of a protected and false status quo and the “fiction of innocence” to the delayed arrival of an urgent future (December 2020). She writes: 

We are, in fact, still in that awful normal that is narrativized as minor injustices, or social ills that would get better if some of us waited, if we had the patience to bear it, if we had noticed and were grateful for the miniscule “progress” etc … Well, yes, this normal, this usual, this ease was predicated on dis-ease. The dis-ease was always presented as something to be solved in the future, but for certain exigences of budget, but for planning, but for the faults of “those” people, their lack of responsibility, but for all that, there were plans to remedy it, in some future time. We were to hold onto that hope and the suspension of disbelief it required to maintain “normal.” (July 2020, para. 2)

Threaded together with other ideas from that day that we are still digesting, (in conversation, thinking, and praxis), is our wish to attend to what too-muchness generates. How do exposures ask that we engage beyond what we are ready for? How do we meet the words and thoughts of others through lived-study? How do we search out conversations that return us in good company to what we only glimpsed in our first encounter? Moreover, what is our responsibility as attendees and listeners and pedagogists to do the searching that keeps these conversations alive in our work?

What are the Dispositions/Subjectivities for a Pedagogist to Engage in an Exposure?

In the Toronto region, I (Alicja) was thinking with a group of becoming pedagogists, and regional coordinators who were involved in a pedagogical project that has been carried into the current Pedagogist Network of Ontario. In this group, we wanted to offer a radical event that would shock us and carve out the beginnings of an unfamiliar direction for thinking about early childhood education. In our bi-weekly discussions together, we wanted to seek interdisciplinary alliances and alternatives that could move our conversations forward in ways that might disrupt the status quo. We were guided by the following commitment (at this time in a piece of writing termed manifesto):

“we understand the role of the pedagogist as emerging from a particular tradition and yet it takes shape in relation to the contexts, questions, and contingencies in which each pedagogist works. The role of the pedagogist always responds to something but it is not determined by it. The pedagogist works in collective and collaborative ways because they live pedagogy as a common project. This is why we understand the work as avowing to a collective and ethical invention. The pedagogists’ modes of thinking are interdisciplinary. Non-compliance with what is already established and prescribed is the pedagogist’s modus vivendi” (Ontario Centre of Excellence for the Early Years and Childcare, 2019)

I volunteered to help with finding an exposure in the Toronto community for pedagogists. I proposed to go to MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art), a gallery whose existence and commitments propose a literal shaking up of Parkdale, an area in the midst of heavy gentrification. We were very intentional about becoming sensitized and responsive to the contextual place we were visiting. To orient ourselves before our visit, we (regional coordinators and pedagogists) read Ways of Following by Katve Kaisa Konturri (2018) who invited us to engage in attuning processes that follow art works beyond meaning-making, utility, or certainty. Going to MOCA, without a particular concept or closed purpose in mind – and rather with a collective commitment to move away from prescriptive practices in early childhood education (as mentioned in the manifesto), was a proposition for us to experiment with what it might look like to let go of utility, and to instead be open to the possibilities we might encounter. Because of this openness in our preparation, we focused on weaving our previous discussions about extraction and utility in early childhood education into conversation with the unknown that the exposure would present. In thinking with Konturri, we crafted the following proposition that was included in our written invitation: We are curious how we might ‘do’ ECE as an intellectually vibrant space by carefully thinking with exposures that are not only interdisciplinary in their content, but that do interdisciplinarity through their modes of expression, the ways we become implicated with their offerings, and the questions they require we cultivate together. It was important in this case, to include a link to the gallery that explored the histories of the building where it resided. We prepared to come to the gallery keeping in mind that this was space for transformation – one that previously served as an industrial factory, a radical art making space, and now a gallery that stayed with the trouble of being implicated in the region’s gentrification. 

On the day of the MOCA exposure, we (a group of coordinators, pedagogists and ECE’s) met together in front of the menu list on the first floor of the gallery where the exhibits were described and had to make choices about which exhibit to see. Along with being a regional coordinator, Lisa-Marie was also working as a pedagogist with a group of educators that thought with the cutting of trees at their childcare centre). With the desire to maintain collaborative dialogues that might trouble our specific contexts, we chose to visit the exhibit The Life of a Dead Tree by Mark Dion. Despite our intentions to think about our encounters with the gallery as ones that might estrange us from our comfortable pedagogical dispositions, we were not completely prepared for the way we were unsettled by the exhibit.  In order to let go of utility, we were confronted with it – and this gave us an insight into our participation in utility. Dion’s work simulated a tree lab, where hammers and pegs were used to pull out ‘invasive species’ that were later pinned in a live laboratory inside of an art gallery that Mark Dion called “The Bureau of Entomology”. We were uncomfortable as we witnessed a sterile account of ‘invasion’. While we prepared to let go of utility and to expose ourselves to openness, we witnessed a depiction of violently displayed extraction. This extraction shaped the conversation that we had as we sat together and reviewed our notes. In our conversation, we were struck by the questions that resulted from our engagement with the exhibit: Who are the invaders, and how are they extracted? This question stayed with me for quite some time, and the dead tree, its invaders and extractors, leaked into my Masters research project. Currently, I am looking back and thinking with the initial descriptions of MOCA’s relationship with gentrification, and how this question about invasion and extraction was so relevant to the space we were in.  

In coming together now, to reflect on exposures and what it might mean to prepare for an exposure, we realize that we never come to exposures with a blank slate. Our intentions and orientations configure our dispositions in relation to what we encounter in the exposures, and in the case of The Life of the Dead Tree exhibit, our initial intentions ignited the uncomfortable. How do we come to an exposure with intention while maintaining and fostering a sensitization and openness to what might emerge? What/how might we need to prepare for this kind of sensitization?  Thinking back to work as a pedagogist during that time, what would openness mean as a pedagogist with pedagogical intentions? 

What does an Exposure set in Motion?  

Picking up on Alicja’s discussion of the The Life of a Dead Tree exhibit, I (Lisa) revisited how I attended to the event both in the moment and now two years later. I recently went back to the photos on my phone to look for pictures and was surprised that I had only four. One photo was of the tree, the main attraction of the exhibit, and three were of text that described various concepts that Mark Dion was working with. My focus on the text of the exhibit did not reflect how I remembered engaging with it. The choices I made in documenting the event revealed what I now consider a wanting to be able to know and explain the exhibit in the words of the artist.  Coming together now, in 2021, as a group to think about these exposures I want to attend to that momentariness of the exposure in a different way. I notice how my focus on text is a form of enacting utility and extraction instead of prioritizing openness and being in relation, being vulnerable to the exposure. As I make the choice to re-attend to the moment by revisiting my photographs, I am oriented as a pedagogist in how I not only come to exposures but how I attend to them after once I have left the moment of the event and after some time has passed. For me this draws my attention to the temporality of exposures, how might we simultaneously embrace momentariness while being open to the concepts lingering in our pedagogical work.  

To be able to attend to a moment of an exposure, we must first attend the exposure, show up, and step into aspace of uncertainty and possibility. An exposure offers us a momentum and a temporality outside of the regular beat of early childhood education spaces. In the moment of an exposure there is a desire to still the momentum and capture the temporality of it by taking pictures and notes. I wonder what these methods of attending to an exposure make possible and what they make impossible for a pedagogist.

This MOCA event was my first experience of attending an exposure with the pedagogists. I was aware of my anxieties about a new experience. I had presumptions of what it meant to go to an art gallery, and how to be at an art gallery, and alongside my intentions and preparations for the exposure, I knew that experience was asking something more of me, but I wasn’t quite sure what.  Perhaps the uncertainty of what it was to engage with an exposure made the momentariness of it feel precarious, like stepping into the midst of something already in motion. When I think about this movement into an exposure, I want to notice the stories and histories that are already there, both in myself, the others I am with, the exhibit itself and the place we are located. This reminds me of Tim Ingold’s (2011) proposal that the storied world is

“ a world of movement and becoming, in which anything– caught at a particular place and moment – enfolds within its constitution the history of relations that have brought it there. In such a world, we can understand the nature of things only by attending to their relations, or in other words, by telling their stories.” (p.199)

An exposure invites us into stories already in motion, already put into motion in various ways by various actors, by the artist and the art, by the reading from Konturri that orients us to the exposure and by the hopeful intentions that the exposure will do something without necessarily knowing what exactly that something is yet. 

For me, reworking the memory of the exposure provides me a space to think deeply about how the stories present both on the day we attended and now, as remembering has muddied the concreteness of the event.  In the newness of this experience, I leaned on ways of engaging that upheld familiar modes of utility and extraction that inhibited me from considering the other ways I might focus instead on how my stories and the stories of the exposure intertwine and diverge. As a pedagogist, I am attuned to the pedagogical questions that are set in motion through a re-attending of an exposure.  How does tracing the movements and histories that bring us to an exposure disrupt utilitarian and extractative relations? How do our stories and our engagement with an exposure become part of its momentum? How do we ethically sustain this momentum by considering the stories we choose to tell, the stories we leave out and our implication in these choices? 

What if we Imagine Exposures as a Refusal of Passivity, and as an Active Composing of a Different Kind of Pedagogical Thought?
Exposures are more than passive events; they require not only an openness to something new and possibly unfamiliar, but also a vigorous doing with the ideas we encounter in being exposed. Because exposures are not professional development, where we might approach an event in search of knowledge that aligns with the already known rules of our profession, we must enter into exposures with a willingness to be affected and to engage with that affect to invigorate our pedagogical work. The ways we attend to exposures is an activation of our pedagogical commitments and intentions. Cristina Delgado Vintimilla reminds us on the PNO website that

“An exposure creates a space for “being with”—being exposed to— ideas or situations that have the potential to create alterations and “redistribute the sensible” (Ranciere), as well as its ways of participating in common/shared living.  Estrangement, refiguring, altering, being called by a sensing that can’t yet be made sense of are the generative instantiations that exposures offer to pedagogists, and that in turn pedagogists offer to their milieu”

In the London Region, we (Cory and Meagan) hoped to engage with local histories as a way of composing our pedagogical thinking and doing as always situated within the specificities and the histories of the places we live and work. We originally invited pedagogists to join us on a self-guided walking tour of London, ON which was curated by Hear Here London in July of 2019. Unfortunately, extreme heat advisories, risks of thunderstorms and possible tornadoes dictated that we postpone our exposure until September.

As we prepared for the walking tour, we knew that we would likely encounter narrations of the city of London that reinscribe the colonial histories of the homes and streets and old buildings we walked with. We wanted to think how we could expose and be exposed to particular narratives, but also pay careful attention to the ways in which decisions about which stories to make present and which to make absent is a non-innocent project in the country currently known as Canada. Often, our role as regional coordinators involved collaborative reading with the London pedagogists. In advance of the walking tour we offered a chapter by Fikile Nxumalo (2019) Presencing: Decolonial Attunements to Children’s Place Relations. Reading together was a practice of collective re-orienting around how and to what we pay attention to in our encounters with place. As highlighted in vignettes above, exposures are not static events, they have trajectories – befores and durings and afters – that resonate as exposures are prepared for, encountered, and taken up. We return to this point not to offer or insist on specific ways of doing exposures, but to continue to insist that these are not just ‘anything goes’ events, but ways of gathering that are specific to thinking as a pedagogist.

In our walk, we wanted to activate embodied disruption of the commonly celebrated capitalist and colonial stories in London, Ontario. We follow Nxumalo (2019) in wondering “what does it mean to tell and listen to these stories amid ongoing Indigenous dispossession and rampant capitalist colonial extraction?” (p. 162). During our walk, we asked pedagogists to think alongside us about whose and which stories were present and whose and which stories were absent. As regional coordinators, inviting the concept of present and absent stories into conversation with a curated walking tour meant refusing a passive engagement with that in which we encounter. In particular, we prioritized creating conditions within this exposure to re-compose our collective pedagogical orientations to notice and trouble the taken for granted stories that thrive in settler colonial places. In this sense, our exposure engaged with more than just the material act of walking with and listening to the curated stories of the city. It would have been easier to say this tour does not do exactly what we want it to do, so let’s find something else. Instead we said this tour might give us opportunities to activate some of the reading and discussions that we have been having regionally and centre wide. To stay with the complexities of rethinking colonial stories required resisting pre-scripted narratives – narratives of complacency embedded in quotidian encounters with the places and spaces we live – but also the curated narratives in experiences such as the walking tour. How might exposures activate a refusal of passivity, and what dispositions are required to compose and recompose pedagogical commitments in dialogue with the conditions of the 21st century? 

What is the Risk of Exposure?

In the Toronto Region, we offered an exposure in which we visited Jennifer Rose Sciarrino’s exhibit From Root to Lip, which showcased “a series of sculptures referencing biotic matter—seeds, spores, cells, pollen, bacteria and yeast” (Sciarrino: From Root to Lip, 2019). Prior to our encounter with Sciarrino’s art, we read Donna Haraway’s (2015) Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin, which Sciarrino thinks with in the catalogue of her exhibit. Specifically, Sciarrino’s art laboured with Haraway’s notion of making kin by paying attention to less-than-seen biotic matter.

The invitation to participate in this specific exposure was declined by the pedagogists and only Toronto regional coordinators (Lucy, Lisa, Alicja and I, Lisa-Marie) attended. Our visit to the exhibit was brief and quiet. Each of us carefully stepped through the exhibit and spent time with each sculpture. Toward the end of our visit, we realized that the artist, Jennifer Sciarrino, had been in the room with us and we tried to eavesdrop on her conversation with another attendee. Unable to overhear or enter the conversation, we decided it was time to go. We walked down the street to a neighbourhood cafe to discuss the exhibit in relation to the reading and our ongoing pedagogical discussions in the Toronto region group. As we gathered together at the table in the cafe, we wondered why pedagogists did not attend this exposure: Did the suggested reading deter pedagogists from attending? Had pedagogists had enough of art exhibits? Was the interdisciplinary work of this exposure too foreign for pedagogists to imagine how it might extend the boundaries of their thinking in early childhood education? Or, had everyone’s minds veered away from pedagogical thinking and eased into summer vacation? 

Remembering this exposure as we write this collective essay, I (Lisa -Marie) notice how the loneliness of an exposure with no response is always a risk. When our offerings are not always reciprocated by a response we are left with questions about presence and intention. While we know our collective pedagogical work is buoyed by the commitment to pick up the frayed threads of dialogical tangents and weave them through multiple conversations, there is always a risk that the animate exchanges that pedagogy requires is rejected by those we offer it to. What is it to be a network when those who compose the network decline to gather around particular propositions?
The From Root to Lip exhibit made visible the generative co-becoming of less-than-visible lifeforms and the multitude of risks of being exposed. The risks of exposure – contamination, disorientation, failure, sensitization, frustration – are unavoidable and profoundly necessary. It is through exposure that making kin is possible; making kin, being vulnerable to the contamination of the less-than-visible itself involves risk. As Haraway (2015) notes “kin is an assembling sort of word” (p. 162), and in making kin with the less-than-visible, we have no guarantees of what these assemblages might be. More precisely, the risks of making kin and exposing oneself to co-becoming is that (pedagogists’) subjectivities are unknowably fostered, made and unmade in exposures, with no guarantees for predetermined outcomes. These precarious pedagogical relationships, like the life of the less-than-visible, are contingent on caring relations, on picking up the frayed threads left open. If we consider our pedagogical relations and connections within the network as a way of becoming kin, we know we must struggle to maintain these relations because as Sciarrino’s exhibit highlights and makes visible: “Making kin is perhaps the hardest and most urgent part” (Haraway, 2015, p.165). The risks of exposure and pedagogical inquiry mimic the biotic matter that Sciarrino (2019) describes as

“growing and moving, perhaps very slowly, and we are just catching them in a single instance of an otherwise longer transformation. I see these sculptures as curious metaphors, ready to animate exchanges with each other, including those visiting. Kinship outside of genealogy would require the conditions that sustain the individual to also be hospitable to the group as a whole” (para. 17).

So, perhaps the risk of exposure is less about loneliness and more about the uncertainty of being exposed to and exposing less-than-visible worlds. How do we attend to risky exposures – and what do we hope our exposures risk? How are our worlds always already populated by relationships that are woven together but also put at risk by collective vulnerability?

Recollecting Exposures, Together, Again

Our intention in this collection of vignettes is to revisit our memories of particular exposures in unfamiliar ways. This way of tracing, we offer, corresponds to the modes of experimenting we try to attend to with exposures. When we began going back to the exposures discussed in this essay and the fragments of documentation we had kept, we did not quite know how to describe the complexity of our various engagements and recollections of these exposures. However, we knew that a recognizable historical account of these events might pursue something quite different than the complexities of attending to memory as relational and situated processes (Shotwell, 2016). When we started writing this essay we did not fully realize the scope of the exposures within the The Pedagogist Network of Ontario and the British Columbia Early Childhood Pedagogy Network. As we recollected these exposures in the writing and conversations of this essay, we realized the significance of the questions we were grappling with in both our regional and large group exposures. We noticed the ways we relate to pedagogical work were altered through our engagement with the exposures. It is partly this realization that has led us to experiment in this essay with tracing how we carry the happenings of these exposures with us in our work and thinking now. The concepts explored in the vignettes above – conversations, estrangements, movements, affected intentions, and risks – were put in motion through our fragmented memories of the exposures, which revealed for us the ways that concepts and proposals made from memory do something new with the present. For us exposures have created proposals to think with others as a way of forward-looking responsibility that enable us to think beyond the boundaries of the familiar worlds of our classrooms, collegial networks, and the bannisters that support our everyday practices in education. In recollecting exposures, together again and again, we wonder how the practice of fragmented memory work continues to move our pedagogical work. As we come to what might be an ending in this essay – we offer in this conclusion as a form of beginning again – we want to return to our questions from the beginning of this essay: namely, what is it to be exposed? This is not a question that leads to any kind of conclusion, but in our vignettes instead we think about the dispositions we embodied to be exposed. How do we remain in the discomfort of conversations, estrangements, movements, affected intentions, and risks? What does this discomfort make possible towards pedagogical work? 


Footnotes

[1] We are grateful for Cristina for making herself available to us so we could learn more about the historical background of exposures as we were writing this essay
[2] We agree that documentation also does something more than revisit through memory. However, we do not see this essay as a work of documentation because for us documentation works towards a particular pedagogical project. Here, we are interested in how these exposures are part of this pedagogical work, but we don’t think we take up the exposures here in a way that furthers the pedagogical work of the network in a form akin to documentation.

References-MM-LA-CJ

Introduction to the authors and our work with exposures:
Lisa and Alicja first experienced exposures as graduate students through their work as assistant regional coordinators and research assistants with the Provincial Centre of Excellence for EarlyYears and Childcare. Now as PhD students and community pedagogists with the Pedagogist Network of Ontario, Alicja and Lisa continue to engage with exposures and weave them into their work. Alicja is also engaged in thinking with exposures through her ongoing work as a pedagogical coordinator with an itinerant school as part of a larger research project for pandemic times in Cuenca, Ecuador. Meagan is a PhD candidate at Western University in the Faculty of Education. Alongside Cory, Meagan was a regional coordinator for the London Region and continues to work with pedagogists in British Columbia and in post secondary education. Lucy was introduced to the practice of exposures when working as a regional coordinator in Toronto for the Provincial Centre of Excellence for EarlyYears and Childcare and. Lucy continues to attend to and explore the invitations extended as part of the practice of exposures as a participant in the post-secondary network of the Pedagogist Network of Ontario. Together with Lucy, Lisa-Marie was a regional coordinator for Toronto Region. Lisa-Marie is a PhD candidate at Western University in the Faculty of Education and continues to participate in the pedagogist network of Ontario. Cory is a PhD candidate at Western University in the Faculty of Education and was a regional coordinator alongside Meagan for the London Region.

Editors’ Note

We – a group of researchers with very different histories, concerns, and practices who are situated and positioned differently within this educational project – share this issue of the PNO Magazine and its pieces during a time when the ongoing violences of settler colonialism and white supremacy have motivated immense, well-publicized traumas that unfold alongside the often silenced or disregarded everyday violences Eurocentric colonially inflicts in this stolen land currently known as the nation state of Canada.

We are intensely concerned with figuring out what it means to educate pedagogists, to be relentlessly committed to doing pedagogical work that is intimately intertwined with our inheritances and with crafting futurities that celebrate Indigenous, Black, Brown, Asian, and other racialized lives and worlds. We take seriously that we, collectively, must find ways – pathways that we do not yet know and practices will not be created in isolation – of doing pedagogical work that actually grapples with justice, difference, knowledge, commons and uncommons, and life in tangible ways.

Within the PNO, we do not want to pretend we have the answers for knowing what education will become as we face its complicity in hatred, control, and devaluing particular lives, knowledges, and worlds. Nor do we want to be so arrogant as to assume that our one project will “solve” the intentional issues of an education system that regulates who and how children should be. We also do not name our partiality or uncertainty as an excuse; not knowing exactly what comes next does not mean minimizing our complicity in the form of a performative apology or as a self-soothing proclamation of our sadness.

We offer these as commitments that we will enact: we will show up, be and hold each other accountable, listen and co-labour, work in the background to reconfigure pebble by pebble the foundations of racist structures, and recognize our work as one small and humble thread in the ongoing dismantling and recreating of the project of education on these lands.  

Decolonizing Place in Early Childhood Education

In this conversation, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw interviews Fikile Nxumalo on her work on the possibilities for responding to anti-Blackness and settler colonialism in early childhood education. Fikile shares examples from her research and practice and discusses some of the ways in which she draws inspiration from Black and Indigenous feminism.

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.


References

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. https://doi.org/10.18357/jcs.v44i1.18785

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. https://doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2006.7.1.5

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. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1463949116684886

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.

A Matter of Pedagogy

As a pedagogist, Ann Wilke proposes that the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic is a call to deepen our commitment to pedagogy as a way of being in and with the world.

The pandemic has dismantled, paused, or eroded many of our common ways of being in the world, both within and beyond our early learning settings. It is forcing our collective attention to consider what is it that matters most to us and to this world. Its presence is also illuminating systemic concerns within the type of world and type of life we have created both in education and beyond. Responding to the pandemic with pedagogical concerns, declarations, and ethics, which orient toward questions of “matters”, I belive is of necessity.

What matters and who matters is the threading by which our worlds and lives have been made and unmade. Attending to the ways that matters shape and influence what is, and what could be, is a practice in thinking pedagogically.

Ann Wilke

Thinking with “what matters” is critical and of this moment. 2020, both as a worldwide social crisis and a situated emergency in Canadian early childhood education, has exposed to us how our worlds have been created, how they can be made and unmade, how this particular world responds to matters of life and death, and how particular matters of life and death are deeply situated in unjust and unequal ways. The pandemic has illustrated the interconnection between all humanity, and the precarious interdependency between the human and more than human. It has reminded us that we are deeply situated within this world; a world where there are relations far more powerful at play than we choose to attend to in our status-quo (differentially privileged) everyday engagements. COVID-19 has demonstrated for us how matters of both human and economy crisis can disrupt, reduce, generate, and reform our current ways of shaping life and living well. It has made visible the tension in which particular matters can be in deep conflict with one another, and have particular trajectories when taken up in particular ways. Matters of life or death, matters of race, matters of ecology, matters of economy, deeply entangled and threaded through one another; all creating particular possibilities and particular erosions.

Mattering is what situates the world. It is through the way matters – known beyond their tangible, often assumed to be inert physical form, and instead attended to as complex material, discursive, and unevenly lived bundles – are enacted on that professed values, manifestos, and intentions are given life and form. Matters have influence over what can be and become, and we are implicated in what comes to matter in every situation. This is an especially urgent concern for pedagogists, as we hold to account how matters we participate with/in entangle with subject formation as they shape who an educator, child, guardian, or administrator can be amid particular matters. In mattering, there is no neutrality. In the very micro-movements we make each and every day through our thoughts, gestures, actions, languages, and silences, we are shaping the ways that particular matters come to matter more than others. In early childhood education, we have incredible influence in the ways particular matters are exposed, expressed, experienced, and enacted on. We chose – immersed in governmental and systemic decisions about what counts as mattering – the spaces of learning we design. We decide what is worthy to draw children’s attention to, what is valuable, and how it is valued. We make choices around what is important and useful to this world and life, and what is not worthy of our time. All of these daily decisions impact the type of life and type of world we are creating collectively, both within and beyond the early childhood education setting.

As Haraway (2016) reminds us “it matters what thoughts think thoughts. It matters what knowledges know knowledges. It matters what relations relate relations. It matters what worlds world worlds. It matters what stories tell stories” (p. 12).

A provocation I want to offer to both pedagogists and educators: we must always be conscious to the ways particular ideas have come to matter; and how their mattering reduces or flourishes particular possibilities. We must determine what the matters are that we chose to correspond with, and what may become (im)possible within the logics of such matters.

Responding to the pandemic with pedagogy and questions of matters is particular necessary at this time if we believe this world could be a more livable place. Pedagogy calls us to be of and with this moment. It asks us to stay within the uniqueness of the context that is unfolding before us and believe in the possibility of otherwise; an otherwise that we imagine to be possible in the type of world or type of life we yearn for. Pedagogy asks us to stay with the process of learning as we engage in the work of living alongside of one another and in relation with all things. It asks us to let go of our taken for granted assumptions and past scripts. Pedagogy, at this time, invites us into the heart of this moment of pandemic with uncertainty, curiosity, and wonder. It asks us to be with the uniqueness of this life today, and instills hope through the generative possibility of what we, and this world may become.

Deepening our commitment to pedagogy at this time matters to me, because it is not an easy response. As Maxine Greene (1978) points out,

“Dewey believed, as does Sartre, that what we become, what we make of ourselves, depends upon what we do in our lives. And what we do cannot be simply routine and mechanical. It must be conscious, interested and committed. If it is not, if we content ourselves with being behaving organisms rather than reflective persons engaged in ongoing action, the quality of our selfhood becomes thin and pallid” (p. 26)

Engaging in the ongoing action of life, of living as conscious, interested, and committed individuals requires more of us than maintaining the status quo in education, and especially as a pedagogist committed to responding well with messy pandemic relations, tensions, and inheritances. To think pedagogically requires us to meet up with the experience of change and uncertainty with both vulnerability and curiosity. It asks us to make committed decisions on matters that feel necessary and important. As such, activating and committing to pedagogical processes is a disruptive process – it moves us away from behaving within the scripts of life / living that we have been shaped by. We have seen that through the process of igniting pedagogy within early childhood education in Ontario. Pedagogy pushes against deep scripts we have held about what education is, what makes a good early childhood educator, and what children need. It creates uncertainty, tension, and chaos to the foundation of how we often think about early learning and its purpose. To think pedagogically requires of a pedagogist a committed decision to stay with this discomfort and continue to respond in pedagogical ways. Otherwise we revert to minimizing this discomfort by reaching for practices that feel familiar; patterns and habits that feel comfortable, even if they may not serve this work or this world well (such as such as measuring of a life by normative scripts, goals of school readiness, rubrics, and prescribed curriculums created from the desire for future capitalistic conquest of the global market). These types of inherited practices keep us shaped (and shaping) within specific ways of life, specific ways of thinking, specific ways of being right or wrong, and contained within a specific kind of world; a world that is already defined and foreclosed. And much like what we are experiencing within this pandemic, at times it is easier to hold tight to what feels “normal” or push for a return to “normal”, than to work with uncertainty as a invitation to create a different way of living and a different type of life in early childhood education.

As a pedagogist, I wonder what might be possible in this space of deep disruption if we claim both our uncertainty and commitment to pedagogy? I wonder what might happen if we respond with questions of matter and refute foreclosing toward all that we already know, to what feels most comfortable? What if we resist a return to a new normal and stay within the spaces of generative possibility that pedagogy ignites? What might become then?

I want to offer you these pedagogical questions, offered to me by the Pedagogist Network of Ontario, that I want to work to keep alive at this time:

  • What is it that matters? And why?
  • What are the matters that need us now; that need us most? Why?
  • And, How might we stay with the questions of “matters” and work at the rigorous demands living in response to the possibilities these questions may offer?

As a pedagogist, I want to extend the following propositions as a launch point for thinking pedagogically about, and responding in pedagogical ways to, what matters in our particular heres and nows in early childhood education. Let’s hold these questions close as we ignite a response to this situation, this unique moment. Let’s move pedagogical work beyond the traditional walls of learning institutions. Let’s carry these questions with us; bringing them to the dinner table, to the boardrooms, to the ZOOM chats, the protest lines. Let’s ask the children, the Elders, the trees, the earth, the recycling bin, the viruses, the night sky. Let’s ask the world. Let’s listen with open, curious hearts to what might be unearthed by these incredibly sober but auspicious questions. Let’s trace what happens as we activate these questions, and then let’s consciously and intentionally begin taking up particular matters that just might move us toward futures we dream of. Because once we truly understand what matters, what we want to stand for, matters move us with them as we become entangled within the making of worlds. We become formed in relation to matters; and matters are formed with/in us. Importantly, in responding to the provocation of “what matters”, we become answerable to what it creates in the making of worlds, and what it erodes in its wake.

In the eloquent words of Sara Ahmed (2017) “citation is how we acknowledge our debt to those who came before; those who helped us find our way when the way was obscured because we deviated from the paths we were told to follow” (p. 16). As such I must acknowledge with deep gratitude the following: Peter Moss, David Jardine, Maxine Green, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Nicole Land, Randa Khattar, Cristina Delgado Vintimilla, Karen Barad, Gunilla Dahlberg, Alan Pence, Sylvia Kind, and the Ontario Pedagogist Network (an evolution of the Ontario Provincial Centre of Excellence collective).

References

Ahmed, S. (2017). Living a feminist life. Duke University Press: USA.

Greene, M. (1978). Teaching: The Question of Personal Reality.Teachers College: Columbia University. Available online at https://maxinegreene.org/uploads/library/question_personal_reality.pdf

Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press: USA. 
When sharing this piece, please include the following citation: 
Wilke, A. (December 2020). A matter of pedagogy. Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine, 1(1).Retrieved from https://pedagogistnetworkontario.com/pedagogist-conversation/

Editors’ Note

We are excited to launch the first issue of the Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine. This quarterly magazine is a space for encounters with ideas and experiences that are related to the educational practice of the pedagogist.

We hope that this magazine intersects with pedagogists’ ongoing conversations and situated experiences by highlighting their pedagogical trajectories and inventiveness. 

This magazine serves as a living archive of the emergent and generative work that takes place in the encounter between pedagogy and early childhood education as we know it. In this issue, we wonder: What possibilities will be realized? What shifts might emerge? And how might we follow pedagogical inventiveness and its demand to think beyond what we already know?

We made the decision to share our work through a magazine in order to be accountable to a digital form that is public, speculative, rooted in a particular context and commitment, and that is continually on the move. Refusing our website content to relax into staunch stability, we want to create something unfamiliar (a magazine? A knot? A landing site? A confrontation? Something yet to be knowable?) that demands work and return as modes of engagement. While the Pedagogist Network of Ontario (PNO) Magazine will be organized into issues, we want to cultivate novelty and strangeness beyond only the moment of launching a new issue. As the work of a pedagogist demands, we hope readers will linger with and retrace their encounters with each piece. We encourage readers to share articles through different social media pathways. 

We hope that the magazine will keep traces of complicated pedagogical work, and that these traces will become part of a broader memory that is presently emerging and is nourished through the multiple situations, projects, events and artifacts. We hope the magazine becomes a manifestation of pedagogists’ situated and collective work. In this way, the magazine is both historical and prospective.

The works we share in this magazine enact an ethical commitment to the inventive, risky, courageous labour of theorizing and enacting the work of a pedagogist. We invite readers to attend to the rich temporal complexities of doing pedagogical work as a pedagogist in Canada. 

In this first issue of the PNO Magazine, we open with a conversation between Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Cristina Delgado Vintimilla. They discuss the pedagogists’ practice as the work of creating conditions to think otherwise futures in early childhood education. In our inaugural Pedagogist Conversations section, PNO pedagogist Ann Wilke shares a provocation with the intricate question ‘what matters for thinking pedagogically amid an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?’. Finally, we offer two previously published essays: What is Pedagogy? (by Cristina Delgado Vintimilla) and What Would be Possible if Education Subtracts Itself from Developmentalism (by Cristina Delgado Vintimilla, Nicole Land, Kathleen Kummen, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, and Randa Khattar). 

The PNO Magazine articles are demanding and anticipatory. They asks of us something beyond cutting and pasting, skimming and forwarding. Invention, response, participation, and answerability matter as each piece offers forward possibilities for us to grapple with in early childhood education. that needs re-envisioning. As readers sink into the articles’ complexities and provocations, we hope we might begin to weave an embodied and inventive vocabulary for thinking pedagogically in Canada – that is, a vocabulary that nourishes and is nourished by ongoing pedagogical conversations.

We look forward to thinking together. 

Cristina Delgado Vintimilla, Nicole Land, Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw, Randa Khattar, Kathleen Kummen, and Fikile Nxumalo

When sharing this piece, please include the following citation: 
Delgado, C.V., & Land, N. (December 2020). Editor’s note. Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine, 1(1). Retrieved from https://pedagogistnetworkontario.com/editorial/

Pedagogy and the Role of the Pedagogista: A Perspective

This exposure event, titled Pedagogy and the Role of a Pedagogista: A Perspective, offered opportunities for pedagogists to consider what is required to take on the role of a pedagogist, what might be possible when we take up pedagogy as a social science, and what it is to hold pedagogical commitments as a pedagogist.

In this exposure hosted by the Early Childhood Pedagogy Network, Professor Silvana Calaprice from the University of Bari, Italy. In what follows, we share clips from the discussion, moderated by Dr. Randa Khattar, between Professor Calaprice and Dr. Cristina D. Vintimilla, assistant professor at York University and pedagogista with the Provincial Centre. We anchor each set of clips with some context and questions we hope you will grapple with and carry with you.

1. On the work of a pedagogist

For Silvana Calaprice and the tradition of pedagogical study she thinks with, to be a pedagogist is to grapple with deeply ethical questions: 

  • What concept of the human and of the child do I hold?
  • With what histories, knowledges, worldviews, philosophies, and relations do I build my understanding of the child?
  • How does my concept of the child shape my actions and possibilities for my actions as a pedagogist?

Silvana offers that the understandings we hold of children and humans are never crafted in isolation. Rather, these are a common project, one built within a collective of pedagogists and lively worldly conditions.

Sharing two examples – image of the child as competent, and “care” – Silvana invites us to consider how pedagogists must invent and tend to trajectories and processes that disrupt status-quo ideas of education as an applied field. Silvana insists on the provocation that pedagogists must be interested in opening up spaces and relations that create conditions for a collective to respond well to complex contexts. As pedagogists, she suggests, we must trace how our concept of the child shapes the situated relations we create, and we must answer to the local relations we create. How we participate in relations is woven with our non-innocent concepts of the human and the child. Questions that pedagogists must continually revisit include these:

  • How do I come to understand children and humans?
  • What is my concept of the human?
  • How do I understand children?
  • How do my actions, and the educational processes I open up, activate my conceptions of children and humans?
  • How am I accountable to these processes and concepts within a collective? 

2. What is pedagogy?

Silvana asserts that pedagogy is a particular mode of study – a way of knowing and navigating worlds – that is concerned with thinking the purpose of education. In thinking the purpose of education, Silvana offers that we must think with subject formation and with living well within the relations and contexts we inherit and inhabit:

  • What subjectivities do we want to cultivate to bring something generative into the life of a collective?
  • How do we care for transformational relationships within our particular contexts?
  • How do we create educational processes that open up possibilities for living well together in these times? 

We hear Silvana arguing that pedagogy is resolutely against application. It refutes the interpretivist, individualist focus of psychology, which aims to understand and remedy unitary children’s behaviours. Pedagogy orients toward invention, not intervention. Pedagogy is concerned with encountering uncertainties and opening up processes toward different, tentative, more just futures. In this way, pedagogy inhabits the edges of theory and practice, weaving them together in the name of educational processes. Pedagogy is also, Silvana contends, carefully multidisciplinary: It is in constant dialogue with other disciplines, but it knows that these disciplines do not hold dear the same questions as pedagogy. This creates multiple questions for pedagogists to carry:

  • What relations do I stand for when I center questions of living well together in precarious times?
  • How do my practices, relations, and concepts of children, humans, and subjectivities shape particular responses toward inhabiting unfamiliar futures in a more-than-human world?
  • What modes of interdisciplinarity do I bring to my work as a pedagogist – with whom, and with what histories, do I think, read, write, cite, and speak? Why? How?

3. Having pedagogical commitments 

Silvana contends that pedagogy stands for particular political commitments: it is against applying a model; it refuses regulatory neoliberal images of competence; it subtracts itself from extractive self-centered assessments of what children already know; it complexifies status-quo conceptions of following the child in emergent curriculum; it wants to erase instrumental conceptions of education where teaching is framed as assisting children to fulfil a universalized, predetermined developmental trajectory. Pedagogists must not, Silvana insists, simply be someone who does a job. They must be deeply invested in their work, because they have situated pedagogical commitments and endeavour toward uncompromisingly pedagogical dispositions of openness and attentiveness. Pedagogists believe in what they do. Silvana offers the concept of “pedagogical energy,” which is the impulse and motion that propels pedagogists to continue researching, to constantly wonder, and live as a question, how to respond to fraught contexts. This impulse fuels pedagogical questions of how we might innovate educational processes in response to a particular context: What is it to do pedagogical work that refuses to be universalizable or scalable; work that subtracts itself from inherited logics of ‘best practices’?  

For us, Silvana is invoking a pedagogist deeply concerned with responsibility, where to be response-able is to be able to respond well to questions children, pedagogists, and others get knotted up in, in particular local conditions. This is not an individualized performative notion of responsibility, but rather one that is concerned with living well together in the precarious contexts we inhabit. Responsibility here threads through our relations as we grapple with questions of how to be response-able with children. Silvana offers that stories, and the stories children live within, are a starting point for getting to know what it is we must respond within, but she suggests that we need to go beyond knowing stories to inventing processes that enact our orientations and commitments, that create possibilities that are not currently present. Pedagogists, Silvana generously insists, have responsibilities to do the difficult, uncertain work of creating processes that are grounded in our pedagogical commitments and orientations. For pedagogists, this raises incredibly complex questions:

  • Do I believe in what I do?
  • What do I bring to this work?
  • Why do I hold these orientations within this place, when I hold to questions of living well together?
  • How do I enact these commitments in response-able relations?