Moving carefully, my eyes flicker between the bumpy grass and the trees in front of me. Uneven ground can trip a body if one is not mindful. White strands of fleece dance in webs on the tree branches. Long strips of trunk are visible where horns have rubbed bark free. Stopping to focus my camera lens, I notice the buzzing of life on piles of wool and cow dung mingled together on the forest floor. A careful dance of attention to where I step is required in this moment as I lean in to document traces of where sheep have lived and longhorn steer traversed before them. A photo containing traces of many footsteps appears in my viewfinder, my own footfalls present just outside the frame of the lens. This photo moves with me to my community conversation space as educators work with wool. Together, we contemplate the stories made visible in the photo, our hands meeting wool that once clung to the bodies of the same sheep who cast off their gifts into the tree webs.
In my pedagogical work, I bring a commitment into my practice to think carefully with the politics of living together with all others. When I consider my pedagogical intentions, I am committed to ask ecological and ethical questions: Who is here with us in this place? How are their voices visible? How are we accountable to others, and they to us, in the telling of our stories? I recognize that, as a storyteller alongside other storytellers in this world, I am responsible for storying the world into being. As Thomas King (2003) reminds me, “you have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told” (p. 10). My actions and words hold the power to perpetuate or change histories, just as others also hold this power of creation and domination. King’s observation that “the truth about stories is that’s all that we are” (p. 2) is always whispering in my ear, nudging me to think carefully about how I tell and retell stories through the lens I bring.
As a pedagogist, I use many modes of storying to document the living work of early childhood education. I invite educators to join me in examining the stories we live each day in our centres and how the living of these stories impacts our society. Using oral storytelling with groups of educators, I engage with metaphors and memories to deepen our exploration of the world. Through written stories, I draw educators back to reflect on our work together and pose questions for further thinking. When I story with photography, voices and bodies become visible through focusing the lens on how movements, environments and relations are captured, creating possibilities to return to the moment and retell the stories present in and outside of the frame. The careful attention I give to the world and the storying movements I make alongside educators and children keep me in a mindful space of shouldering responsibility. We are accountable to lean in, act with careful attention and take risks as we do our work, engaged in a dance together.
My brother gave me a button whirligig when I was young. I worked hard to feel the right pressure between my fingers, allowing the button to spin faster and faster. At the perfect speed, a flick of the fingers allows the strings to jump and twang. A wrong move and the string can break, causing injury to bodies. The responsibility to attend to the speed of the strings and the actions required to keep the whirligig in motion were felt, leaned into, and became part of my knowledge. The noise of perfectly tense strings whirring in and out was a music. This memory lingers in my pedagogist becoming, and I am reminded of the importance of responsive movement. With an impulsive move, damage is possible. Even not-so-impulsive moves can cause damage. To be in relation is to risk, an inevitable condition of living well together with(in) a precarious and complex world.
King, T. (2003). The truth about stories: A native narrative. House of Anansi Press.
YMCA of Northern BC Child Care Resource and Referral
Living on the lands of the Lheidli T’enneh in Prince George, Chelsea has a decade of experience working with children and families. Bringing a passion for local knowledges and storytelling into her role, Chelsea’s work with centres currently spans a territory of 600km2, supporting five rural communities across Northern BC.