As I encounter and move through the world with others, I am drawn to thinking deeply about and with relations. I often hear educators describing relationships as the keystone or foundation of early childhood education, a position I have also worked from and, in many ways, agree with. In my work as an ECPN pedagogist, I am committed to noticing and nurturing relationality, which includes extending and complexifying how we understand and foster relations in early childhood education. These understandings tend to be grounded in human-centered (child-centered) Euro-Western developmental theories that categorize and hierarchize, emphasizing some relations as more important than others (Burman, 2017).
For example, in early childhood classrooms, educators’ relations with each other tend to be given less attention than the child and family relations they are primarily taught to support. While children’s relationships are centralized, it is generally with the goal of “optimal” development on a particular trajectory to their future adult selves. And all human relations are centered, with more-than-human and nonhuman relations typically attended to in connection with human needs and development. As well, the images of “being in relation” that predominate are those associated with positivity, fun, simplicity, happiness, and feeling good. “We’re all friends here” is a common refrain in early years spaces (Hodgins et al., 2020). Among educators, this phenomenon is something Cristina Delgado Vintimilla (2014) refers to as the “politics of niceness”—the unwavering commitment to “social harmony” that “presupposes the unity of community rather than the diversity of difference” (p. 84). The challenges, tensions and complexities that are inevitable with differences are typically less welcome and are understood as something to fix and smooth over rather than something to learn from and stay with as an integral part of being in relation with (human and more-than-human) others.
As a pedagogist, I bring multidisciplinary pedagogical companions (e.g., authors, artists, photographers) to our classroom thinking to expand our understandings of relationality. I work with educators to document moments in practice wherein we can notice relational processes and consider both how they manifested and what, as a collective, we are hoping to foster. My aim is to create conditions for dialogue and experimentation in the classroom where educators and children can resist predetermined, narrowly defined understandings of relationality in order to support relational processes in all their complexity and foundational importance.
Burman, E. (2017). Deconstructing developmental psychology (3rd ed.). Routledge.
Hodgins, B. D., Nelson, N., Yazbeck, S.-L., Ke, X., & Turcotte, R. (2020). Living speculative pedagogies as boundary-crossing dialogues. Journal of Childhood Studies, 45(4), 5–19. https://doi.org/10.18357/jcs00019126
Vintimilla, C. D. (2014) Neoliberal fun and happiness in early childhood education. Journal of Childhood Studies, 39(1), 79–87.
YMCA of Northern BC Child Care Resource and Referral
As a Northern pedagogist, Lyndsay has lived most of her life on the lands of the L’heidli T’enneh First Nations, now known as Prince George. She brings almost 15 years of experience working and collaborating with educators, children, families, students and communities of the North.