A fun anecdote about community care in early learning

A story about community care in early learning. Community care in early childhood education.

One day I had a one student say to me, “We have to listen to you, because you’re in charge of us. You are our boss.”

I explained I am not “the boss” and I am not in charge of anybody, little or big. I have a role, my role is the facilitator of classroom experiences.

And my little student, of course, asked, “What is a facilitator?”

I explained that I created a classroom where you can learn from your friends by playing with them and you can learn on your on own by exercises of your choosing.

And my student argued (an action I always encouraged, arguing is not fighting it is critically thinking) that they had to do what I said. I further explained to them that in life you always have a choice, that today we’re painting and playing family, because that’s what you all told me that you enjoyed doing. If you would rather not do that, you don’t have to.

My student responded, “But I want to, because it’s fun. I like painting.”

And I said, “Yes, you do, so who is the boss?”

And my student said, “Me.”

And I said, “Have you ever thought that no one has to be the boss? Have you ever thought that you’re just a member of our classroom community?”

Of course, they asked what a member is and I explained it’s a group of people who work together, support each other, and help each other. I then said in groups sometimes you may have an idea and others will do it and sometimes another person, big or little, may have an idea, and you’ll do that.

And they smiled and said, “Yes, I like that, like when we play family and I decide to be the mom sometimes and sometimes I am the brother and sometimes I want to be the family cat.”

Yes, we’re a family. We have roles, no one is in charge of anyone. We’re working together and sharing ideas, so that we can have fun and isn’t that more fun than someone telling you what to do all the time.

And my student said, “Yes, but what if I need help.”

And I responded, “In order to get help from me, I don’t have to be your boss. Don’t your friends help you? Your sister, your cousins?”

And they said, “So I can get help from anyone, even if they aren’t the boss?”

And I said, “Yes, and the best kind of help, is the help you get from your friends.”

And they said, “Thank you, facilitator.”

And I said, “Thank you, valued member, of this class.”

And that’s how you is how you begin to dismantle the normalized idea of oppression and exploitation with a 5-year-old, because our classrooms should be modeling community and community care, not 1920s factory jobs.

Lark Sontag
Children’s Book Author, Early Childhood Education Specialist, Curriculum Developer, Peace Educator, and Social Justice Advocate for Children

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Child centered, social justice