Early childhood is sorely under-represented in NZEALS. I have often asked myself why and when I mix and mingle with other colleagues in the wider ECE sector I ask them. The answers I get are very similar to my own thoughts
- I’ve never heard of it, what’s it about?
- That’s only for schools
- What’s in it for me
To be clear, NZEALS is not just for ‘schools’, it caters for the whole of the education sector from ECE to tertiary. What is in it for me is the most critical question to answer. The answer is the opportunity to engage with highly motivated teachers, beginning leaders, experienced leaders, and students, university lecturers from beginning their lecturing journey to Emeritus professors and researchers, from not only New Zealand but also all around the world.
This professional organisation can offer you opportunities to become involved at both local and national levels. Opportunities for you to access cutting edge research, or if you are a writer or involved in research - Masters for example - NZEALS Leading Lights and Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice are places where you can share your thinking and learning.
In my experience the people are what really makes NZEALS. They are welcoming, supportive and interested in what you are doing, the struggles and successes you may have, and most of all they respect ECE as critical to children’s learning. There is no hierarchy of one sector being better or more important than the other. We are all seen as equals on the same journey with the same goals – to provide the best opportunities for educational success for all learners.
If you need your bucket filled with provocation then the NZEALS Biennial conference is something you should not miss. The content is always well thought out and thought provoking, with speakers attending from all over the world. Even some of my great educational gurus have presented, Barry Carpenter from the UK for example. Again, the people add so much value to this wonderful conference. The opportunity to hear what kiwis are researching, writing and presenting on and then to be able to engage with them to follow up with your wonderings. The camaraderie is wonderful. If you are a new face, there is someone there to welcome you. You do not feel alone. You will be filled with new ideas, concepts and thinking, you will go away with much to reflect and enact on, that in time will raise your professional capital. The conference is a place of caring and sharing.
Through joining NZEALS I have gained much knowledge of the other education sectors. Their issues are really no different from ours, they are just in another context: time, funding, assessment expectations, managing children with a range of learning needs and minimal support to do this effectively, aligning vison, values and practice, extra curricular expectations and many more. The more we engage with other sectors the more they understand our curriculum and teaching practice and vice versa. If you want to build collegial and reciprocal learning relationships across the sectors to improve learning outcomes for your learners, I urge you join your local branch.
Cost of excellent professional learning or joining educational groups can be a real issue for many in ECE; however if you value the opportunity to engage with likeminded, futures thinking people, join NZEALS to reap the benefits. This is one cost that you won’t regret.
As I write this, we are in the grips of the Covid 19 pandemic. For some this might be a time to reflect and for others it may be a time of great stress. We will all experience different feelings but I draw on the mantra that I have heard regularly during lock down ‘be kind’. Firstly, be kind to yourself. Find a happy place maybe a sunny nook or favourite place in the garden, take a coffee and just be, feeling the warmth or the smells of nature. Kindness to self gives us the strength to give kindness to others. Wherever you are, keep safe.
He oranga ngākau, he pikinga wairoa
Positive feelings in your heart will enhance your self worth