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Playing Favourites: From Favouritism to Fairness

By: MILICA ATANACKOVIC

Tuesday 24 January 2017

I received feedback from a family early into my ECCE career and it was a bitter pill to swallow. The parents felt their child was not happy and thriving. One reason they gave was that their child was quieter in nature, but a more contentious issue was that they felt educators (myself primarily) were not greeting him with the same enthusiasm as other children in the mornings. They believed this favouritism towards other children was affecting their child’s sense of self and belonging.

All feedback brings an opportunity for deeper thinking. Reflecting on my interactions with each of the children, I asked myself some questions. How did I greet them all each morning? Did I make time and spend time with each child every day? Did I make them each feel valued and listened to? Was I ensuring I built strong relationships with each child, and working harder with those it was more challenging to form relationships with? Most importantly - did I show favouritism?

For a child to thrive, develop, and grow it is fundamental that they belong. The initiation of one-to one interactions builds a child’s sense of identity. In our role as educators and caregivers, strong relationships are formed with children. But we are also human, working with humans, and there’s a natural pull towards certain personalities. We need to stay mindful of the children we are not naturally drawn to. Consistent, balanced and non-preferential interactions are paramount to our work with each child and their family.

 

What message is heard when one child is welcomed with open arms and another merely gets a ‘hello’ when they walk into the room? How does that feel for the child who is welcomed, and the child who just gets a ‘hello’?

Respect always comes before love. Children are developing a sense of who they are and how much they are worth. By respecting them in equal measure you ensure high quality professional standards. To be an educator is such a privilege, but it comes with great responsibility. Children are absorbing your every word, every action. You are their role model and in your care they are developing who they are. They are seeing how they are valued. Every interaction you have with children, or every interaction you withhold and have with another, is noted and observed. They also learn from your interactions with your colleagues and families.

This process of self-reflection resulted in a change to my practice and daily interactions. I made it a priority to treat each child with the same respect, consideration and attention, ensuring they felt acknowledged and recognised. The child and his family stayed and in partnership we supported his self-confidence and enabled a successful transition to school.

So as you start or as you leave for the day, just take a moment to think: how would you like each child to remember you today?

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