Ten months on from completing the Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Teaching and Learning from the Frobel Department of Maynooth University that is conducted in partnership with Early Childhood Ireland the learning continues! In recent weeks, during a reflection on my practice, a lightbulb moment occurred. The dissertation that I conducted in Year 3 highlighted the invaluable and underrated impact of quality interactions and a reciprocal relationship when an educator is supporting a child with challenging behaviours. While I was disappointed, I had not seen the true value of my findings sooner, I realised that the learning attained during the degree will continue to impact on and improve my practice in the future.
The initial decision to engage in the degree was realised through working alongside inspiring educators from my service who previously completed the programme. I was apprehensive as life was already busy working full time and being a mother to three children but with the support of my husband, children and my service I tentatively stepped into the programme. While the desire to improve practice was the compelling reason to apply for the programme, gaining the degree qualification I knew I was capable of and being a role model to my children compounded my aspiration. However, I did not foresee that my personal learning journey alongside the impact of the community of practice and the lecturing team would overwhelmingly outweigh the final piece of paper stating I achieved a First-class honours degree or achieving Student of the Year for the highest grade.
Each lecturer brought their passion for the early years supported by an immense wealth of knowledge, understanding and experience of the ECEC sector. Each class was steeped in the core Froebelian principles that childhood is a distinct period where relationships, play, nature and understanding of the uniqueness of each child are central. Additionally, the seminal theories of Bronfenbrenner, Bowlby, Malaguzzi and Vygotsky amongst others underpinned all learning, intertwining between modules and across the programme to ultimately blend in a comprehensive and cohesive approach ensuring deep level learning.
Additionally, a central and highly valuable component of the programme was the community of practice. This began in the first lecture of Year 1 with the idea to establish a Whatsapp group. From this point, the discussions, both in and out of the class, flourished and it became a lifeline when brain fog decided to appear in the middle of an assignment. This group not only became a place where practice could be discussed but where lives were shared, and lifelong friendships began. It became more invaluable with the move to online classes as the pandemic began and continued until classes finished in May 2021. I was extremely saddened by how our journey ended and thought that once the degree was finished so was our much-loved community of practice, but I was gladly wrong, and it is still a space where we can connect.
In writing this blog I have had the opportunity to reflect deeply on my experience with the degree. What I have concluded is engaging in the programme has truly positively changed me both professionally and personally. The degree has created deep interwoven links between theory and practice that I naturally and instinctively bring to my everyday practice ensuring the children and families I have the privilege to work with receive the highest quality provision. It has brought inner confidence and value to who I am and what I can offer both personally and professionally. Nonetheless, as Albert Einstein said ‘’Once you stop learning, you start dying’’. Therefore, I know I will continue my learning to ensure my practice remains at the highest quality, but the Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Teaching and Learning has certainly given me an incomparable foundation and I would encourage all early years educators to make the first step onto the programme, you can do it!
My name is Leanne Carr. I have worked in the Early Childhood Education and Care sector since 2004. I currently work in the dual roles of Early Years Educator and Inclusion and Support Leader in a community ECEC service.