Now more than ever leadership is called for in our early learning and care settings. With the challenges of reopening in this new world of social distancing and health and safety measures (all necessary), leadership is central in both preparing to reopen and in opening. Having to carve out new pathways to cope and come up with innovative ways to ensure that our children, families and communities are safe, nurtured and supported requires rethinking the old ways of doing things and effective leadership is needed to do that. Not only organisational leadership but equally important, pedagogical leadership. Pedagogical leadership is about leading or guiding pedagogical practice, supporting early learning and care educators in their work with children and families, and translating the settings values and principles into practice.
Thinking about what is informing our practice and why we work in particular ways are conversations which we need right now. Pedagogical leaders can initiate these conversations, supporting educators to think deeper about the impact of their practice and make it more visible to children, families and the community. Due to the current pandemic, all early learning and care settings are having to think about the impact of new health and safety measures, in ways which they may not have had to before. Pedagogy needs to be explicitly seen in this work, so that the child is at the centre of any decisions in relation to how health and safety measures are enacted, for example ‘play pods’.
‘Pedagogy is a term that is used to refer to the whole range of interactions which support the child’s development. It takes a holistic approach by embracing both care and education. It acknowledges the wide range of relationships and experiences within which development takes place and recognises the connections between them. It also supports the concept of the child as an active learner’ (Síolta, 2006). Such pedagogy must be supported, and educators must be adequately prepared and supported for its implementation.
Pedagogical leaders who know the many ways that children learn, and who know how important responsive and thoughtful interactions are to children’s development, can greatly influence and assist educators in developing their pedagogical practice. In this period of change and uncertainty, our image of the child as a capable, competent learner, remains the same. We also need to be aware that the child’s funds of knowledge may have deepened and developed in ways which we may not have thought possible but can embrace. Part of the work and responsibility of pedagogical leaders and pedagogues will involve problem solving and having the courage to act productively and creatively.
Pedagogical leaders can begin the conversations early, before the children arrive, start talking about what drives our work. What are the values and principles which underpin our image of the child, the values we put on learning, the values that we bring to learning and the impact these have on children? The ways in which we value relationships, either between ourselves as colleagues, with children, with families and now the wider community. The community which has shown such resilience, the community which we are all a part of and the community which is an important aspect of our current lives. Pedagogical leaders can drive the conversations, engage educators in a process of reflection and carve journeys of learning and development, both in themselves and in the children and families with whom they come into contact.
Pedagogical leaders can support the decisions that educators make, through engaging in conversations, developing shared understandings, which in turn can guide their actions in the many different ways in which they work. Pedagogical leadership can support educators to engage in debate and discussion, to be enquiring and confident to work and act in all types of learning situations which each new day can bring. Pedagogical leadership involves listening, observing and being thoughtful, traits which have been visible in our communities and which will be made visible again in our early learning and care settings as we progress to a new stage of life with COVID-19.