by Kandace Ortega, On-Site Substitute, Hilltop Children’s Center

The first words that might come to mind for some people when they hear “preschool teacher” are “cute,” or “wholesome,” or “women’s work” — but that’s not all it is, and not how it should be perceived. Being an early childhood educator can also be one of the most rebellious careers one chooses, and here’s why…

Punk was founded on the principles that you can do-it-yourself, that you should do what you want whether it’s popular and socially acceptable or not, that you should question everything, and that community is culture. This ethos also flows pretty well with the values we hold, here at Hilltop.

These mind-frames come into play when we support an emergent curriculum, where children pave the way for the work and play we get into. What better way to get what you want, than to do it yourself? We offer open-ended materials so that kids can take their play in any direction they want, rather than the ones prescribed by closed-ended toys that can pretty much only play out one storyline. And if we don’t have what children want, they can make it with the materials provided. We see kids constructing elaborate stories and games using simple things like rocks, gems, blocks, etc. – inventing things that would be impossible to make with a boxed set of themed toys.

blog-12-22-16aOne recent example of this is when kids wanted specific colors of paint that we didn’t have, we got out different colors, and tools for mixing, and let them have at it – creating and naming their own colors to share with their friends. The joy that comes from doing-it-yourself is the backbone of many subcultures where people make their own music, clothes, art, or publications, and is a joy that is valuable for kids to experience now.

When we meet their questions with more questions, to have them think more deeply and figure things out on their own, we are reinforcing the value of thinking for yourself, and not believing the first thing you’re told. Using your own brain to come up with your own opinions, and not just following dogma, is a value that is (or should be) prevalent in early childhood education.

The anti-bias approach is also prevalent in punk cultures. At Hilltop, we hope to instill in kids the value of sticking up for what’s right, and encourage them to be an advocate for themselves and others. We tell kids that they can do, wear, and be whatever they want, regardless of age, gender, sex, socioeconomic background, race, heritage, nationality, etc, without needing to fit into expected norms.

Culture and community come into play for both the punk movement, and early childhood education. Members of the Hilltop community may come from diverse backgrounds and contexts, but we all stay at Hilltop because we love the culture and we believe in it. Being surrounded by individuals who value independence, inquiry and connection – whether it’s families or colleagues or kids – gives a sense of community and pride that is a great basis for growing into the person you were meant to be. As the Ramones say, “gabba gabba, we accept you, we accept you, one of us.”

 

Kandace Ortega is the On-Site Substitute at Hilltop Children’s Center, where she has worked since 2014.