What about teachers’ cultures?: Elevating early childhood teachers’ cultural stories and identities

Year: 2021

Author: Arndt, Sonja, Bartholomaeus, Clare

Type of paper: Individual Paper

National and international curricula and policy documents commonly call for teachers to nurture cultural belonging for young children and their families. Meanwhile, there remains a critical gap in addressing teachers’ cultural belonging. In this presentation we reimagine educational futures by elevating the importance of early childhood teachers’ sense of belonging and wellbeing, and paying attention to their cultural realities. We explore the multilayered ways in which teachers’ cultures and intercultural understandings interweave with and are created in their (hi)stories, orientations and practices, place, interactions with colleagues, and relationships with children and their families. Furthermore, we highlight the significance of early childhood teachers’ work with very young children who are at a crucial juncture in forming their own attitudes within culturally diverse Australian communities and society.The presentation is twofold. Firstly, it draws on a philosophical study of early childhood teachers’ subject formation and cultural Otherness, emphasising the complexity and rawness of identity construction, through the lens of Julia Kristeva’s poststructural feminist philosophy of the foreigner. Adopting a poststructural feminist stance opens up spaces for the uncertainties and multiplicities of teachers’ identities, as never fully known or knowable, even to themselves. Secondly, the presentation draws on initial findings from a pilot project involving teachers and educators from an Australian context in the storying of their cultural histories, realities and belonging. This project examines conceptualisations of teachers’ cultural selves as crucial in shaping responsive pedagogical environments and curricula not only for children but also for themselves, by proposing a collaborative draft framework for practice for early childhood education. Conducting our research in the current COVID climate means that our interactions with participants occurred in virtual spaces. Participants’ storying of their own cultural identities however, occurred within their own locally situated spaces, using multi-modal formats. Thinking through these cultural stories creates a space for teachers’ identity constructions to strengthen culturally meaningful attitudes and practices in early childhood education in Australia.