As Positive Spin works with the field of early childhood education across the state and across the nation, common themes surface as to what the current realities are for our communities and for our profession. It never fails that “the lack of recognition” comes up as a barrier to our field’s long-term success and sustainability, often times even rising above compensation in importance to people. It is widely known by those of us in the field that something needs to be done to increase the public awareness of the value of our work and of the contributions that early childhood professionals make to their communities. What is less known, however, is that this work needs to begin at the individual level.
Positive Spin’s approach to community building is informed by the practices and principles of appreciative inquiry. As such, one of the discovery questions we ask people when we are supporting their professional development is: Without being humble, choose a word that describes what you value most about yourself, your work, and/or your community. What we noticed as we adopted this practice was that many members of our field have a hard time identifying and stating their value. We hear that they don’t like to brag, that they aren’t in the business of thinking about themselves, instead, they care about others, and that they have never been asked this question before, so it is hard to answer. What started to become clear was that this lack of connection to our value at the individual level is likely contributing to our lack of recognition from people outside of our field. If we cannot state our contribution and talk clearly about what added value we bring to our communities, we are going to be limited in our collective ability to help others to see it. So rather than jumping ahead to focus our efforts on a public awareness campaign, Positive Spin began by engaging in and promoting a workforce awareness campaign that we call Team Human.
Team Human promotes the value of early childhood by giving members of the field an opportunity to identify and celebrate the essential skills, attributes, strengths and characteristics that they share with their communities. On a deeper level, the project supports the practice of self-reflection and the development of self-worth, while helping those involved reconnect with their sense of purpose. Perhaps most importantly, by creating a visual representation of all of the individual strengths and contributions within our system, Team Human emphasizes the importance of coming together and highlights the collective power that we have to create positive social change.