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Critical Issues in Early Childhood Education

By Nicola Yelland | Go to book overview

8

Learning to be a child:
Cultural diversity and early
years ideology

Liz Brooker

The outer door opened and Amadur and Mohiuddin were shepherded in by their
mothers. As it closed behind them, all four stood stiffly just inside the room,
staring ahead. Mrs Goode approached them with a welcoming smile: 'Hi there,
come on in, lovely to see you! Mums, you can go, these two will be fine. Come on
boys.' She took the hands of the 4 year-olds and led them cheerfully towards the
sandbox, leaving their mothers to exchange glances and then exit, backwards
through the door. Amadur and Mohiuddin stood beside the sandbox looking
blank and bewildered. Mrs Goode collected shovels, gave one to each of them,
and dug industriously herself. After a few moments both boys dutifully squatted
on the floor and began to dig, in imitation. They continued this way for some
time, and Mrs Goode, after praising their efforts, moved off to another activity.
The two boys, who were cousins, slowed their shovelling, stopped, and stared at
each other.

(Field notes, All Saints' School, 7th September)


Introduction

Like Amadur and Mohiuddin, I was new to Mrs Goode's classroom that September (although, like them, I had visited in the previous term, before the summer break). Unlike them, however, I at once felt completely at home in the room, a glorious oasis of informal, child-centred, play-based learning in the midst of a rather squalid inner-urban neighbourhood. And like Mrs Goode, I was confident that the environment would soon become equally comfortable and natural for these boys, who had never experienced anything like it before.

It took me a year of observation and participation in Mrs Goode's room, and a long period of reflection afterwards, to think through these assumptions and weigh up the benefits for young children from diverse class and cultural backgrounds of the early years provision they are offered. 'Thinking through' involves moving beyond the particular experiences of particular children in

-115-

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