LIKE Aunt Annie on Facebook

LIKE Aunt Annie on Facebook

LIKE Aunt Annie on Facebook

Monday, September 12, 2011

Advocacy versus 'professionalism': Aunt Annie pays the price

It's been a bit of a crazy day.

First off I got a call from one of my bosses to say that my services would no longer be required at that centre.  In other words, I was 'sacked' (if a casual worker can indeed be sacked).

The reason given was 'comments made on (my) blog and Facebook'.


Wow, okay, whatever... somehow I don't think that would wash if I was a permanent staff member, but a casual worker is always vulnerable to snap decisions like that, which cut across our human rights (like free speech).  I didn't argue; there was no point.  She can decide whether to employ me or not on any given day, and the answer is 'not' for my sins.

Yes, I'm okay, thank you- in fact I'm fine, because second cab off the rank today was another wonderful 'window of opportunity' opening up for me, perfectly timed (thank you karma!).  I'm excited about it already.

But I do think the issues of freedom of speech and frankness of opinion are well worth blogging about, because as carers and parents we have a responsibility to be advocates for children- and I want to acknowledge that it can be a dangerous task.  Everything I have written in this blog is written with an intention to be that advocate, but I just got the chop for my trouble.

 Of course mine is not an uncommon situation, in an age where the oldest generations (who are still largely the employers) continue to be a little (a lot?) paranoid about the new social media, while the much younger generations (who are largely the employees) thumb their noses and proclaim the value of absolute openness (see 'Julian Assange').  The boundaries around 'professional silence' and 'freedom of information in the public interest' have never been so fuzzy.

Me? I am an older person who has been surrounded all my life by young people, and so to a large extent I 'think young'. I believe that the world would be a far better place if people simply said what they meant, straight out and without fear, and if there were fewer secrets.  'Secret' can so easily become a dirty word (see 'child molester'). 'Secret' is the world of gossip, deception and misinformation. 'Secret' is not a good word to enforce around children. Yes, perhaps I have exposed some 'secrets' about some people's practice in these columns, and that has let loose the tiger.

This has led me to musing on the very concept of professionalism.  Have I been unprofessional?  I think not. I've been careful never to name children , staff or even centres where I've worked in any of my postings, nor to reveal that information through my profiles.  I never use facial photos (the only exception being one story where I obtained the permission of the parent) and I've never used photos from the centre in question.  Often I'll even change the sex of the child as well as the name, if it has no impact on my message.  To expose exactly who and where I'm blogging about- yes, that would be unprofessional and not in the interests of the children or the staff. I don't do that.

And I've worked at many centres, some for just a day and some for months, all of which have provided food for reflection from time to time in my blogging.  Even my closest friends would be hard pressed to recognise which experience came from which centre, unless they happened to work there too and were present at the time (and from there, it's up to them if they want to be unprofessional and tell the world the connection).

So to me, this anger has the scent of 'the cap fit, they wore it without any help from me, and then blamed me for talking about the cap'.  Good work, you.

If I turn this around into a positive instead of bewailing the unfairness of it, I can see that this centre has unwittingly taken some ownership of their ills by firing me.  And that, in the long run, is probably a good thing.  The things I've blogged about, and occasionally commented about on my Facebook page, are things that these people need to think about. Once they get over their anger at the feeling of exposure- the unfounded feeling of exposure, as only they know who they are- maybe they might reflect on why I wrote those stories or 'comments' down.

They will be too angry right now to acknowledge that the words were written in the best interests of children, but in fact that's exactly why they were written.  Yes, I am worried, and sometimes angered, by the way some people in responsible positions behave, towards the children and towards their peers. I am frustrated by some carers' failure to self-educate about pressing issues, their failure to seek appropriate rather than convenient solutions. I am open about my anger, worry and frustration.

(And yes, I did address a number of issues directly with this particular boss, with mixed results.   Which makes me wonder... but I digress.)

So, what do I discuss here or on other media that is deemed worthy of censorship?  I've run my mind back over my posts and comments, wondering what was so provocative.

It's not in the best interests of children to be wrapped in cotton wool and 'saved' from every tiny mishap, or to be denied a chance to understand risk.  Yep, I've talked about that.

Nor is it in the best interests of children to be forced outside to play for the teacher's convenience in cold, rainy, windy weather, or in burning heat during the hours when the UV alert is at its peak.  I may have mentioned that somewhere. Wouldn't you?

It's not in the best interests of children to have their carers on medication for depression because they are being bullied or are working in untenable conditions.  I certainly mentioned that.

Chaos in the physical environment is not good for children.  That got a column one time.

Staff who gossip and backstab instead of addressing real issues don't provide a good environment for children.  And a boss protecting 'friends' on staff just because they're friends, regardless of the failings of their practice- well, that's a worry for everyone.  Mm, there may have been a word here and there about that.

And so on.  This is just a small selection of the worrying things I have seen in a variety of centres over time.  Is talking about them a hanging offence? Apparently so.  Many of us allow such issues to be kept in the dark out of fear- a justified fear.

But I write about these things (and many others I've omitted here) anyway, because they are wrong. Because they need to be brought out into the light and addressed, instead of being repeated over and over, with observers too afraid of the political ramifications to say anything.  Cronyism, bullying, bad planning and bad practice go on unchecked in environments where the fear of retribution overcomes our responsibility to be an advocate for children.

I write knowing I'm taking a risk.  But the welfare of children, to me, takes precedence over that risk.  The right to free expression of the truth also takes precedence over risk.

And I get a LOT of positive reinforcement for the truth of what I write.  It's not just me seeing these things.  Good people gain courage when others talk openly about risky things.

So I lost my job- so what? I can still sleep easy at night.

And if someone, somewhere, thinks twice about the way they've been speaking to their co-workers, or allows a child the space to learn without 'saving' them, or changes their routine for the benefit of the children even when it doesn't suit their own needs, or stands up for someone who's being bullied at risk of their job, then it's been worth it.  That's why I'm here.


  1. well done Honey,.. Stick to what you believe,. I believe in YOU! xxxxx

  2. Good On you Love.. Keep up the good work. I am behind you all the way..

  3. I am so happy you have seen the bright side of today. You are a great worker and fantastic person. Good things will come your way.
    Well done.

  4. Their loss!
    You can move onto your next venture with your head held high.
    Love your blog, keep up the GREAT work, you have a gift.

  5. I have been reading your blog for a few months now, and being all the way in Canada, I obviously don't know any of the places you worked or the people you worked with. That said, I think you have been careful not to mention private information like names and places, and I have gained quite a lot from your writing. I appreciate a person who is willing to speak out for children, because as caregivers, we need to be using our best practices all the time. This field of work is not easy, nor is it for people who won't put children first. I hope all works out for you. Keep writing!

  6. Thank you to all of you for your support. Your encouragement and feedback are really important to me.

    Given that I can see a high level of interest in this post- most probably stemming largely from my former colleagues, some of whom seem to be taking the high moral ground- it's great for THEM to see that their point of view is not the be-all and end-all, and that there is a bigger picture than their own narrow centre-based view. It seems that it's easy to lose proportion in such a physically and emotionally demanding industry.

  7. Annie, I'm glad you can see the good in an upsetting situation. I so appreciate you views. Thanks for your advocacy for the little ones.

  8. I THINK YOUR VOICE IS UNIQUE and worth being heard. Also I don't know where you work or (I believe ) even your real name? Good Luck in your new venture. I'm a casual worker too but that does not make us "casual"

  9. Thank you, GNN. What a wonderful thing to say to me! 'Unique' is so rare in this world of the internet, so I take that as a huge compliment.

  10. I too have worked in this industry for many years and i can totally understand where your coming from annie. There is not enough people like you in this world. People who are willing to stand for whats right and at the end of the day fulfil your duty of care. Screw those ignorant, self riteous bastards that run centres and are too scared to be judged. As a society we spend millions tryign to create frameworks and regulations that will take this industry to new heights. But the reality is that whilever there is ignorant, gutless and power driven people sitting in a dorectors chair, they will never have the early years education that they speak of. The sad thing is their failures, both in the eyes of children adn those workers that they fail to inspire and mentor. Dont ever stop telling the truth, dont ever stop holding yourself to your duty of care. Screw them. YOU ROCK!!!

  11. Well thanks for your support, Lisa M. I hear that you have plenty of anger about these issues, as do others I know who are too cowed by fear of retribution to speak or write of them publicly.

    Yes, I think there probably is a genuine level of ignorance out there about social media; it's a bit sad that those in control (and this applies to all workplaces, not just childcare) can't see that anonymous criticism is a valuable self-evaluation tool.

    The internet makes it possible to hear that criticism without drawing public attention to the fact that it's YOU being criticised, but the possibility of quietly self-correcting doesn't occur to these people, because they are overwhelmed by defensiveness (which does often come over as self-righteousness).

    The irony of these people's actions is that by making a public scene about my blog at the workplace, they've drawn many of my former colleagues to read a blog they would otherwise never have accessed. They've made any implied criticisms in my comments (none of which, I might add, are my opinion alone) much more public.

    Some readers, having been given the heads-up that it's 'all about them' (which is actually very misleading), will perhaps recognise their own behaviour. The question is, will they change? Will they even question their own values?

    HONEST self-evaluation is the true mark of a professional; blindly following some outdated notion of corporate secrecy, and gossiping vindictively about those who are more honest and open when things go wrong, is not.


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