Date: 23-07-2021

Peer Learning Activities 2020 - A conversation with Gillian Cante

Many recent neurological studies have shown that violent and malicious educational practices impact a child’s emotional development and self-esteem. Questioning, defining, and understanding them in order modify our reactions becomes essential.

This is the topic addressed in the Peer Learning Activity (PLA)* entitled Gentle violence and ordinary educational violence: Tackling the issue and fostering children’s development of self-esteem and identity, hosted by Le Furet.

This PLA focused on these questions, aiming to help professionals question their practices and build quality within their teams. Participants learned to identify “ordinary educational violence”, develop active listening and respectful collaboration, and create evaluation methods to track their progression.

Read the interview with Gillian Cante, Chair of Le Furet, as she shares more on the theme, how it is used in Le Furet’s work and why she recommends others participate in PLAs.


Can you share a brief overview of the PLA you hosted online? (the topic, participants, number of sessions)

The workshop we ran was called ordinary violence and subtle violence, which is a sensitive theme for a lot of childcare providers. We really wanted to bring up notions of how we are with children, not what we know to do with children and how we know to take care of them, but more just about our professional posture and the subtle things we do that can send a different message to children and affect them emotionally in their development. We spend so much time with them in childcare. So we thought this is a very important subject to touch upon. So, we ran a session over four days, two and a half hour sessions, so a total of 10 hours. So it was quite a substantial program.

We could have done quite a bit more, but we knew that the time was limited. And so we ran this over two weeks at twice a week, and we had a total of 25 people who were signed up. We found ourselves with about seven participants, but very happy to have such a small group because it was dynamic. And we were able to do some interesting group work with them. 


What was the most meaningful part of hosting a PLA for you and your organization? 

One of the most meaningful things about hosting this kind of activity is meeting people from different backgrounds. I think it's also a big part of the value of ISSA -- these intercultural opportunities to meet others. 

Childcare is so based on our cultural perceptions and who we are as people. I think that being able to do a lot of sharing and group work was immensely enriching for everybody who participated. 

We had quite an interesting group, which meant that everybody brought their personal experiences and cultural references. To be able to share that was enriching. I wasn't expecting how enriching that would be.


Tell us were the main outcomes of your PLA, despite or due to being organized online?

One of the advantages of hosting a PLA online, and we might all be able to recognize this advantage, was being able to record what we were doing. Although I'm not a great fan of going and doing replays, I found it very interesting to go back and hear what some of the participants were saying – to go over and relive the moment. So that was, that was an interesting outcome to have. Because the technology [Zoom] allowed us to create classrooms, we still could get into groups and work and I could go into one group or the next to see how they were doing. It also enabled us to share some videos and some tools that were online. 

I'm hoping that the participants have come away with some more knowledge on how much attention we should pay to our subtle behaviors and our position as an adult -- this big, dominant position as an adult. And how seriously we should take that role and question our posture with children.  

One of the outcomes is that the participants will talk about this topic in their work. We did not have many childcare minders or childcare providers. We mainly had people who were involved in associations like our own who accompany professionals. So we're hoping that this subject will be transmitted throughout these programs elsewhere.


What would you like to let other ISSA Members know about hosting or participating in an online PLA? 

I congratulate ISSA for organizing this because I can only imagine the logistics behind getting everyone together. I'd have to say for anyone who's going to host a Peer Learning Activity, you should feel comfortable because we were accompanied very strongly by the ISSA team. Many thanks to Eva [Izsak] and everyone who helped us out -- answering those little questions that we had. We weren't thrown out there in the dark to try and figure this all out ourselves. 

I can highly recommend doing an activity regardless of the size of your organization. It's a very feasible activity to run. Obviously, technology helps out. You have to make sure you're comfortable with talking to the camera, but you're also talking to someone across the other side in the PLA, and we were able to create quite intimate groups.

Doing the PLA online is the opposite of what you might think. We created an intimate group, and we're able to talk openly and share. 


Can you share an example of how the topic of your PLA is important in your work?

Our organization has had over 20 years of working on questions of equality and combating discrimination in all its forms in early childhood. So the subject of ordinary violence is so pertinent to us. It's a subtle way that we discriminate in a lot of practices.  

Our postures are influenced by our beliefs and our social and cultural backgrounds. When we get into the field of early childhood, we have to do a "self-check" and make sure that we're on board with the importance of the role we're fulfilling for children in their first stages of development. We need to grow a deeper understanding of ourselves and the child's social and emotional needs.

The work that we've been doing is in this area is a cornerstone of all the work we do at Le Furet. It influences us in all of the training courses we run and the accompanying work we do with other networks and professionals.


Where can we find more information about this topic?

You can find more information on this topic on the Le Furet website, which is in French. For those who don’t know Le Furet actually means ferret, a little animal that digs and digs – a very curious animal.

The author who developed this outlook on ordinary violence is named Christine Schuhl, she is a good reference on this topic in French.


*Every year ISSA Members benefit from Peer Learning Activities (PLAs), which aim to build Members’ capacity, deepen their knowledge and act as enabling spaces for Members to co-create new knowledge. You can learn more about Peer Learning Activities offered in the ISSA Network here.


Listen to the interview clip.