C&S SIGN SEMINAR SERIES (Tamara Cumming)

Early childhood educators’ well-being: From invisibility to a logic of ‘and’

DATE & TIME: 22nd May, 12.30-1.30

LOCATION: Committee Room 2, Town Hall, MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY, LONDON, NW4 4BT


Dr Tamara Cumming (Charles Sturt University, Australia)

Discourses of well-being abound in early childhood education policy documents and practice guidelines across many national contexts. However, there is a discursive silence regarding the well-being of educators. At the same time, research increasingly demonstrates ways that the quality of educators’ well-being can support or impede their ability to provide high quality education and care. Why then, the silence?

This seminar will have two parts. In the first part I will propose three inter-connected reasons for the silence concerning educators’ well-being. These reasons relate to dominant discourses regarding the purpose of early childhood education, a lack of attunement by service providers to the importance of educator well-being, and neo-liberal socio-political regimes. Their interconnection forms a discursive landscape in which attention to educators’ well-being can find little ground. Using what Deleuze and Guattari (1987) referred to as the logic of ‘and’, I will argue for a discursive space where attention to educators’ needs and rights can co-exist with attention to the needs and interests of children, families and national economies.

With a new space established, in the second part of the seminar I will outline a program of research that I co-lead in Australia regarding educators’ well-being. The purpose of The Early Childhood Educator Well-being Project is to effect policy change in Australia, and to generate evidence to inform approaches to better support educators’ well-being more broadly. The project uses interviews, psychometric, physical and physiological measures to holistically assess educators’ well-being. Combined data from 100 educators (assessed to date) illustrates a cohort with high job satisfaction, but with troubling (sometimes alarming) levels of stress, emotional exhaustion and poor health. These findings make even more urgent the question: how can we progress an agenda of holistic attention to educator well-being that requires action from providers and policymakers as well as individuals?

Dr Tamara Cumming is a lecturer and researcher working at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, Australia. Her research interests are centred on early childhood educators – the complexity of their practice, their well-being, and workforce sustainability. She is primarily a qualitative and post structural researcher who also dabbles in the ponds of quantitative and biometric methodologies. Tamara currently co-leads the Early Childhood Educator Well-being Project – a multi-disciplinary program of research; is a co-investigator on an Australian Research Council-funded project investigating the work of exemplary early childhood educators; and part of the CSU Workplace Well-being Research Unit, investigating the well-being of child protection caseworkers. She is visiting Denmark and the UK as part of her CSU Research Fellowship investigating Early childhood educators’ well-being: local data, international perspectives and multi-disciplinary translations.