I remember discovering Sonia Mainstone Cotton’s work on early years educators wellbeing for the first time over five years ago now. Reading her book “promoting emotional wellbeing in early years staff” was a pivotal moment. I remember feeling seen, understood and actually like I was not alone. All those years ago we were just not talking about mental health in the way we do now. This meant that as an early years educator coming to terms with mental health illness, I felt shame, guilt and I hid that part of me and did not talk about it.
There really was nothing else written, taught or talked about when it came to the wellbeing of early years educators other than Sonia’s book full of tools, tips and ideas at the time she was a stand-alone nurturing, caring voice in our sector. So to say I have been influenced by her work and that book is an understatement. I recommend her work far and wide and it’s always top of the reading lists that I share. I have put her words into quotes, made and shared infographics. One of the reasons I write wellbeing as one word, as this is how it was written in this book! Being dyslexic I thought if Sonia writes it like this, then so will I!
I reached out to connect with Sonia full of enthusiasm and gratitude and over the years I have since had the pleasure of working alongside her on a variety of projects, articles, podcasts and soon to be my very own book. When I was approached to write a book proposal for Routledge Education on educator wellbeing with the series editor being Sonia. It was like a full-circle moment. One filled with uncertainty and doubt. Sonia’s book was such a source of information and comfort how could I do a subject that is so close to my heart justice.
Well, I didn’t do it alone. I did it with the help support and encouragement of early years mentors, friends and colleagues. Who, like Sonia, graciously gave their time, words, energy and guidance to share perspectives on mental health and wellbeing that I hope gives comfort and hope and is a source of information when it is published, like Sonia’s book, gave to me.
“Sunflowers follow the sun. But did you know when it is cloudy and grey they turn and face each other and share their energy. “- Unknown.
It’s also got me thinking, how in the early years social media world, we all influence each other in so many different types of ways. Some little covert small ways and some much bigger more overt ways. There are also some prominent names that represent the sector that people listen to and want to be seen with. There are also everyday humans who are just as special and should be equally valued for their contribution, their work and hands-on real-life practice. Acknowledging all of the many ways in which we develop, learn and grow from each other in what might be reciprocal relationships, or from strangers through an Instagram post, a blog, podcast, conversation or tweet, or from a colleague at work. All of them personally and professionally help shape us and that is a critical aspect of our ongoing development that we must consider and value with more intention and respect.
“Being aware of your privilege allows you to spend it to benefit other people. As you move through the world, think of the opportunities you could pass on or how you could give up space for people who don’t have the same access to important spaces that you do. Real change happens when we give up power, without telling anyone we did it.” Florence Given.
As my early years friends, Laura Henry Allain and Jamel Carly Campbell often say, we should give people their flowers. Let’s give out those special bunches of early years flowers to all of those people who make up our sector, who are doing the work. Let us act with more intention, make room, elevate and amplify the work of others and acknowledge we are all worthy of them.
Reflect on who has inspired and influenced you lately? Tag them, tell them and celebrate them.
Sonia Mainstone Cotton