New Paths

by

Sinéad Matson

5th March 2021

In 2008, I was managing a full day service in Dublin city centre having recently returned from Australia. I was grappling with the new regulations and inspections which had come into place and it was quite an isolating experience. I had also experienced emergent curriculum methods in Australia that really challenged what I thought and how I practiced as a Montessori professional in Ireland. I couldn’t find anywhere (apart from a parenting website forum) to discuss shared practice and the problems I was coming across in my work. At that stage everyone in Ireland were in competition with each other and nobody shared information. If you didn’t go to a certain college and worked in a competitor’s service - then you were the enemy. Facebook was just becoming popular, so I decided to set up a community of practice for Montessori Teachers than eventually grew into Montessori and Early Childhood Professionals Ireland (MECPI). I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams what it would become! It is now the largest online community of practice in Ireland with over 7,000 members and rising daily.

A team of admins grew along with MECPI and they helped to run the community of practice and keep the community informed of updates in the sector and professional standards of best practice. It is a twenty four hours a day, seven days a week job than requires passion and a thick skin. We certainly had to make a lot of unpopular decisions over the years in order to keep true to the core ideals of our community of professional practice. I didn’t mind working so hard all the time and was so proud of everything that we accomplished and how the community grew more professionalised and shared everything from practice to research, and more.

In the last eighteen months managing the community of practice was very tough for me. It has always impacted my personal life at intermittent times over the last twelve years but the last eighteen months in particular had a huge impact on my personal life. I was determined to carry on and to ensure its transition from Facebook group to registered not for profit company to ensure its professionalisation along with the professionals who made up its membership – which was the plan. During the pandemic, the sector grew very quiet and apart from helping employees who were having difficulties with employers there wasn’t much to do. I took a leave of absence while the other admins took over and kept everyone up to date with schemes, FAQ’s, and such. It allowed me to concentrate on finishing my PhD thesis which was officially signed off as finished yesterday (although I still have my thesis defence left to do).

However, I made the decision to leave MECPI entirely and did so two weeks ago. I have realised that life is too short to allow a volunteer position (no matter how passionate I am about it) to impact on my personal life so much. I have loved the last twelve years; what we have achieved, the friendships and the professional connections I have made, and I will always champion MECPI, its admins, and its professionals. I love our sector and am so passionate about Early Childhood Education and Care, and always will be. However, it is time for me to step away and figure out what to do next. So, I wish you all the very best of luck in your careers. Please say hello when we are allowed back out and about at conferences and the likes again. Thank you for the last twelve years, particularly all the admins along the way. Best of Luck and keep in touch. You can find me on twitter @montigirl so please do say hi.

Sinéad

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