Cathy Nutbrown a a School of Education, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

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1 This article was downloaded by: [ ] On: 14 September 2012, At: 04:54 Publisher: Routledge Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: Registered office: Mortimer House, Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK International Journal of Early Years Education Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: A box of childhood: small stories at the roots of a career Cathy Nutbrown a a School of Education, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK Version of record first published: 16 Nov To cite this article: Cathy Nutbrown (2011): A box of childhood: small stories at the roots of a career, International Journal of Early Years Education, 19:3-4, To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE Full terms and conditions of use: This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.

2 International Journal of Early Years Education Vol. 19, Nos. 34, SeptemberDecember 2011, A box of childhood: small stories at the roots of a career Cathy Nutbrown* School of Education, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK (Received 1 May 2010; accepted 1 July 2011) This paper emerges from a view that the growing body of self-reflective qualitative research designs elsewhere in education is insufficiently represented in early childhood enquiry. Research of this sort has a rich capacity to inform critical understanding with experiential data that reveal the remarkable within the quotidian; more specifically, it has the potential to give some access to the small secret stuff of childhood that though often observed in literary work is frequently obscured in social science report. Our own experiences not least of the world of children from which we are all graduates are no less overshadowed in most of our critical accounts. In this paper the exploration of my own childhood provides a ground for an autoethnographic enquiry realised through nine short stories. The paper first describes the visual/sensory ethnographic process, which gave life to the accounts before presenting the stories themselves. It then argues the usefulness of reflexivity and autoethnography in early childhood education research, and a conclusion urges further reflective enquiry from the early childhood education community. Keywords: sensory ethnography; visual ethnography; autoethnography; reflexive ethnography; stories; self; childhood Introduction: objects and memories I think that I always wanted to be a teacher...i have spent my adult life working in early childhood education; first as a nursery teacher and later in a University, teaching and researching in the field of early childhood education. From time to time, I wonder about how I found my way to this career, and what is was that fuelled my deep interest in young children s learning, and where my beliefs about childhood might be rooted. I bought a wooden box from IKEA which housed nine drawers and started to put them together but gave up too much nailing and banging. Someone did it for me. The assembled drawers sat around for a few days like a new trophy in my kitchen, while I thought about painting the fronts of each drawer decorating them maybe. I wondered what they were for. And then I had a strangely beguiling idea. A box of childhood a bit like the self-boxes I had encountered once as an external examiner to an education and psychotherapy module of a doctorate programme but different. These nine drawers would, I decided, include objects or symbols of something that was important in my childhood and which bore some relation or hinted some sort of connection to my beliefs and practices and ethos in education today. What do I think? Where did it come from? What are my values? How were * ISSN print/issn online # 2011 Taylor & Francis

3 234 C. Nutbrown they nurtured? Why do I teach what I teach? How I teach? Why do I research what I research? So I bought a new note book, brown cover and brown paper pages, and on the first page I drew a plan of what would go in the box initially I used just one or two words for each drawer bible, doll, skipping rope, piano and dogs later these became more embellished notes: collection of small balls of wool and a half knitted bobble hat in stripes off the needles ; the really huge doll from Woolworths (Figure 1). And so I began to start to build the fragments of stories small stories which lie somewhere in the roots of my life and work in education and whose significance were hitherto unexplored. It was not long before I changed my mind about what should be in the drawers. There were only nine and I could only have one thing in each drawer. When I say thing I mean one idea, one memory; though I decided that I could put more than one thing in the drawer as long as together they represented one experience, or event, or memory. Odd, these rules I was creating for myself. Puppies were listed at one point but they gave way to The Orange a story I was told by Mrs Polmeor on my first day at school. So my second set of choices saw other changes, and the cry corner and the white china bowl pushed out the skipping rope (Figure 2). It s interesting the things that get left out in the end. The Orange Story got left out too, in the end, in favour of fresh smelling bread and the bread shop at the bottom of the cobbled hill where my gran lived. I didn t remember the Orange Story I just remember my mother reminding me one day that the story I was told on my first day at school was about an orange (so in a way that was her story, not mine). I don t recall the story. I want as far as possible these stories to be from my own memories, and this is not necessarily easy for remembering for ourselves, is a case of defending ourselves against the encroachments of others on our memories (Haug 1987, 36) and, as Mitchell and Weber (1999) note, our memories are often mediated by others and: Figure 1. Plan 1: first thoughts.

4 International Journal of Early Years Education 235 Figure 2. Plan 2: developing ideas....what we remember as adults about our childhood is often mediated by what we are told about ourselves as children: Here we are thinking of how children ask parents over and over again Tell me again about the time... (27) So, the Orange Story lost out to the Bread Story because that one was mine. My task to assemble objects that tell my stories was not easy. I m pleased there are only nine drawers I don t really remember much before I was eight years old. And I m interested to learn as I gather artefacts to fill these drawers. In most cases I don t have the real things so photos, facsimiles and symbolic equivalents will have to do. I m interested in the reasons for my choices why these came to mind and what they might mean to me. All these things were part of my life in some way before I was about eight years old. But though that may be interesting in itself what I m really interested in here is why I recall these particular life fragments (Brogden 2006; Tierney 2010) and if they have left me with something that I have brought into my adult life and my career in education and furthermore, if there is anything in this exploration that can informs research practices and methodologies which seek better to understand aspects of work with young children. The autoethnographic process At heart is the issue of identity; bound up in the autoethnographic process is the exploration of identity, by asking questions such as: Who am I? Who was I then? What am I about? Where do my beliefs and values come from? Pahl and Rowsell (2010, 8) suggest that: Identities are the seas of stuff and of experiences. These experiences are intertwined with material culture...in visits to homes Kate found that people told stories that were often linked to artefacts, and these artefacts themselves told stories of loss, displacement and migration...when people move across borders, objects remain powerful in their memories, which are evoked in their stories.

5 236 C. Nutbrown At the beginning of my own autoethnographic process I painted the drawers and covered the outside with old newspaper cuttings and photos taken during my childhood, some relating to objects in the drawers (Figure 3) began to fill the drawers with the things I had finally decided should be in them. It was quite hard to find symbolic equivalents (Yalom 1989) for some so I trawled ebay, and antique shops to find just the right artefacts. I borrowed old photos from my mother, found a book from my childhood in her attic cupboard, and gradually my collection came together: a funny array of oddments (Figure 4), which together prompted nine short stories. As collected, handled, pondered and arranged the objects I turned my stories over in my head. And when this sensory stage was set and I could begin to write the stories, to unpick (or pick up) the stories this odd little collection of objects gave rise to. The stories Sunday school treat Whit Monday that was how it was called. Never Pentecost, not to the children at least, not even Whitsuntide, but Whit Monday. The religious significance of the timing of the event escaped us children, we simply enjoyed wearing new clothes (often white) and our newly whitened plimsolls, to walk around the town (it was called Marching but I never really saw anyone marching we sort of walked behind the band...through the streets. The younger men carried huge embroidered banners two carried the long poles and others carried tapes, which kept the banners from flapping so that everyone could read the texts; there s a photo in my mother s album of one of the banners being carried through the streets. It reached the roofs of the two story houses that line the narrow street, and reads Primitive Methodist Ebenezer Sabbath School. Established The boys had smaller flags set on lengths of thick dowelling in bright colours Suffer the little children, Jesus loves little children, God bless our Sunday School, Jesus saves, Joy, Hallelujah, For God so loved the world...most of the girls held hands and rang the bells Figure 3. The box of childhood.

6 International Journal of Early Years Education 237 Figure 4. Collection of objects that filled the drawers of the box of childhood. attached to the tape which formed a moving pen to keep us herded safely in our rows as we marched. And then out to Man s Head the cliff side above Porthmeor beach to eat saffron buns and run the races...the old people sat down at trestle tables on the chairs brought out that morning from the Sunday School to a Faith Tea. The table covered in which cloths with blue cups and saucers and tea plates. I remember the chink of the teaspoons. There were sandwiches, I think, but mostly saffron cake, cream and jam scones, sweet cakes things like that. All set out and served to the older ones by bossy women who wouldn t let the children sit at the table you ve had your bun!...and behaved like they had baked everything themselves (perhaps they had!). Tea was poured from huge teapots into the blue china cups. And the town band, seated now, played throughout the afternoon. So we did everything to the sound of hymns we ran the three legged race to Onward Christian Soldiers and the old people ate their tea to the tune of Nearer my God to Thee. Everyone was there, newborn babies, the elderly...everyone and people all had their jobs...and we didn t go home until the sun started to set... They don t have the tea and races at Man s Head any more Health and Safety have long since put pay to children running races at the side of an unprotected cliff edge! And soon the marching through the street may have to stop too, something to do with crowd control, or policing or the worry that if the Chapel is allowed to march then other organisations can claim a right to march too...so local traditions fade...but my memory is clear and though the photos are mostly in black and white, my memory is in full colour. Wool Auntie Gracie was my grandmother s sister, my father s aunt. She was lovely I think everyone loved Gracie she was the only sister (of five I think Ethel, Frances, Mary, Lizzie and Gracie) who didn t marry. I always remember her being quite old (though I doubt that she was more than 50), with grey hair swept up in a bun and held with a slide at the back, and I was about eight years old when she died (I remember choosing a china perfume bottle as a memory token). I used to visit her.

7 238 C. Nutbrown Her front door was at the top of a long run of granite steps, above her brother John s fisherman s cellar. And sometimes there was a distinct smell of pitch from the nets and crab pots stored there. I can t recall much about begin with her but that I enjoyed her company...and she knitted and so always has lots of small balls of wool left over from her knitting. They were all colours and I would often return from her house with a little bag containing several small balls of coloured wool she kept them in a big cloth bag on a shelf at the top of her cellar steps. I don t remember ever knitting with her it was my Auntie Martha (my mum s sister) who taught me to knit, around about the same time, dolls clothes, using Auntie Gracie s tiny balls of wool. St. Ives Some of my childhood happened because of the people, but there is an aspect of my childhood that is as it is because of where I was a child...(perhaps that s the case for many children). As a child the beach and the sea were a taken for granted part of my life the idea of living where there was no sand or sea or coastline never occurred to me. My collection of objects which represent my seaside childhood include a miniature bucket and spade, a fishing line (for the rock pools), a model of the lifeboat and the sound of the salvation army band marching down the prom to the open-air service on the harbour slipway on Sunday evenings. My seaside summers also included many days huddled in a blanket because it was so cold, or squeezed with several other family members into a tiny beach hut which we rented for the weeks of August. It was summer so we went to the beach rain or shine! The tanker, Torrey Canyon ran into the rocks off Lands End. It broke in two and spewed oil into the sea. It didn t take long for the oil to reach the St. Ives coastline. I still remember the stench of the oil and the detergent...no one really knew what to do to stop the ruin of the sea, and the beaches and the marine life. I remember the planes bombing the wreck and the soldiers many saturated in oil themselves, who were drafted into the town as part of the clear up operation...i volunteered to wash some of the oil soaked seabirds...i was told I was too young...that summer the beaches were pretty empty fewer people came to stay in the town that didn t bother me I hated it when the place was crowded, but the rocks were covered in patches of oil and if you dug too far down into the sand you could find lumps of oil mixed in with the sand where the bulldozers had tried to bury it...that bothered me. Bread My Mum s parents lived in a lovely house on three floors at the top of Bunkers Hill opposite the Sunday School. It wasn t a hill so such as a gentle, cobbled incline, with about 20 houses, tall and narrow many with pretty pots of flowers outside. The bakers was at the bottom of Bunkers Hill and on Saturdays I was allowed to go and get the loaf of bread white sandwich please I would say I didn t need to, they knew me and they knew the bread my grandparents had each Saturday, but saying it seemed important to me. Inside the tiny shop (with the bakery at the back) the smells of freshly baked bread and saffron cakes were heady. I hugged the loaf wrapped in tissue paper close as I walked over the cobbles back up the hill, and could feel the warmth against my body. I could never resist picking at the

8 International Journal of Early Years Education 239 corner of the crust, and eating the warm doughy bread and somehow thought they would never notice that a corner of their loaf was missing. No one ever mentioned it. Cry corner I cried quite a lot and had temper tantrums I would lie on the floor and kick and scream. I can t remember why but I do remember the frustration of not being understood. So my parents came up with this idea that I could cry as much as I wanted as long as I did it in a particular corner in the house. The room was one used for most things there was a table, the black and white television, an armchair it had a patterned greeny carpet with swirls. I remember looking down and crying I traced the swirls with my eyes. The walls were plaster, painted a very pale grey. Cold. I hated the cry corner as they called it. They would rush me to the corner as soon as tears started and give me a small white china bowl. It was to catch the tears. Standing, facing the cold grey walls, holding the bowl, I hated them and the corner and the bowl why didn t I ever drop it, smash it? A few times, in adult hood, my mother has said to me Do you remember the cry corner? said with a smile. Remember it? No problem what I d like to do is forget it! I think they thought they had come up with a really effective strategy to stop me crying but what I remember is the feeling of being completely misunderstood and utterly humiliated. About a year ago my mother started to tell my daughter about the cry corner. Do you remember the cry corner? she asked me. How could I forget it! I hated it! She laughed. Buttons There was a button tin. I think it was at my gran s house but I m not sure. It offered endless entertainment...i d find the ones that were like treasure, gold, or shiny or with a diamond or ruby set inside. I d find the things that didn t belong there, a tiepin, an earring, a safety pin, a sixpence...i would look for all the red buttons see how many green ones I could find that matched, buttons with two holes, buttons with four holes buttons covered in fabric...endless sorting and organising...i would make pictures with the buttons all the blue for the sky, green ones for the grass, flowers (from flower shaped buttons) and a house ours, of brown buttons with windows, and a dog in the garden...a temporary mosaic. I wonder what happened to the button tin. Whose was it? And who was it that knew I could be solitarily content for hours, given a tin buttons? Book The inscription in red biro in my mother s handwriting shows that the book was given to me when I was three, a Christmas present. In my childhood the book was huge but I remember being mildly disappointed when, a few years ago, I pulled it out of an attic cupboard at my parents house. It smelled musty and was much smaller than I remember...there were 48 stories in the book but my favourite was the one about Ukelele, a little girl who lived in a straw hut on a beautiful island. She played on the beach all day with her doll a simple doll made of wood. One day a large boat came and one of the men from the boat gave Ukelele a doll china with finely stitched clothes. Ukelele liked the doll but found that she couldn t play with

9 240 C. Nutbrown her on the beach as she did her old doll because sand got in her hair and the sea ruined her clothes. Soon the old doll was re-established as the favourite (Figure 5). Dentist I had six back teeth out when I was eight years old, baby teeth because of decay. I was put to sleep using a stinking gas mask. When I woke up the pain was excruciating. I thought my aching teeth were still there. I screamed to the utter embarrassment of my mother who told me that if I stopped crying I could choose anything I wanted from Woolworths. I chose a doll standing about three feet high with ginger ringlets, a red cotton dress, socks, shoes and white knickers. Sometimes I took off the red dress and she wore some of my clothes. My mum recalled to me recently how she couldn t quite believe that I chose such a thing, but she was true to her word, grateful that my tears of pain and shock subsided. Piano teacher I wasn t sure I wanted to write this story, but it belongs here. I had several music teachers, and loved music, singing, playing, listening I still do. Four of my five music teachers were heroes, wonderful teachers and talented musicians. They encouraged and challenged me, helped me to perform in ways I never believed I could. But the other didn t do any of those things. He was a fine musician and, for a while, he was my piano teacher I didn t practice much but quite liked the lessons. I managed to pass grades 1 and 2 and the theory exams too. And I took grade 3 and passed not well 117 marks (100 was the pass mark I think with 150 distinction) see I remember the mark to this day. Pleased when he gave me my results, I never knew how to deal with his comment that he only entered you so that you might fail and your parents might be persuaded not to send you for lessons anymore. There are other stories of course. But these here are the ones I m up for sharing. In selecting which of my stories to tell, there is an element of Goffman s (1959) notion of front. These are small and simple stories that I am content to make public, and which do not affront any front I wish to maintain as professor, mother and daughter. To continue with Goffman s terms relating to face-to-face performance of the self, the stories told here are open to misinterpretation but I maintain expressive control. When individuals draw self-consciously on something of themselves they make the familiar strange in the act of remaking versions of their story. Were you to have asked my mother, or Auntie Gracie, or the dentist, or the piano teacher you may well have been told different stories. Indeed I cannot escape the ethical issue that lies at the heart of any personal-made-public because, as Erben (1993, 47) acknowledges: It is a very rare autobiography that does not contain within its pages many, shorter or longer, biographies of other people who figure, in different times and places, in the subject s life. (Erben 1993, 47) But these stories are mine, and in order to tell them I have undertaken a role of protector too, of those who feature in my stories, adopting an ethic of care (Ellis 2007; Israel and Hay 2006; Noddings 2003) in my approach to writing the stories. I have adhered also to ethical scrutiny as required by my University alongside my an

10 International Journal of Early Years Education 241 Figure 5. Page from the Ukelele story. ethical/moral position of being responsible towards those who, as Erben puts it figure in my stories; an issue which has to be acknowledged and to which individual autoethnographers must ultimately find their own (re)solutions (Israel and Hay 2006; Lee 1993). Such (re)solutions differ; as studies of, for example, elite sport, autobiographical research and academic departments attest (Harrison and Stina Lyon 1993; Hurdley 2010; Mellick and Fleming 2010). I chose these stories because I want to use them to explore something of what lies at the root of an academic career in early childhood education and, perhaps more importantly, to argue that research in this field needs to push out from the saf(er) boundaries of established methodologies and seek out the small stuff of childhood, in order better to disrupt the crafted gaze (Holmes 2009) and differently influence policy, practice and research which involve young children s learning towards a more democratic and respectful response to children. I say this because I believe that in knowing ourselves as adults who work with young children, that we can better know and empathise with the children we teach and with our students at University level as they reflect on their work with young

11 242 C. Nutbrown children. For example, sometimes in thinking back to times in our own childhoods when we felt uncertain, puzzled, hurt, excited, betrayed, confused, loved, educators of young children might better stand (as if) in the shoes of the young children they serve. We can use our own childhoods to enhance our understanding of today s young children because we can allow ourselves to probe at the feelings and experiences which were our own, and give ourselves permission to consider those things which often remain hidden sometimes because they are too mundane and sometimes because they are too private or difficult to hold out in the open and so are often not really understood. They are, in a sense a means by which those truths which cannot otherwise be told, are uncovered (Clough 2002, 8). Autoethnography and the reflexive self? What is autoethnography? you might ask. My brief answer: research, writing, story, and method that connect the autobiographical and personal to the cultural, social and political. (Ellis 2004, xix) The question as to what form of methodology this paper takes depends upon the stance of the reader. For my part, I have drawn on Denzin s (1989) view of biographical method which reaches into and takes from a range of methodological approaches and stances, ranging from autobiography to self-story or personal experience story with life-story and case history somewhere in between. There is a sense here in which I have othered my younger self, in telling her stories, and in doing so here am blending my own observations (and memories) with my own selfreport (Denzin and Lincoln 2005). There is a fuzziness here, of course, but:...there is no clear window into the inner life of an individual. Any gaze is always filtered through the lenses of language. Gender, social class, race, and ethnicity. There are no objective observations, only observations socially situated in the worlds of and between the observer and the observed. (Denzin and Lincoln 2005, 21) Pink s (2007, 2009) work on visual and sensory ethnography and Hurdley s (2007) notion of autophotography have also informed the making of this text because, though the words are dominant here, the objects and photographs that reminded me of the stories were fundamental to their composition. There are traces too, of Memory Work an approach to identity projects becoming popular in some fields of social enquiry (Lury 1998; Thompson and Holland 2005). Coffey (1999) argues that texts are authored and peopled by a participating self. From this perspective the self should be present and emerging in the text (127). By extension the autoethnographic text is as one with the identity of the writer; it is a project of self (Giddens 1991), but also a project of others for by looking reflexively at ones own stories own if better able to understand (imagine even) the hidden stories of other young children. I also have taken from Reed-Danahay s (1997) definition of authoethnography in that I see it as:...a form of self-narrative that places the self within a social context. It is both method and text...(9)

12 International Journal of Early Years Education 243 The methodological basis in this paper centres around the weave of our everyday lives and the place of small stories (Bamberg 2004; Georgakopoulou 2006) whose telling might for one reason or another inhibited. It also, importantly, represents a reflexive stance; turning back to my younger self provides an opportunity, selfconsciously to ask questions, give account, wonder, push and prod, in ways which would be to other the story teller if these stories were rooted in someone else s past. Reflexive approaches to research are not an easy option, neither are the processes neat and tidy; Gabb (2010), for example, cautions against the tendency to tidy up and sanitize the messiness of everyday experience in order to produce academic knowledge (462). Digging into the personal stories of childhood as part of a research process can cause a disarray, because the processes do not fit neatly into often accepted methodological parameters. Some personal stories of academics are deeply emotional and open to vulnerability (Pelias 2004), but not all stories in this genre of autoethnography and self-reflexive approaches are those of deep struggle and heart searching some are very ordinary (and it is these which might even prove most interesting). However, whatever the nature of the story, this approach gives rise to a number of metho-ethical challenges which have to be addressed (Nutbrown 2011b). But I suggest that, in the field of early childhood education, it is worth giving a little thought to alternative approaches to research and report (to help us better understand those dimly lit corners of childhood which often evade us. As Eisner (1997) suggests, we report the temperature even when we are interested in the heat...new forms of data representation signify our growing interest in inventing ways to represent the heat (7). Autoethnographic studies are often used to highlight issues which might otherwise remain hidden. As Brogden puts it: Engaging complexity through bricolage is one way of inviting another into writing as research and requires engagement of writer and reader. Autoethnography is another. (Brogden 2010, 310) Stories of aspects of people s lives can be fore-fronted through an autoethnography in a way that other methodological approaches do not afford (see, e.g. Brogden 2008; Miller 2008; Toynton 2006). The use of the writer s own story to bring into focus, an issue of importance can be a powerful tool, even though it is open to the charge of self-indulgence (Hammersley and Atkinson 2007; Sparkes 2002). As Davies (2008) acknowledges,...this turning back, or self-examination, both individual and collective, clearly can lead to a form of self-absorption (5). There are occasions when the life experience of the writer is the only way to bring out and critique a challenging issue. Autoethnography has been used to raise the voices of hitherto silent or marginalised minorities: colonised communities, gay men, abused children and stories of the difficult parts of lives such as divorce, death and miscarriage (Brogden 2006; Harding 2005; Hill 2009; Norman 2001; Ronai 1995; Toynton 2006; Villenas, 1996). In this sense when Walford (2004) makes the case against his own autoethnography counting as research he is probably right, as it is written, his own account does not (for me) count as autoethnographic research because it seems to me, he has missed the point about the political power of autoethnography in giving voice to stories which represent the otherwise silent or silenced. The topic of his 1000 word autoethnography was one of a powerful University academic who, by nature of his institutional role, did not lack opportunity otherwise to speak. For me,

13 244 C. Nutbrown there is still much work to do to understand the experiences of childhoods in early education, because despite some success in including children s views in research, children s voices are by no means the loudest in educational research reports. And it is this that motivates me to expose some of my own childhood memories. I can give an account of episodes in my childhood and prod and poke at their salience in ways which would not be possible with the childhood stories of others (for that would be too intrusive). The reflexive process is in my hands. There is a danger that any impact, authenticity and interest or meaning that these stories hold could be diminished because they are mine, rather than told to me by an anonymous research participant. Yet it is precisely because they are my own stories and not told to me by anonymous participants, that I can (re)own them almost half a century later and see what they tell me about the me I now am. Further, because these are my stories, I am free (as free as my bravery permits) to treat them as I wish. To take any meaning I may wish to take or to ignore (or both), as I see fit. It is only the privacy of my childhood self which risks violation and I have been careful to protect her as best I can. In this way the charge of self-indulgence that Walford (2004) makes is mitigated because the autoethnographic act can be used to explore understandings which might offer something broader. And, as Sparkes (2002) argues, this is not self-indulgent but something more. Tierney (2010) argues that understanding the specific context of one life is paramount to the understanding of larger economic and social conditions: A good life history should be provocative and enable the reader to think about the issues raised in the text rather than try to answer them as if one s life can be summarised in an essentialist fashion. (Tierney 2010, 130) Hammersley (2000) views the issue of relevance as key in research in that the topic should be both important and make a contribution to existing knowledge; it is the responsibility of the autoethnographic writer as much as any other researcher to ensure that her/his research does these things whilst also creating a text which asks the reader to do some work to bring something of their own selves to the reading (Clough 2002; Sparkes 2002). This is the case here, there is a sense in which my fragments of story stand testimony to the ordinary stories that others might tell, stories that everyone holds from their own childhoods (the small stuff of our early years). In this respect, the specific informs the global (Tierney 2010; Young 2008). The reader has to decide the matter of relevance, and it is not a case of take it as you find it but rather a case of find in these stories what you must. In a reflective analysis of critical ethnographic texts, Foley (2002) considers his perspective on more personalised writing, concluding that: No matter how epistemologically reflexive and systematic our fieldwork is, we must still speak as mere mortals from various historical, culture-bound standpoints; we must still make limited, historically situated knowledge claims. By claiming to be less rather than more, perhaps we can tell stories that ordinary people will actually find more believable and useful. (Foley 2002, 487) The autoethnographic text should not be autocratic, but rather it should be democratic; distanced from Van Maanen s (1998) view that informants speak, ethnographers write (137) and in this sense the autoethnographic text is always political (Denzin 2000; Holman Jones 2005) and draws participation from the reader.

14 International Journal of Early Years Education 245 Reflection on autoethnographic fragments Now if you were to choose nine scenes from your childhood, what would they be? And which nine objects would you choose to represent these scenes? There s something important about having the artefacts in front of me while I write. And, for a reason I can t explain, I didn t begin writing the paper until all the pieces were assembled in each drawer and the outside suitably decorated with cuttings from old newspapers and a selection of family photos. The artefacts are props for my stories. Are they important? No. Not really. Were there a fire I wouldn t run to rescue them. They are not the real things, you see, they are Yalom s (1989) symbolic equivalents. Does that matter? No. Not really. The case of the disappearing object (Pahl, Pollard, and Rafiq 2009) could for me, be solved by something which replaced it, represented it for a while, time enough for me to write this odd little personal museum cabinet into words; to make my data into a collection of short stories. As well as the political motivation of making explicit and visible those aspects of life which often remain invisible, autoethnographic writing is often used to make the familiar strange (Clough 2002; Kaomea 2003; Shklovsky 1965), to bring into focus those taken-for-granted (mundane even) happenings of everydayness. What I am arguing here is that stories of childhoods often come to the fore if they are traumatic, controversial, difficult and shocking. Yet for all of these hard-to-tell stories, there is an infinite number of ordinary stories, hum-drum tales of the not-very-much. And it is these ordinary fragments of young lives that are important too. So, I am suggesting here that as well as those more thorny narratives, we need also opportunities to consider those lesser tales. These are tales with no immediate or obvious point, like most of my nine stories in this paper. What they have, en suite, allowed me do is to explore what it might be from childhood that I have brought to my work as an academic in the field of early childhood education and, further, to suggest a way in which those who work with young children might learn from the ordinary in children s young lives. When I look over my nine short stories I find themes of belonging and inclusion (in space and place and relationships and faith). I find an importance in the small things: wool, buttons, a loaf of bread. And then I find something about (dis)respecting young children the Dentist, and the Piano Teacher are occasions where I was shocked by insensitivity to my physical and emotional well-being. Is it coincidence, I wonder, that some of my early work included a focus on how early childhood educators might respect young children (Nutbrown 1997) or that my focus on the unfettered enjoyment of the Arts also found a place in my research (Nutbrown 2011c; Nutbrown and Jones 2005). Traces of what I brought to (my version of) being an academic from my childhood can be found in traces of my work. If I unpack it all, I can see the roots of my career in focusing on inclusion (Nutbrown and Clough 2004, 2006, 2009), curriculum, (Nutbrown 2011a), assessment (Nutbrown 1997), children s rights (Nutbrown 1996), parental involvement (Nutbrown, Hannon, and Morgan 2005) and the importance of the Arts (Nutbrown 2011c; Nutbrown and Jones 2005). To a degree I can see in my own roots the truth of Fulghm s (1986) notion that Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday school (4). What this probing highlights for me as a fundamental root of my own career is something about the development of a respect for children s voices (Nutbrown and

15 246 C. Nutbrown Clough 2009; Nutbrown and Hannon 2003) and a proper valuing of the people who work with them, and my view that young children need well educated educators : Children need well educated educators who engage in professional and sensitive reflection, who think about their work and who respond to new ideas and new experiences drawn from reflection on their practice and relevant research. (Nutbrown 2011a, 177) There is a sense in which the stories here are not stories of a particular person but of all of us (Poulous 2008), in that there are many, many ordinary fragments of childhood in our memories. Putting me aside, I want to end this paper with a plea that academics working in the field of early childhood education consider what might be gained by breaking out of the confines of more traditional (and safer) qualitative research; pushing the methodological boundaries of research in the field to include autoethnographic writing alongside other methodological approaches, so that ordinary stories of the small stuff of childhoods become more familiar. Then there may be a chance that the ordinary lives of young children are better understood, not through spying on our children (Enright 1948) but through an honest and reflexive telling of ordinary tales of our younger selves. Dedication I like to dedicate this piece to Dr Penny Munn Editor of International Journal of Early Years Education who thoughtfully encouraged its revision and publication shortly before her death earlier this year. IJEYE authors owe much to her editorship; her legacy will endure... she will be sadly missed. References Bamberg, M Talk, small stories, and adolescent identities. Human Development 47: Brogden, L.M Not quite acceptable: Re:Reading my father in qualitative inquiry. Qualitative Inquiry 12, no. 5: Brogden, L.M art I/f/act ology: Curricular artifacts in autoethnographic research. Qualitative Inquiry 14, no. 6: Brogden, L.M Identities (AcademicPrivate) Subjectivities (desire) : Re:collecting Art I/f/acts. Qualitative Inquiry 16, no. 5: Clough, P Narratives and fictions in educational research. Buckingham: Open University Press. Coffey, A The ethnographic self: Fieldwork and the representation of identity. London: Sage. Davies, C.A Reflexive ethnography, 2nd ed. London: Routledge. Denzin, N.K Interpretive biography. London: Sage. Denzin, N.K Aesthetics and the practices of qualitative inquiry. Qualitative Inquiry 6: Denzin, N.K., and Y.S. Lincoln, eds., The sage handbook of qualitative research. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Eisner, E The promise and perils of alternative forms of data representation. Educational Researcher 26, no. 6: 410. Ellis, C The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. Ellis, C Telling secrets, revealing lives: Relational ethics in research with intimate others. Qualitative Inquiry 13, no. 1: 329.

16 International Journal of Early Years Education 247 Enright, D.J Blue umbrellas. In Collected poems (Oxford Poets), ed. D.J. Enright, 78. Manchester: Carcanet Press. Erben, M The problem of other lives: Social perspectives on written biography. Sociology 27, no. 1: Foley, D.E Critical ethnography: The reflexive turn. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 15, no. 4: Fulghum, R All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. New York: Ballentine Publishing. Gabb, J Home truths: Ethical issues in family research. Qualitative Research 10, no. 4: Georgakopoulou, A Thinking big with small stories in narrative and identity analysis. Narrative Inquiry 16: Giddens, A Modernity and self identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Goffman, E The presentation of self in everyday life. London: Penguin. Hammersley, M Taking sides in social research: Essays of partisanship and bias. London: Routledge. Hammersley, M., and P. Atkinson Ethnography: Principles in practice, 3rd ed. London: Routledge. Harding, H.A City Girl : A portrait of a successful white urban teacher. Qualitative Inquiry 11, no. 1: Harrison, B., and E. Stina Lyon A note on ethical issues in the use of autobiography in sociological research. Sociology 27, no. 1: Haug, F., ed Female sexualization (E. Carter, trans.). London: Verso. Hill, M.L Bringing back sweet (and not so sweet) memories: The cultural politics of memory, hip-hop, and generational identities. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 22, no. 4: Holman Jones, S Authethnography: Making the personal political. In The sage handbook of qualitative research. 3rd ed., ed. N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Holmes, R Theatre of the self: Autobiography as performance. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 22, no. 4: Hurdley, R Focal points: Framing material culture and visual data. Qualitative Research 7, no. 3: Hurdley, R In the Picture or Off the Wall? Ethical regulation, research habitus, and unpeopled ethnography. Qualitative Inquiry 16, no. 6: Israel, M., and I. Hay Research ethics for social scientists. London: Sage. Kaomea, J Reading erasures and making the familiar strange: Defamiliarizing methods for research in formerly colonized and historically oppressed communities. Educational Researcher 32, no. 2: Lee, R.M Doing research on sensitive topics. London: Sage. Lury, C Prosthetic culture: Photography, memory and identity. London: Routledge. Mellick, M., and S. Fleming Personal narrative and the ethics of disclosure: A case study from elite. Qualitative Research 10, no. 3: Miller, D.M Shades of grey: An autoethnographic study of race in the academy. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 21, no. 4: Mitchell, C., and S. Weber Reinventing ourselves as teachers: Beyond nostalgia. London: Falmer. Noddings, N Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education, 2nd ed. Berkley, CA: University of California Press. Norman, R House of mirrors: Performing autobiography(icall)y in language/ education. New York: Peter Lang. Nutbrown, C Recognising early literacy development. London: Sage. Nutbrown, C. 2011a. Threads of thinking: Schemas and early education, 4th ed. London: SAGE. Nutbrown, C. 2011b. Naked by the pool? Blurring the image?: Ethical and moral issues in the portrayal of young children in arts-based educational research. Qualitative Inquiry 17, no. 1:

17 248 C. Nutbrown Nutbrown, C. 2011c. Conceptualising arts based learning in the early years. Research Papers in Education. doi: / Nutbrown, C., ed Respectful educators Capable learners: Children s rights and early education. London: Paul Chapman, 144. Nutbrown, C., and P. Clough Inclusion in the early years: Conversations with European educators. European Journal of Special Needs Education 19, no. 3: Nutbrown, C., and P. Clough Inclusion in the early years: Critical analyses and enabling narratives. London: Sage. Nutbrown, C., and P. Clough Citizenship and inclusion in the early years: Understanding and responding to children s perspectives on Belonging. International Journal of Early Years Education 17, no. 3: Nutbrown, C., P. Hannon, and A. Morgan Early literacy work with families: Research, policy and practice. London: Sage. Pahl, K., A. Pollard, and Z. Rafiq Changing identities, changing spaces: The Ferham families exhibition in Rotherham. Moving Worlds 9, no. 2: Pahl, K., and J. Rowsell Artifactual literacies: Every object tells a story. New York: Teachers College. Pelias, R A methodology of the heart. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. Pink, S Doing visual ethnography. London: Sage. Pink, S Doing sensory ethnography. London: Sage. Poulos, C.N Narrative Conscience and the autoethnographic adventure: Probing memories, secrets, shadows, and possibilities. Qualitative Inquiry 14, no. 1: Reed-Danahay, D.E., ed Autoethnography: Rewriting the self and the social. Oxford: Berg. Ronai, C.R Multiple reflections of child sex abuse: And argument for a layered account. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 23: Shklovsky, V Art as technique (L.T. Lemon and M.J. Reis, trans.). In Russian formalist criticism, ed. L.T. Lemon and M.J. Reis, 324. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. (Original publication date 1917) Sparkes, A Autoethnography: Self-indulgence or Something More? In Ethnographically speaking. Autoethnography, literature, and aesthetics, ed. A.P. Bochner and C. Ellis. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira. Thomson, R., and J. Holland Thanks for the memory : Memory books as a methodological resource in biographical research. Qualitative Research 5, no. 2: Tierney, W.G Globalization and life history research: fragments of a life foretold. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 23, no. 2: Toynton, R Invisible other : Understanding safe spaces for queer learners and teachers in adult education. Studies in the Education of Adults 38, no. 2: Van Maanen, J Tales of the field. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Villenas, S The colonizer/colonized chicana ethnographer: Identity, marginalization, and cooptation in the field. Harvard Educational Review 66, no. 4: Walford, G Finding the limits: Autoethnography and being an Oxford University Proctor. Qualitative Research 4, no. 3: Yalom, I.D Love s executioner & other tales of psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books. Young, M Petit narratives. Qualitative Inquiry 14, no. 6:

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