Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year in Review

While it states on my profile that I've been blogging since August 2010. However, the reality is that the site was set up on that date for the males group I was a part of. The group was floundering & we thought having a site might revitalise engagement. Unfortunately this was not the case and after some months of sitting back and watching nothing come of this entity and took it upon myself to begin utilising what could be a valuable resource.


I originally wanted to use this site solely for the purpose of promoting the benefits of men working in the early childhood education and care field. However, it soon became an avenue for more personal posts, sharing some of my experiences with the children within my care as well as a few male-related topics. My first ever official post as a blogger was in fact about investigating science with toddlers and to this day is one of my most viewed, commented on and well-received posts.

I often immerse myself into my work and therefore my blog posts as well. This may have taken me away from my initial aim of the blog, but if I am to be true to myself then I believe that the only way I could ever be an effective and honourable blogger was to share the things I do with the children, and do the things I talk about.


The exceptions to this are also some of the more standout posts for me personally, such as the interview with Scott Wiley, sharing a journal issue focusing solely on males in early childhood, exposing the existence of prejudice remaining in our profession, the guest post by Alec Duncan, and perhaps most significant for me, remembering the victims of the tragic events that claimed the brother of one of my closest friends.


Finally, I would like to thank everyone who contributed by taking the time to read my posts, commenting on them, sharing them through facebook or on their own blogs, being the subject for interviews or guest posting. I would love to continue with the interviews and guest posting next year.

This blog has opened me up to a world of networking with an amazing group of individuals, each with their own passions. Above all, I have gained some wonderful new friendships that I truly treasure. If nothing else, I am the richer for this experience because of that.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Revisiting "The X Factor of Being a Male Early Childhood Educator"

Due to the Christmas/New Year period, this is a repost of a post earlier this year which was a result of an idea of Deborah J. Stewart at Teach Preschool  in which she challenged fellow education bloggers to post about something of interest to them as part of their profession. The challenge is to have a post about a topic that begins with each letter of the alphabet. She is calling it 'The ABCs of Teaching Preschool'.
ABC's of Teaching Preschoolers

I, rather foolishly perhaps, volunteered to post under the letter 'X' as I gathered it would be one that very few would be willing to tackle. "How brave of you" some might say, while others would more than likely chuckle as they accuse me of  biting off more than I can chew. I'm tending to lean toward the second group, but am determined to soldier on nonetheless. So here goes...............

As so many pirate stories have told us, X marks the spot.


So this Xtremely different and random pirate is looking for treasure? No need as he's already found it in the everyday joys he witnesses and is a part of.


Xcessively bizarre dress ups are also part of this male's life, both as an educator and dad. Research has shown that men are often more active in physical experiences with their children. Yet there is so much fun and enjoyment in becoming involved in so many other aspects of children's lives, whether they be our own or those we work with.


Xceedingly colourful. As with Jason and his technicolour dreamcoat, this male has many hues to his personality. Sometimes he returns from work after being the canvas for the children's creativity.


Xtremely rare


and Xtremely different. No, not the creatures, but the bloke with them. We are rare because there are so few of us compared to women when it comes to working with young children. Different, partly because the genders differ in many ways, whether they be biological, physical or psychological, but also because in my experience children tend to react differently to men then they do to women.


Xactly what children need. I would hope that every early childhood professional would be, by their very nature, what the children need. Unfortunately for whatever reason this is not always the case. However, effective educators are what children and the profession need, and if more of those educators could be men then that would also meet a need of both the children and the profession.


So this Xtraordinary pirate has found his treasure, but is constantly on the lookout for more. Some may view him as bizarre, but that is fine with him as long as he can continue doing what he loves.

In conclusion, my own ABC of early childhood education:
A - Animals
B - Books
C - Culture
D - Dress ups
E - Expressiveness
F - Funny faces
G - Goop
H - Hugs
I - Inquisitiveness
J - Juggling
K - Kneading
L - Listening
M - Music
N - News
O - Outdoors
P - Projects
Q - Questions
R - Respect
S - Science
T - Tools
U - Understanding
V - Vehicles
W - Wombat Wobble
X - Xactly what you want it to be
Y - Yoga
Z - Zoo

ABC's of Teaching Preschoolers

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Aussie Christmas


Unlike our Northern Hemisphere counterparts, us Antipodeans often celebrate the Christmas/New Year period in sweltering heat. Of course, being such a large country conditions can vary greatly from place to place. In the northern third it is tropical cyclone season so as well as battling temperatures at times breaking the 40C barrier, the coast has the likelihood that somewhere in that region destructive winds and rain could be heading their way. For the rest of the country, except for perhaps Tasmania, 40C is also a common occurrence, although mid to high 30s is more the norm.


As a result of us experiencing such temperate conditions, the traditional Northern Hemisphere meals, while still followed by many, have been steadily been overtaken by the Aussie tradition of cold meals such as salads, prawns and beer of course.

This year we have been experiencing an unusually cool December so far with not one day locally (Newcastle/Hunter Valley, NSW) reaching 30C. My family will be heading out for Christmas lunch and spending Boxing Day with the rest of the family. We will mostly be staying indoors or under shelter where it's cooler, even though it's not as hot as usual. What will you be doing?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rain Isn't the Bad Guy

Why is it that many adults I see with young children, whether they be parents or caregivers/educators, at the first hint of rain they are screaming at their kids to get out if it?
There are so many wonderful blogs out there that constantly speak about the benefits for children in having them experience all types of weather conditions. Let The Children Play, Greening Sam and Avery, Teacher Tom, Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning, I'm a Teacher, Get Me Outside Here!There are many others, but that's a good selection to get you started.


Our experience with rain recently saw the children explore this phenomenon with all their senses. They held their hands out to feel the raindrop falling on their skin. They then open their mouths skywards and attempted to catch the drops, therefore seeing if they had any taste.


As the rain became heavier we sought cover under the awning where the children then used their hearing to listen to the rain drops landing on the roof above their heads and tried to smell the rain by sniffing the air around them.


While we all used our sight to see the rain falling, these children took it one step further and used this sense to judge how to best hold their respective receptacles in order to catch some of the rain.


Even without wet weather gear there are countless ways to enjoy playing in the rain. I for one will try to remember to child within next time it rains and go for a frolic in its refreshing moistness.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Do You Call This Parenting Advice?

This is a guest post by Alec Duncan, who has worked in the Early Childhood Education field since 1988.
 
When Greg suggested I should write a guest blog post for Males in Early Childhood my original intention was to tell about my career as a male in the early childhood education field.  How I first began as a volunteer at a child care centre in 1988, then worked as an unqualified educator while studying for a degree in Children Studies.  How my work as a qualified early educator coupled with my interest in making musical instruments from recycled materials led me to running hands-on play-based music programs in schools and child care centres.

It was going to be light-hearted.  It was going to be about the enormous satisfaction I’ve gained from my work with the children I’ve cared for and educated.  It was going to be about sharing the joy of music with very young children through my micro-business, Child’s Play Music.
This is not that post.
This post is dark and disturbing. It makes depressing reading; it will make you angry; it may make you weep.  But please read it if you care about every child and want to protect them from criminal physical abuse masquerading as “discipline” and “parenting advice”.
 A while ago I stumbled upon an online petition http://www.change.org/petitions/jeff-bezos-amazon-ceo-refuse-to-carry-books-which-advocate-the-physical-abuse-of-children.  I read the petition with mounting horror and disgust.  Here was Amazon, a reputable company with whom I have spent thousands of dollars, selling books that advise parents to whip infants as young as 4 months old with implements like willow switches, rulers and whipper snipper cord.  For slightly older infants and toddlers they recommend paddles, belts, “the rod”, flexible plumber’s conduit and tree branches.
For what heinous crimes?  For resisting a nappy change.  For crying.  For refusing to sleep.  For anything except instant and unquestioning obedience to a parent’s demands, no matter how unreasonable those demands might be.

 

At first I simply did not believe that this was possible.  Surely no one would get such books published, let alone sold!  But as I followed the links to quotes from the books I discovered it was true; worse still they are big sellers.  One, “To Train Up A Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl has sold over 670,000 copies; the death of 3 children has already been linked to it.  And at that point I realised I needed to do something about it, something more than just signing the petition.  I’ve spent much of my life caring for and educating infants and children; if not me, then who?
Make no mistake: what these books advise is child abuse, abuse that in Australia would result in criminal charges.  I’m not ashamed to say that when I read the quotes from them I wept.  I signed the petition, posted about it on my Facebook Page, emailed Amazon to tell them I would buy nothing from them until they stop selling these books, and then contacted the author of the petition, Milli, who blogs as TheMule.

I asked Milli how I could help her in this cause.  She said she was snowed under with the issue: could I research who else was selling the books, who wasn’t, and contact the companies who don’t sell them for a statement.  I accepted immediately.  To my further horror I discovered that practically every major chain of booksellers in the US sells some or all of the books.  I could find only three major US chains who weren’t selling them; Deseret Book, Seagull Book, and Follett’s.  We have contacted these 3 chains asking for a statement saying why they don’t sell the books and ask them for a statement of support for our cause.

And the books are available in Australia too!  Both Angus & Robertson and Collins Booksellers sell some or all of them.  Milli and I are extending her campaign to the other sellers of these reprehensible books, and we are seeking statements of support from academics and child development experts for a major press release.  So far a large number of prominent experts have signed; the number grows daily. http://mamamule.blogspot.com/2011/11/amazon-petition-look-whos-signing.html.  Support has also come from influential child protection organisations, including the Child Rights International Network.

We ask that you join us

What can you do?  Sign the petition – over 9,000 people have signed; every signature helps.  Email Amazon and other sellers saying you will not buy from them until these books are removed from sale.  Email your politicians demanding that action be taken to stop their sale.  Spread the word to your friends and colleagues.  Share the petition on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.  Write letters to the editor.  Help Milli and me in our work.  Everything you do for this cause helps protect children from criminal child abuse.
I won’t post quotes from the books here; they are too distressing.  If you want to read them there are extensive quotes available on the net.  Quotes from “To Train Up A Child” can be found here. http://whynottrainachild.com/2010/04/20/quotes-from-ttuac/.  They are sickening.  Diligent Googling will find similar quotes from the other books; I will leave that exercise to you.
I can be contacted at childsplaymusicad@gmail.com.  Milli can be contacted at mamamule@hotmail.co.uk

A Little About Alec

Alec is a qualified early childhood educator with a Bachelor of Social Science (Children Studies) who worked in long day care until 1998.



He then started Child’s Play Music which provides hands-on, play-based music education incursions to schools and child care centres in Perth Western Australia. These programs enable young children to freely explore a huge range of homemade instruments through play.



More information can be found at the Child’s Play Music Facebook page and videos of his instruments and instrument making tutorials can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/childsplaymusic.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Words


This post is only short, but it carries a potent message. Words can be our most powerful tool in life. That power can work in many ways. To help someone by offering advice, warning them of impending danger, inform them of important information. They can begin and end wars and relationships. Words have the power to create or destroy, either directly or indirectly. Deliberately or inadvertently.

With the advent of electronic media words are causing more and more damage. Some of this is by intent and some quite unintentional. Yet, once we send an utterance into the netherworld of the Internet there is no taking it back and it is there for all to see. Therefore such words can cause damage that is far more widespread or that cuts much deeper.

However, for the very same reasons words today can carry much great healing powers. Let's just hope that the majority of us use our words to help and heal rather than to hurt and damage.




Sunday, December 11, 2011

Having a Bauble this Christmas


I'm sure many of you have had your children make their own tree decorations, maybe even baubles. This year my toddlers took clear glass baubles and turned them into works of art that would adorn any Christmas tree with pride.


After I removed the cap from the bauble the children squeezed some paint into the bauble, then I replaced the cap so that they could roll the bauble around the table & shake it so that the paint spread around on the inside. I got this idea from a post over at Irresistible Ideas for Play based Learning about painting inside bottles.


The remarkable thing about what was happening here is that these baubles are glass, yet I had faith & confidence in the children's abilities to handle them with care. I didn't even have to remind them. I told them all once before we began and with only a couple of exceptions, each child took great care in handling the baubles without further prompting. In fact, out of 30 baubles only one was broken as a another child bumped the arm of one who was holding the bauble at the time. What this tells me that these children are very capable and are aware of how to modify their behaviour in certain contexts.

I unashamedly take some credit in that as I believe in them and use opportunities to empower them as often as I can. More power to them I say. I am quietly confident that the parents will be pleased with their end of year gifts this year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Who Inspires Me!

In light of my recent 2011 Edublog Award nominations I would like to share some of the many other bloggers out there who have inspired me and who have an impressive impact on the early childhood education field in Australia and around the world.

I would like to present the following distinguished early childhood bloggers with their own special award from Males in early Childhood. I call them the Global Early Childhood and Kinder Osmosis (Gecko) Awards.
Teacher Tom is one that is not afraid to speak his mind. But more importantly Tom is the go to guy for authentic experiences in which children get to use real-life tools such as saws, hammers, hot glue guns, etc, etc. Tom advocates risk taking and making mistakes. This enables the children in his care to develop vital coping, problem-solving and abstract thinking skills. However, more than all this Tom is a beacon other bloggers look toward for guidance and inspiration. There is hardly a EC blogger out there who isn't aware of Teacher Tom and would list him among their favourite blogs.
 
Deborah J Stewart over at Teach Preschool Not only has a blog that shares information for all; teachers, parents, associated professionals, but she is the brains behind so many wonderful ideas including the Postcard Exchange I blogged about earlier this year. Beyond her blog Deborah helps & inspires thousands of professionals through her social media profiles. I only have the additional experience of this via facebook, yet even through this single medium Deborah administers groups specifically for EC educators and EC bloggers in which she shares useful information on a daily basis. It is my understanding that Deborah was directly or indirectly responsible for more people getting into blogging than anyone else I know.

Donna and Sherry at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning were the first bloggers I stumbled across in my early days. before I began blogging myself I visited the Irresistible site on an almost daily basis for ideas and inspiration. Wonderful  useful ideas that can be used in everyday life in an early childhood setting or home. But even more importantly I have found the support of Donna in particular, both professionally and personally, I wouldn't be in the position I am now without these remarkable ladies.
 
Scott Wiley considers himself a bricklayer, building up children's lives Brick by Brick which just so happens to be the name of his blog. Scot was one of the first male EC bloggers I found when I began blogging and have found him very supportive and inspirational. It is my hope that guys like Scott and Tom will motivate other men to consider a career in early childhood education.
Learning for Life is a wonderful blog by an equally wonderful individual, Kierna Corr. This site is full of examples of children exploring and experiencing what us adults refer to as inclement weather. What the children & Kierna realise though is that such weather should be embraced as an opportunity to use all the senses to engage with the world around us. Kierna has motivated me to invest in wet weather gear for my children so that they can experience the wonders of playing & investigating in even heavy rain.
Debbie Clement is passionate about music and if her attire is anything to go by then she is just as passionate about having fun. Her blog, Rainbows Within Reach, is full of examples of how to engage children and adults in learning in an enjoyable and meaningful way. What makes Debbie truly special is how active she is in passing on her wealth of skills and knowledge to colleagues from with the early childhood field as well as other professions. It was Debbie's superb idea to unite many blogging minds to create the Pre-K and K Sharing blog site of which I am a proud contributor.

Juliet Robertson from Creative Star Learning has a blog entitled I'm a Teacher, Get Me OUTSIDE Here! As you can probably gather from that blog title Juliet is a strong advocate of children experiencing the joys and wonders of outdoor play. Juliet introduced me to the Forest Schools in Scotland and the extraordinary learning that takes place in these environments. A Forest School has now opened in Australia, in Melbourne. My hope is that they continue to spread across the country, or at least lead to like minded services to spring up. Afterall, if Scandinavian and Scottish children can play all day in freezing temperatures, snow, wind and ice then surely a bit of rain or high temperatures should be no barrier for Australian children.
 
I could go on forever, but then this post would simply be too long for anyone to bother reading. So instead I would simply like to add a list of some other fellow early childhood bloggers who have helped me become a better person & professional.

Amy Ahola at Child Central Station.
Karen Green at Flights of Whimsy.
Vanessa Levin at Pre-K Pages.
Leeanne A at Kreative Resources.
Laura Eldridge at The SEEDS Network.
Jamie Reimer at Hands on: As We Grow.
Margarita Woodley at Red Ted Art.
Ayn Colsh at Little Illuminations.
Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Movember Comes to an End


To mark the end of Movember I deccided to colour my moustache orange before heading into work. The children were faascinated by my new & unusual appearance. This lead to some face painting with the following results.




Checking out the handiwork in the mirror. We like our new looks.

Check out our bunch of 80's secret agents.

This was a load of fun, but it was also an opportunity to include the children in celebrating something that is inportant to me. One of the great benefits to emerge from this experience was that many of the parents asked about why there was paint on their children's faces I explained the reason behind it, leading to more awareness of Movember & its purposes among our community.

I am thankful to those who donated to this cause, whether via my efforts or through someone else. Either way prostate cancer & men's mental health have more funds for research & that's a damn good thing!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Unsung Heroes


This is my family. I usually keep my personal & professional life as separate as possible. However, I recently went through a stressful & somewhat traumatic time at work. My wife is superb! Not only does she put up with me bringing work home, she gives me time & space to do that work too. She allows me to spend OUR money on resources & ideas for work. She also gives me gentle (& not so gentle) reminders to not forget my obligations to my kids. More important than that though in many regards is that I know I have someone who is understanding & compassionate ready to listen to any problems, concerns or issues I might be having.

Working in Early Childhood Education, I am often faced with the unexpected. At times, these events are minor & have no real impact on my life outside work. Yet there are times when something occurs that can have significant ramifications in both the short term &, in extreme cases, for extended periods of time.

It is at times like these that I am grateful for my wife & all that she does in support of me. Sure I have access to support networks through work, but somehow knowing that I have a secure place to return to when things get tough is usually enough to see me through. I should also highlight the fantastic effect friends can have on our wellbeing. My recent episode saw me confide in two such people (you know who you are) & along with my wife they made me muddled brain clear the fog away so that reason & logic can restore order.

I'm sure there are others out there who similarly have people in their lives that help make the bad days fade away. To me, these are the unsung heroes of our profession. I can only speak for myself, but I am confident there are many others who would agree that without these support mechanisms in our lives some days would simply overwhelm us.

I am thankful those I have in my life that I can turn to when time get tough. My friends are important to me, but I don't know where I would be without my darling wife. She is my unsung hero. I'm sure you guys have one as well.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Edublog Awards 2011


The Edublog Awards are a great way to acknowledge the hard work & dedication an individual or group demonstrate towards creating a space for sharing ideas & information,  & providing opportunities for others to contribute their thoughts on matters of relevance that enhance the Education sector for all stakeholders.


This year I would like to nominate Jenny Kable over at let the children play in the categories of Best Individual Blog & best Teacher Blog. Jenny is a hard working individual who is a true advocate for children getting outside & engaging in messy, authentic play. Jenny is an Australian early childhood educator, but her influence & inspiration have impacted across the globe.

I hope that other bloggers out there will cast their votes in these awards. As most of us do this for the love of what we do & in our own time, it's nice to receive acknowledgement from your peers.

Good Luck Jenny!



Sunday, November 20, 2011

PreK and K Sharing

PreK + K Sharing

I am honoured to be included in a blog sharing initiative of Debbie Clements from Rainbows Within Reach. Debbie has invited a range of blogger from various backgrounds, locations & areas of interest & expertise to share a post each month. This is a wonderful opportunity for us as early childhood professionals to work alongside colleagues we might not otherwise have the chance to collaborate with. Through sharing ideas & providing different perspectives all of us as readers can become more knowledgeable & balanced in our approach. There have been many before me so please check them out by going to the Prek and K Sharing site. You can also view my introductory post here.

Many of the contributors you will find on my blog roll down the right side of this page, but take a gander as we say in Aus & you might find a gem of a post from a wonderful blogger I am yet to discover.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How Do You Reflect?

Just a quick post. I often sit down to reflect on my day & wonder what I could have done differently or how I could have improved on what happened. While I also acknowledge when things go well, I am usually very harsh on myself. I find the smallest fault with how the day went. While constructive self criticism can be critical for effective professional growth, I do believe that sometimes I can be a bit harsh on myself.

What about you? how do you reflect on your daily practice?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Melbourne Cup



For those of you outside Australia the Melbourne Cup is a horse race. But it's much more than that for many Australians.


Yes, the race attracts supreme attention. So much so that almost every single Australia adult has a flutter of some sort or another. Yet there is so much more that people get involved for.


For one, the fashion stakes are super high throughout the entire Spring Carnival. While both the guys & girls go to great lengths to choose their wardrobe carefully, It's usually the headwear that catches most people's eyes. Hats of all shapes & sizes can be seen adorning numerous heads.


However, there are also items known as fascinators that are becoming more & more popular. It is these items that were the inspiration of our day last week. Using mainly pipe cleaners & feathers we had our own fashion parade.




















As you would expect if you know me at all, I just had to get in on the act.



Don't they just look amazing? So now you have had a brief insight into Australian culture.