Friday, September 30, 2011

Look at This!

While searching for some more males in EC related articles online & was surprised to find a link to my colleague & fellow blogger Jenny at "Let the Children Play" with her post :Males in Early Childhood Education" -

Among the comment to this post was a fellow male in EC blogger from New Zealand -

Delving into these two blogs will reveal two very passionate individuals with somewhat different approaches to how they convey their messages. While this may be viewed as counterproductive, as a reader I see it as an opportunity to see issues from other perspectives which in turn challenges the way I think about given situations. It also highlights an important point. While we as educators are generally accepting of the individuality we all bring to our profession, when we talk about the few men in the field we are often speaking as if us males are a united entity. While there are many who carry very similar beliefs, we are still as individual & different as our female counterparts. After all, how many teachers, male or female would go around looking like this?

Both males & females have much to offer young children, but at the very least we need more men to be more reflective of society. After all, how are children going to learn to interact with or even trust men outside their family if they don't have opportunities to do so in their formative years? Food for thought. Now go read those unique & valuable bloggers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Learning Communities

One of the advantages of working for an organisation such as Mission Australia is that you have the benefit of an entire organisation, including all the various branches, to support what you are doing. There is still the not-for-profit, community-minded base to the operation, unlike similar private set ups. A key initiative in this supportive approach has been the coming together of colleagues across services to exchange ideas & share learning. These communities began with Directors who have been meeting roughly once a month. This was shortly followed by bimonthly meetings of 2ICs. There are many examples of services doing something similar, particularly for Directors. However, I was lucky enough to participate in the latest initiative of our Regional manager, Ben Williams. That is to have a coming together of room leaders working with the same age groups. Last month the preschool room leaders met & last week I was part of the first toddler room learning community.

This gathering included all toddler room leaders from the 11 NSW centres. We were able to meet our peers, many for the first time & it is planned to hook us up electronically so that we can continue to collaborate & support each other despite the geographical limits. I won't go into the details of what took place, but it was a very positive & supportive atmosphere. What makes this such an insightful initiative is that NSW is the only state to do this at the moment. It was the brainchild of Ben Williams, an early childhood trained teacher who worked in schools for several years before taking on his current role. I can't help but think that his early childhood background was influential in his development of this learning communities idea.

This is another example of a male making a difference in early childhood education, only this time in the management side of things.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interview with an Intern

In my previous post I spoke about having an intern with me for the last few weeks. Well I wrote up a brief list of questions & asked if she'd answer them so I could post them here. She did answer & gave permission for them to be posted. So here is my 'Interview with an Intern' - for what it's worth. By the way, her name is Nicolle Launt & she is about to complete her Bachelor of Teaching (Primary)/Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

Males in EC ---> When did you first think about becoming an early childhood professional?

N L ---> In year 10 I chose to go to a preschool for one week of work experience. I enjoyed my time there so the next year I started a Technical & Vocational Education & Training (TVET) course in community services which I completed in years 11 & 12. (for those overseas these are the final two years of high school here in Australia)

Males in EC ---> What were your perceptions about the early childhood profession when you began your studies?

N L ---> Before I began studying early childhood I thought I would spend most of my day playing with children & creating lots of fun arts & crafts activities.

Males in EC ---> How have your practical experiences changed those perceptions?

N L ---> I now know the while range of other duties early childhood educators spend their day doing from programming and observing children to maintenance tasks such as cleaning. My perception has changed a lot as I now know that a lot of planning goes into each activity to extend on children's development & knowledge.

Males in EC ---> Where do you see yourself professionally 5 years from now?

N L ---> In five years from now I aim to have a variety of experiences with different age groups & within different centres and primary schools. I will be up to date with new developments that affect my profession such as policies & I will be able to take on a leadership role in the implementation of these.

Males in EC ---> What qualities do you feel you possess that will make you a successful early childhood teacher?

N L ---> I have always had a strong interest & commitment to early literacy development. I would like to think I have enough patience to work with children. I can be calm & focused in any situation & can work as part of a team. I believe I am a dedicated person & have committed myself to becoming a teacher since high school.

Males in EC ---> Who or what have been you biggest influences in your journey towards becoming a teacher?

N L ---> I have not had any major influences affecting my decision to become a teacher. I realised very quickly when I was in high school that this was something I enjoyed when I did work experience & working with children is still something I enjoy now.

I may keep in touch with Nicolle & provide a follow up interview to see how she goes in the big bad world.

Thank you to Nicolle Launt for your honesty in answering these questions. I hope they are of interest to someone out there.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Passing On

For the last few weeks I have had the privilege of mentoring an intern. I see this as a two-way opportunity. Yes, I have the responsibility to supervise, guide & support this beginning teacher. I need to help them build on their existing knowledge & skills in order to test themselves in new & interesting ways. Sounds much like what we do every day with young children, doesn't it?

The flip side is that I am also learning throughout this process. Learning how to be more reflective, seeing things from the perspective of others & also learning about the most recent theories that are driving the practices being taught to student teachers currently. All this will help me become a better professional & thus lead to becoming a more effective mentor for future students & interns.

My intern has had other positive influences during her time with us. The children have truly loved the breath of fresh air she brought to the service, providing new & stimulating experiences such as crushing herbs with a mortar & pestle. She provided support to staff outside her allotted room, showcasing the importance of collegial support across the service. She also enabled parents & families to engage in the process as they asked her questions & discovered how professional networking & support systems such as internships contribute to enhanced services & environments for their children to learn & grow within.

Although mine has only been a bit part in something as important as professional development, I hope it has been as effective as I hope it would be. I have little doubt that my new colleague will be a wonderful educator, confidant, & friend to plenty of children & families for many years to come. If the truth be told, she made my job very easy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ice Painting

A few years ago an online friend of mine who teaches at a Jewish preschool in Tuscon told me about the ice painting her children had done. I was intrigued & was keen to try this out for myself. Well after much procrastination I finally programmed this & we are doing it this week.

Basically I went out & found some ice block moulds, which wasn't easy because the only ones I could find had these permanent sippy straw things branching off to the side & since I already have some paint eaters amongst my crowd this was a temptation I wanted to avoid if I could. I finally tracked down some in a relatively more expensive store, but luck must have been on my side. They were on sale for over 50% off & shaped like rockets. How cool!? I took these moulds to work, filled them with paint & stuck them in the freezer. A few hours later out they came. Running them under water to assist in eased the removal of the paint from the moulds.

The children then went to work.

As you can see, some of the moulds didn't want to let go of their paint. I think it was more a case of the bases no longer maintaining a grip on the softening paint. Either way, the children were presented with a problem to solve - how to apply the paint when it won't come out? Some scraped out what they could........

While others discovered other means.......

As the paint began to melt it became easier to apply, but it also meant that it was being applied in thicker portions & that small chunks began to break off during the application process.

This was not only a marvellous creative & sensory experience, but it also provided some dilemmas that required the children to utilise their problem-solving skills. In addition, this provoked some lengthly discussion among the children as well as between them & the adults about why the paint was so hard & what was happening to it. One pair even went to the sandpit where the cooking gear was situated & began making ice blocks for everyone.

Although I may have introduced this idea, the children made it their own & took it off to a number of unforseen directions. Now I'm not one to brag, but I believe this was intentional teaching in all it's glory.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Will Always Remember

This will not be the run of the mill post by me. No stupid gags, no silly faces or get ups, no spruiking the benefits of men in childcare. Today I will be quite subdued.

I recently contacted a close friend of mine who lives in Florida. Her life has had the usual hassles recently, but for the most part it's been a good run. Whenever a ptoblem has popped up she's tackled it head on. To some that may seem remarkable, while to others it's nothing special. Well to me this person is one of the strongest people I know & I'll tell you why.

10 years ago during a certain historical event in New York City my friend lost her older brother. He was working in the World Trade Center when the planes crashed into the towers. There was never really much hope of finding him alive, but that didn't stop my friend & her family trying. In the days that followed the tragedy posters began springing up with names & adresses of missing people. Her brother's details appeared on one of these in the belief that they would find out for certain if he had died or simply lay in a hospital somewhere with no identification on him like so many others.

About a week later the police asked my friend's mother if she could provide something which might contain DNA to assist with identification. She went to the house to seek out a hair brush or toothbrush. However, on her arrival she discovered that his car had been stolen & the house ransacked with several intimate belongings gone or destroyed. On top of this the media hounded the whole family for insights into their life for some 'filler' story to go along with the constant updates.

My friend finally moved to Florida to try & escape the attention so that her young family could settle into some sort of mormality. She still get harassed from time to time & has had to change her locks & phone number several times, but still gets on with living. She says the anniversary doesn't affect her the way it use to & although it will always be a part of her life she's not going to let it run or ruin her life.

I'm far more removed from the event, but I get teared up whenever I see a report/documentary about 9/11, but still feel compelled to watch. I have a great deal of respect for my friend & the way in which she has dealt with such a monumentous tragedy. There will be a part of me with her on Sunday & I'm sure I'll shed more than just a few tears. The date September 11th will always remain with me as a day in which the world changed & so did the life of my dear friend.

My thoughts go out to all the others who lives were affected, either directly or indirectly, on that fateful day. It's time to sign off now, but I just have to share with evedryone this one little fact. I have been welling up while I have been writing this & now I think I will go & have a good cry.

Thank you

Monday, September 5, 2011

Some Buddies for My Babushkas

Part of my Father's Day was going to the local monthly markets at Maitland: with my wife & son. While there I came across a stall selling these quaint little hand crafted plush figurines. They called them Babushkas, but they are thinking of renaming them Eskimo Dolls. Anyway, I just had to buy a couple to go with my existing Babushka set which I already had at work for the children to explore with. Today during rest time I set up a table with 2 halves - one being dinosaurs & the other my dolls, both plush & wooden. here are the results.

It's nothing special, but I think they make a lovely addition & they kept the young ones who don't sleep quietly entertained for most of rest time, well over an hour.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Supporting the Cause

A relatively new blog has posted about the need to encourage more males, particularly young ones into the early childhood education profession. Although not a first by any means, the difference about this blogger making the call out is that they are female. So let's head on over there & show our suppoort:

Cheers :)