Friday, February 24, 2012

Don't Rain on My Parade

It has been one of the coolest and wettest Summers in recent memory here. As a result there have been less opportunities to venture outside than is usually the case. Although anyone who knows me will realise that a little rain won't keep me from taking the children outside.

Recently during one particularly heavy downpour the children noticed some paintings that had been left outside to dry. The paper was tearing and the artworks were ruined. I asked them what they thought would happen if we painted on something harder, that wouldn't rip or break if it got wet, then left that in the rain. Here is the result  of that discussion and the ensuing experiment.

We turned some chalk boards over and painted on the reverse. The children thought these plywood items would be safe enough to get wet without damaging them.

An additional benefit from this exercise was the turn taking and sharing taking place. With only two painters per board at a time the others watched and waited for their turn while those painting continually swapped paint pots in order to use the other colour. Furthermore, those watching offered suggestions to those painting, such as where to apply their paint or how much to apply in anny given area.

When the painting was completed we took them out to the verandah and looked for the best spot to place them so that they would get plenty of rain, but we could still watch how they were being affected. As it turned out, the rain had subsided somewhat. Yet we were determined to  continue with our experiment. Two of the children chose to rest their artworks against the outdoor tables while others were placed under a tree and against the fence.

As you can see, the rain caused the paint to run a little, but we were surprised how well the paint kept its form. Yes the rain had eased, but I for one still figured it was still heavy enough to affect it more than it did. I guess I learned something too. At least we were right about the boards surviving the wet weather.

Science meets art, or is that aert meets science. Either way, there's lots of multi-discipline learning going on here and not just by the children.

Monday, February 20, 2012

To Be a Parent is a Privilege

Every day on my facebook page I post something that stood out for me on that day, whether it be positive or negative. You can find them under the photo labelled Most Memorable Part of My Day. Sometimes it's personal and other times it's work related. Then there are those moments when, for good or ill, you just stand there with your jaw agape and it's the talking point for you for days to come at least.

I didn't witness this incident, but after hearing countless recounts from numerous people, each adding a little extra to the story, I was appalled that this happened at all. So I've kept you hanging long enough. It's time to share this disturbing story with you.

Over the weekend I officiated at a children's athletics championships. Late in the afternoon of the first day of competition the final of the under 9 girls 400 metres race was being run. One of the competitors had earlier run out of her lane in the heats and had therefore been disqualified. I don't know the reasons why, but the girl was reinstated and allowed to compete in the final. During the race the girl once again ran out of her lane, this time interfering with another competitor.

The mother of the competitor who was interfered with approached the official involved and blamed them for allowing the other girl to race into the final. This girls' father then launched a tirade into the mother. This in turn led to her husband coming in to defend his wife and daughter, which led to the father of the disqualified/reinstated girl king hit the other dad.

A full on brawl ensued in from of several hundred children aged between 7 and 17, their parents, siblings, families, friends and officials. The police were called and took both men away. This was very distressing for all who witnessed it, in particular the children. One child wouldn't even compete the next day because they were so upset.

Now that you know the story I come to the point of this post. Any of us who are parents have a responsibility to ourselves, our children, our partners, the rest of our families and friends, and the wider community. Not only did these parents disgrace themselves, they demonstrated irresponsible and immature behaviour in front of their own children and numerous others. I include the mother in this too as the way she verbally abused the officials, also in front off children, was just as reprehensible.

We as early childhood professionals spend our time teaching children that violence is not the way to solve our problems, yet all that hard work can be in vain if the message at home, whether it be implicit or explicit, is that brute force triumphs over negotiation and rational thinking. As parents we need to be mindful of the examples we are setting for our children. In both roles we should be ensuring a smooth transition between home and school life.

I'm glad I didn't witness this incident. If I had been close at hand I'm unsure of whether I would have been able to hold my tongue, which would most likely have inflamed matters. Unfortunately I feel very passionate about such matters, which has, and will in all liklihood will, get me in trouble.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Technology, Our Friend and Foe

Do you remember how you got by in life, both professional and personal, before you had access to the Internet or mobile/cell phones? We pretty much just got on with what we had to do. Sometimes with some help from those immediately around us, but basically on our own. Now with such advanced technology we can connect with people in an instant no matter how far away they are. We influence, and are influenced by, people in other continents who we have never met in person. Even our professional life is technology driven, what with digital images being part of documentation and the use of computers to program, plan and do so many other work-related things.

I have had some issues with my computer of late and although I now have a phone with access to the web, connection is dicey at best and service is soooo slow it's hardly worth the effort to attempt to go online. I have also been without a computer at work due to system upgrades, so my problems were exacerbated. Such issues bring up problems I haven't had to deal with in the past. How do I contribute to my blogs? How can I stay connected with those I learn so much from when I have no idea what they've been up to? How can life go on? Ok that may be a little melodramatic, but you get my point.

Technology has become such an integral part of our day to day lives that things get a real shake up when it betrays us. In many instances it has been my saviour, but my dependence on it so rapidly was never more evident then when I had absolutely no access to any online service for 3 days as an individual and as a professional.

How dependent are you?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More Male ECE Bloggers

A little while back I posted about some great men out there blogging on behalf of young children. It wasn't a very comprehensive list, but they were the ones I was aware of at the time. Since then however, I have had the lovely ladies at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning share a host of male ECE bloggers on their facebook page.
I thought it was my duty to share those sites with you here, although most of you would most likely have already seen them of the IIFPBL page. Still, the title of this blog would almost demand the list appear here as well. So here they are. In no particular order, the other males in Early Childhood Education doing a great job in the blogosphere.

Marc Armitage: Marc Armitage
Brian Hopkins: Hopkins' Hoppin' Happenings
Jeff Johnson: Explorations Early Learning
Matt Halpin: Look At My Happy Rainbow!
Noah Kenneally: The People Garden
Alec Duncan: Child's Play Music
Alistair Bryce-Clegg: ABC Does
Tom Hobson: Teacher Tom
Rusty Keeler: Earth Play Network
Scott Wiley: Brick By Brick
Scott also contributes to the collaborative blog: PreKandKSharing
Tom Bedard: Sand and Water Tables
Mr Shrek: Identity Crisis? No, I'm a Male Nursery Teacher!
Marc Faulder: personal blog Enabling Environments and class blog Class 1JD
Sergio Pascucci: Crayons, Wands and Building Blocks
@ko: @ko (an anonymous blog)
Enrique Hank Feldman: Evolved Learning, Fame Foundation and Hank Feldman
Enrique also contributes to the collaborative blog: PreKandKSharing
Mr Forest Schools: Mr Forest Schools (Don't know his actual name)
Matthew Gomez: My Hullabaloo
Bill Corbett: Cooperative Kids
Bill also contributes to the collaborative blog: PreKandKSharing
Juan Philipe Cortes: Meaning Matters
Dan Hodgins: Former Child
Eric VanRaepenbusch: Happy Birthday Author
Julian Grenier: Inside the Secret Garden
Adam Buckingham: Turning Trash Into Treasure (sadly Adam passed away last year, but I will keep his blog here in recognition of what he did)
Neil Sinclair: Commando Dad (A dad trained to be a child minder)
Dan Pearce: Single Dad Laughing (Technically a dad, but never say 'just')
Nick Petten: Nick Petten (Researcher, Practicioner and Social Commentator)
Richard Cohen: Mindspring
Tony Kee: Childcare Surfboat Crossfit Dad

Jason Triggs: Tales From a Male Early Childhood Educator
Adrian Merrick: The Dude's-Eye View

What an amazing group of guys. Who realised there were 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 other male EC bloggers out there? And I'm sure there are more. What we need is for these inspirational guys to do what governments and decision makers the world over haven't been able to; encourage more men to enter the Early Childhood Education and Care field.

For my part I want it on record that this is by far the best job I've ever had and that barely a day goes by when I don't feel respected and loved by the children I work with. I understand the pay isn't as good as other jobs on offer, but most people who work for the money don't enjoy it which lowers their quality of life. My income may be relatively small compared to other professional men, but I have wealth they will never know.

If any of you are aware of other men out there blogging on behalf of the Early Childhood profession, perhaps fatherhood, or even education in general why not let us know. We should pool our resources and connect with each other.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don't be Limited by Gender Stereotypes

There are many who promote the idea that children can engage in all types of experiences regardless of their gender. Jenny Kable posted almost 2 years ago about encouraging girls into block corner. Check out the tips she shared on her Let the Children Play site.
 There is also an article on the ChildCareExchange website about block play not just being for buys. The printable version of this article can be viewed without subscription.

The other day my own preschoolers demonstrated how both boys and girls can work together to create elaborate constructions during block play. In this case they used figures from the nearby dollhouse to accentuate their building. Interestingly enough, it was the girls who were taking the lead during this experience for the most part while the boys were mostly onlookers or playing a supportive role, such as holding items while waiting for the girls to place them.

Then today a different group of children defied the stereotypes even further. Purely on their  own accord these girls went about constructing a house, even simulating hammering and sawing with toy tools. 

Nearby another girl was busy with some more tools and the tool box. She had already 'fixed' the fence and was getting ready to 'fix' one of the chairs.

A girl's work is never done it seems.

Meanwhile, these boys remained very busy taking care of the babies. They fed them, rocked them to sleep, clothed them, burped them and even changed them. What great future fathers we have here.

I take absolutely no credit for what these children demonstrated. I have only been their teacher for a few weeks. The influence of others who have previously been in their rooms and their home life experiences have definitely had a positive impact on how they view what is acceptable roles for them. Having said that, I hope that I can also be a positive influence on these children and the fact that I am demonstrating someone in a non-typical role should help break down any barriers to boys and girls in my care undertaking any play experience they desire.