Saturday, June 30, 2012

A New Angle

Being inspired by the likes of Jeff Johnson, Jennifer Kable and Alec Duncan with their creative posters promoting their position on the early years, I have begun designing some posters that may help spread the message about the benefits of men working with young children.

The first was an attempt to combine text with photos.

The next used a variety of text fonts and colours, but both of these were created and savedin smaller formats than first realised.

For the final one I made sure the document was a decent size before beginning work. I am happiest with this one, but there are likely to be others. What does everyone think of them, flaws and all?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Greatest Hits So Far

The great response to my previous post has led me to analyse my posts to see which ones have been the most viewed and which have drawn the most comments/responses. Now often those had have been viewed the most also have more comments, but not always. Also, there are posts that are my personal favourites for one reason or another.

So this is how this is going to work. First of all I will list the most popular posts, purely by number of views. Then I will share those that have evoked the most responses. These will not include comments by me. Finally, I will provide a catalogue of those post I regard as meaning the most to me.

Most Popular

1. Postcard Exchange - First Report
The remarkable thing about this post is that it was published in October last year, but still often gets more 'hits' per day than most other posts even when new posts are published.

2. Do You Call This Parenting Advice?
This was a guest post by Alec Duncan from Child's Play Music and he wrote about a topic he was very passionate about.

3. Risk Versus Safety
The previous post to this one and unique in that I put the power in your hands to put forth your view.

4. Happy Birthday Eric Carle
This was one of my earlier posts and my first attempt at celebrating the life and work of someone influential to those educating and/or caring for young children.

5. Taking Care of the Boys
A post in response to an excellent article on educating young boys.

Most Comments

1. Risk Versus Safety
As mentioned above, this post has resulted in the most comments by far from readers. That would in no small part be due to the nature of it asking for opinions.

2. Who Inspires Me!
I created this post to acknowledge all those other wonderful bloggers out there who do such an amazing job. To help show my appreciation the GECKO Awards were born.

=3. We are Fighting Prejudice, Both Great and Small
In this post I tried to highlight the many and varied prejudices we face every day. Some are minor and may appear insignificant on the surface, yet still leave their mark. Others are much more sinister and harmful.

=3. The X Factor of Being a Male Early Childhood Educator
This post was part of a 'blog hop' which involved a number of bloggers all posting early childhood under the guidance of a letter of the alphabet.

=5. Interview With R Scott Wiley
As the name suggests, this is my first interview with a fellow male blogger. I hope to do more of these on the future.

=5. Structure v Spontaneity
This post sparked a heated debate which was my intention from the outset, to foster discussions and encourage rethinking about our approaches.

My Picks (in no particular order)

1. Risk Versus Safety
I know this post has appeared on every list, but I opned this up to the people. I plan to publish this post elsewhere to get feedback from different audiences and gather responses from a range of sources. perhaps then I might correlate them and forward the results to the powers that be.

2. Vale Maurice Sendak
I am possibly most proud of this post as it covers a subject that few dare raise with young children - death. Mr Sendak's passing provided an opportunity to talk about this often taboo topic with children who in most cases have experienced it in some form already in their young lives.

3. More Male EC Bloggers
I love this post as it provides a list of a number of males who connect with their community through blogging or some other form of internet posting. It is also a living document as the list continues to grow as I become aware of more blokes out there.

4. On Being a Dad and a Teacher (parts 1-6)
This series of posts was a personal journey for me as I looked back over my time as a father and as a teacher. I became aware how each role had influenced the other in a positive way.

5. Who Inspires Me!
In the midst of talk around the blogosphere about who would be worthy winners of the Edublog Awards I thought it was timely for me to show how much I appreciate all the great work of my fellow bloggers by creating the GECKO Awards. I'm proud that I have created something that recognises the achievements of others. It's also humbling to see some of them display it on their sites.

So there you go. A look back at some of the standout posts so far. Do you have your own choices for that last list? I would be intersted to find out.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Risk Versus Safety

There seems to be a constant stream of vehement discussions on this very topic recently appearing on the Internet through various web sites, online media, social media and the blogosphere. One thing I've noticed in these discussions is the vast difference in opinions regarding the level of risk deemed appropriate for children during their play.
So my question to you is how much risk is acceptable in your children's lives? Whether you are talking about your own child or those you care for. So I will propose a few scenarios for you to consider for your child/ren to explore within.

Scenario 1: Real tools are made available for the children to use as they work with wood and other materials. These could include hand tools hammers. saws, drills, screwdrivers, spirit levels, brooms, rakes, watering cans, etc; or powered tools such as drills, saws, sewing machines, etc.
Scenario 2: The children are taken to the local bushland where there are trees with limbs low enough to enable climbing, large rocks and fallen trees that can be climbed on, access to a small stream, and a large quantity of loose sticks and stones.

Scenario 3: Rough and tumble play is encouraged where your child attends or where you work. Such play includes hero play that involves lots of physical contact, the use of sticks and other resources as guns, swords and other weapons, and jumping on equipment, climbing on or over furniture and crawling into small spaces.
Scenario 4: It's raining fairly heavily and chillier than usual. The children have minimal wet weather clothing, some have little or no warm, outer clothing and there are no umbrellas available. yet the teachers still want to take the children outside for a period of 15-30 minutes for outdoor play.

With all these scenarios there could be variables which you may want to take into consideration. Other than that, the decision is yours. Would you let your child be part of any of these experiences? As an educator, would you go along quietly with what is happening, encourage it or protest?

I would be very interested to see what people have to say so please be honest. I would also like to get responses beyond the audience of this blog so if you would like to share it in any space you have available and report the responses back here I would also be very grateful.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Professional Courtesy

I am the last person to try and claim anything near to perfection. I am flawed in so many ways and am guilty of many indiscretions on a personal and professional level. However, through personal reflection and constructive feedback from colleagues, friends and family I m usually able to recognise these gaffs and move forward in a way that sees a process aimed at eliminating such behaviours or practices.

What baffles me is that too often I see and hear so called professionals complain about what they do. Whinge about particular children, family members or other staff. Find excuses why something couldn't happen rather than find reasons to do something. What I have witnessed is when many of these people are made aware of their indiscretions their attitudes will appear to change in the short term, but old habits will soon begin to sneak their way back.

Of course there may be outside factors at play, such as poor health, domestic dramas, financial stress, etc. However, it is our duty to the children and families in our care, as well as to ourselves, to ensure these impact our daily professional practices as little as possible. Talk with colleagues, seek assistance from whatever avenue is available, open yourself up to help from whatever corner you can because in the end if you don't you are letting yourself down, the children down the families down, your colleagues down and the entire early childhood sector.

I'm lucky in so many ways in this regard. I have a supportive wife and children who are understanding and have sacrificed for me so many times on this journey. I have a network of friends and colleague who I can lean on in times of need and who will freely offer advice when requested. Now not everyone will be so lucky, but when all else fails
The Early Childhood Australia's Code of Ethics is a document that represents the cornerstone of what educators in the early childhood sector in Australia should be striving for through our beliefs, practices and relationships. There is a section dedicated specifically to our responsibilities and expectations of us to ourselves. Here is what it has to say. 
Courtesy of Early Childhood Australia

In relation to myself as a professional, I will:

1. Base my work on contemporary perspectives on research,
theory, content knowledge, high-quality early childhood
practices and my understandings of the children and families with whom I work.

2. Regard myself as a learner who undertakes reflection, critical
self-study, continuing professional development and engages
with contemporary theory and practice.

3. Seek and build collaborative professional relationships.

4. Acknowledge the power dimensions within professional

5. Act in ways that advance the interests and standing of
my profession.

6. Work within the limits of my professional role and avoid
misrepresentation of my professional competence and

7. Mentor other early childhood professionals and students.

8. Advocate in relation to issues that impact on my profession
and on young children and their families.

9. Encourage qualities and practices of leadership within the
early childhood profession.

Now if we all looked to such a document to guide us then we would become more reflective, more supportive, more understanding and more collaborative. All of these attribute lead to become a better professional. However, for me there is one undeniable fact that supersedes all of the other factors mentioned already. If you don't like being around young children, at their best and worst, then this is not the vocation for you. If someone doesn't want to be around you I bet you can sense that. Well guess what? Children sense it too and usually much better than us adults do.

Our children deserve the best we can offer. The best environments, both indoor and outdoor, that are inviting, challenging and safe. The best opportunities to be themselves, to build on their skills and knowledge, to interact positively with others. The best adults to ensure all these other areas are taken care of. As a parent I want too know the people charged with caring for and educating my children ALWAYS have their best interests in mind.

So here's the challenge. If you are one of those people struggling with what you are doing please seek help and advice about whether it's the right place for you to be or if there is something that can be done to turn things around. You need to be the one to make the move. If you see someone struggling, offer a shoulder to lean on. A helping hand can often makes things so much less daunting. A friend by your side is so  much better than a gossip behind your back.

I hope this post have given us all some food for thought. In writing it I have even thought of things I need to change. Let's all help this profession be the envy of all others and make our world, the world of early childhood education and care the best it can be for the children, their families and ourselves.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Make Everyday Father's Day

It may not be Father's Day yet here in Australia, but many of my North American counterparts have already celebrated this day. And while most of those blogger will be more than likely posting about creating Father's Day gift ideas with the children, I will taking a slightly different approach.
Photo found on More4Kids post about fathers

Now many of the ideas my blogging colleagues will post about will undoubtedly be wonderful and a challenging and meaningful learning experience for the children. Yet for me this day presents the perfect opportunity to get dads into our services and be hands on with the children. And I mean all children, not just their own.

This day opens up so many opportunities men to become more involved with their children's services, but why would we stop there? Are we limited to providing such opportunities to days such as Father's Day? Doesn't that make our efforts seem a bit tokenistic? Perhaps the best of intentions are behind such ideas and they do help all children connect with masculine figures. Yet I propose something more. Or should I say something more significant.

If we are open to inviting dads, grandads, uncles, pops, cousins, older brothers or whatever male family member there is into our services then we are creating a welcoming and friendly environment for men. Now this is significant because many men feel as though they are strangers in early childhood settings. Yes they drop off and collect their children, even engage in conversations with staff. But how many of them actually consider or are able to spend at least part of a day in their child's daytime environment.

Now I realise there are many men who do just that, but they are still very much the minority. There are also those who are unable to make such commitments. However, there are still plenty that need opportunities to be presented before they even think about stepping in. Some may even need a little convincing. I'm in a unique position. As a male EC professional I find dads tend to relax a bit more around me, yet I still see opportunities missed.
So here's the challenge. Create an atmosphere in your setting that is father friendly. pictures depicting men with children is a good start. Perhaps invite dads to bring their own expertise to the children. This could be a trade skill, office acumen or even domestic duties. Whatever it is they could be shared with the children, including bringing in 'tools of the trade' so to speak.

Imagine the children's reaction when a carpenter brings in a saw. An accountant demonstrates what he does on his laptop. A truckie shows off his rig inside and out. A nurse shares some x-rays. The possibilities are endless. The beginning could be as simple as reading a book about a father. Sharing a story from their own life. Simply getting in there and playing with the children.

To quote a famous line from two very different sources; the Bible and the movie 'Field of Dreams' - "If you build it they will come."

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