Monday, October 29, 2012

Risk Taking Conference - The Aftermath

Now I have to say that I was already an advocate for children being able to take risks. Far more than they are often allowed to. However, through the conference I discovered that I still hold children back. Most of this is due to following rules and policies in place. I have been pushing the boundaries of such regulations, but not nearly enough.

I will be advocating to my colleagues to also look at giving children greater freedom to be adventurous. Because you see, it's also a risk for us educators to change our practices and approaches.

Above all else though, the real benefit for such a conference as this is the networking opportunities. The chance to meet up with Marie and Wayne Armstrong from Early Years Care,  Claire Warden from Mindstretchers, Jennifer Kable from Let the Children Play, Natashja Treveton and Nicole Sheehan from Inspired EC, Donna Ridley-Burns and Sherry Hutton from Irresistible Ideas for PLay Based Learning, Niki Buchan from Precious Childhood, Sue Robertson from Nature Alliance Family Day Care and so many others.
I look forward to maintaining the links with all these fabulous professionals and cannot wait for next years' conference. In the meantime, don't be strangers guys. If you were there, even if we didn't get a chance to chat, why not drop on by our facebook page and say hi.
Now everybody get out there and be a little more risky. Play in the rain; roll down a hill; climb a tree; swim in a creek; take the plunge you've never had the nerve to do before. And make sure you take someone along for the ride.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scarecrow Time

It seems that scarecrows are becoming increasingly popular in early childhood settings. Especially as there is a move back towards natural settings and self sustaining edible gardens. With all that food about there is an increasing need for something to help keep the birds and other critters away.

Take this one over at Flights of Whimsy for example. What's important here is that the children are involved in the process of making the actual scarecrow. This enables them to develop an understanding for its purpose and how it came to be.



This week it was our turn, using material donated by families and members of the community. The children even gave him a name - Sam. An excellent addition to the gardens don't you think?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Risk Taking Conference - The Lead Up

In less than a week I will be attending the "Unwrapping - Encouraging Risk in The Cotton Wool Generation" conference in Newcastle, NSW next weekend, October 27 and 28. A little plug for where I grew up. I will always be a novocastrian at heart.

Anyway, I am so excited to be going to this event. Not only is this an important topic for the early childhood sector, one that I feel passionate about, but also because of who will be there.

This conference will be hosted by Natashja and Nicole from Inspired EC. The keynote speaker will be Claire Warden from Mindstretchers. Other presenters will include such luminaries in the early childhood field as Niki Buchan from Precious Childhood, and Donna and Sherry from Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning. I believe that Jennifer Kable from Let the Children Play will also be in attendance.
I look up to all these people with the greatest of respect and greatly admire the work that they all do. To have the opportunity to finally meet many of them for the very first time is definitely something to get excited about. The fact that I have developed a strong professional and personal online network with these and other early childhood educators, trainers and consultants makes the imminent meeting all the more special to me.
Let's just hope I don't get star struck and can still focus on what each guest speaker has to say. After all, despite a growing trend back towards accepting some risk taking in young children, there is still much work to be done and I want to be fully equipped to fight the good fight.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Coaches are like Teachers

At the beginning of the year I posted about other options open to men other than childcare that would still see them working with children. You can view that post here.

Among those options was that of coach. Specifically sporting coach. Now there are many parallels between teaching and coaching, but one of the most striking is one I was witnessed to recently at an elite junior athletics championships.

Now let me state that I come from a position of a parent first and foremost as I was one long before becoming a teacher. However, each role influences the other. I have also been my son's coach (of sorts) when he was younger. He now receives more effective coaching.

The thing with championships such as these is that it brings out the aggressive parents and coaches. While at these meets I witness some top level coaches and passionate parents who do nothing but encourage their children, albeit quite loudly sometimes. However, all too often these people are outnumbered by the coaches and, worse still in my mind, parents who hurl abuse at these young athletes if they are not performing up to the expectations of those on the other side of the fence.
At the championships my son competes at the ages of the competitors usually range from 8 to 18. Now while some might say that an 18 year old should be able to handle the pressure put on their so called supporters, I beg to differ. No matter what age a person is, infant through to adult, continued and relentless pressure to succeed or meet demanding expectations can have a dramatic and long lasting affect on the individual's mental state.
I have witnessed far too many young person brought to tears by the actions of those who are meant to have the child's best interests at heart. While there is always going to be a competitive side to sports, junior sports in particular, even at the elite level should never lose sight of the enjoyment factor. the future of these young people's wellbeing may well be at stake.
Photo courtesy of Kierna from Learning for Life

Now we come to the title of this post. Why are coaches like teachers? Well if educators at any level are too demanding of those in their care then it too can place unnecessary burdens on young shoulders. Parents, teachers, families, educational services, communities and society in general often expect their children to be the best.
The thing is, even if a child can run faster, jump higher, throw further, write better, speak more eloquently, get top scores in standardized tests, meet high level selection criteria, there's no guarantee that child will be happier, smarter, more skilled than one who doesn't do quite so well in these areas.
Excellence is great. We celebrate it everywhere and so we should, but we shouldn't let the drive for excellence in our children destroy their childhood and even their futures. A well rounded education and development across domains is far more important, especially for younger children, than if they can count to 100 or not.
Don't make them jump through hoops. At least not your hoops and not if they don't want to. If hoop jumping is what they want to do than it will happen  when they are ready for it. Now stop screaming at your kid and give them a hug. it will do them far more good then any amount of lambasting.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Break in Transmission

Before you start reading you should be aware that this post had absolutely nothing to do with education, males or any other area normally associated with this blog. In truth is is basically one big long rant. It's not meant for anyone in particular to read. it is simply a way to vent some frustration.

If you look through the list of posts here you will find a few on how fickle our blogosphere is when the internet decides to play up on us. So it has been the past week or so.

With ongoing connectivity issues with our internet provider, sometimes for quite lengthy periods, a decision was made to change providers. Little did we know what an ordeal it would turn out to be.

Contacting the old providers to cancel our account was straight forward enough, except they didn't do it first time around and it took a few days for us to realise this. Then when our account finally was cancelled it was over two weeks after our initial request.

The new provider, in theory, should then have been able to set up our new service. WRONG! For several days they kept telling us they had yet to receive notification that our previous service had been ended. Furthermore, when they did finally receive such notification it would be at least a week before our new account could be activated rather than the 3 days that were originally stated.

Finally, after several complaints they suggested we purchase a prepaid internet account, the cost of which would be subtracted from our first billing period. Now this should have enabled internet access until our account was activated. Should have been, but the problem was that they entered the wrong details so we were not in the system.

With much head scratching, more than a fair share of swearing at the monitor and heaps of pent up anger our connection to the cyberworld was eventually restored late last night.

This is still the temporary prepaid option, but at least we are back.

Makes you wonder though how much these companies actually want new business when they seem to go out of their way to make things as difficult as possible.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It's Not Always About Gender

This post is a little different from the usual found here, although it still has gender element to it.

Here in Australia there has been a high profile custody battle across continents over the past 2 years or so. I won't go into details, but you can read the latest here with links to earlier stories available.

On a number social media and news forums there have been various responses to what has taken place and has been portrayed by the media during this ongoing saga.

The danger with such a high profile case is that facts get distorted and it becomes very difficult to sift through all the information in order to find the bare truth.

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on this. However, some opinions seem to disregard or ignore certain facts. Or more worryingly, consider them unimportant.

While the majority of comments I have read, and that is just a mere drop in the ocean of what is actually out there, people are content with the legal process and final judgement handed down. Although they are very concerned about its portrayal in the media.

Still, there are those out there who hold preconceived ideas about gender, no matter what the circumstance. Take this one example from a news/entertainment forum,
"This is what I suspected. It is so easy for a man with financial means to hire a smart lawyer who can manipulate the courts against a financially powerless wife. A grave miscarriage of justice has occurred. But what never ceases to amaze me is the number of people like so many posting on this site who are eager to condemn the woman without knowing the full facts."
I always find it amusing when people put down others for doing exactly what they themselves are doing. Sadly I so often see similar double standards within the teaching profession. But that's for another time.
The facts, as far as I can discern, are that the court ruled in favour of the father under the jurisdiction of the Hague Convention, which was developed with such cases in mind. Yes the legal process is far from perfect, but unless we are privy to all the facts, and we rarely are, then how are we to make educated and informed judgements?
In my humble opinion the gender of the parent in this case is insignificant. International and national laws are what determined the outcome of the court's verdict, as it always should be. As I said however, I am not in possession of all the facts and therefore I have based my view  on what I do know and what I deem to be fair and just.

You my dear reader must make up your own mind. But please don't turn this into a man versus woman issue. It's not always about gender.