Monday, August 27, 2012

A True Celebration of Father's Day

Like most others early childhood educators I have been busy coordinating Father's Day gifts for the children to take home. Yet this is not my only angle this year and neither should it be for you.

There are some wonderful ideas across the blogosphere and beyond on what you can do with children to recognise this special day. Some of these are very much like a production line of teacher directed craft while others are open-ended child led experiences resulting in unique creations. The choice is yours which ones you would like to undertake with your little ones.


For me it was an eleventh hour change of plans. Asking the children what they wanted to make their dads, the consensus was on some type of vehicle - car, motorbike, truck and even boat. However, the order for materials I had placed was unable to be fulfilled and with no time left to order anything else I quickly went a hunting around the craft shops, $2 shops, department stores, etc to find anything that would spark ad idea worthy of the children and their dads or other male influences.

After some searching I came across some small square canvasses at a very reasonable price. I also discovered small packets of adhesive glitter letters that I thought may come in useful. Some of the results are here for you to see.
 

All very unique and each easily reconisable by the children as their own.

Now I did say that there was more that could be done before and there is. Why stop at this, as good as it may be? Invite your dads, uncles, granddads, older brothers, etc to come in for a visit. They could read to the children. Tell them stories from their own lives. Demonstrate a skill they might have. Simply be with the children and be a positive influence on more than their own child.

Not only does this meet several Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and National Quality Standard (NQS) areas, it is also a great way to promote involvement of families and the broader community.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Trust

There are many things most of us take for granted as individuals, educators and parents. One of the things that should be expected of least is trust. Not the trust we have in others, but the trust we expect others to have in us. I trust people to maintain a certain standard when undertaking their occupation. It doesn't matter if they work with others or alone.

If I hire a plumber I expect them to do their work to a particular level of quality. If there is a fire I expect the firefighters to do their best to extinguish the flames while ensuring the safety of anyone within the vicinity. If I am dealing with a salesperson I expect some salesmanship, but will not tolerate too much BS (if you'll pardon me).

I also expect that other will be able to trust me to fulfill my duties effectively. parents should trust me to ensure their child is well cared for, their educational and personal needs are met and that they are receiving the best care and education I can provide. Likewise, my colleagues should be able to trust me to do my job without fear of what might be happening if they turn their backs. That includes menial daily tasks being completed effectively and efficiently.

It therefore should not be too much to ask that I be able to trust parents and colleagues in return. For the most part this is the case. However, I have all too frequently in the past be disappointed in the attitudes of both parents and educators to children. Unfortunately it seems that some children are seen as an inconvenience to adults' daily lives.

Now I must reiterate that these are by far a minority of cases, but even one is too many in my book. The worst offenders are those who 'train' to care and educate young children then seem to be put out by their very presence. Unfortunately I have witnessed this too.



However, as hard as it may seem, these are not reasons why I write this post. This post was provoked by an incident involving a casual and until now I have not dared tell the tale. Well the time has come to get this off my chest.

A parents car was run into outside a centre and there were two witnesses who saw this person driving the car that did the damage, yet despite countless opportunities for them to come forward and even directly admit to what had happened they continued to deny any knowledge whatsoever.

The point here is that how can that parent, or any other for that matter, trust that service when a staff member willingly withholds information regarding such an incident? How can we as colleagues trust them? There will always be doubts about their honesty when it comes to giving their account of an issue or event.

Now as professionals, if we don't have the trust of our colleagues or the families we are meant to serve then how can we possibly do our job effectively. I know as a parent I would not be happy to know such a person might have responsibility over my child and as an employer I could not consciously continue to let such a person be in a position of such responsibility and power.

Trust. We need to earn it over time, but can erode it in an instant.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Would You Rather…..

…..have a room full of children who are quiet, obedient and well behaved, or a class of children simply being children?

…..keep everything tidy so it’s easy to find something when you want it, or everything available for the children to access at their leisure?

…..have children listen to you because they are don’t want to get into trouble, or have them listen to you because they are truly interested in what you have to say?

.....keep the routine and experiences the same or preplanned so that everyone knows what is needed and what to expect, or follow the lead of the children and head in directions that will surprise you throughout the day?

.....ensure children are always safe from harm by removing all potential dangers, or promote active risk taking that helps develop problem-solving skills, gross and fine motor development, negotiation skills with peers and adults, confidence and self belief, perseverance and a host of other intrapersonal and interpersonal skills?

…..have your colleagues question your methods and practices because they don’t believe in them, or ask you to share your philosophy and pedagogical beliefs because they want to learn from you?

…..be someone who looks to others for guidance and inspiration, or be the person others look to?

…..families bring their children to you because you are the cheapest or offer the most suitable hours, or because your reputation and standing in the community is well known?

These are simple questions, at least to me, but they may also lead to individuals and services reflecting on how they go about working with young children and their families. The answers too may seem obvious, but I'm sure that most of us at some point would have to have answered in a way other than how they would wish to if being completely honest with themselves. That's ok. It's more than ok, it's great that you recognise that and also acknowledge that you have changed your practice or approach.

If not than that's fine too. As long as you look upon these questions as an opportunity to think about what you regard as important in terms of helping young children develop and grow to the best of their potential.

There are so many other questions you could ask yourself. If we don't question what we do, how we do it or why we do it we will likely never change. Now that would be bad as change is a necessity for growth as an early childhood educator. 

So what questions will you ask yourself? What questions do you have for your colleagues? What questions do you have for your families and their children? What questions do you have for me?

Friday, August 10, 2012

My First Guest Post

I am proud to announce my first ever guest post. This was over at Learning for Life where Kierna asked if I could write something for her regular outdoor play link up while she enjoyed some time off during their Summer break.

I don't want to steal her thunder so instead of explaining about my post here why not head on over and check it out for yourself. Being a link up there are heaps of links to other worthwhile outdoor play posts from many bloggers for you to look through as well.

Things such as this are one great way we as bloggers collaborate and harness our knowledge and resources for one another. It's one of the reasons I love doing this.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

We're Teachers Too!

Every time I hear a debate about school teachers it gets my back up. It doesn't matter if it's concerning the call for more men in our schools, particularly the primary/elementary level (although this is a specific bugbear given the actual numbers of males teaching in schools compared to those in prior-to-school settings). Or the innovations occurring within classrooms in regard to how learning is taking place, often ideas and initiatives taken from or inspired by early years practitioners. Or even the scrutiny over pay, class sizes, teacher effectiveness or any other number of so called measurables.
Despite the fact that there has been quite a bit of focus on early childhood education and care within Australia recently resulting in widespread changes, I still feel there is a clear dichotomy when education issues arise. Namely the separation of formal schooling and early years settings.
Whenever I hear a discussion about how difficult school teachers have it, which for the most part I agree they do, a voice inside me begins screaming, "Well we have it just as tough, if not tougher!" And while there has been scrutiny of late of teachers in school, it's been more about how to weed out the bad ones. That's an issue everywhere in society, not just in education. Although it has far reaching consequences when so called 'bad' teachers are present throughout our systems.

Now I'm not bagging school teachers here. I am quite close with a number of them. it's the focus that teachers with school systems seem to get from the media and society in general while those of us dedicated to the education and development of younger children are often forgotten about, or worse still, disregarded.

Now there will always be things to 'fix' in any education system, but I truly believe an integrated approach that sees all educational professionals as belonging to the same community rather than entities separated by the buildings in which they work.

Even during my time at university I heard those studying primary and secondary teaching that us early childhood students had it easy and will continue to to do so out in the real world. I invite any teacher, no matter what their qualifications, and other members of society, particularly the media, to spend some time in an early childhood educational environment. To see them take on the daily role of an early years educator and let's see if they still think we have it easy or if they will be so quick to overlook us in the future.

I fear I will be waiting a long time and even if I have those willing to take me up on my offer, I doubt the status quo will change very much. I look forward to be proven wrong.

By the way, that wasn't an open invitation for everyone to come rushing to my service. I would welcome your interest and be pleased to show off what I actually do all day, but I don't think those in charge would be very appreciative of a bunch of strangers turning up. What you could do is contact your local service and inquire about volunteering your time for a day. Volunteers are usually most welcome by most centres most of the time.