Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Men (& Women) Are Coming!

Although it is Easter, there will be no Easter craft ideas here. Instead I would like to take the opportunity to advise everyone of the upcoming conference, "Unwrapping - Rediscovering the Unlimited Potential of Play" hosted by Inspired EC in Shoal Bay, NSW on August 3rd and 4th this year. Two of the Keynote Speakers will be world renowned and respected men within the field of Early Childhood Education and Care.


 
First of all there is Marc Armitage. Marc is a playworker from England. Now the term 'playworker' is not widely known within Australia, so if you would like to learn more about what it entails perhaps you should visit Marc's site.

 
Then we have Tom Hobson, better known to most of you as Teacher Tom. Tom is the only educator at his Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool in Seattle, Washington.

Both men have much to offer in regards to the benefit of play for young children and just as importantly, they are excellent examples of men working within the Early Childhood Education field. They are both great advocates for EC professionals, regardless of their gender, and guys to look up to for inspiration and guidance if you are a bloke in the industry.

So make it to the conference if you can and as a bonus (or consolation prize) you may get to meet me.

 
 
It has been brought to my attention that by highlighting the men who will be presenting at this conference I omitted the very talented and highly distinguished Niki Buchan. Niki has been at the forefront of the Early Childhood profession in three continents. We are lucky enough to have her here in Australia with us now and wouldn't trade her for anyone.
 
 


Friday, March 22, 2013

Hypocrisy

I'm disillusioned! I have encountered first hand, as well as heard anecdotal accounts of services contradicting their own ethos. While claiming to be child centric, following children's interests and being flexible in the way they provide experiences and guide children's learning with one hand, they demand educator strictly follow set formulae when documenting.

So here's a simple question. Should services expect all staff to document in a particular way, regardless of their individual styles? Or should educators be empowered just as their children are, to make their own informed choices and record, document, and reflect in a way that is best suited to their unique talents, knowledge and background?



Fort me there is only one answer to each - NO, followed by YES. As long as essential information and criteria are included, and that EYLF and NQF requirements are present and evident, then there should be no debate over this at all. If the individual professional can demonstrate how links occur and explain to anyone what it all means then what is the problem?

 


But there I go again. I was asking YOU for YOUR opinions. So can you provide them please?
For the sake of a balnaced forum I will rerfrain from responding to comments unless they specifically request it. Remember, this site is moderated so any inappropriate comments will not be published. Keep it respectful and professional people.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Solitude

Solitude - it's something we all need from time to time. Something we often seek out. Children and adults. Yet so often when we see someone by themselves we go out of out way to get them to join with others. Why do we do that? Anyway, that is a post for another time.

Personally I thrive on solitude at times. When I have paperwork that needs completing or a book I'm reading, being by myself eliminates many of the distractions around me.

The same can go for just wanting or needing a break. I love my family dearly, but there are times when I feel as though I need some time to myself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but we should be careful what we wish for.

For five days recently I was on my own. My son was competing in a national junior sporting championship on the other side of the country and I was unable to get time off work. So while my wife, son and daughter were over 4000 km away I had the 'luxury' of having the entire house to myself for 5 1/2 days.

Now while there were times it was great to have all that time and space to myself, the fact is that for most of the time I simply felt lonely. The house seemed empty and devoid of life and character. I yearned for the everyday things that we take for granted, even complain about. Things such as arguments over petty things, getting in each other's way, or having someone to simply talk to.

Yes we were able to stay in touch and communicate through a variety of means, but that physical presence wasn't there. So while I might yearn for solitude at times and actually need it, being alone is a completely different proposition and that is something I don't strive for.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

An Interview With Tom Bedard

A while ago I interviewed Scott Wiley and thought it was about time I interviewed another inspirational male early childhood professional. if all goes well I would like to see this become a regular series, but we'll just start with this one for now.

May I introduce you to Tom Bedard from the blog,
Sand and Water Tables. As we live in different continents the best way to conduct this interview was for me to email Tom a series of questions that he later replied to with his responses. Here we go.
 

When did you first consider entering the Early Childhood profession?


Entering college, I wanted to learn about children so I majored in Child Psychology. Coming out of college, I looked for a job in a childcare center. After being on the job and around children for a month, I knew I had found my place. Six months later, I went back to school to get a teaching certificate and a decade or so later, I got a Master's Degree in Early Ed.
 

Have you encountered many other males in the field, either working directly with them or via avenues such as conferences, workshops or other networking opportunities?

We are a rare breed. Whenever I go to teacher meetings, I am often the only guy. I have begun to see more men in the lower elementary grades, but not in early ed. Although I have been to two local early ed conferences in the last year and met four other male teachers and each has been in the field for over 20 years. That was a welcome surprise.
 

Who is/was your inspiration (if you had any) when you first began working with young children? Note: it doesn't necessarily have to be a male.

I must say that the children have always been my inspiration. They are full of eternal optimism and know how to live in the moment. As my own children grew, they were my inspiration. I had always told them to try. They did, so when I wanted to try something new, I had to follow my own advice and my children's example. Nearing the end of my career, I have many more people who inspire me. I have been involved with people who look to Reggio practice for inspiration putting tremendous amount of trust in the ability of children. And then there is the internet and blogosphere with inspiration a click away from all over the world.


What is your favourite part of your job?

Knowing that I get to be with children for whom every day is a new day to be discovered.
 

Was their ever a time when you doubted you choice of profession or considered leaving? If so how did you overcome those doubts?

 
Carlos Castaneda wrote something in one of his books that there are many paths in life, so take one with a heart and embrace it fully. Your heart has to be in it otherwise it will feel like every day you have to get up to do battle.
 
There were two times in my career when I had doubts. The first was five years into my career when I realized I was not making enough money to support my family. At that point, I became a director of a center. Five years later, I was able to get back in the classroom when I was hired by a school district that paid a living wage. The second time was when I worked with a colleague that questioned everything I did. Since I think I am reflective in my own practice, I began to question myself and what I was doing. I took a summer off that year even though I could not afford it. I came back in the fall stronger and have been all-in ever since.
 

How would you describe the general reaction from parents and colleagues to you being a man working with young children?

In 35 years, I can count only three times I felt negative vibes from parents. That is pretty good. One parent told me that she did not want me to change her daughter's diaper. Hey, I did not take that personally and was happy to let someone else do it. By the time the family left the program, though, I was told I could change her diaper. I actually feel a tremendous amount of support from the parents and colleagues.
 

Do you have a story or example that demonstrates how valued/respected you are by others?

In 2009, a parent in our program nominated me for Teacher of the Year in Minnesota (USA). I became the first early childhood finalist in the history of the program. (It was the first time my mother saw me in a suit as an adult.) Not only did I feel that my work was validated on a state level, but I got to spend time as an equal with some of the best elementary and secondary teachers my state has to offer.
 

What was your aim/goal when you began this career? What would you say is your goal professionally these days?

The past five years, I have been presenting on one aspect of my work with children, namely sand and water tables. I have done three national conferences, several regional conferences, and numerous local conferences. I am hoping to do more in a larger range of venues.

 

Have you mentored other professionals, whether beginning or those established who may have been struggling? If so how did you approach that/those situation/s?

I have been supervising student teachers from a couple of local colleges for a number of years. Most of the time they have assignments they have to complete. That is all well and good but I always try to first get the student teachers to relax and observe in the classroom. Once they have done some observing, we debrief. Any work in the classroom must be based on how children learn best. The only way to figure that out is to observe and dialogue about the observations.
 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I love to cook and to travel. In the 1970's I lived in Hungary. I met my wife when I visited a Hungarian preschool. I stayed and we married. Since I was an American in a communist country, I could not get a job. My family job became helping grandma. We went to the market every day and then went home to cook. There were no recipes, just a little bit a this and a some of that. I still use her methods when I cook. And I am always looking for a reason to travel. I have been on every continent except Australia (and Antarctica). I can still dream.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weather is No Barrier


Weather can be an intriguing subject for young children. They are often curious about it and usually have so many questions. Why is it then, that more often then not, when the most interesting weather conditions present themselves the children are likely to be inside?

 
What will they learn from inside? That the clouds block the sun? That rain makes a sound if it's heavy enough? That water collects on the ground in puddles? All true, but hardly engaging, at least not for long.


Children deserve to have opportunities to be out in all types of weather. Yes, if they are to be out in cold, wet conditions for a sustained length of time then appropriate clothing is necessary.


However, even without that clothing children can still explore rain, wind, snow or heat, just for briefer periods.


Just look at the pictures of these children felling the water on their feet, head, body, all over. Even though you cannot see their faces you can probably still tell they are enjoying themselves.


Sure they could still be enjoying themselves inside, but it would be at the expense of the opportunities available outside in these situations. The indoors will always be available, but such opportunities as this come and go far too quickly.


The decisions we make in regards to the opportunities available to children can have long reaching implications. Just so you know, well after we had jumped in the puddles (and I was right there with them, bare feet and all), the children were talking about it right up to when some of them went home. They discussed how the water felt, both under their feet and falling on them. There were ideas raised about what else they could do in the rain. Some role play scenarios even recreated the events from outside. So a simple act to go out and get wet provoked learning in so many areas and sustained interest for the entire day.


With the rain set to continue for days to come I envisage more of these opportunities presenting themselves. I bet the children can't wait either.

I really love the quote that heads the blog Learning For Life. It reads:
"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, and snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." John Ruskin 1819-1900