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Documentation, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Professionalism, Programming


Over the last decade, the expectations placed on services and educators appear to have grown rapidly. There are curricula and risk assessments and critical reflections and quality improvement plans. So, I guess it is only natural that we seek out ways to reduce that paperwork, to limit the time spent in the office and maximise our time engaging with children (you know – the reason we chose to work in this profession in the first place!) I am all for streamlining processes and making things simpler – the old saying “work smarter, not harder” certainly rings true, yet I worry that in our attempts to do so, we may be missing out on some important opportunities for professional learning and growth.

When I first started back in early childhood some seventeen years ago, “box programming” was the norm. Almost every early education and care service used some form of template that outlined the activities to be provided in each area of the room or outdoor space. They had headings such as “fine-motor” or “sand pit” and there were spaces to fill in and items to tick off. If they were fancy, these box programs had colour coding or some other system to make it “easier” to ensure that all areas or children had been programmed for. It was a pretty simple system to follow. And I hated it.


Why did I hate it? It was supposed to make it easy. All I had to do was fill in the boxes.

My challenge was that it was so incredibly prescriptive that it left no room for spontaneity or creativity. It left no room to share a narrative or make connections.

While I believe that for the most part, we as a sector have moved away from this structured, formatted approach to programming, I do see an increase in apps and programs that utilise the “cut and paste” feature. Say, for example, I write a story about a group of children building with the blocks. At the end of that story I can open a tab with each of the EYLF Learning Outcomes listed and just drag and drop something that feels like it connects to my story. Is there anything inherently wrong with that? Well, I’m not sure. On the one hand, the ability to save precious time is wildly appealing – we want educators with the children, not stuck in the office or staff room typing up learning outcomes. On the other hand, I fear that it may be creating educators who are not truly connecting to the EYLF and to theories and ideas that may underpin their practice, programs and observations of children’s play and discovery. I worry that in our attempts to take the short-cut, we may be missing the joy of the journey.

What if instead of asking for an EYLF Cheat Sheet we spent some time reading the framework or debating its content with our colleagues?

What if instead of instead of using a ready-made summative assessment sheet with tick boxes of “Katy can hop on one foot” or “Katy is learning to share”, we actually told a story of the child’s time in our care, highlighting their deep learning moments, their friendships and connections, their growth and moments of wonder?
What might we learn about ourselves? What might we learn about children? What might we be inspired to wonder?
While it might be tempting to take the short cut (and let’s be honest – in some instances it just makes sense and may be a better option than reinventing the wheel), we need to remember that quality will always trump quantity. If we want our documentation to be authentic, from the heart and to truly capture the amazing moments of children – we need to stop looking for the short cut, slow down and enjoy the journey, and take note of the personal/professional learning and growth that occurs when we do exactly that.
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Pedagogy, Professional Development, Professionalism
 


Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know betterdo better.” —Maya Angelou

 

Have you ever found yourself in an early childhood Facebook group? Perhaps you have a group that you love, one where those involved are inspiring, reflective and connected. Chances are though, you’ve been drawn in to one of the larger groups with the promise of more interaction, more ideas. You land in one of these large groups and the posts begin rolling on into your newsfeed:

“What are you all doing for mothers day craft?”

 “Here’s an hilarious video of a child doing something embarrassing”

 “Im so angry. Why do we get treeted like babysitters when we are profesionals? What are ur guys opions? “ (yes, the spelling mistakes are deliberate and way over the top, I know!)

 

Can I be honest? So much of what is posted in these groups frustrates the life out of me, as I know it does a great many other professionals. But it’s not the content that frustrates me – it’s the responses:

“We painted all the babies hands and turned them into flowers, laminated them and gave them to the mum’s. Soooooo cute!”

“OMG. That is so funny!”

“Its annoying isn’t it? We should get more money. Yeah, I know I should join the union, but I haven’t.”

 

Ugh. Response after response of groupthink. Every now and then, someone dares to speak up and offer a new perspective:

“Why do we feel the need to do a specific craft activity for mothers/fathers day?”

“I think this video is disrespectful to the child and shouldn’t be on social media.”

“Yes, it is disappointing that our professionalism is not recognised with higher wages. What action could you take to make change?”

 

And sure enough, that brave response is often shot down, the poster criticised and the practice defended:

“Our children love doing crafts like this and the parents expect it. We don’t force the children, we just keep suggesting that they come and get their hand painted to make a flower. They all eventually do, because it is sooooo much fun!”

“Oh lighten up – it’s a joke!”

“It shouldn’t be up to me to do anything, the government needs to do something. I already work hard enough and don’t want to do anything outside of my work hours – it’s unreasonable that you would ask people to do that!”

 

And, so it goes on. The people who are questioning, challenging and reflecting often dwindle away, frustrated with the negative backlash that comes from doing so. I have seen professionals who have received threatening personal messages as a result of encouraging others to think a little deeper about the post. That is never okay.

 

Over the last week, I have been reading Brené Brown’s book “Dare to Lead.” Let me just say – wow! In the book (I wont give too much away, you will have to read it for yourself), Brené speaks at length about vulnerability, and I believe that is a large part of what we are seeing here. When we post on social media, particularly in a public forum, we are being vulnerable. We are putting out our ideas, questions and images into the world, not knowing what we will get back. This should be an opportunity for learning and for growing. For some people though, I suspect there is a desire to simply get back affirmation that what they are doing is “right” or “good”, that they perhaps don’t really want their question answered in any way other than the answer that they already have in their own mind. This is coming from a place of knowing. 

None of us “know it all”. There are always new perspectives to hear, new questions to ask, new research to unpack, new discoveries to be made. When we approach posting on social media from a place of knowing rather than a place of growing we limit our own ability to evolve as educators, as professionals.

Being vulnerable in our approach to posting (and responding) on social media means that we post with an open heart and an open mind. We are honest, even when that is hard. We seek to understand, more than to be understood. We understand that there is always room for growing and it isn’t important to be all knowing. And when we do that – we gain new information, skills, understandings and ways of doing that enable us to evolve, both as an educator and as a human being.

 

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Pedagogy, Professionalism



“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” 


Famous words from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and words that I have been pondering recently.


Last week I had the privilege of listening to the brilliant Peter Gray speak about his research on how children learn. During the talk he shared stories of the Sudbury Valley School and one thing that stood out for me was that they do not use the name “teachers”. For some reason this stuck in mind and I have been thinking about it for the last week. I looked up the Sudbury Valley School and found their explanation for this, when asked the question “do you have teachers?” (which was as Peter had said, however didn’t rely on me remembering it word for word!):

We have adults. They’re called “staff members” and they do sometimes teach, as do many of the kids, but their main purpose is to be here as resources, as people who help make sure the school is running properly, and as role models for what it’s like to be a grownup. Hopefully we’re okay at being grownups.


I can’t get this out of my head and last night I began thinking about the various names in early education and care. 

Children or Kids?


I have been known to refer to children as “kids” and have been chided by others who have stated that they are not, in fact, baby goats and that the term is disrespectful. A quick google search revealed that the slang or informal use of the word kid/kids to describe children may have begun in the 16th Century, which I found quite interesting. There were also various opinions on why the term is offensive, with some suggesting that is sounds hierarchical or reminded them of goats.

Well, I am indeed aware that children are not baby goats and while my use of the word kids is not at all derogatory or suggestive that they may well be goats, I do now find that I am correcting myself whenever I say “kids”. Why? Does it make a difference to the way I feel about them or the way I interact with them or to my role as an advocate for children?

Early Education and Care, Child Care, Day Care, Early Learning, Preschool

There are so many names used for what the service that we provide – is any one better than the others? Is there even a difference?

When I started working at a service it had a very long name which included “Community Preschool and Child Care Centre”. When I questioned the use of both “preschool” and “child care” it was explained that the service had previously been a “preschool” (in NSW – operates school terms, 9am – 3pm for children 3-6years) Over time, the hours had been extended and the starting age lowered, qualifying the service for CCB Subsidy, hence the addition of “child care centre.” The service has since gone on to have a name change which now better reflects the service it provides and is less of a mouthful! But, I often find myself wondering how we came to use so many different terms and whether they suggest to parents that we offer different things. Does a parent read the names and think “hmm, that one only offers day-care, while this one over here offers early learning”?

Would some consistency in naming help families and the community to value more highly, what it is that we do? And if so, how do we achieve that consistency?


Teachers and Educators

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the “teachers” at Sudbury Valley School are known as adults. In early childhood settings we primarily use the terms educators or teachers. Are these one and the same? Is the only distinguishing feature a university degree and a wage difference? Or is there more to it than that?

In my experience as what is known as an “educator” (who at that point in time was referred to as a “child care worker”) who then became a “teacher” – I experienced no real difference in my practice, in my work with children. I also didn’t feel, in either role, that it was my role to “teach” or “impart my wisdom” onto children, but that I was a facilitator – someone to walk alongside them as they made discoveries about the word, someone to listen to their questions and support them to unpack their hypotheses. In fact, I was also the learner – I was learning about the children and how their brains worked!

The Oxford Dictionary defines a teacher as “A person who teaches, especially in a school.” Interestingly, they define an educator as “A person who provides instruction or education; a teacher.”

Does the term teacher suggest a hierarchy? Is that hierarchy warranted? Do we value children as teachers also? Do we value parents or community members as teachers? If we were to not use the term “teacher” does it in any way de-value our professionalism?


Little Flippity-Jibbets Sunshine and Rainbows

Perhaps it’s just me, but the cutesey-fying (not a word… but should be!) of service names has always driven me crazy. I have always felt that it promotes an inferior image of the child – that instead of an image of capable contributors to society, it suggests cute, squishy playthings! But now, as I write this post, I find myself reflecting on whether this is fair. Perhaps this is no different to me using the term “kids”? This is something I need to think more on and would love to hear your thoughts on this.

One thing I do not need to think more on, as I know I absolutely will not change my mind, is the intentional misspelling in service names. E.G. Kute Kids or Krazy Kidz (P.S – These exact names are made up, however the use of the K instead of the C or a Z instead of an S is completely factual!) If we wish to be taken seriously as an education and care service, this is just a huge no-no.

 

So why does any of this matter?

Well, perhaps it does and perhaps it doesn’t. Who does it matter to? Why does it matter? Do the names we use make suggestions about the type of service we provide or our image of the child? Do they make a statement about who we are and what we believe or value?

Lots to think about… what are your thoughts?


Have you got a set of our STEM cards yet?

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