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The Educators Journal

…think, inspire, reflect…

Practice Changing Pressures

Practice Changing Pressures

Over time, I feel that as educators we can get swayed or slightly diverted off our ‘ideal’ path or our beliefs and ideas about how to teach children or how children learn.

I’m not talking about the things you read in an article that may have reflection and valid reasoning behind them, I’m talking about the little comments and suggestion from others- such as parents, colleges, and peers who say or do things but have not been challenged professionally to really understand what they are saying.

Often we can forget the reasons for changing these to the point where it can become normal practice. Until one day you wake up and finally look into the practice and realize it’s not what you intend to be like as a teacher… or that you are now better equipped with the knowledge to really understand why you want to change it…

Positive impact could be things such as readings on theory, reflection on our ideas, challenging our beliefs and questioning our reasoning behind things. The type of stuff that makes us think and reflect deeply to really understand why we do something or who it is really for.

Be the educator you want to be!

Don’t be scared to be the educator you want to be.

Just because someone has a different opinion to you doesn’t mean you are wrong. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your way is inadequate no matter who they are – teacher, assessor, colleague, consultant.

You see I have been in the Early Childhood Sector for over 10 years now and this year is the year that I finally got the confidence in myself to be who I want to be as an educator, this meant making big changes to support my passion and drive in Early Childhood. Hopefully, these changes will assist me to fall back in love with my career.

I may seem like I am contradicting myself here and seem like I am judging other educators but when I talk about educating I don’t mean sitting on the floor cutting out 30 cut outs that mean absolutely nothing to the children, getting every single child to do the exact same artwork for a display on the wall or making your room look like a showroom where nothing is out of place because if you really value educating and you have been in the sector for 5 years or over you would know that the above is not educating because it is not for the children it is for the adult.  I think when that finally clicks a whole new thought process is born. If you have been in early childhood for a while and you still do this I would suggest you start researching, NOW because you are only just beginning your journey!

It may sound harsh but its true!

What do I believe in as an educator you ask? PLAY, uninterrupted, spontaneous, loud, quiet, messy, tidy, long, short PLAY. Supported by planned and spontaneous interactions and experiences. Love, if you don’t fall in love with the little people you share up to 5 out of 7 days with every week is your heart really in it? Child’s choice. The W’s. Why do we do what we do? Who do we do this for? Meaningful interactions, small groups, engaging environments. Open-ended recourses, sustainable recourses and environments, loose parts. Standing back and allowing the child to play, investigate and learn how to resolve conflict with peers themselves. The list goes on!

We would love to hear what drives you to be the educators you want to be!

Going back to basics

I stumbled across this quote recently and it really resonated with me.

‘Often the richest, most productive play doesn’t look like much because it’s dawdling, imagining, daydreaming, big picture thinking. To encourage this kind of play we must: first value it; second, observe it; and lastly, not interrupt. The secret to not interrupting is to refrain from speaking to children until they initiate eye contact.’ – Janet Lansbury.

Of late Carly and I have been discussing how on earth we got to where we have in early childhood. I mean 10, 20 or 50 years ago it was so different, why do we have so many rules and protocols to keep the children ‘safe?’ Some of which feel as though we have been trained to refrain children from actually experiencing fun because everything needs to be documented or recorded so that learning can be captured and heaven forbid if planned experiences don’t work out!

I remember as a kid of only 4 or 5 years I would be up at the crack of dawn on the weekend and would be riding my bike around our apple orchard made up of acres upon acres. My siblings and I would ride to the edge of the river, up and down the sides of the dam, climb the highest trees and make our own bucket pulleys that stretched from tree to tree sending each other messages for hours and hours. We would climb to the very top of around 7 apple bins stacked on top of one and other and play hide and seek in the top. We would climb the sides of our 50m high machine shed and play chicken with plovers up the driveway. We had a shack across the road from the beach and we would spend all of our days there swimming, boogie boarding, building the biggest castles, tunnels and creeks in the sand, fishing on the rocks and climbing up the rocky banks to make new tracks in the bush.

Our adventures would be considered dangerous today, but the only time one of us got hurt was when our next door neighbour made a cubby out of bricks and it fell down and nearly cut my brother’s finger off. There was also the time I wanted to show my sister how I could fly my bike off the truck loading bay and sprained my arm but other than that we came home every day with no more than a few cuts and bruises. We also never had an adult there to defuse any of the arguments or disagreements we had. We either figured it our for ourselves with a scuffle and a few choice words or it was over before it begun.

There were also the other times when we would daydream together on the front lawn, tie our bikes together and ride around the house, potter in the garden, read books, have picnics, play schools and shops and hide-and-go-seek-stuck-in-the-mud-chasings (you had to say it as one word as fast as you could). All of which provided us with just as much fun and adventure as our more risky feats. All of these had 1 thing in common Mum and Dad never interrupted us – until it was time to clean up!

I even remember being in long day care and swinging in the biggest tyre swing connected to the oldest tree in the yard and then when I went on to OSHC and ASC I remember climbing the same tree. One day I fell out and caught my pants on a branch causing me to hang until I wriggled my way out, I didn’t need an educator to call my Mum or sit in a sick bay because I was a kid and that’s the sort of thing kids do or did! I know I am not the only one with memories like these as most of my friends around the same age had nearly the same experiences as us, mostly because they were with us as we got older and also lived in the country or at the beach.

My point is; why do we now wrap our children (our own and those we care for) in cotton wool? Why do we fix nearly every disagreement they have with each other? Why do we feel the need to interrupt their play to know what they are doing so we can then assess what their ‘learning’? Are we really capturing their learning or just what we feel they need to learn for us to feel valid instead of all the amazing things they discover themselves ever single day? For instance how they climb a tree, how they are connected to nature, how they figure out dirt turns to mud with water or how to be kind to their friends and the world around them, the list goes on. Writing this has also made it really evident to me how extremely important loose parts are in the early childhood setting for constructing, risk taking, imagination and creativity.

The more I research the more I realise we need to stand back and watch what the children are really doing. For me personally, if I can help one child have a childhood even a touch as free, adventurous and fun as mine was I will feel as though I have succeeded in my role as an educator. 

My sibling and I and where we grew up.

EARTHTOYS.NET

Some really nice natural toys and blocks on this site…

Earth Toys

“Earth Toys is a Australian family owned and independent Toy Boutique in Cairns! We stock Australia’s leading range of quality beautiful and unique toys and games for all ages!”

 

Loose Parts Podcast

This is an awesome podcast about loose parts!!!

‘Loose Parts’ podcast on ‘Thiving Children Podcast’

Teaching Sustainability!

10 years ago when I started my early childhood career I worked at a small centre in the coastal Tasmanian town I grew up in. We usually had around 12 children each day, it was such an intimate centre filled with so much happiness!

I worked with an educator named Teresa, who was also a family friend. I remember Teresa saying before meal times each day- ‘At meal times however much water you pour in your cup is what you need to drink because any more is wasteful’ After only a few weeks children only 2 years of age were pouring only what they wanted to drink!

I didn’t think much of it then but for some reason, I always come back to this teacher initiated suggestion. How AMAZING! If I am still thinking of this 10 years later the children that were in our care would be too! Water conservation is such an important issue in our society. In our workplace, simple examples like this can open avenues for teaching about sustainability, global warming and all about the world around us and how we can look after it!

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Personal Educating

 

As a Mum one of the biggest things I need to feel like my child is in the right hands is for his educators to be personal! Ask me how I am, tell me how you gave my little one the biggest cuddles to reassure him through the day, let me see a glimpse of your personality, have a joke with me, talk about my child’s learning!

Some may not agree. Whether it be because they don’t see this as professional, they feel uncomfortable consoling a visibly distressed 2-year-old or they just don’t feel comfortable having this kind of relationship with clients.

I have a hard time not getting personal. I believe if you have trusted me so wholeheartedly to keep your prized possession safe, to teach them, to encourage them to be themselves sometimes more than you have the opportunity to, then I will be personal! I too am in your position and I have found recently that those who aren’t personal simply are not as enthusiastic about their role.

I can proudly say that I have had coffee and breaky dates with some of my families (in fact I had one this morning, and my son ate the majority of Miss E’s Dad’s bacon!) this is how I establish and maintain the amazing relationships I have made with my families over the years. It is not unlikely for me to have a play date with families from work, a Mums night out or to be messaging back and forth to support them during some of the toughest times of their parenting journey.

Sometimes I doubt myself and my relationships, but today when I was adoring a centre on the Sunshine Coast whose photos and posts I have absolutely fallen in love with I came across a piece of documentation that the owner and educator had written. I was left in tears, not only because the words are so beautiful but also because this gave me reassurance that my style of educating may not be for everyone but it is definitely for me.

I can’t wait to write one of my beautiful children a letter of this depth and even more I can’t wait until my son receives one. Molly took a really sad experience in her life and turned it into a story of Harper’s growth, one that captures the amazing connection she has not only with Harper but her family as well.

http://www.milfordlodge.com.au/blog/a-letter-to-harper

What are loose parts and open-ended materials?

What are Loose Parts & Open-Ended Resourcesloose-parts-quote

The term ‘Loose parts’ in Early Childhood is like a collection of bits and pieces that children can use to create something. We see them as things such as gems, stones, pebbles, nuts, bolts, bobbins, buttons, bottle caps and little trinkets and treasures. I would say they are a type of ‘Open-ended’ resources that we educators use to allow children to express themselves with. One of those ‘100 Languages‘.

Open-ended resources, when referred to in Early Childhood education, are resources that have multiple uses for children. They have no ‘rules’, fewer limitations and give children the freedom to create whatever they want out of them.

When children play with open-ended materials they are exposed to decision-making and problem-solving skills.  When exploring the materials children can become innovators, designers, planners, explorers, artists and collaborators as they build, sort, design, manipulate, arrange and stack in a variety of different ways.

It seems to me that lots of things can be categorised as ‘loose parts’ or ‘open-ended’, but the more they look like ‘something’ of single-use or have emphasis put on their use, the harder it is for a child to use their imagination on it…
For example maybe a pencil vs a stick? a pencil is looked at as more of a drawing or writing tool. Perhaps because it is often used in a certain way and/or adults have placed limitations on its use. In the eyes of a child, a stick may not have had the same limitations place on it and is more open to their interpretation.

Open-ended resources allow children to create and express themselves based on their own interests. This often results in role-playing scenarios with peers and practising social and communication skills. This intern is teaching children how to resource and extend their own learning. This also means that they have control over their play and can fully engage in what they are doing.

I have always felt a strong pull towards the creative side of environments both in an early childhood setting and at home. I went through phases of wanting to be an interior designer or landscaper when I was young (never got there for some reason) and am still dreaming of renovating houses and gardens for a living. It’s automatic in my brain, I walk into a house, centre, car etc. and I’m redecorating it in my head, most of the time I don’t even realise I’m doing it. Anyway…. my point is that it is something I am consistently reassessing and thinking about it in my practice too. I guess I am passionate about this side of things. A few years ago I began to look deeper into the environment as the 3rd teacher practices.

About mid last year, I began looking at open-ended resources in particular and work out how I can really incorporate some of these ideas into the room and engage the 11x 4-5-year-olds I had in my class. I began by adding some glass gems, leaves, sticks and wooden branches and very quickly watched as the level of engagement in the room increase. I watched as the children were using the resources to create shapes, letters and pictures on trays and also incorporate them into their play in the home corner as food or money.

I then added sand trays, the light box and logs blocks. I observe an inspiring amount of creation happen before my eyes. I could see exactly what people mean when they say that it allows freedom and expression.

This year I am working with another passionate teacher (Nicola) and we are adding more and more to the environment as we go along. So watch this space for updates and photos.

By the way, this is all stuff I DID learn earlier in my teaching practice, but I hadn’t really been in the right frame of mind to reflect so deeply about it or focused enough on it to take it all in and extend on it. I was focused on improving other parts of my practice.

 

 

 

Ideas for Resources

  • material cutoffs and large blanket size pieces
  • coloured gems
  • glass pebbles  – Bunnings
  • natural stones/pebbles
  • sticks
  • leaves

At the moment we have:

Reflection

Teaching is Reflection

 

It wasn’t until I finished my diploma in early childhood (3 years) , completed almost 2 years of teacher registration and moved across the ditch to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory that I really truly began to understand just how beneficial and necessary reflection really is for your personal development, growth and knowledge  and teaching practice.

I feel like I learn something every day about teaching in early childhood. I’ve been in early childhood going on 9 years now and I STILL have ‘holy sh**’ moments every single day! Nicola and I have worked together for 3ish years now, but we are now in the same room and going through some sort of ’24/7 mind explosion reflection craze’ where we are constantly researching, thinking, reflecting, discussing, researching… over and over and over… about our teaching practice. Late night text novels been sent, calls about Eureka moments, articles flying out of the printer and flung backward and forwards between us… We feel like our minds are in overdrive!

I have learned so much through reflection it’s like the connection between gaining knowledge and making sense of it in your mind. When I reflect I ‘SEE’ more than what I originally saw, I ‘HEAR’ more than I originally heard. I feel if you don’t reflect in enough depth about new knowledge its like you only have a superficial understanding of it or sometimes the wrong understanding. I guess reflection encourages you to research more about separate parts of what you have learned and allows you to really break it down. In early childhood we reflect on experiences, our actions, and interactions; we then analyze them and break them down. Through this process, we can see things such as children’s true interests, ways in which we can expand children’s learning and development and it helps us to truely understand why we are doing what we do and why we say what we say.

We do not learn from experience… We learn from reflecting on experience…” – John Dewey

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