08 Jan 2013

My Image of the Child

No Comments Being Intentional

This semester I’m teaching one of my favorite courses, Infants and Toddlers. I enjoy this course in part because this age group fascinates me, the amount of learning that occurs in the first three years is incredible, and also because of how important the caregiver’s role is with this age group. I think that all too often in the field of early childhood education the focus is on the preschool/kindergarten age group, and although that is certainly important, in my experience it sometimes leaves ECEs feeling unprepared to work with infants and/or toddlers. Although we have a limited amount of time in this course, I hope that over the next few months, I will be able help my students to develop their own rich images of infants and toddlers, with an understanding of how capable and unique they are.

One of the ways that we use to get the students to start thinking about what they already know about infants and toddlers is to literally have them draw an image of an infant or a toddler. At the end of the course, I think that I will have them go back to these images and reflect on how their image of the young child has changed through our discussions. This also has me thinking about my own image of the child, be it infant, toddler or preschooler. As I have tried to consider how I can be more intentional in my practice I have to go back to my image of the child. Am I acting in a way that reflects my image of the child? If I believe that children are capable of problem solving, do I allow them opportunities to do so? I don’t believe in the necessity of adult enforced sharing, however I have intervened in squabbles over toys from time to time. I often struggle with my desire to pick up a crying baby, without first addressing the reason that the infant is communicating. As I strive towards being more intentional in my interactions with young children, I am reminded that I need to keep my image of the child at the forefront of my mind. I need to allow my beliefs about how children learn to dictate my actions, rather than the stress of the moment or trying to “fit in” to my surroundings.

That’s what I love about teaching, how it helps me to keep reflecting and to keep learning.

Photo by mikebaird on Flickr

07 Jan 2013

Documentation and Reflection

2 Comments Documentation, Early Childhood Education, Infants

I have wanted to read The Diary of Laura for a number of years now, even purchasing a copy at conference last year, however I’ve been so caught up in the busyness of life that I tucked it away and promptly forgot about it. Luckily, my year end cleaning turned it up and now I’m trying to work through it in an intentional way, as is my goal for all things this year. The Diary of Laura is, as it sounds, the documentation diary of a infant named Laura during her time in an infant-toddler program in Reggio Emilia, Italy. What I really like about this book is that it has a number of chapters written by different authors sharing their reflections on the diary, and their experiences working with young children. There is also a section with questions to encourage group reading or the use of the book as a professional development tool, so if anyone wants to start a group read of this book, let me know.

One of the first things that struck me is a question posed in the introduction of the book – “Is the form of documentation called “diary” still of interest after twenty years?” I think that as early childhood educators, the practice of documentation is one that we are constantly refining. Programs and individuals have different goals in their use of documentation and especially as technology continues to evolve and change, our methods of documentation also seem to be changing. So, then if we are trying to determine whether the “diary” is still of interest, we need to examine what do we mean by “diary”. Clearly, a diary is a narrative form of documentation, it can include media, such as photos or videos and work samplings. However, I think what sets a diary apart from other documentation is that it requires reflection. A diary is not an exclusively objective presentation of the facts, it allows for wonder, for speculation. You can go back to a previous entry in a diary and continue to add to it, as insights occur. Contextual information is often included. As important as it is for us to be objective observers, the value of our reflections and speculations about why a child might be doing something (especially when the child can’t tell us themselves) are of equal value. I think that in a time where test scores and checklists are becoming our standards for assessment, it’s important to include in our observations opportunities to reflect, to wonder, and even to speculate.

What do you think?

Oh, and one last thing- the diaries in the infant-toddler programs in Reggio and shared between caregivers and families, and both have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and observations. What a wonderful way to nurture our partnerships with families!

06 Jan 2013

Sunday Watching

No Comments Early Childhood Education

Sunday is typically a day of rest for me. So, instead of me sharing something with you, I thought I would let some others do the talking.

One of my favorite Early Childhood researchers is Alison Gopnik. I read both The Scientist In The Crib and The Philosophical Baby and really enjoyed them. Not only is the information presented interesting and relevant to my work, but they are easy to read and understand, which makes both books appropriate for parents and caregivers as well as early childhood professionals. I was further delighted to discover she’s also a very engaging speaker, so I wanted to share this TED talk with you.

While browsing the TED site, I also came across this fascinating video of Annie Murphy Paul, who takes learning back even further by talking about what babies already know at birth. Learning starts in the womb, something I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to before, but I certainly am now.

Who are some of your favorite speakers/researchers? I’d love to know.

05 Jan 2013

Saturday Reading

2 Comments Blogroll, Early Childhood Education

The convenience of Google Reader and other RSS readers has made it so easy for me to keep track of blogs, that I keep track of too many. Like books and journals, I am now also accumulating blogs to follow at an almost unreadable pace. So, I thought I would make all my blog hoarding count and share some of what I’ve read this week with you.

First, a lovely post from Jenny at Let the Children Play. She shares her 2013 Teaching Manifesto here.

Here’s a wonderfully honest piece by Nadine at A Pikler Experience. I really admire her openness and honesty and she reflects about the way that her toddler’s throwing makes her feel and her acknowledgment of the role that all caregivers play in their child’s behaviours. Read “Everything Can Fly” here.

Teacher Tom always makes me think and I think often says the things that many early childhood professionals want to say (or at least want to want to say). This week he reminds us “it’s just weather and challenges us to allow “risky” play. Read “What we did on the Swings in the Weather” here.

I have always loved Light Boxes and I think that “playing” with light can be a rich experience, so of course I loved that Anna at The Imagination Tree shared how to make your own light box using those Christmas lights you haven’t put away yet. Read “DIY Lightbox for Sensory Play” here.

Finally, this isn’t a blog post, but it is something else that showed up in my inbox this week. For those of you living in Ontario, interested in the changes being made to the Child Care Funding, here is the technical paper with all the details.

If you’ve read something interesting this week, leave it in the comments. I love adding to my blog collection.

04 Jan 2013

Five Things Every New ECE Should Know

No Comments Child Care, Early Childhood Education

It’s the Friday before the start of a new semester and for many of my students, their final semester before they go out into the field. This has me thinking about what I would like them to know before they graduate, and I’ve come up with these five things.

  1. Your education does not end here; learning is a lifelong journey. Keep reading articles, blogs, journals and books, attend workshops, keep reflecting, keep an open dialogue with former classmates and co-workers and continue to build your Personal Learning Network. Keep building relationships with the children in your care, because they can teach us just as we teach them- learn from the children.
  2. Team work is key. You will have a partner or two, who will have their own beliefs about children, their own educational and experiential background and their own opinions and ideas. It is important that you communicate with each other and work together, sharing your own ideas and keeping an open mind about theirs. It isn’t always easy to work so closely with someone, but if you keep an open mind and engage in ongoing dialogue it will be an enriching experience.
  3. Money isn’t everything. This is a field where money is a hot button issue and all too often I see students planning their future employment based on which centres pay more. Now, I won’t disagree that money is important, but don’t let that rule your career. Sometimes making a little bit less money, but working at a centre where the staff and the centre’s philosophy matches your own, where you enjoy working, is preferable to working somewhere that causes you stress or makes you unhappy.
  4. Find your passion. If you are getting ready to graduate or have recently entered the field and this isn’t something that you love to do, then don’t. You have other options, don’t feel like you are “stuck” in this field forever. It may just mean you need to find another centre or another area of the field to work in, or it may mean a complete career shift. It’s okay to take another path.
  5. And last – Don’t forget to play! It’s easy to get caught up in the paperwork and the tidying and all the other busy work that we get called to do, but never forget that your job is to build relationships and to be a play partner. It’s okay to sit on the floor and play, it’s okay to have fun. It will invigorate you and inspire you, but most importantly it will make you a better Early Childhood Educator.

What advice would you give an ECE who’s just starting out?

Photo by familymwr on Flickr

03 Jan 2013

ECE and Technology

No Comments Early Childhood Education, Personal Learning Network, Social Media, Technology

I will admit that when I first started in the field of early childhood education I was skeptical about bringing technology into my practice. Like many out there I wasn’t sure that technology and early childhood went together. It wasn’t that I was adverse to technology generally, I have always been fairly “tech-savvy” and have spent many more hours on my computer, smart phone, tablet, etc. than I’d care to admit. In fact, since the field of early childhood doesn’t seem to attract those with computer skills, I have often found myself the unofficial IT dept of my workplace, in charge of all things computer, camera and even photocopier related. That being said, I found myself slowly discovering the benefits of technology in this field.

Working with infants and toddlers, I wasn’t putting a lot of technology into the hands of the children themselves. I believed then, as I still do now that under 2s don’t need any “screen time”. That being said, one of the biggest challenges for an infant/toddler caregiver is demonstrating the learning that occurs every day. A digital camera with video capabilities became my most indispensable tool to capture their learning. This was especially important when I worked in a Reggio inspired setting where documentation was a large part of our practice. Technology made the documentation process easier while providing a clearer and more refined picture of the gathered data.

It was around that same time I began to seek out resources that would support my work with infants in a Reggio inspired setting. I discovered an online group of ECEs who were Reggio inspired and searched for articles, activity ideas and other resources online. Over the years, the online ECE communities have grown as blogging and social media have become more popular. There are more resources now, online journals and magazines, and through social media, ECEs and teachers are forming Personal Learning Networks, something that I have found to be of great value, as I’ve mentioned before.

I will admit that I’ve become a convert. I believe that early childhood education and technology need to be linked. I think there is value for the children, but more than that I think that there is great value for the educator in incorporating technology into their practice. As with everything, we just need to be intentional in the way that we use it.

Photo by Table4Five on Flickr

02 Jan 2013

Wordless Wednesday – Clay

No Comments Infants

01 Jan 2013

Be Intentional

4 Comments Being Intentional, Canadian ECE

I’m not usually someone who makes a New Year’s Resolution, although I am someone who tries to examine my life and to set goals on semi-regular basis. As I mentioned in my last post I think that it’s important that each of us make it part of our practice to continually reflect on our own behaviours and to use those reflections to inform the way that we move forward. That being said, this year I have decided to make a resolution of sorts. This year I resolve to be intentional. That’s all, just those two words- be intentional. They will become my mantra for 2013. I want to be more intentional is every aspect of my life, including both my personal and professional life. All too often I have found myself simply going through the motions because I’ve been busy or tired or stressed out and although going through the motions is certainly a means to an end, that’s not the way that I want to live. I want to be present and intentional in my actions. I want to be conscious not only of what I am doing, but also why I am doing it. I want to take back control over my own actions and live more intentionally.

Now, I also know that one of the most important aspects of goal-setting is to identify specific and concrete ways to achieve your goals. I will admit that I’m still working on specific ways I will support my resolution to be intentional, but I will certainly share them as I develop them. The first thing I’m going to tackle is this blog. Up until this point I have posted here when I have been inspired and had the time, or really when the stars have aligned. However, this blog is a way for me to reflect on my beliefs and practices as they relate to child development and early childhood care and education, I want to be more intentional is using it for that. So, having heard that BlogHer is making every month National Blog Posting Month,  which challenges bloggers to post every single day for a month, that’s going to be my first concrete goal. A month long goal is smaller and therefore more attainable, and I hope this will help me to reflect not only on my work, but on my resolution to be more intentional. Wish me luck.

Photo by Baddog_ on Flickr

19 Dec 2012

Practicing Reflection

1 Comment Child Care, Early Childhood Education, Parenting

One of the most important skills that an educator or caregiver should practice is reflection. If it is our goal to support children in their growth and development and to be lifelong learners ourselves then it is essential that we are regularly reflecting on our own experiences and practices. We all do it to some extent, but too often I think we reflect on the challenging or “unsuccessful” experiences more than the rest. However, understanding why a planned experience, group time or interaction went well is just as important as understanding why one didn’t. Over the past year, as I’ve been working with College students pursuing their diploma in Early Childhood Education, I have been trying to encourage them to get into this practice.

Reflection serves many purposes. Firstly it ensures that we remain in the moment and make observations about the children’s play experiences and interactions. If we didn’t take the time to really see what’s happening, then we can’t reflect, and these observations are essential as we plan each day’s experiences. When we plan, we usually have an idea with regards to how we think they might use the materials, however, children are great at thinking outside the box and coming up with new ways to use the materials. Therefore when we take the time to observe and to reflect on what the children actually did, rather than what we assumed they would do, we develop an insight into their skills and their interests, which supports the planning process. I often hear that ECEs and ECE students feel stressed about planning experiences that the children will enjoy, however, when we take the time to observe and reflect, we can often come away with new ideas. Additionally, reflecting helps us to be intentional in our practice. For example, when new materials are being added to the learning environment, do you always take the time to ask yourself why you’re adding that material, thinking about what it will add to the children’s play. Finally, reflection supports our relationships with the children in our care, their parents and with the staff. Since reflection requires that we be observant and intentional in our interactions, our planned experiences and even in how we set up our environment, it supports us to be the kind of educators and caregivers that we want to be, because we are thinking about it and altering our plans and behaviours according to the way that we want to be.

One of the ways that we encourage our students to be reflective is included in their activity planning. They are asked to plan and implement an activity, and then when it’s finished, both they and their supervising ECE are asked to reflect on the planned activity. What did the children do? How did the ECE student respond to the children? What would they do differently? I encourage my students to spend time on this and use it to inform their practice and to plan further activities. I also typically have them do some form of a reflection each week in our field seminar class, asking them to reflect on an experience they had at placement that week.

I don’t limit my reflection to being something I ask my students to do, however, I try and make sure I am reflective in my own practices as well. As difficult as it sometimes is, I always read the feedback my students give me in their evaluations and sometimes do an extra evaluation at midterm, asking students for their feedback on what they find helpful or not helpful. More often than not they request “no more tests”, however there is other feedback which I try to take into account. I always want to keep learning, I don’t ever want to be finished, and so I keep reflecting. I hope that this will inspire you to keep reflecting too.

Photo by radical_vamsi on Flickr

15 Nov 2012

Why isn’t child care a priority?

2 Comments Advocacy, Child Care

Lately I am disheartened as I continue to hear and to read about child care centres that are closing their doors because of funding. Most concerning are the municipal and regional centres that are closing their doors. First Windsor, more recently Peel and now there are other publicly funded centres who are on the proverbial chopping block. All this is addition to the child care closures that are happening in the private sector. The other element of this that I take issue with is that the blame for Ontario child care closures often gets put on Full Day Kindergarten (FDK). I understand that child care centres, both public and private have seen changes since the implementation of FDK, but the issue isn’t the FDK program, the issue is funding. Lack of funding is what’s responsible for closing child care centres, not Ontario’s new kindergarten program. Changes are happening in the early learning and care sector, and I truly believe we should embrace these changes as a good thing.

However, embracing these changes and supporting child care programs to shift and grow to accommodate the different needs in our communities needs to start at the top. What message are we sending to private owners and non-profit agencies who are struggling to adapt to serving a younger child care population when our municipalities and regions aren’t willing to keep their money in child care? How do we expect those centres to push through these struggles with their limited resources when our governments are jumping ship and getting out of the child care business? Why isn’t child care a priority?

We need to speak up. In our communities, in our government; our voices need to be heard and we need to remind them how important the early years are and how important child care is to our community. We couldn’t function without it.

And speaking of a day without child care, I came across this video a while back that a group in California put together, showcasing just how important child care is to the community.

A Day without Child Care

We need to speak up and save quality child care in our communities.

Photo from Bonnerlibrary on Flickr