18 Jun 2013

Wage Enhancement for ECE

No Comments Advocacy, Early Childhood Education

One of the most prevalent struggles in the early childhood education and care field has to do with wages. Many ECEs aren’t paid enough forcing some out of the field and others to take second jobs. Still others simply struggle or rely on their partner’s wages to make ends meet. This has been an ongoing issue for decades now and yet still nothing has been done to rectify this. In fact in Ontario quite the opposite has happened: the most recent changes to provincial child care funding has eliminated the previously dedicated (and very limited) wage enhancement grant which child care providers were only able to use for staff wages. Although these centres will continue to receive operating grants, the concern is that this money will be redirected to other parts of the program because wages are not the only area of need in child care.

When we discuss the low wages in this field, there are a lot of talks about reforming the system, creating a national child care plan or unionizing all child care centres. These are ambitious goals and although I appreciate the big picture thinking, I often wonder why we don’t put more focus on smaller, more attainable steps.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see an affordable, high quality, national child care system and maybe I will in my lifetime, but it doesn’t seem likely any time soon. So, in the meantime, can’t we look at the smaller picture and make things just a little easier for ECEs and child care operators? Let’s bring back the wage enhancement grant, let’s make it available to everyone and let’s top it up so ECEs can stop picking change out of the couch cushions. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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

12 Sep 2012

My Social Media Journey

13 Comments Personal Learning Network, Social Media

I have found myself reflecting a lot lately on my own foray into social media. This is in part because of two conferences that I have coming up in the next few months. The first is Blissdom Canada¬† a women’s social media conference, which I attended for the first time last year and the second is an Early Childhood Education and Social Media conference where I will be speaking about my experiences with Twitter. Social media, for me, has been an ongoing journey and I have learned a lot along the way. I have a much better idea now of what I want from this site and from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc. than I did when I first began. However, I don’t always feel that I’m moving at a fast enough pace.

Last year, when I left Blissdom Canada I was on Cloud 9; I had heard amazing speakers, met some incredible women and even had the courage to get up on stage and sing Karaoke. I felt confident and motivated to work on my brand, to blog more, to throw myself into CanadianECE. However, in the weeks that followed Blissdom, life happened. I made the very difficult decision to leave my steady, decent paying job and to try something new, something that isn’t as secure, but is on the path to what might be my dream job. Unfortunately this has meant that some of what I’d hoped to accomplish over the last year hasn’t happened. I haven’t had the time or the head space to blog as often as I had planned to, I haven’t built up my CanadianECE brand the way I had hoped. So now with another Blissdom Canada coming up in just over a month, I find myself feeling apprehensive, because I’m not much better off this year than I was last year. How do I face all those women who have accomplished so much, when it feels like I have accomplished so little?

That being said, I have still learned a lot this year, about myself and about what I want from Social Media. Initially, I thought that this site and social media in general was only about the content that I was creating, what I was putting out there to the world. However, what I have learned over the past year, in part due to my involvement with Twitter and #ecetechchat, is that what is most meaningful for me are the interactions and the relationships that Social Media supports. My Personal Learning Network has grown on a global level and as an Early Childhood Educator, this has become the most significant way that I can continue to reflect on and grow my own practice in the field. The connections that I have made and the conversations that I have had, may not feel as tangible as site visit numbers or blog post counts, but they have been significant for me. They have shaped my journey over the last year and supported my transition into my new career path.

I still have a vision for this site, though, and I still feel like I should be doing more, but I guess for today, what I’ve developed is enough, even if I can’t show it off to all those wonderful women in October.

Photo from apdk on Flickr