Often I hear people complain about how little we get paid, and how we are not taken seriously, unlike school teachers. I think there are many reasons behind this, some that will take generations to overcome, but one that I talk about a lot in my training is the image we present in our documentation and interactions with families.
Whether it is intentional or not, driven by a lack of self confidence or years of the “child minding” stigma, we, as a profession, seem to focus our conversations about children on fun. We call our services “Happy clowns fun land” and have tv time across the week. We have parents ask how their children’s day was and we talk about what fun they had and the funny thing they did at lunch time.
If you think about schools, most teachers only talk to the parents when it is about the child’s progress. We see the families a lot more than the school and we want to build these partnerships with them, but sometimes we can forget what we are there for in the first place. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about our relationships with the children and a funny thing that happened that day, but we also need to focus on the learning and education.
Our documentation can pick up the same thread as the conversations we have, that “fun focused” theme, and our daily diary might look something like this:
Where is the learning? Where is the education? It might be documentation like this that leads parents to panic in the last 6 months of the year before school that we do not focus on school readiness and where are the structured activities that demonstrate the learning?
This piece of documentation also does nothing to advocate for the skills, knowledge and experience of the educator who wrote it. They weren’t even there, they were called over at the end. Image the message we would send the families in our services if we wrote documentation like this….
There is assessment of learning, there is the role of the educator, there is a clear understanding that it is learning outcome 4 because of the language used. This highlights the skills and abilities of the educator who wrote it and their understanding of the learning that occurred.
Even if you are just having a photo based daily diary of what occurred that day with some captions in it, this can focus on learning too. Instead of “fun playing with water” what about “exploring the properties of water”, or “some beautiful flower paintings” how about “creative representations of nature”.
I’m not saying children shouldn’t have fun, of course they should, but it should be a by-product of the play-based learning. Parents can see the fun, it is in their children’s happy faces, their dirty clothes, their endless chatter about their day, their eagerness to get back the next day. We might need to give them some help in seeing the learning in our conversations and our documentation because sometimes it isn’t that obvious.
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