5 tips for… Learning Outcome 1

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Learning Outcome 1: ‘Children have a strong sense of identity’ is often used when children first start in a service or move into a new room but it is happening all around us all the time. Here’s 5 tips to support children with learning outcome 1.

  1. Advocate for the rights of the child: Consider whether the program (including routine, environment, experiences, interactions) is being done to the children or with the children. The more children feel like they matter and can trust those around them, the more they will feel secure and start to explore and challenge themselves. Therefore it is our role to consider whether we are allowing this to happen, by providing consistency and certainty, or whether we have constant changes and ignore the needs of the child.
  2. Provide opportunities for children to fail: Children of all ages learn by doing, so if things are done for the children because it is quicker/easier/cleaner then children don’t learn how to use their agency. They also are less likely to fail and therefore  learn new ways around the problem or resilience as they keep trying until they succeed. Obviously we, as educators, need to offer support so a task is not so challenging a child becomes angry or upset, however we need to allow children the space to make mistakes and learn from these.
  3. Recognise children as capable and confident: If you assume that a child is an empty vessel that we must fill with our knowledge then you are going to limit their opportunities to show us what they know and can do. However if you think of children as capable and confident you will provide opportunities for them to show us what they are capable of. We cannot always control how resources are used and engaged with, instead if we sit back and watch how the children use them we can not only assess where their knowledge is but also learn from their creative uses.
  4. Play alongside the children: By simply relaxing and enjoying being with the children we can not only learn where they are at developmentally but also build meaningful relationships based around what is, and not what we expect something to be. The more confident and at ease a child is the more they will explore and engage with their surroundings.
  5. Nurture interactions and relationships: Creating spaces that allow for interactions and the establishment of relationships between children, and with the children, allows for an understanding of respect and empathy. It is also important to recognise the developmental level of the children and how a simple look from an infant could be as communicative as a 20 minute conversation with a 4 year old.

 

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5 tips for… working with families

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Families are part of the job of working with children and in some ways they are the most important aspect because without the families on board you can have loss of enrolments, tension and disengagement. Here are 5 tips to help make sure your relationships with families are positive and create a sense of belonging.

  1. Greet the families: It sounds obvious but too often when I am working in services I see families come into the service either in the morning or the afternoon and make their way through the entire service without being spoken to by any staff members. It is important to make sure families are not only greeted to make them feel like they matter and have been noticed, but also to allow for a brief conversation about their child’s day to occur.
  2. Acknowledge diversity: Every parent has different needs when it comes to communication based on time, language, culture, ability and more. If you are only sharing information in one form because it is what works best for you, e.g. a newsletter, then how can you be sure all of your families can engage with this?
  3. Consider your context: Every service is different and has their own context that needs to be considered. I have worked with work-based centres where you see the same parent most days because they work on site, to services where many different family members drop off or pick up, and even services where 90% of the children are collected and dropped home via bus and very few families come in. It is important to consider the different needs of sharing information when in a different context and you can’t just do what you did at your last service.
  4. Be professional: We are early childhood professionals and need to act accordingly when communicating with families. Consider your body language, your tone of voice, how much attention the family has, whether you are discussing other families and gossiping, if you are discussing a private matter in the middle of a public corridor. All of these things can have an impact on how a parent feels about their experience and the service.
  5. Provide support: You can’t predict what sort of support family members may need and when, and while it is good to have some flyers and information on hand, it is also great to be able to provide specific support. Don’t be afraid to say “leave it with me, and I’ll get back to by this afternoon/tomorrow with some information”. It might be a contact for a local service, some information off the internet, or an article from a magazine, all of this shows that you care and want to help out your families based on their needs.

 

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5 tips for… giving the team a voice

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In our team we may say that everyone has a voice and the opportunity to contribute but on reflection this may not actually be the case. This post provides 5 tips to ensure every member of the team has a meaningful way to use their voice and be heard.

  1. Respect different learning styles: Everyone has their own personality but also their own learning style. Some may need to take information away and mull over it before they have an opinion on it, others are able to respond immediately. If you expect everyone to respond in the same way at the same time you are discounting the different needs of the team members. Make sure you allow others to come back to you within a set time frame (day, week, fortnight) to ensure their voice is heard too.
  2. Avoid filling the silence: Often we fill a silence when someone talking to us pauses, which cuts them off and stops their flow. Allow others to have pauses and silences to get their thoughts ordered before they speak.
  3. Think outside the square: There are lots of different ways to have a discussion where every team member gets to have a voice, without allowing more confident team members to talk over those less confident. Working in pairs, writing down ideas and discussing the merits of each one, working in small groups, getting responses via email. The more you consider the needs of your team the more you can find ways to accommodate them.
  4. Allow others to see their voice in practice: Giving team members a voice, and using their voice are 2 different things. Team members should be able to see decisions made based on their suggestions, or their wording used in documents. This not only validates the ideas that team members have and creates a sense of belonging, but also sets a precedent for them to use their voice in the future.
  5. Set expectations and hold people accountable: When working in groups such as at a staff meeting there needs to be expectations around people talking over each other and these needs to be followed. If a topic is raised where lots of people have lots of opinions perhaps that is a good time to split into small groups or pairs to minimise the interruptions. Then everyone can come back with their key information to share with the group.

 

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5 tips for… sustainable practices

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Sustainable practice… we have all heard about it, we all know we need to be doing it, but what does this mean for our practice in a service? Here are 5 tips to help with sustainable practices in your service.

  1. Consider paper usage: We often think about how we can minimise paper usage by creating online forms or documents that can be saved instead of having to print off paperwork and store it in a folder then dispose of it. Another aspect of paper usage to consider is with the children. Are children encouraged to turn pages over and use both sides? Do they have access to recycled paper sources from business (without confidential information on the other side!).
  2. Use recycled or re-purposed resources: Many services are getting into loose parts and this is a great way to re-purpose materials, that would otherwise be thrown out, into opportunities for exploration, investigation, creativity and learning. There are also lots of ideas online for using pallets or old cable reels and giving them a new life in services as tables, kitchens, tee pees and more.
  3. Consider your purchases: Do you consider the sustainability of new purchases when going through resource catalogues? Using a checklist or guide to ensure purchases are suitable for the service, sturdy enough for multiple uses, made locally and environmentally, can demonstrate how the service considers the environment.
  4. Start with your environment: Sometimes we think respect for the environment means saving the whales and discussing global warming, but consider the developmental abilities and skills of your children. Your environment grows from the space you are in, to the room, the building, the street, the community, the country, the world. If children are not keeping the bathroom clean and wasting water start there and develop an understanding of respecting the environment with something tangible.
  5. Connect with the community: Sustainable practices allow for opportunities to connect with the community through taking “waste” items off business and giving them a new home, working with the community on fund raisers, and even working with businesses like reverse garbage or local artists to find out how to give items a new life and develop new skills.

 

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