Thursday, December 4, 2014

Extend Extending Extensions

DISCLAIMER: I shall have to preface this post and probably every post I write from now on with: I do not subscribe to the Assessment and Rating process. I am down with the NQS and QIPs and the EYLF – for the most part. I am a reflective practitioner and I love learning and improving.  I think A&R is a colossal waste of money that could be spent many other ways – research, educational support for current and future educators ... funding for services etc. I’m a teacher, an educational leader’s educational leader, a mentor, an educator, a weaver of curriculum. I do my own thing, as I was educated to do and I do it with pride and knowledge and experience sitting behind my pedagogical choices. I am a professional and I don’t need to be asked to prove it to others repeatedly.

Anyway, let’s start the show ... 

The inspiration for this article is from online forums where over and over I see educators asking about extension ideas for experiences or activities that they have observed children engaged in. I believe that the idea behind this is that these educators will then know what to plan for the child. I struggle with this notion for a few reasons. One of which is - a bunch of strangers on the internet do not know the child, nor do they know the learning that you are trying to foster for that child. They also don't know the learning that you have observed, unless of course you have articulated that - simply asking for an extension activity idea based upon another activity isn't the point of planning. Even when it is interest based.

It seems to me that by planning from one activity observed to another activity provided we are missing a critical element or two  - learning being the major part. We are missing the learning observed and identified through thoughtful analysis or reflection. And we are missing the potential learning we wish to foster. Activities or experiences do not equal learning. 

I have to acknowledge that I have a few personal professional issues with extensions as they are used in the early childhood education field today (I find "follow-ups" abhorrent).

I'd like to make a few points in regards to "extensions"  and I know I’m repeating myself a bit, but I so want to make these points. Repeatedly. 
  1. An ‘extension’ or ‘extension of learning’ is not an obligatory blanket requirement of the NQS and EYLF nor is it a ‘must do’ for the ‘what’s next.’
  2. We are the educators, we have the knowledge, experience, and the position to be able to choose what to extend upon, as well as how and when we extend it. We should own our professionalism. Like a boss. You earned it. (This is not to detract from the rights of children).
  3. Where do children's rights fit into all of this? When do they get to choose their own extensions? And for how long they extend their own interest in learming? Why must the educator have all that power?
  4. We don’t need to extend everything.
  5. An extension does not need to be a separate activity or experience.
  6. An extension can be something that we do in the moment - a sneaky little intentional teaching strategy.
  7. An extension is not a follow-up. A follow-up is not an extension. Yet the two are often used interchangeably. 
Just so we're all on the same page,a follow-up and an extension can be defined as:

  •   A follow-up - is “the act or an instance of following up” or “something that follows up
  •  An extension - is “the action of extending:  state of being extended” or “a part constituting an addition”

I hate follow-ups (like, heaps) -- it's not a secret -- and I think that using “extensions” as the new “follow-up”  isn't the direction we have to go in. Who decided that this was the cycle of planning for early childhood services anyway? Who decided that this was quality and then started to perpetuate that myth. 

You observe a moment in time, analyse, plan a follow-up activity, implement that activity and then 'tick that box' - all to say that you've completed the cycle of planning for the (each) child? And if you do 40 of these, two times a month, then each child is sufficiently included in the planning cycle?!?!?!?! 

Go away. That's so superficial and not sustainable! How overworked and worn out and tired are you? Seriously? How much planning do you have to do at home because you cannot do the panning at work because you're too busy trying to catch up with the follow-ups/extensions/extensions of so called learning?!?!?!

Some of you are doing (are required to do by your Educational Leaders or your Managers) five of these a month per child - sometimes regardless of the child's attendance pattern!... I feel for you. I really do. It is beyond ridiculous. RIDICULOUS! I'm all about being genuine, human, and authentic. It's about relationships, connections, conversations. Learning and teaching is complex. It CANNOT be simplified into one learning story observation whatever the hell you want to call it and a follow-up-extended-extending-extension-of-learning. 

The NQS requires us to have a planning cycle which is informed and guided by our assessment of children's learning and development: "Element 1.2.1 Each child’s learning and development is assessed as part of an ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation."  We can plan using the broad learning outcomes, child developmental theory and our knowledge of each and every child in our care as a guide. There are of course so many other elements we can weave into our plans that I could explore here, but I'd run out of room. And honestly its difficult enough for me to maintain one train of thought, let alone 10. 

The NQS indicates that we should use teaching strategies intentionally to support and extend children’s learning potential. The NQS doesn’t tell us how. We work that little gem out for ourselves. The NQS does not demand that we extend everything we observe, everything we plan, everything we see. The NQS does not demand a follow-up activity attached to each and every written document. It just doesn’t. If you are convinced it does, please point me to where it says so... If an Assessor told you so (and I know that some have) ask them nicely to support you in understanding this, and could they please show you where - in the Early Years Learning Framework? In the Regulations? In the Law? In the Standards? WHERE!? it says so!?

It is my belief that 'follow-ups' and the current interpretation of 'extensions' as follow-ups is a leftover or residual understanding from the times before. The boxes. The Monday to Monday, Tuesday to Tuesday type of planning. Activity to activity. All those little boxes, little boxes ... Let's have a little sing-a-long shall we?

Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
- Malvina Reynolds - 

I love a good protest song ... 

I'd like to explore point number six further: “extension can be something that you do, such as a sneaky little intentional teaching strategy.” I mean we can support the child in the here and now. A word of encouragement, resources to extend the time the child engages in the play or resources that add a new level of complexity to that play, some open-ended questions that prompt the child’s thinking, a sustained conversation between educator and child, or a group of children... All these are teaching strategies. Teaching strategies, used intentionally to extend the opportunities for learning in the moment that the child is actively engaged in - that is an extension – I think that this should be our definition of an extension – the little thing or the big thing we did to support the child at the time which facilitated the learning potential further. 

An extension can be another experience flowing from the original moment - which may seem unrelated but is in fact quite related - Aunt Annie explores that in her blog article "Extending children's play, and the joy of red herrings" - so if you can do something in the moment, do it. And realise that it might not be 'like to like' or 'same to same'  - as Aunt Annie explores in her writing it can be 'like to different to very different'. 

If you can’t see the learning potential in that moment for the children or that particular child, then move onto another moment and devote some brain power to that. Be gentle with yourself. Don't belittle yourself or feel inadequate. You don't have to have the 'one answer' or the 'one right activity' - the perfect solution follow-up-future-extension-of-learning-idea.

If you know the child, know their development, their needs, their strengths, their gifts and their challenges then you should know what to do. Know the child. Plan for the child. Don't plan for an activity. An activity is not learning.

If you know what learning you’re trying to facilitate then you might have a better idea of what you’re going to do to promote opportunities for further learning. [Did you note that I said 'opportunities'? As in plural? As in not just one?] Keep in mind that not all children will want to learn the same thing at the same time in the same way OR that all children are capable of learning the same thing in the same way at the same time ... Children are individuals who have unique learning interests and needs and speeds. Just like us. Children are people too. Don't forget that.

I would like us all (well, mainly them, the them that annoy me, the them that are the system) to embrace the fact that not all learning can be planned or forecast. 

Sometimes the best learning just happens.

- G

© Teacher’s Ink. 2014 All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How Many Different Ways Do You Need to Document? (Really?)

People are confused and lost when it comes to programming and planning. Look, I totally get that you’re lost. I do. As a curriculum mentor I knew what I was doing, and then the more input people had into my thinking and practice the more confused it became. The more I read online the more convoluted it seemed. I thought that was bullshit. I decided to become a pedagogical hermit for a little while and I delved into the Standards and I wrapped my head around them. I shut out the background noise and I looked at the Standards themselves. NOT other people’s interpretation of them. Start at the beginning. The Standards.

Now what amazes me is some of these self-professed consultants. I am not a consultant hater. In fact I can think of three brilliant consultants that I know who rock. They are smart and challenging and cluey. One challenges the crap out of my mind but I adore that. I need that.

Be aware that not all consultants are created equal. KNOW who you are paying. KNOW who you are trusting with YOUR reputation. The consultants don’t go through Assessment and Rating. You do. You can’t blame them when you get working towards because your program lacks depth and continuity. And I have yet to see a money back guarantee.

I wonder about these shonky consultants. I especially wonder about consultants who promise you more with less documenting and yet they show you 25 different ways to document and meet the supposed requirement of the NQF?! How is 25 less? Guess how many styles of documenting I used to use when I was a practicing teacher? My curriculum cycle had three elements to it. So that is three documents. On the side I’d do little documentations or displays but they would slot into the Day Book or the Curriculum Reflections, plus the Children’s Portfolios. THREE. Then the types of documentations or observation formats I would create in the children’s portfolios? I made them all up. So it was essentially say about five different documents. And NOT one of them was a Learning Story. I am yet to be a fan. I might change my mind in future, but as of today, I don’t particularly like them. They’re too time consuming. I don’t have time. You don’t have time. Are you doing them at home? You shouldn’t have to! Home should be YOUR time.
I’ve seen it published that “old fashioned” ways of documenting such as anecdotes and jottings and checklists are no longer valid.
I’m going to be seriously blunt.

Fuck off.

Why are they not valid? Because everyone is taught to do them when they study? No one has to come to trainings or workshops or conferences to learn how to fill out a checklist or take a jotting? 

Guess what... Anecdotes and jottings and even checklists are still valid forms of documenting. And I STRONGLY suggest you do them.

Look, programming and planning under the NQS is not the simplest thing in the world, but it also doesn’t need to be the most complicated. Slapping 25 different formats that you’ve briefly been shown photos of is not going to get you far. It’s bullshit. It’s sales-pitches and marketing designed to get your money. It’s sure as hell NOT going to get you the promised “Exceeding” ... Why not do two or three or five and do them brilliantly? Why spread yourself so bloody thin that you’re completely transparent that no one can see you or what you’re trying so desperately to achieve?

I have so much more to say, but that will do for now.

© Teacher’s Ink. 2014 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Direction of Teacher's Ink.

Greetings & Salutations,

I've been quiet of late, because I stepped out of a teaching and directing role into that of a children’s services advisor. A large part of that job meant I had, I suppose access to people’s secrets, insecurities, strengths and challenges. I wanted my relationships with the educators that I was working with in a mentoring capacity to be based upon trust. While, for the most part, my blog is anonymous, I didn't want to take advantage of others and betray trust. That’s not cool. At all. So I've been quiet more or less for two years. I've still been reflecting, but it’s been more on the inside than the out.

I'm going to be entering into a new phase in my life so that may lead to more documented reflections. I will be pondering the direction of this blog, but I think that I will write about my teaching practice more than anything else. I know I've been political and I know I've thrown around judgements ... but as I may be teaching again, I think I want to really turn the lens towards myself and my skills, strengths and challenges. I'm certainly an imperfect teacher.

I mentioned previously that I wanted to work on Reflective Practice and Intentional Teaching and that still stands. Those two notions will tie in perfectly with the direction I’d like to take this blog. So there we have it.

So that’s where things will most likely be heading ... Stay tuned. 

G @ Teacher's Ink.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where Am I?

Greetings... I have been quiet for a while as I've been engaged in a few other projects as well as starting up a small business. The small business alone has pretty much take up a year of my life. Plus I work full-time as an advisor and have home-life-responsibilities.

I clearly need to work on my time management strategies! But that's not really a new discovery.

I have two ideas I'd like to explore within the pages of my blog. The first is Intentional Teaching and the second is Reflective Practice. I've been wanting to work on these for quite a while actually - but ya know - TIME. Where does it go, and how does one find more?

I've written my two ideas on a post-it note and I have a page of time management strategy plan thingy-ma-bobs.

I shall write again.

I shall.

- G @ Teacher's Ink.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Why So Many Ways to Document?

When I studied the first time around I learned how to observe and document using the following methods:

Anecdotal Observations
Running Records
Time Samples
Event Samples
Sociograms ...

I'm sure there were more, but those are the ones that come to mind.

That was 1996. Waaaay back when.

Now, there are training organizations, the now defunct DEEWR with their 'Educators Guide'  and the self-proclaimed consultants who are passing the old formats of observations off as if they are something new, and adding:

Morning meeting minutes
Afternoon meeting minutes
Reflective practice
Reflective Oblongs
Children's Philosophies
Family Philosophies
Learning Stories
Mind Maps
Analysis of learning

Do you not wonder why you are being told to spread yourself too thin? And who are these experts? Have they been through Assessment and Rating themselves? Have they even managed a centre consistently under the new National Quality Standards? What are their early childhood qualifications? Are they certified? Or are they just out to make a quick buck out of your insecurity and fear? If they were really out to help you, they wouldn't charge you exorbitantly for their time and supposed expertise.

I am a consultant. That's my nine to five. But I resent using the word because of those who are laying claim to it. Abusing it. Abusing you.

No one, NO ONE can get you exceeding. EVER. Apart from the fact that I have little faith in the A&R system as it is, I certainly think that if a centre gets Exceeding then it's their own doing. They did the work, not the books that they read, the websites they joined or the consultants they consulted with. The centre earned it. Not the hired help.

Are you even comfortable with someone claiming to take credit for your hard work? Is that fair? Is it ethical for someone to take your success, pass it off as their own, and then use your success to advertise themselves to make more money from other educators and service providers?

Just because someone delivers something in a way that you connect with. Just because they are charismatic and friendly, doesn't mean that they are speaking the truth and giving you sound information or advice.

My advice to you: Stick with a few styles of documentation and do them well. You only need a few. Don't fall for the "children's magical voices" bullshit. Writing anything down is worthless without some serious reflection behind it. And children are not magical beings. They are people. If you called me magical I'd smack you across the head for demeaning me and tell you it was just fairy dust. Don't. Call. Me. Magical. It's degrading. I'm a person who deserves respect.

Don't fall for empty promises and spread yourself too thin. That is not the path to a "Meeting" rating much less an "Exceeding" one.

Reflection is deeper than asking the children what they liked or didn't like about their day. Reflection is not about what you liked or what 'went' well or how lovely it was in the sandpit with all the children playing so nicely or what the children said.

I've given you plenty of professional reflection on my blog - go read it.

So what sorts of documentation would I use?

The Teacher's Ink Approved Documentation Methods: < tongue in cheek in case ya didn't know.
Anecdotal observations
Photo montages

And then I'd tie it all in together with my reflections of my knowledge of the child and what I would like to see the child working on in the near future.

I personally am not a fan of (New Zealand) Learning Stories - I think they're great for NZ and I think they're fabulous for centres that are above ratio and provide their educators with a) a computer and b) extensive time to document. Otherwise who has time to do them? I didn't.

I've never particularly liked them. And most people don't do them properly anyway. I doubt that many people know they come from NZ in the first place. You don't need to do them. They're not required. No matter what anyone says. There is NOTHING in the NQS or EYLF that says you need to use them.

So in regards to children's portfolios, I would have five main documentation formats. Five. That's it. FIVE. Not 10, not 20 or 30 or 86 different ways to document (yeah you think I'm joking? I've heard this one).

Pick five, and do them well. Especially the jottings - do lots of them! They're more meaningful that a whole long drawn out story.

In regards to hiring consultants, Google them, do some research! Just because they're nice and charismatic doesn't mean they're qualified.

Remember that: Charismatic is NOT the same as Qualified.

And a pretty portfolio is NOT an assessment of learning nor is it your curriculum documentation.

Portfolios are not even required, yet many of us do them. But that's another story.

I think perhaps the moral of this story is that you shouldn't spread yourself too think. You're not Vegemite.

Work smarter, not harder. I know. That's what they say. They all say it. But they're full of shit. Because they tell you to do it 10 or 20 or 30 or 86 different ways.

© Teacher’s Ink. 2014 All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 7, 2014

My Identity: A Reflection

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Lao Tzu

I've been thinking about myself. About who I am and what that means: Reflection and all that jazz. So last night I wrote a bit of a self-reflection introduction ... and today I find myself thinking more and more about Identity as I wrote documents for work ...

How do I define myself?

I am defined by the words from my lips rather than the colour of my lipstick, or lack thereof. I am defined by how I choose to treat others and how I let others treat me. I am defined by my kindness and the intentions in my heart. I am defined by the good and the not-so-good (and maybe the outright bad) that I choose to do. I am not defined by the shoes I wear, but the steps that I take on the many paths that I travel in my lifetime. I am not defined by the lines of my palms nor the cards pulled from a deck. Nor am I defined by the wrinkles on my face.

I am a complex creature. You cannot define me.

You cannot document the goings-on behind my eyes or within my heart.

So why are we trying to define and label and compartmentalise children as learning outcomes?

We will never know them. We should simply support them, in learning to be themselves. 

© Teacher’s Ink. 2014   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Well, Let Me Tell You A Little Bit About Me

Who am I?

I’m a 4 year educated teacher who proudly holds a Bachelor of Education.  I also have a Diploma in Child Care and Education and I am studying the Certificate IV in Assessment and Training.  I’m currently employed as an early childhood advisor or consultant or whatever you want to call it. My job is about supporting educators in regards to understanding curriculum planning and reflective practice. I don’t know everything, but I know a fair amount.

I believe that the National Quality Standards - Assessment and Rating process is, as it is, flawed.  I have little to no faith in it. I do however believe that the Standards and the Early Years Learning Framework are worthwhile and leading us down a path of quality improvement. It’s the inequities in the process of assessment that I have issues with.

I am going vegan. It’s a decision I made last week after umming and aaahing about it for months. I figure I would just jump and commit. I’m already a vegetarian ... might as well go all the way and walk the talk ... practice what I’m preaching and all that jazz.

I’m a strong believer in protecting our natural environments.  I love trees and forests and deserts and mountains and valleys and rivers and oceans and beaches and nature. I love my garden and I am amazed by it.  I pick birds up from road when they are terrified or injured. I find stray dogs like no  one’s business.  I am also involved in animal rights and small self-funded home based domestic animal rescues local to where I live. I HATE pet stores that sell puppies and kittens sourced from puppy mills and backyard breeders. I struggle with breeders – even the registered ones – when we have in our pounds hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, rabbits and guinea pigs and so on and so forth killed each year. Unnecessarily.

I live in a home filled with eclectic furnishings from antiques to retro to designer to repurposed to opportunity shop finds, even from footpaths and council cleanups. I am house proud. I love my nest.

I hate racism and prejudice. I hate bullies. I have a not tolerance policy for physical, verbal or psychological abuse of anyone: adult or child. It’s not cool. I hate people exercising power over others. I hate bigotry.
I listen to all sorts of music. I’m a triple J fan and I have a particular fondness for Heavy Metal, Blues and Roots, Aussie Hip-hop ... I also love Latino Jazz, Classical and so on and so forth. I love art, architecture, design. I love writing and photography. I love expressing who I am. The older I get the less I care.
And, as a person,

I have politics. I swear from time to time.  I own and manage and control the content of this page and you are welcome to be here with me. Or if you feel that my opinions and offerings don’t sit with you and your philosophy of education and/or life, you may unsubscribe. The choice is yours. I support your decision whatever it may be. Teacher’s Ink. is my project. I’m not paid for it. I do not at this point derive any income from it. I do it because I like supporting educators beyond the scope of my paid employment and I like having an unrestricted space in which to voice my opinion. The key here is, my opinion.

That’s me. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Being: A Reflection

“Childhood is a time to be, to seek and make meaning of the world. Being recognises the significance of the here and now in children’s lives. It is about the present and them knowing themselves, building and maintaining relationships with others, engaging with life’s joys and complexities, and meeting challenges in everyday life. The early childhood years are not solely preparation for the future but also about the present.”
Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework
(DEEWR, 2009 p. 7)

I have noticed a great many discussions over the past 12 months or so around multiple highly commercialised programs for teaching children literacy through ‘cute’ characters and catchy songs. I have also seen a great deal of confusion around what ‘Intentional Teaching’ means.  I can quite easily reflect on both literacy and intentional teaching. But here I’m not going down that path today. Today I am reflecting on being and what it means for me as an early childhood teacher and what I think it means for children.

I try to think about times when I have been me, and I’ve been given direction or criticism or even guidance into a new direction that I knew I wasn’t prepared for. Do you know how I feel about that? I feel like I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough as I am at this time in this space. What my I hear is “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”. Now, whether that is the truth or not, it doesn’t matter. That horrible judging statement chips away at me.

Here’s a prime example. I was going to TAFE College in the 1990s part-time at night while working part-time as a live in nanny.  I was doing quite well. I was getting As and Bs and I was happy. I enjoyed it. My father thought that since I was doing so well, that I should apply for university. I was happy with TAFE, but he was adamant that I should apply for Uni. I would leave my job, I would move back home and I would be supported in conjunction with whatever part-time work I did. Good deal yeah?

So I withdrew from TAFE and I went to Uni. I struggled. It was so technically different to TAFE and I struggled. My self esteem plummeted. It just spiralled lower and lower. I was miserable. I put everything I had into the subjects I felt I could do, and I passed. I went from excelling to passing in a short period. I failed the other half of my subjects because they were so far beyond what I was ready to deal with at the time, and I didn’t know enough to withdraw. I felt like I had not only let myself down, but also my family. I was low. I was defeated. I was shattered. I went into a very dark place, where I was telling myself that I was not good enough.  This was the beginning of the dark times.

I was pushed. I let myself be pushed. I wasn’t strong enough in my being to say no. I wasn’t ready.

If I were left to be a TAFE student at a level where I was doing very well, who would I be today? It sure would have saved me a great deal of heart ache and turmoil. That decision to listen to someone pushing me beyond what was good for me, led me down a very dark path which lasted 3 painful years.

I want to say: “it doesn’t matter, because it has made me who I am today” but I look back at 19-year-old me, and my heart breaks for the hurt and pain and that 19-year-old me went through. It impacted upon my sense of belonging, I ended up interstate, essentially homeless and almost completely alone.

I eventually landed on my feet. I went back to TAFE and I completed my Diploma in EC. But it could easily have gone a very different way. I did even end up going to University. On my own terms, and when I was ready for that commitment.

I am who I am and I am travelling my own path. I also know now never to let myself be pushed. I now choose who pushes me, and how hard.

So, what does this have to do with children and their sense of being?


Imagine being a very capable three year old. And then imagine being re-directed and instructed into a different place.  Imagine the message that you are giving that young person: You are not good enough at three. You can’t do what you enjoy freely. You need to be doing these things. You need to be here at four. The same at four, you are not good enough at four, you need to be five. And so on and so forth.

Imagine your interests – the things you love doing and playing, being used against you. The things you loved doing for the sake of doing, for the pure love of being you, turned into something else conveniently labelled as “Intentional Teaching” to meet some sort of predetermined adult decided outcome that you at three or four or five really aren’t interested in much less ready for.

I don’t think we are preparing them for anything but failure and heartbreak and fragile self-esteems that might seriously put them in harms way in the future.

Why have we lost “being”?

Why can’t we let them be. Let them be who they are. It’s not our job to push them, to prod them into another state of being. It’s not our right.

I think that it is so critical to be who you are and be supported in being YOU.

I think we need to embrace “being” ... I think we need to let children learn who they are and be proud of themselves. I think we need to support them in driving their own knowing and learnings. I think we need to support them in connecting with each other and I think we need to focus on empathy.

Children are confident and involved learners who “follow and extend their own interests.” (DEEWR 2009 p. 34).  Why do they ‘need’ us pushing them? Especially when the learning framework tells us children have a right to be, but they also have the right to drive their own learning.

These are my thoughts on “being” and what it means to me as a human-being and what I think it means for the children in my life.

© Teacher’s Ink. 2014 All Rights Reserved. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nature IS Nurture

I was sitting in the little corner oasis in my garden. I am especially fond of this spot as I made it myself. I didn’t use a landscaper, I had a vision, I had a loose plan, and I made it happen. The plants are shade loving semi-tropical and hardy and I’ve created a tiny micro climate of sorts. It’s my space where I often just go and sit and ‘be’. I think it’s important to have a place where you can ‘be’ and nothing else.

(view looking up)


(view looking out - can see you find bubba bird?) 

Birds come to my garden because I provide them with large bushy shrubs and multiple water supplies. I have a large bird bath, a pond in a pot in my corner oasis, and I have a small water tray and a larger pond. Water is so important for life.

So, as I sat and was busy ‘being’ I was watching a family of butcher birds. Normally they are quite shy retired birds, but the family in my garden are quite confident. Very different to the ones at my parent’s place about 35kms away ... These birds also have to deal with my dog who doesn’t like birds in our garden much ... He tends to bark carry on and chase them away. As a result I don’t get any ground grazing crested pigeons. I get noisy miners, butcher birds, and magpies mainly. They all bring their offspring to my garden where they have to learn to be quick and resourceful.

I was watching the baby practising life. She was sitting in a hanging basket which had a Hoya and some large leaves from the tree above in it.  She was picking up leaves and turning them and moving them around and snuggling in and rearranging and she did this for a good 15-20 minutes. Her father (darker almost black and white) was in the tree above her. He was singing. Her mother (grey and white like she) was on the ground.

(bubba bird having a drink)

(pappa bird looking for bugs)

I was just mesmerised by what this little bird was doing ... she was being a child ... she was learning about life doing what it is she was inclined to do ... it was practising and it was learning but it was living life more than anything else. There was no one in her face taking her picture or asking her what she was doing. She was just being a young bird exploring leaves and what she could do with them.  She was connected to her world, she was developing important skills which I assume would help her in her nest building endeavours when she grows. She was also learning how to use her beak to manipulate tools. She was chattering away which I took to be self-talk. She could have been talking to her parents. She was engaging in life and learning and all the outcomes that we attribute to children in our work were there, happening in front of me with a little bird.

The mother also fascinated me. She was pecking at a spent flower head which was on the ground. I imagine insects were inside and she was eating them. She pecked and pecked. It’s a rather large flower head which is in a cone shape and it is a tall plant called a Justicia.

(momma bird after the flower head had finally dropped)

 What she did next really amazed me. She picked up the flower head and put it in the fork of the flower stems where it had come from. Once it was wedged she back pulling it apart. It would then fall to the ground again. She did this a few more times. Then she picked it up and flew up to the callistemon tree under which I was sitting. There she wedged it again, higher up, and in thicker branches an she continued to pick it apart, eating what she found there, bits of flower dropping below.


There is genius to be seen in nature. So there I sat, connecting with nature and the world around me, watching these little creatures learn about life, or living life, not merely surviving, but thriving in my little modest garden.

Why can’t we have this same peace and harmony at work? I think maybe this is a possibility, we just have to create it, and fight for it.

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