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.