Friday, March 15, 2019

What do you do instead of a “follow-up” or “extension of learning”?

What do we do instead of a “follow-up” or “extension of learning”? Well in one simple single word using four letters, we: PLAN. We plan for teaching and learning. We plan for possibilities. Writing about planning is not something that can occur in a blog article. That’s a whole freaking book…

Follow-ups have been big discussions on Facebook groups as well as the bigger Australian early childhood education community.  

On Facebook groups there are so  many requests for extension ideas for activities … Brian was interested in painting today. What extension activities can I do for this interest?

Well Brian was painting with brushes at the easel. He was busy exploring the paint: how the colours mixed upon the paper. How they blended in to each other and how they created, like magic new colours. It wasn’t an instant colour change - there were streaks of this colour and streaks of that colour and then somewhere in the middle a mixing and a muddling into a new colour. A colour that Brian had never before seen before much less made himself. 

Brian was learning how to turn and swirl the brush to move the bristles. He was learning that the changes of pressure from his hand changed the way the paint worked upon the paper. He learned that he could control his hand this way and that. He was learning that there was cause and effect in the world of painting. He learned that he had to share the paints with Tammy who was on the other side of the easel sharing the same pots of paint. Brian was learning. 

Brian was painting, but Brian was doing so much more than this. 

On the very surface Brian was painting. Really though, Brian was learning so very much about colour, texture, pressure, transformation, creativity, social skills, fine motor skills and the power of his hands to create and explore his world.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what learning is; what interests are and what the role they play in children's learning. 

Interests are a vehicle educators can use to support children's learning.

An observation is merely a moment in time. It is a small snapshot of a child engaged in playing, growing, learning, being, becoming. It is not the ultimate definition of a child. It is not the be-all and end-all of that child. It is a moment in time. A child engaged in play, in a moment is not necessarily a child engaged in a true interest. It may be a child engaged in a passing interest, a superficial interest but not a deep genuine interest.

Educators are being told they need to extend the interest, to plan for the interest. So they extend the interest. It doesn't matter that the interest was a once off moment in time. It doesn't matter that the surface interest really has nothing to do with the learning or possibly the true interest. The powers that be say extend the interests, plan for the interest, so that's what we do.

I wonder if educator's go for the interest because it's easier to research and support. I wonder though, do educator's go down the path of interest because its more tangible to share with their leaders and supervisors.

We have to plan something right? We have to do something to show that we are being responsible and maintaining the cycle.

Let’s return to Brian.

Brian is learning. If we go and implement all these extension activities based upon what we think Brian was interested in .. We go from easel painting to sponge painting to car painting. We completely rob Brian of the time and opportunity and resources to continue on his self-directed learning path of painting with brushes at the easel. The assumptions that are made around the National Quality Standard and the planning cycle are robbing Brian, robbing all the Brians of their real self-driven learning.

How do we support Brian? 

How do we plan for Brian? 

Well, I would hope that easel painting would be a core element of our learning environments. I would hope that there were a wide selection of paints out each and every single day. 

I would love to see thin brushes and thick brushes in pots or in re-purposed glass jars. I’d love to see painting at a table as well as the easel. On big paper and small paper with collage bits and pieces available - all freely. We could change the tone of the paints by adding white or adding black. We could make paints up with the children - long after Brian’s had his unhindered time to explore. 

We could mix the paints in jars and give them made up names that have meaning for Brian and his peers. We could write those names onto masking tape and stick them to the jars.  We could create a colour wheel using the paints in the store room. You could buy artists acrylics and water colours and mix authentic colours and compare the quality of the paints we use in children’s services to the quality of paint that artists use. We could explore the notion that children deserve artists paints to use in their art making.

We could explore the great artists - both historic and contemporary. We could do all of this - AFTER - we give Brian the time to learn to be a painter in his own right. Brian is three years old - THREE. 

Give Brian time. 
Give Brian resources. 
Give Brian our time. 
Give Brian us. 

Use our teaching skills to support Brian, all the Brians… Draw Brian's attention to what he has done … Give Brian the creative language that he may otherwise not have. 

In fact if we don't have the language of art on the tip of our tongues - that should be our “follow-up” or our “extension of learning” … 

We should go and teach ourselves the language of art … tones, shades, colours beyond red, blue, yellow, green … learn about magenta and chartreuse and teal.

Please don’t rob Brian of his learning. 

Let Brian be. 

Let him learn. 

Support him with our teaching skills. 

Don’t distract him or redirect him away from his learning with novelty painting sourced from the internet.

Support Brian to be the artist Brian was meant to be. 

Support Brian with art, through art. 

© Teacher's Ink. 2019 All Rights Reserved

Original: 25/03/2016Updated: 15/03/2019

Monday, February 1, 2016

Spiny Leaf Stick Insects

This wasn't a planned post ... but it turns out it's necessary! I'm not spending a huge amount of brain time on this which is new to me! I usually take  a couple of weeks to write, edit and publish a post to a point where I'm happy with it ... I'm churning this out in a couple of hours in between house work and other business.

I made a post on a Facebook group I help admin, giving away about 10+ pairs of babies to new homes. We're running an Emporium and I've been wanting to find homes for my extra babies but I've not necessarily wanted to drive across Sydney or have people come to my house! So giving them away at the Emporium seemed like the most convenient option. So I thought I'd throw together a page to support the insects and their new homes. It was easier to do it here than it was on the business website.

Spiny Leaf Stick Insects are awesome. They make amazing sustainable companion animals for early learning services or for children in the home. They are so easy to care for. They also allow you to view a life cycle over the course of a year and you're not slaughtering orphan baby chickens in the process (yes, I have a strong political view on this).

It's hard to tell from this photo, but its female ...

Large plastic aquarium with my nymphs - note the jar covered in foil. This is our nursery tank.  Do you know how hard it is to move 20 odd babies over from old branches to new branches? Yeah, it's not easy!

It's a boy ... 

The work enclosure which I bring home for the weekends so I can care for the bigger bubs .. They love their water spray ... and my cat is plotting hunting adventures ... No. Just, no.

Female having a meal ... I've graduated them from callistemon (bottle brush) to bigger gum leaves.

What you will need:

  • A suitable enclosure/habitat.
  • A spray bottle for water only
  • Fresh supply of gum (eucalyptus) leaves
  • A jar  to support the gum branches to last longer (up to a week). When the nymphs are young,  you will need to cover the jar with aluminium foil and poke the branches through to prevent any accidental drowning. 
  • Paper towel, newspaper or something for the substrate of the habitiat

There are all sorts you can use. While they are young, I use a plastic aquarium which is about $25. They provide cats with endless entertainment as well - so that's a bonus. 

This is like the one we have at work:

Its fabulous. I am actually thinking about buying one for home! Because yes, I may need my own insects for home ... don't ask. And it will save me transporting a full enclosure to and from. I can just grab the ones we have and then put them with my own.  I know I have a problem.

Links with information:
Australian Museum:

Creature Features 

Australian Insect Farm Life Cycle:

Wikipedia: Extatosoma tiaratum, because life is not complete without Wikipedia:

Bugs ED 

Care Sheet: 

I've included a few videos ... I've never seen one hatch, despite having a hundred or so eggs ... One of my team did with one of our students and that would have been the most wonderful thing to behold! So here's a video which I showed to my children at work - the babies just kept popping up without most of us (bar one) seeing the process! I've included videos of one of the males on my hand - he has a smoother body and he also has wings. The female has a spikier body and she has the tiniest wings that don't function. They can be tricky to tell apart when they're young and you're not used to them.


A hatching spiny leaf insect nymph:

One of my young male spiny leaf stick insects:

One of my young female spiny leaf stick insects:

And this awesome video of the insects up close ... if the insects gross you out, then this close up video will make you die... so be warned and don't die!!!!

Ok, I think that will do us...

I hope this is all useful!

© Teacher's Ink. 2016

(your friendly local bug dealer)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

We Teach Relationships, Through Relationships

I actually wrote this piece last year in October. There was actually a great deal of reflecting upon  relationships. In fact I could add to it almost every day!

I am using it now following on from my piece about Belonging. I think they do fit and flow together a fair bit.


I've been pondering relationships with children. Its actually something that I have been thinking about since the start of last year and moments have come up since then that really highlight the importance of relationships. Without relationships we cannot be educators. Children need to trust you – trust you to care for them – trust you to have their best interests at heart – trust you to tell them and teach them the truth.

Relationships are central to our work as educators. Our relationships with the children, their families, our peer colleagues, and yes our managers. These relationships have the power to help us soar, or sink; work in harmony or misery.

I was sitting in my office reading a Teacher Tom article which touched on relationships. One of my Korean contingent came to little school. She arrived with her father who called out 'good morning' and I called out a 'good morning' back. Miss Y came running around the hallway to smile, say good morning in English and then greet me in Korean with a bow. An-Ya-Ah-Sey-Yo I said back as she threw herself into me for a morning hug. I am not their 'teacher' … I am the manager of a service with limited time with these children, yet my interactions have nurtured these relationships.

How we engage with children is CRITICAL. It does not matter the time, the quality of those interactions is what matters. Teacher Tom, in "Icelandic Fairies" was yet another reminder of this – he connected with children in brief moments without a shared language and he was overwhelmed with emotions.

I've always had fabulous relationships with children. I'm not bragging. I just have. I was the teacher who would walk into the room and have a cluster of my students come running to greet me each morning I was on a late shift. I didn't encourage it or foster it – it just was what it was. It was not some ego boost. I wasnt grooming teacher worshiping students. We genuinely enjoyed one another's company. Now this isn't to say that there were not children who I found challenging to connect with. There were children who I really struggled with, and those were the relationships I had to work to nurture. And sometimes I think we never got there, that child and I.

I've been working at my current service as a non-teaching director for about 6 months. I walk in and out of the rooms. I spend some time in the garden. I'm not consistently working with children. I have noticed something critical. A single interaction, no matter how seemingly insignificant to me – a passer-through – was significant to a child.

That is our power to nurture or to do harm.

I spent more time in the preschool side of our service – purely because the 2IC is the lead teacher in that space. She was central to supporting me in learning the bureaucratic nuances to this organization. My first interaction with a toddler in our nursery was a passing through moment: I noticed someone wearing one sock. Which led to a conversation about socks – I decided to take my shoes off and show them that I was wearing odd socks: one spots and one stripes. That moment – an unplanned sharing – led to this child saying my name, looking for me when he arrived at little school, saying goodbye to me when he left. Simply showing the children my quirky sock choices led to a connection and a relationship.

Reflecting further back, at the start of the year I was running a vacation care program. We were sitting at the kinetic sand table and a younger boy who was new to vacation care and transitioning from preschool to kindergarten, started to flick the sand. I asked him to stop because he was possibly going to flick sand into someone's eyes which would really hurt them. He stopped and all was good in the world of the kinetic sand table. A young friend, about 11 years old, sitting next to me said “You're really nice.” … I wasn't expecting to hear a random statement like that so I asked him why. He said I just was and because I didn't yell at that boy. I didn't yell at the children. He went on to say that if someone had done 'the wrong thing' then all the children would be gathered on the stage where they would be reprimanded as a collective. I was really nice because I let him charge his gameboy where the other 'teacher' wouldn't – she'd only let her son charge his and not the other children.

This hit me. It hit me hard. I'm still thinking about it ten months later.

I was greatly saddened to hear that this was this child's experience of vacation care. I was saddened by a great many things that he had divulged to me about how other children had bullied him and pushed him against walls and held him by his neck – threatening him. How nothing was done about it. How he didn't feel safe. This explained why he spent time at my side from day one, why he checked the children's sign in and out, why he'd watch the door nervously when children and families would arrive. I thought it was simply because he recognized me for the awesome teacher and fabulous human being that I am. It was because he was living in silent fear.

I saw the fear in his eyes when 'that kid' turned up. That kid was about a year older than he but taller and much older in terms of physical development. This kid was mean. He was manipulative. He would watch and strike strategically. It's not often that I don't like young people. This individual was not being a nice person. Look, I still treated him like I did all the others, but I watched him. I watched him watch me. Thankfully he only attended two days.

{Fast forward to three months to this moment where I am editing this article for my blog and I want to add a moment which includes Miss E. She's just turned two and she's pint sized. She has always been a reserved and quite little soul. I'd love to tell you about the little moments I've shared with Miss E at the end of the day when I step onto the floor for 30-60 minutes - where I might share 10-20 minutes with her in family grouping. But I won't. They are brief. And they are mostly about her accompanying me to do the final day lock up ... We would walk through the centre with my colleague, and we would check the rooms and make sure no one was left behind in the other rooms. This was not our every day thing, it was just our sometimes thing when my shift aligned with a late collection of her. 

The other day when I was in the nursery room speaking to the two leaders about their spaces and their plans for 2016, Miss E approached me. I looked down and asked her if she'd like a cuddle, her arms were raised which I read as a yes. I picked her up and balanced her on my hip while I continued to discuss the piece of paper in my hand with my team. I'd placed my glasses upon my head, and she grabbed my face in both of her hands and held her nose to mine and squeezed my face. She then put her check to mine and then squeezed again. Then she put her arms around my neck and gave me a big hug. Then she looked at my face again. I died. I just died. I just ended up giving her the biggest squeeze back and a big kiss on the cheek. I had no idea. I just didn't. I'm important to her. I need to make sure that I do not let her down. I need to make sure I don't let any of them down. What a seriously big freaking responsibility we have! Seriously. Now, back to the original piece I wrote ... }

Anyway. The significant point I am trying to make here is that the children watch you and learn from you. I'm not referring to the role modeling you do when try to demonstrate those typical academic things that many educators seem to focus upon … I'm referring to deeper things. The touchy feely, the emotional and feeling things.

We teach children. We teach them what we think of them. How we value them as people. How we think they should be treated. We teach them how to accept treatment by others – peers and adults alike. We teach them 'their' worth through our eyes. We teach them what we think of them by how we engage with their peers – do we place more value upon one child over another?

One single moment, seemingly unimportant in our adult eyes, can carry so much weight for a child.

Remember that.

We teach relationships, through relationships.

We form relationships through actions and words.

Make every action, every moment priceless.

© Teacher's Ink. 2015

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Belonging Doesnt Grow on Trees

I was thinking while avoiding the pile of washing (waiting patiently to be folded and put away) behind me on the spare bed: What would be the best topic to write about in 2016? I thought with the start of a new year, belonging was the most logical choice for me.


 For many people, big and small, 2016 will be filled with new beginnings...
  • Perhaps as a child starting their first day ever in a setting?
  • Perhaps a child starting at a new service, because they needed to leave their old one? A mix of familiarity and starting all over again.
  • Perhaps as a fresh bright-eyed graduate starting a new role?  
  • A student commencing studies?
  • Starting a new position at a new service – or even an old one?
  •  Volunteering or perhaps being on placement?
  • Beginning a leadership role? Team leader? Director/Manager? Educational Leader?

I am sure many of us are feeling quite lost. I know I did. In fact, although I’ve been at my current service for 9 months, I still don’t feel a sense of belonging. We all want to feel that we belong, and that brings us to this question:

How do we facilitate a sense of Belonging? For Children? For Colleagues? For Ourselves?

I don’t have all the answers. I’m just nutting out and putting down my thoughts on this thing that is often presented in the shape of a tree: A Belonging Tree.

A belonging tree isn’t going to do it. [I’d love to know who started this belonging tree thing] Putting a child’s name on a birthday chart so high up they can’t even see it isn’t going to facilitate a sense of belonging.  It especially won’t facilitate belonging if they can’t read or recognise their name or are so young their eyes cannot focus at that distance.  Family photos on a wall? Nope. Names on lockers, names on hats, children’s photos on walls etc – they don’t create belonging. They are merely a collection of strategies that together plus something else MAY help to foster a feeling a belonging. These strategies are not guarantees.  You cannot implement them and then walk away and say that your efforts at ‘belonging’ are done. Tick those boxes. No. Just no. It just doesn’t work that way.

I believe the most important thing we can do to facilitate belonging is through relationships. It is so critical that we respectfully connect with people as people:
  •        educator to child
  •         educator to parent
  •         educator to family
  •          educator to educator
  •          educator to leaders
  •          leader to educator

How did you feel?
  • How did you feel when there wasn’t a space for you to put your belongings?  Either as a child, a student, relief educator or employee?
  • When you weren’t greeted when you arrived?
  • When your name wasn’t spoken?
  • When your name was pronounced incorrectly, repeatedly?
  • When your name was overlooked on a list?
  • When your name was spelled incorrectly on your paintings, repeatedly?
  • When conversations around you didn’t include you?
  • When conversations in the staffroom excluded you and included topics you could never participate in?
  • When your position title: “floater” implies you don’t have any belonging to a space – you merely waft in and out with no connection?
  • When people had their backs to you?
  • When they didn’t bother to greet you and say good morning/afternoon/evening/night?
  • When an educator you were working with in a team calls up the staff person you were covering and tells them how much they miss them and can’t wait for them to return so things can get back to normal?
  • When colleagues don’t greet you much less even acknowledge that you are in the room?
  • When colleagues discuss their plans for spending time together but exclude other educators in the room?
  • When you see an educator giving consistent special attention to one particular child and not to you?
  • When you were crying because you felt so alone, and someone said “Stop crying, you’re fine.”
  • When you didn’t speak the language that everyone else was speaking?
  • When you were down low, and everyone towered over you?
  • When someone refused to give you a hug because someone else said “Put her down, or she’ll expect you to hold her all the time. She has to learn.”?  
  • When you’re frustrated and want to do something so badly and someone laughs at you and says “Oh he’s such a little girl!”
  • When you’re a girl and you hear someone use your gender as an insult?

I could really go on ... But you get the gist.

I feel horrible even writing those ... but the sad truth is they are all real. They exist. They existed in my past, I’ve experienced or witnessed them or colleagues have shared these stories with me. These moments may exist in someone else’s present and sadly they may exist for someone else in the near future.

Would you feel you a sense of belonging in those spaces?

Probably not. You might one moment, but not the next. 

So what do we do? How could we foster a feeling of belonging?
  • Smile reassuringly. Be genuine – not artificial.
  • Be welcoming. Greet people, big and small and say “Hello. Good morning.”
  • Make eye contact – see them. Let them know that you see them! They exist!  If they don’t want to make or maintain eye-contact don’t force them! That’s creepy. Don’t be creepy.
  • Speak their name. Make every effort to pronounce their name correctly. Ask their parents – write it down phonetically. Fo-Net-I-Call-Ee.  Learn it. It’s ok to make mistakes. Just don’t make mistakes for a year. Or change their name to suit you. That too is not cool.
  • Re-assure and acknowledge feelings: “I know that you are upset; I can see that you are feeling sad/scared/angry/happy/joyful.”
  • Be present and connect. “I am here to be with you. You are not alone.”

I think we give Belonging lip service. I think it’s something that is taken for granted. I think it’s a piece of plywood we have had  laser cut in the shape of a tree and tacked on a wall or written on a notice board. I think we just gloss over it because it’s compulsory. It's something we "have" to do in order to pass Assessment & Rating.

I challenge you - in 2016 to really think about your education spaces. Do you feel a sense of belonging? If yes, how and why? What contributes to those feelings? How could you embrace others in your space to support their sense of belonging? It doesn’t have to be ‘new’ colleagues, it could certainly be established team members. If you don’t feel a sense of belonging, how could you support yourself to feel a sense of belonging to your space? What changes would you need to make to manifest this for yourself? Would you need to speak up and voice your feelings or would modelling be enough? 

How does all this translate and have impact upon the children in our care? 

How important is Belonging to you, really, and what are YOU going to do?

Please put the trees down ... 

And no, don't pick up the bloody rainbow ...

Belonging is more than a tree ... 

It is more than a tokenistic display ... 

Belonging is a feeling. 

© Teacher's Ink. 2016

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome to 2016

I don’t like talking about resolutions as we fallible humans struggle to keep them. So instead of making resolutions or making lists – I made a wishing web of possibilities for my 2016. One of these was to write. I have missed professional writing. For a while it didn’t feel safe ... I was working in a role I loved, but one that required me to be careful – professional and disconnected. Then, I left that role and then commenced a temporary phase of casual teaching. I then ended up taking on a new role as a director. It was a whirlwind of change and a big learning curve. I probably could have written about it, but I wasn’t feeling it. So in 2016 I bring my blog back to life.  I will do what I miss. I will use the EYLF and the NQS as inspiration as well a great many other sources: Facebook and social media, the media, my life, my friends and their stories, the groups I administrate or participate in ... Everything will be presented professionally and de-personalised. I will gather inspiration and I will reflect and write. 

Cheers to 2016. 

© Teacher's Ink. 2016

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Art of Being a Relief Educator

So casual work? Relief work? Subbing? Temping? Whatever it’s called ... It’s an art form.

I did a shout out on a few networking groups and asked what advice there was for people who work as relief educators or what they appreciate from a relief educator ... Here were their answers (plus a few of my own offerings!) ... They are in no particular order ...

  • Remember as many names as you can. One strategy was to try and link the names of the children to people you already know or to ask the older children to quiz you on their names – this makes a fun game out of it. And we all know that children love games!
  • Use your initiative throughout the day. It’s the little things that add up and count in the long run.  Examples of this could be:
  • Be available to work! If you’re not able to work for a while, or if you’re on a holiday, or doing a block of relief work somewhere else, please communicate this to who you work for.
  • Arrive on time if you were booked in advance.
  • Plan your trip online, double check your GPS!
  • If you were booked at the last minute, when you arrive, be calm! Don’t be in a frazzle because you’re late. You were expected to be late as you were booked at the last minute. It’s ok! Relax! Start your day off cool, calm, and collected.
  • Answer the phone ... and say yes as often as you can
  • Be approachable to everyone: children, educators, parents.
  • Greet people – say hello and smile and introduce yourself when you can. “Hello, my name is Holly and I’m an educator working with the children today.”
  • A name badge would be a nice touch – I’m shocking at remembering names. I try by my brain doesn’t work with me on this!
  • Speak to the staff and ask for guidance. Respect the permanent staff’s expertise in the routines, the service and the children. Qualifications do not an expert make ;) .
  • Work closely with the educators in the room and centre to try and support them in maintaining a flow for the routine.
  • Be aware of the service’s philosophy. You don’t need to know it back to front, but have a general idea of who they are and what they are about.
  • Ask about any children with dietary issues or allergy issues – where is the documentation kept so that you can access it if you are concerned a child is unwell.
  • Wipe noses, and do it with the utmost respect – How would you feel if some random stranger came up behind you from nowhere and wiped your nose? Seriously think about it ... Creepy much?  I suggest you also ask the child before you do: “Would you like me to help you wipe your nose?” (I used to be a random creepy from behind nose wiper! I own it! I’ve moved on!)
  • Sweep the floor – is it messy? Grab a broom and a dustpan and tidy that mess up.
  • Wipe tables down after they’ve been used – is their caked on glue? A smear of weetbix from breakfast? Wipe it up! Even if the mess isn’t from you, it shows that you care and you’re making an effort.
  • Don’t spend all your time cleaning! I know I just suggested you show initiative and clean – but if you’re spending your whole time face down sweeping around the sandpit then you’re not engaging with children which should be the priority.
  • Engaging with children is the biggest and the bestest part of ‘supervision’.
  • Be a team player ... work as part of the team, look listen learn and take on responsibility.
  • Be open and willing to learn ... the services’ way may not be your way, but you’re there to support them as they enact their philosophy and practice. You are a support person ... do what you can. Even when you don’t agree.
  • Be committed to the children and their well-being.
  • Role model sun protection – wear a suitable sun protective hat – with a wide brim and sunscreen if you’re able to.
  • Read professional journals and quality early childhood blogs.
  • Engage in ongoing learning and professional development! Keep current and expand your knowledge and understanding and where possible network with others to consolidate this critical learning and thinking. 

  • Have a bag of your own resources:
  • Children’s story books that you are familiar with,
  • A bag or box of novelty items that you can use to capture the children’s interest and engage with them. Shannon suggested Goldilocks & the Three Bears using real figures which she says works a treat! Simple but effective.
  • A bag of magic play-dough (check for wheat allergies first!)
  • CDs or an device with music and portable speakers
  • Puppets and songs,
  • a pencil case with textas, pencils, scissors, and glue sticks,
  • finger paints and cotton buds (Sarah recommends a Faber Castell set that she swears by) and you throw the cotton buds away when you’re done.
  • Unusual and beautiful art supplies – washi tape and collage materials
  • Spare gloves – you’d be surprised and you don’t want to be caught out at an “interesting” service without some spares.
  • Your own tea, coffee and sugar in something such as a nude foods container as well as a coffee or travel mug (because let’s face it, sometimes their mugs are filthy!)

  • Perform a first day induction – buddy the relief educator with someone who can support them or give them guidance.
  • Help the educators feel welcome! Smile and let them know if they need anything they can ask you or someone else. There’s nothing more daunting than being in a space where you don’t know anyway, and no one makes eye contact with your!
  • Offer a locker or a safe space to keep their belongings.
  • Give respectful direction, make eye contact, use pleases and thank yous and give a variety of responsibilities ... As opposed to just “go supervise outside”.

  • Stand around and chat to adults all day.
  • Play music loudly! I find it overwhelms my brain having a colleague playing their own music all day long and quite loudly because they don’t like “the quiet” ... I’m a fan of settled play noise ... I also don’t mind music, but not all the time and not to make adults happy either! Be very careful if you play contemporary popular music as it can have totally inappropriate content for young ears. You’re asking for consequences for that one – parent complaints, staff complaints etc.
  • Sit or stand staring off into space with your arms crossed.
  • Sit or stand staring off into space with your hands in your pocket.
  • Wait to be asked to do things ... show initiative! If you’re not sure, then just ask.
  • Don’t be so good at what you do, that you get booked up too far in advance by other centres ;)

Thank you to Lana, Trisha, Michelle, Lyn, Jo, Debra, Sarah, Shannon, Kim, Julie, Stella, Chantel, Alexandra, and Sandi  for responding to my shout out, and to the other’s who requested anonymity who provided me with private messages. 

©Teacher’s Ink. 2015 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wwah for Whale

* DISCLAIMER -  I'm anti adult-craft ... It is so ingrained in my philosophy. It's how I teach, how I work. I use open ended materials and quality resources and I just let the children go ... I throw them ideas here and there - but for the most part, I set up art*full provocations and I let them create. Please do not feel the need to try and convince me that adult directed craft is a valuable approach to teaching children. You're entitled to your opinion, as am I. Here's mine: 

I was doing relief teaching at an old-school pre-school the other day and I really did not feel connected with that space. Like not one bit. It was ok to look at. And it was ok to spend some time ... but as the day progressed and I watched the children being “guided” to do their craft work for the day I started to feel a bit icky. It was all adult-directed. There was a sample of what the craft should look like. The painting experience was packed away. Children’s painting's were whisked away. Children painting whatever they wanted was seen as a pointless activity. The craft was seen to be where the real learning occurred. The staff were pressured by the manager of the service to ensure that each child did their craft for the day, morning and afternoon.

Their portfolios were full of them. All the same. A is for apple. B is for ball. C is for cat. All the same. Every craft element in those books were cut by adults. All the children had to do was stick them down in the same way the adult did in the sample. They were all the same. I did not see the child in their portfolios. I could not read their personalities, interests, likes and dislikes, their challenges and their strengths and achievements. I could not see them. All I could see was “Wwah is for Whale”.

I was placed in charge of the craft for the afternoon session. I hated it. It rubbed me the wrong way. I was upset by this for days. I’m still upset. I saw a little boy who was not ‘craft-inclined’ made to sit and produce a product. I saw another boy look at me apprehensively asking me what he should do ...

I was a brat and I told him he could do whatever he wanted...

I am sure I rocked the boat and upset the apple cart both at the same time.

He was so apprehensive ... He didn’t want to not follow the status quo of the service ... He didn’t want to get it wrong. Which makes you wonder ... When I’m not there – what happens? What happens when you don’t create the required craft item using the adult sample as the guide? What happens if you say no? What happens if for the little life of you, you can’t understand what is expected? Does the adult then do it for you? What’s the point of that? Do you get ‘spoken to’ in front of your peers at the table? What happens then? How are you made to feel?

The pre-planned adult structured craft really got to me. It was all the same. Cookie-cutter. In my own eyes pointless. Products which are results driven, given to parents to suggest that this is the learning the children are doing ... It’s learning because we put a letter of the alphabet on it!

This service is teaching children that their own work – their own paintings aren’t good enough. That they’re not able to learn themselves through a play-based curriculum. That they cannot resource themselves with their own ideas with open ended materials. That they aren’t good enough as people...

I feel for those little souls.

I hated it.

I really, really really REALLY hated it.