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I’ve seen it published that “old fashioned” ways of documenting such as anecdotes and jottings and checklists are no longer valid.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.