Friday, December 13, 2013

The EYLF and NQS Programming Industry Brings Me To Tears

The EYLF and NQS programming industry brings me to tears ... tears of frustration. Firstly there is a product money driven industry that has sprung up around the roll out of the NQF. And not everything for sale is accurate or of a high quality.

I don't think programming, planning and documenting should be easy. I don't think it should be impossible either. I think it should be the right amount of challenge and reward. I think it should fit within the paid scope of your employment (i.e. you do your written work AT work), and I think that it should improve you as a professional and I think it should serve a purpose for the children and their families. 

In my role as an over-arching educational leader/mentor I work with programming and planning all day long. It sloshes around in my brain at the best of times. Sometimes it feels like its oozing out my ears. It's what I do. It's my main focus. I work with multiple different styles of programs and plans and not just one. I am essentially a critical friend who provides guidance and feedback for a number of services. Adult learning results from sustained shared conversations. I can't emphasize this enough.

If you don't understand Quality Area 1, don't beat yourself up. Its twisty and convoluted and I don't particularly like it. In fact the whole NQS is so interwoven it is impossible to unravel. Even for me. ANYONE promising you that they have unraveled it is full of the proverbial because it is an impossibility.

I'm looking online today at stuff. And all I can find is crap. Crap that dumbfounds me and makes me want to cry in frustration. I just don't get it. It's wrong. So WRONG. 

Crap that is for wrong and for sale. Crap that is for free. Crap that is about boosting an ego. Crap. 

Crap that has pretty colours, or visual themes, or circles instead of squares because squares are boxes and boxes are bad. Or trees. What the hell is it with trees? Who started this tree thing? What does a tree have to do with anything other than being a visual metaphor for something or other?

If someone tells you there is no wrong way to do the NQS or the EYLF I think they're wrong. If there was no wrong way, then centres wouldn't be getting "Significant Improvement Required" or "Working Towards." 

I think that there are many more right ways than wrong ways, but there is clearly a wrong. 

Please. Please. PLEASE think about what you buy. Just because its pretty doesn't mean its good. Just because its expensive and promises the world, doesn't mean it delivers. 

If you get exceeding at your service it is because YOU did the work and YOU earned it. No one else. Not even me :) 

I think I need to write something and self-publish it. It won't be free - but it will be backed up with evidence and it will be reasonable. And its probably going to take me forever to put it together ... But I just can't sit here and look at crap and not throw my hat into the ring. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Scribble: a game of turn taking and laughing

I’ve been visiting and working with a service for a few weeks. There are twin girls “Olivia” and “Sophia” in the toddler room. They are about 2.5 years old. Olivia is outgoing and confident and loves to play and laugh. She has a wicked glint to her eyes and she loves to be chased. I comply with her wishes of course. Her sister Sophia is more reserved and shy. She stands back and sometimes becomes upset. I respect her wish to feel secure by keeping my distance and telling her so. “I don’t want to upset you, so I will move away and give you some space.”

Today, something beautiful happened. I of course continued with giving Sophia space. And it paid off. I was engaging with Olivia at the white board drawing experience on the table, and Sophia came to sit near me (Yay!). I helped Olivia with her sleeves which were going to be stained with ink. Sophia looked at me and smiled (Yay!) and then did her sleeves. I commented on her independence. She smiled.

The children then were transitioning to lunch (I won’t bore you with the details) and Olivia stayed with me. She eyed my clipboard which I had some notes written upon. I asked her if she’d like to do some writing. She smiled at me and reached out for my mechanical pencil. She made her mark. Then Sophia spied us, and she joined us. I smiled at her. She smiled back. I asked her if she would like a turn. She responded with a smile and said “my turn.” So she had her turn and made her mark. It was then when the lead ran out, and I had to show the two how to click the top to make the pencil work again.

We were playing a spontaneous game of “my turn, your turn” using my paper and pencil. It was my turn, then Olivia’s turn, then Sophia’s turn. Then mine and so on and so forth. Theo then joined us with a big smile on his face and he said “my turn?” So, we added Theo to our game, my turn, Olivia’s turn, Sophia’s turn, then Theo’s turn. We did a few more rounds, then Theo moved on to lunch. Sophia left, and Olivia and I continued our game for a couple more rounds. Sophia couldn’t stay away and she came back (Yay!).

I decided to mix things up and do some subtle intentional teaching stuff, I said to the two “I’m going to do a small one” and I proceeded to make an itty bitty little scribble on the top right hand corner of the page. This resulted in fits of hysterical giggling. I’d made a joke.  Olivia then decided she would do the opposite to me and she did a “big one” across the middle of the page. Then Sophia did a little one (which was really more medium than small as her skills aren’t as refined as mine). I did a teeny tiny little one, which resulted in even more hysterical laughter. Olivia then outdid herself and did a much bigger one, again saying “big one.” Sophia did her mark, but she decided to be loud and proud and do a big one like her sister.

I am going to finish this later and do some clever outcome talking type stuff … but for now on my lunch break, I wanted to get this story down while it was still fresh in my mind and my heart.

Today I was blessed with trust. And trust is so precious.  

* Olivia and Sophia and Theo are made up names.

(c) Teacher's Ink. 2013 All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

MIA - Projects Comin' Outa My Ears!

Memes have been on my list of things to do ... The big reason why I am missing in action is due to three projects. One with work which is taking up brain space, and one with a fellow educator  (shhhhh its still a secret), and the third is a small business idea I'm doing with two friends.

Overachieve much?

Ironically, if it all goes according to plan, its actually making one or two of my dreams come true ... I could never make it happen on my own due to the nature of my employment ... 

But the relationships and opportunities have presented themselves ... and well. I think its going to be a beautiful thing. 

I know. I tease.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Follow-up Fallacy

Fun Fact: Follow-up is mentioned once in the National Quality Standards (NQS) ... one time found on page 23 in the Guide to the Standard ...

In Quality Area 1: “Children learn best when the experiences they have are meaningful to them and are focused on the here and now. Because children constantly learn new skills and gain new insights into their world, educators and co-ordinators need to continuously assess and evaluate teaching and learning to update their knowledge of individual children and to plan new and follow-up experiences that are relevant to the child’s current context.” (ACECQA, 2012 p 23).

So, ask yourself if follow-ups as we understand them, were a core component of the programming and planning process, then the term “follow-up” would have been embedded in the terminology of the NQS right? Like a lot?

 “Children learn best when the experiences they have are meaningful to them and are focused on the here and now.” ... so where does the mentality of “follow-ups” a week later, or two, or sometimes three come into the “here and now”? 

I believe that it is important to support children. But that support doesn't necessarily need to be in the form of an activity. But this is what many of us do, or are told we have to do!  I'm not saying that activities are bad ... but they aren't everything, and they aren't the only avenue of support and teaching! They certainly aren't the only vehicle for learning, being, or knowing!

If children are constantly changing and evolving in their skills and knowings, then how do we support them by doing something (and sometimes long) after that moment has passed? 

So, what if we use ourselves, our teaching skills? (And I don’t mean over take or instruct, but I’m sure I’ll post on this later at some point). What if we are subtle in our approach? What if we take away the activity focus. What if we support in the here and now when it is most relevent to the child/ren? 

Don’t get caught up in the follow-up fallacy ...

If an Assessor, manager, power-that-be ask you “where’s the follow-up?” or the “what’s next” (I don’t like this one either!) ... Point out to them that follow-up is not part of the language of the National Quality Standards. Inform them respectfully that the new vernacular includes: support, enrich, scaffold, extend ... 

© Teacher’s Ink. 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Kindy Staff Too Busy Reporting To Care?

Ok since I'm on the Critical Literacy wagon ... I might as well comment on this article ... This article is more sensationalist bullshit. First, I'd like to say the title is crap. It implies that we are too busy to care which is totally NOT the case.

They state that we have to spend more time ' "reporting" on children' ... and their points of reference here are daily reflective journals and folios with photos ... Um ... I've been using daily reflective writing and kept chidlren's portfolios for the past 9 years ... the NQS has only been out for a year and a bit ... Seriously? They're blaming the NQF for reflective writing and portoflios? Piss off. 

If staff are spending more time on tasks to meet the standards - well what the hell were they doing before? NOT meeting the standards. You have to question that! You CAN meet the standards and spend time with children ... arguably ... spending time WITH the children will help you to MEET the standards. 

So one owner (and let me say here that owners are owners of businesses which happen to be child care centres) said that she has had to hire 2 full-time stuff to meet compliance on her 5 centres ... So, essentially she is saying that she had to hire two more staff to meet the standards ... Ok, so she's essentially suggested, quite possibly admitted that she wasn't employing enough staff to be giving quality care in the first place. Ok. You want us to feel sorry for you? Nope. If you can own 5 child care centres, you certainly don't deserve my pity. 

Next we have "Parents are footing the bill to fulfill a bureaucratic nightmare. Even when we tick the boxes we are not sure we have complied" ... Well, sweetheart, its not about ticking boxes. By merely saying that it comes down to ticking a box means you clearly don't get it. 

And come on, the cost of child care has always been on the rise, why is this any different to what was happening before?

I'm not quite sure what she's getting at in regards to her confusing over having diploma-trained staff ... she really isn't clear about what she is specifically confused about. The answers will be in the regulations ... Now, what I will say here, without being a smart-ass and looking up the answer myself (I really can't be bothered, I'm just glad I'm following through with a post!)  ... I think that you should be concerned that the owner doesn't know what the regulations are, where they are, and what she should be doing to meet them. The fact that she's admitted to speaking to 3 different so-called compliance officers ... well, why did she need to ask the question three times? Again, she's an owner responsible for the care, education and well-being of children. If she doesn't know what she's doing, well ... that's a concern isn't it?

Then we have a quote from a politician who has an agenda - bag the other politician. "massive over-correction" ... well ... that's just admitting that there was something that needed correcting in the first place ... So, clearly the system was a bit broken. At least we've done something about it ... At least we're going in a direction rather than sitting still and stagnating. She then talks about sitting down the with states and territories to "slow down on some of the more pointless outcomes." ... I'm curious, what are those pointless outcomes? 

Look, I know the system is flawed. In fact any system for that matter will be flawed. I don't think its perfect, but I think its better than what we had before. There is still huge piles of crap out there ... there are still those misinterpreting it for their own benefit. Kate Ellis who is the Minister for Childcare said that they will be reviewing the framework - well that was bound to happen anyway wasn't it? ACECQA has been reporting on the progress, it stands to reason that there would be some follow through with that.

Kate Ellis has then gone on to say that "There is no more documentation required ... that there was under the previous quality assurance systems" ... There is different documentation required. Because its different it requires us to work harder until we are more able to meet the requirements ... In time, it will be easier. It really will. 

We just have to work for it. 

So my peeps, start putting out! 

© Teacher’s Ink. 2013

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The NQS/EYLF Product-Monster and Critical Literacy

Critical Literacy has been on my mind a great deal of late ... and I’ve been struggling to write a post on it. I thought it was because I couldn’t get my words out the way I wanted, but I realise now that it’s because it’s too broad a topic.

So. I am going to focus on Critical Literacy in relation to the big bad EYLF product-monster.  It seems that everyone is jumping on the EYLF bandwagon – both on the world wide web and the very accessible and free Facebook.

All over the internet there are apps and templates to buy as well as for free. There are web-pages to become paid members of so that you can download templates galore. Not to mention the EYLF program websites left right and centre. I don’t doubt that some are designed and sold by people with genuine intentions who are knowledgeable and experienced. There are also those who have genuine intentions, who simply lack sound knowledge.

Then there are the OTHERS. There are those that are merely using the letters E and Y and L and F to get your attention and then do nothing about it. There are those who distract you with ‘Bling’  - things that others have done. Do these places have something genuine to offer you that you otherwise couldn’t do yourself?  Are they even presenting you with original ideas? How are they even relevant to the EYLF and the NQS?

The EYLF is not about templates or computer programs. It’s not about putting EVERYTHING across a page and cross referencing it and saying that you are meeting all the requirements.
You are a consumer. We all are. It’s important that you critically reflect upon what others tell you. It is important that you make informed decisions about where you spend your time and money.  If a company tells you that their product will meet all the requirements, or that they will make it easy, then you need to ask yourself some serious questions ...

A super clever friend of mine posted somewhere sometime at some point on Facebook (she should know who she is) that if something is easy, is it worth it? So you need to ask yourself, if your job is easy, is it worth it? Are YOU worthy of the children in your care? Shouldn’t you be working hard to give them what they deserve?  Are you putting the effort in to understanding your responsibilities? Are you putting in effort to understand the children and what they want and need from you? Its not about ticking boxes to make sure that you are compliant. It’s not about being easy.

The whole NQS is about reflecting ... asking questions about intent and finding answers. It doesn’t mean that we are always going to come to the ‘right’ conclusion the first time around. Or the second or the third? It doesn’t mean that we are going to find the one ‘right’ way and then stay there ... The thing about the NQS and the EYLF is that there is a WRONG way ... but there are so many right ways. You need to find a right way for you ... and that way is not about a product (a computer program, a template, an app). Its not about a product, its about PROCESS! Process is how children learn, and it should be about how we work. We should work through process, a cycle of learning and planning rather than an end product. 

We are not, as Anne Stonehouse put it, an industry. We don’t produce!  She said it beautifully here:

So, I am questioning the content of some of these pages, their intent and purpose, and their ability to provide you: the consumer – with support, guidance and answers.  

Read the EYLF. Read the Principles and the Practices and reflect on them in relation to YOURSELF as an educator. What are you proud of? What are you challenged by? What are you learning about yourself? What are the children teaching you? What has surprised you about your teaching?

I know you’re possibly lost and scared and intimidated. I know that change does this. But I can tell you (I’ve written about this before). That reading the EYLF and the NQS over and over, and reflecting on them in relation to my professional practice have really deepened my understandings of the documents but most importantly MYSELF! I’m even at a point where I question the NQS/EYLF!


You didn't see that one coming did you?

Yes it’s true. I question it. In fact, I’m starting to question almost everything! It’s driving me a bit mad actually. It’s making me a bit dizzy! I feel a little bit ADHD at times.

So. What’s my point?  Well. When you think of purchasing a product, do you ask yourself any questions? For example:  Who has designed this product, and are they qualified and experienced enough to be supporting me? Are they early childhood trained/educated? Have they worked in early childhood education and care for long? Can I do this myself with the resources I have at hand? (camera, computer and printer, word processing or publishing program such as MS Word or Publisher, paper, pens, glue/adhesive, photocopier etc.) ... Do I need to subscribe or buy a product to do what I have always done?

The EYLF has given us LANGUAGE and IDEAS which were based upon theories. Why are we now being sold products? And inappropriate books and ideas? Why are we desperately flocking to Facebook pages simply because they have EYLF somewhere in their page name? Why are we desperately buying apps and joining web pages as members to download things? Is it because THEY are telling us that we need them?

There are just so many companies it seems – using emotional manipulation and underhanded tactics to try and get you to buy their products. Don’t believe that they care about you and your work life balance. They are a business. They intrinsically want your money in exchange for their product or services. This is critical literacy! This is looking at what you are being told and questioning whether it’s true!

Look, I am a business. I’ve never kept it a secret. But, mine is a business that at this point in time doesn’t have a product to sell. Mine is a business that has sat dormant for over 3 years. I am clearly in no huge rush! Right now I’m just doing what I normally do on a day to day basis. I mentor. I think and engage in conversations. I reflect and I write. I am not here to take advantage of you, or indeed anyone.  If you don’t like what I think, or what I have to say, you are more the welcome, indeed, you are encouraged to go elsewhere.  I know that not everyone will ‘get’ me and that is ok.  

So, go forth and ask questions. Do your research – and I don’t mean ask a question on a Facebook page! Go deeper than that! Read. Think. Question. Reflect. Read some more. Think more. Question more! Get it? Got it? Great!

This is really not exactly the post I wanted to write ... It’s not where I wanted to go with Critical Literacy, but it’s where we ended up. I shall have to write the post I wanted to write later when the words come to me and I’m properly inspired!

Until then.

Ask questions!!!

© Teacher’s Ink. 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dear Judith Sloan ...

Dear Judith Sloan,

I am one of those that you have deemed a “dim-witted” teacher with a bachelor degree (which actually enables me to work in primary schools, I just made an informed choice to work in the prior to school setting) from a “second rate university”. While I was at my second rate university (which some of you might know as Macquarie University) I learned how to research, think, critically reflect and challenge.

I don’t need to defend my fellow dim-wits. I trust that they can defend themselves well enough. I’m not going to bother to defend the value of early childhood education. It doesn’t need defending. It has been proven time and time again. And I have every faith that it will continue to be proven a valuable venture. I’m not going to stand up for Kate Ellis, because she has well and truly done that for herself. In fact I’m not even really going to waste my time questioning you, because that already happened and you faltered when put on the spot.

Look, I too am a blogger. The difference between you and your obviously superior intellect and education and my inferior second rate one, I suppose is the ability to engage in critical reflection and research. Let’s not mention intelligent articulation. I much prefer my honed dim-witted style of blogging. But, would I know any better? Probably not. 

Actually, while you were appearing on Q&A, I was busy writing an article on “Critical Literacy” in relation to popular culture and the media. I haven’t finished my article. It could be due to my slow mental abilities, or it could be due to the fact that I don’t want to publish something that I don’t think is written well and backed with a solid argument if not quality references and evidence.

So, ironically, here you were mouthing off about the ONE article that you read in the SMH. Your other evidence comes in for form of ONE relative with children in child care. 

You are basing your (un)informed opinion on TWO limited sources: ONE news article and ONE personal account from a relative. While The Sydney Morning Herald is a reasonably reputable media publication, it is not infallible.  It is also still sensationalist. It wants to sell papers and advertisements. The journalists want to make their name. The more attention they get, the more their reputation increases.   They, like you, have agendas. I learned in high school, as well as university that I should use reputable sources (ie an original source not here-say from a secondary source and not my second cousin twice removed) and seek strong evidence. You really have dropped the ball on this one.  

This might be the time to remind you about “Critical Literacy.” It’s about questioning what you are told and what you see. And you clearly didn’t do this when you read the SMH article and spoke to your relative. I actually agree with you about the triangle and orange thing. I don’t think that doing themes isindicative of high quality. But regardless, there are currently parents who want that. And clearly, your relative has not only chosen that particular service for her children, but she actively supports them by continuing to use them. That is her choice. Maybe she likes the triangle and orange? Just because you don’t, doesn’t mean she doesn’t, or shouldn’t.

Look, I can’t honestly waste any more of my time writing an open letter to you. I’ll simply say this final bit .... Yes the NQF is about providing “greater choice, diversity and competition” within high quality services. It’s not about conforming. Its not about making us all fit into the one box. In fact, it’s about throwing out the boxes! It’s about variety within quality, which will give children and families better outcomes.

So in conclusion, your evidence sucked and it makes you look ignorant and stupid. 

But hey, what do I know? I’m merely a dim-wit.

So as a dim-wit who is also a westie bogan, I am merely going to say “fuck you” and walk away. 

(G) @ Teacher’s Ink. 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Groups: Big or Small? Small of course!!!

I actually have two other posts that I have been wanting to publish - they are still works in progress ... but this idea about groups just needed to be written! Certainly to justify my choices - based on research as well as the Standards and Regulations and the EYLF. So here we have it ... My stance on large groups. Ready? It's 4 pages long in MS Word!

I’ll be upfront here about my bias. I don’t like whole groups for children. This is my personal belief around large groups. 

So. I’m tired of people talking about doing whole group experiences, especially with babies and toddlers. It is by no means appropriate. Please don’t justify it!  Just because a child is going to be in the preschool room next year doesn’t mean you need to prepare them when they are two! Just because a child is going to school next year, doesn’t mean you should start preparing them 12 months in advance!
“But the parents ask us to! They expect it.”
“The centre down the road offers it. We need to compete.”
“Their parents want to know what we are doing for ‘school readiness’”
“They want us to give their children homework!”
“They have to learn to be in a group at school!”
“Teachers from schools have told us they have to know!”

People. It is your job to stand up and advocate for what is right. What is right is developmentally appropriate and respectful for children. It doesn’t mean that this will look the same for all children – because all children are different! Services will be in different communities and have different social contexts. But it’s not natural for children to be grouped in large numbers at young ages. Think about our family units. Think about how many children we give birth to and have in our family units. Think about native communities. Think about your own childhood. We played in small groups in our community as children. I did attend preschool, and I only remember one circle time. I was singing. I mainly remember playing with my friends. Three of them. No more. No less. Three. Plus me.

Now this brings us to Dr. Louise Porter. Who? Well, she wrote: Young children’s behaviour: Practical approaches for caregivers and teachers(2008). In her book she talks about groupings of children. She points out that large groups or circle time, is a largely teacher-directed mandatory experience which does not support children in making choices. She also points out the obvious, that while some children may enjoy such events, there will be others who do not. These children often disrupt the event or might sit quietly in sufferance.

Looking at the rights of the child in the context of fairness and equity, how is a mandatory group time fair and equitable? There is NO WAY you are meeting the interests and the developmental level of all the children. If one child is left feeling disinterested or uninvolved or intimidated, how is it fair to that child? It isn’t. How is it fair to:
·         The children who aren’t interested in the topic being delivered?
·         The children who don’t have English as a primary language?
·         The children who are not at a high level of concentration?
·         The children who are full of energy and just want to be running or actively making something?
·         The children with developmental complexities who are NOT able to, either appreciate nor participate?
·         The children who are very introverted and would rather be sitting with two of their peers and their teacher, not sitting in a large group feeling uncomfortable and lost?
·         The educator who really wanted to read the story to a few of the chidlren?
·         The educator who has been told she “has” to do whole groups even though it goes against her personal philosophy?

It’s not fair. It’s not equitable. It’s not realistic. You can achieve the same goal with small groups.

Dr. Louise Porter says that children naturally group with others based on a rough formula: their age plus one. So for example I played with Troy, Kim, Joshua plus myself when I was three. That is my age plus one more (me!).  She also mentions the time frame for small groupings. The general formula is 3 times their age. So a 2 year old, MAY be able to engage for 6 minutes, where a four year old MAY be able to engage for 12 minutes. There is no hard and fast rule. Each child is a unique individual and should be treated accordingly.

So what do we do to offer children group times? Well, Dr. Porter suggests you approach a couple of children and offer them an opportunity to hear a story.  You tell them that story. As the story progresses, others will join based upon their choice to do so. If they aren’t interested, they have the right to leave. You are showing that you think children are capable and competent and able to make their own choices. You are respecting their sense of agency. So, if you repeat this a few times a day, every day of the week, you are giving children the opportunity to hear a “group” story ... It might be 2 children, it might be 5, it might be more. For those children who love stories, they can hear them over and over again. For those that aren’t so in love with them, they can hear less, and have the choice. If you want to see how effective this strategy is, keep a record for a week or two of who attends which groups, and see if everyone is included. If not, then approach those children who you know are missing out on the opportunity, and offer them a story or small group experience that will really inspire them to participate (Porter, 2008 p 148). Dr. Porter also talks about not preparing children for the future  – pointing out that most children will mature into school routines naturally.

 I can hear some of you saying “But what if they don’t mature into school?” Well, that might just be that individual child. There is no proof that if you had done large groups, that the child who takes longer to mature into school would have been more able to settle into the new learning environment. And, to be quite blunt it’s not your job to support children to settle into their first year of school. That is their new teacher’s job. It’s your job to support the transition. Not the actual settling into the new environment.

The EYLF talks about children having a strong sense of identity. Yup, you guessed it. That is Learning Outcome 1. Children will learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect show interest in other children and being part of a group. It goes on to say that educators will support this by  organising learning environments in ways that promote small group interactions and play experiences (DEEWR, 2009 p. 24).

The EYLF also talks about children being connected with and contributing to their world (Learning Outcome 2). It goes on to say that children develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities and an understanding of the reciprocal rights and responsibilities necessary for active community participation: cooperate with others and negotiate roles and relationships in play episodes and group experiences (DEEWR, 2009 p. 26). 

And now we move on to Learning Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners. This is where children are encouraged to resource their own learning by connecting with people and place, technologies and processed materials. Educators are encouraged to think carefully about how children are grouped for play and to consider the possibility for peer scaffolding (DEEWR, 2009 p. 37). How this can happen in large groups?

I also question that not all children are going to experience the same activity in the same way, nor gain the same learning from a small experience much less a large or whole group one. You are not going to be able to give the children equal attention. Nor are you going to be able to articulate what they got from it. If a child doesn’t speak, or if a child repeats what another child says, they aren’t really sharing with you their ‘distance travelled’ ... they may be in the same place as they were before. Or they may have gone backwards a step or two. How often have you left a meeting or a class or a training session and thought to yourself: “Huh?” ... I’ve left meetings feeling particularly stupid. It wasn’t until following some serious reflection and discussion with peers, that I realised I wasn’t the stupid one! I’m an adult. How the hell are children going to feel?! Are you setting them up for failure and feeling small and insignificant! Please don’t do this!

Ok, let’s step over there to Learning Outcome 5. Children are of course, effective communicators. Children will interact both verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes, contributing their ideas and experiences in play, in large and small group experiences (DEEWR, 2009 p. 40). I don’t read whole group. A large group of 3-5 year olds could be 10/11; of 2 year olds it could be 8; and of 0-2s it could be 4. Think of the ratios as a guideline.

Having said that, I have done large groups, and I didn’t like them. The freely-chosen large whole groups I did were free-form dancing discos – but not everyone had to participate! And they were loud and chaotic and silly and often due to long times stuck inside due to weather!

Now, let’s consider the National Quality Standards. The NQS talks about groups of children. It talks about minimising risks of injury and minimising conflicts between children. It discusses grouping children in ways that supports their learning and development. The guide to the standard also says that Assessors will observe your service’s approach to grouping children (DEEWR, 2012 p 86). I don’t see whole-group.

The NQS goes on to say that indoor learning environments provide children with opportunities to make choices and negotiate activities that can be quiet, active, routine, small and whole-group experiences. “These spaces:
·         support children’s emerging interests and allow them to demonstrate their innate creativity and curiosity
·         reflect children’s different cultures, interests, abilities and learning styles
·         recognise children as active learners and decision makers.
 (DEEWR, 2012 p 86)

Again, I question how we can do this confidently in large, whole-groups. How can you cater for everyone’s curiosity, creativity, interests, abilities, learning styles, decisions, etc all in the one experience?!?!? And define whole-group anyway! It might mean that all children have an opportunity to participate in an event, but not necessarily at the same time in the same way!
The Education and Care Services National Regulations talks about relationships in groups:
“PART 4.5 156 Relationships in groups
(1)   The approved provider of an education and care service must take reasonable steps to ensure that the service provides children being educated and cared for by the service with opportunities to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other and with staff members of, and volunteers at, the service. (DEEWR, 2012 p 163)
(2)   For the purposes of subregulation (1), the approved provider must have regard to the size and the composition of the groups in which children are being educated and cared for by the service.” (DEEWR, 2012 p 164)

While it doesn’t specify group sizes, it does specify we need to have regard for it. Why are you doing what you are doing? What are the reasons for your groupings!? Can you have quality relationships with 20 children as opposed to 4 or 5?

Also, in  Element 1.2.3 “Critical reflection on children's learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, is regularly used to implement the program” (DEEWR, 2012 p. 327).  It doesn’t mean you have to work with children in whole groups. It just means you need to consider them as part of a group as well as an individual.

And last, but not least, “Element 1.1.3 The program, including routines, is organised in ways that maximise opportunities for each child’s learning. minimising the times during which children are expected to do the same thing at the same time” (DEEWR, 2012 p 30). And that my friends is pretty self-explanatory.

Well, I think that I have sufficiently stated my position on large group times. And crap. I’ve just realised I’ve spent my Sunday writing a four page essay for “fun” ... purely to make a point. And not for uni!

Thank you for reading!

© Teacher’s Ink. 2013 All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligence ... Here's my Results!

I did a test! These are my results! And I'm not surprised at all :)

So, what would your results be?! Will you be surprised? Does your test also indicate where your skills lie in your workplace?

In my personal life as well as my work:  I love writing (if you havent noticed!) and photography, telling stories, being creative, gardening and growing veggies, animals, insects, nature and the like ...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Need to Embrace My Inner Ninja ...

And be wise and controlled and strong. When I'm really dumbfounded. Annoyed. Disappointed. Bit pissed off. And just over the shitty crappy horrible dreadful day that was today. That's where I'm at. If anyone wants me, I'm hiding under the covers.

(C) Teacher's Ink.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

More Postings on Observations

***  I am ranting right by your side! I can’t even remember exactly what I learned all those years ago at TAFE, nor can I remember what I even really learned at Uni and it wasn’t really that long ago, although time is certainly getting away from me. My rants are generally directed at the system and not the individual. I merely ask that the individuals ask WHY? WHAT? And WHERE? Three big questions.
I am currently working in a management role, and the amount of “he said, she said” is unbelievable. Even going back a year ago to when I was working for another mob, they were being told by someone higher up who heard it from somewhere else that they had to link all their observations to theory. So they held a training, and then the educators used the learning story which had the little box to write in the theorist’s names. They all said Vygotsky. Seriously, what purpose did that serve? Nothing really. The obs were still generic and poorly written anyway, adding Vygotsky on them in a box did not make them any more relevent to the child who’s name was written in pencil in the corner. Instructing a child in something isn’t even scaffolding. It was superficial.

I look back at my work from 2010 when we started working with the EYLF – very basic. I look back over 2011 and early 2012, and you can see improvements and growth. I continue to grow, each and every week, if not day by day. And that came with practice and reflection. I know that everyone will be different levels and understandings. You mentioned study, and I’m not even convinced that educational facilities are doing the best in supporting people in working with the EYLF and the NQS. AND consider that many people delivering the learning from the educational institutions haven’t necessarily worked directly with the EYLF as educators. Now I’m not saying they won’t understand, nor am I saying that they won’t be good tertiary educators or creator of ECE curriculum, but they will have a different perspective.
Program and planning is directed by the NQS as well as the EYLF – or whichever framework people are using depending upon their location and service. It’s become an incredibly complicated thing! And because of the way that the government chose to implement it – complicated beyond words.
My understanding is that the framework was written then distributed to services on a trial basis. These services then created some sample observations using the draft EYLF. The EYLF was published, then the educators guide, then the EYLF in practice book. They themselves may not even have had a specific idea of what it would look like in practice! I could be wrong. Seriously, I don’t know this from the inside, but I’m telling you what I witnessed as an educator on the outside.  And that is what it looked like. Even the change in the what is written in the NQS PLP newsletters is interesting. And I'm sure all the authors who write for the PLP will tell you that they have also grown and changed.

That's a large part of the NQS - growth through reflection. Not standing still and remaining the same.
I like that the framework is open ended because I like being creative and inventive. BUT in saying that, I think it leaves so many people lost. And I completely agree that they have the right to panic! Especially with the ratios they are working with!!!! I’d be panicking too! Believe me I would. That is why I’m saying that learning stories are NOT required as the only form of observation. And it’s also why I’m upset generally that there are so many companies popping up saying that they will solve everyone’s problems for them! And am frustrated by the “gossip” ... people panicking and changing things left right and centre. We don’t have to put everything (learning outcomes, principles, practices, being, belonging, becoming, theory, room reflections, group reflections, child reflections, personal reflections, philosophy, group goals, individual goals, NQS/QA reference numbers etc) into the observations of children’s individual learning. I just don’t want people pressured into the unnecessary – and this includes workload. Look at the image at the top of this page! Chaos!
If you have to do work at home, there is something wrong with the expectations of work and the system. And yes, I know a great many do this. I used to. A lot. The system is flawed. Or the perception of the system! Chicken or egg?  I think we need to be realistic about what we can do. I also question the focus on learning stories and portfolios vs the curriculum program. Which do we spend more time on?
And I question how much of this do we do to ourselves? Do we set an unrealistic expectation upon ourselves? Do we not stand up to our managers and owners etc and say that we can do this this and this in our work time, but we are not able to do that? So what should we be doing? What should it look like for our service as opposed to another's service? They don't all have to be the same!
Even when looking at a learning story or observation or whatever you call it holistically, and if you do two a month, or maybe one a month as I know some services are doing ... I don’t think you are going to get an adequate image and assessment of a child over the course of the year. I’ve spent more time thinking and writing about this than I can tell you here. Do more photos and jottings and write with outcome terminology eg (LO5) and stress less over the learning stories. Still do them, but be selective. All the while, reflect in your professional journals!
I’m simply suggesting the people look at QA1 for themselves and really read the EYLF. I know many who haven’t, or read it so long ago. My understanding of both those documents has changed and deepened over the last 12 months I can’t even articulate it!
Ok. I've said enough.

© Teacher's Ink. 2013