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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Life in our 3-5 programs

I recently asked the Educators in our 3-5 year old programs about their work and just as the Infant and Toddler Educators before them, they delivered some wonderful insights into their work.... I hope you enjoy reading.....

1. What is it about working with 3-5's that motivates you to come to work everyday?

I have worked and had experiences with children from ages of 3 to school age and I will always choose to be with the 3-5's. Honestly, what makes my experiences with the 3-5's so enjoyable is the conversation. I love getting to work every morning and being greeted by a chorus of " Tania, Tania!" Then, a verbal explosion ensues where they show me something or tell me some super interesting stories. I love the questions, commentary and sharing about their family life. I learn a lot about them and they in turn learn about me.

The knowledge and experience we gain through years of working with 3 to 5’s allow us to feel comfortable to say “we love our job”. A million positives motivate us to come to work every day and see 25 small people waiting to see us and share something with us.

Where else can you work with people who don’t judge you…love you as you are…..make you smile everyday….have the ability to make you laugh and cry all in the same breath. Give you hundreds of hugs a day….let you remember how to have fun.

Children teach us patience, the value of friendship, peace, calm. We love experiencing the uniqueness of each child who offers you unconditional love. It`s wonderful to know you are helping and making a change in their lives. It`s a huge responsibility but an enormous honour too. We want to do our part to give the children the world, and in little ways, through our daily meetings and countless conversations. We try to educate them as much as we can so they can be successful in life.

It`s so amazing to see them grow and change. We love that they are such incredible little people, those 3 to 5`s. Everyone wants to feel valued in their job, and we know that we are.

We enjoy seeing the children enjoy their time here at the centre.  Their happiness in playing and learning gives us joy to see that they love being at the centre and with their friends.

To see the children grow in different areas of their development and progress in things they experience daily and with things that they may have just learned, experimented with, or may have difficulty with makes it rewarding for the educators in our program.

We love seeing their ability to be creative, try new things, and re-invent new ideas for old activities.  Having a great team of educators that “gel” well helps too! When we enjoy working together to make this environment like the children’s second home, it promotes building good relationships with peers and we hope that the children see this to encourage them to be respectful to others as well as support each other to create good friendships.

Working with the 3-5's everyday is so exciting. Everyday is so different from the previous one and there is always something new being discovered.

The smiles on the children's faces motivate me everyday as I am working with them. I always think of what might please the children and make them smile. At BGR, we have different shifts every week. When I am working the opening shift, I question myself; "What kind of arrangement of toys and play tables would catch the children's eyes?" When I am working the circle time shift, I think to myself; "What can we do during circle time to have fun and conversation?"

2. What do you wish other people knew about the age group of these children?

I wish people knew just how capable and skilled 3-5's are. Many people just think they are simply kids and they need help to do many things. This is completely untrue. You would be amazed at what these children can do. Some of these children are so independent and have impeccable self help skills. Others have an uncanny ability to create beautiful art, memorise the lyrics and perform songs. This question links back to what motivates me to work with this age group, conversation. Have. Conversation with a child between the ages of 3-5, you will hear the most interesting things. Their thought process and how logically they can think will surprise you.

Every time when a new family comes to our centre, the most frequently question is ``Is that all they do all day – play?   That`s why it`s our responsibility as early childhood educators to explain to the parents that play is not just a play, it is a child`s work. Children learn all about the world through their play. 3 to 5`s are able to verbally communicate quite effectively what they do and do not like, what they want to know and what they do know.

Every centre provides multiple opportunities for skill development through play based on teacher`s observations of the children`s interests. The benefits of play are endless and in so many ways it supports young children`s learning.  And when learning is fun, everyone is more likely to participate. If we can arrange for children to learn important skills and concepts through play, which all children enjoy, what better way to stimulate their learning?

Sometimes we hear parents mention that they are not sure their children are able to make decisions or do certain tasks on their own.  We often hear that parents are uncertain that they are confident that their children understand, can follow instructions and remember certain tasks.  We want people to know that children are very capable people that when given the opportunity and proper support, they are able to do so much! Setting them up for success encourages them to be independent, responsible citizens of this society!  We believe in what the children can do and will do!

It is challenging but very fulfilling work.

This age group of children learn everything through experiences. It is like their minds are sponges that soak up everything they experience. I think showing them your values of life is important such as empathy, respect, care, sharing life experiences and teaching them what is right and what is wrong. Further more, they are such great observers, they see and hear everything. Children at this age will repeat what they hear. Therefore, we talk and interact with them with honesty, respect and care so that our words and actions will be taken a long with them as they grow up.

3. 25 is a lot of children.  How do you cope in the busy-ness of your work days?

I often think about our classroom as an orchestra. It all has to sound and feel harmonious. When all the staff play their part and support each other you can almost hear the music. Then small groups are formed around each staff member; the children are engaged and happy and 25 doesn't seem like a large group to deal with.

The time spent in the program is one of the most important time in a child`s life. But it is also one of the busiest times of their everyday life. And for us too.

If you don’t work with children, chances are have never gone to work and spent at least 6 to 7 hours of your day building with blocks, playing with Lego, doing puzzles, doing experiments, dancing, singing, climbing, running, walking, riding bikes, reading, talking and much, much more.
And 25 children are looking for our guidance. We must be highly organised and have a plan of action, demonstrate a high level of patience and to play different roles: a communicator, a facilitator, a coach, a model, a keeper of the watch, a story teller, a researcher, and a guide.

We strongly believe that environment plays the most important role in how it is set up and how it affects each individual child. No two days will ever be alike because we are working with children that are growing and changing every day.

Shaping the environment in our centre with our philosophy and values doesn’t mean things always go well. As children use different spaces in the room we are doing our observations of them. It is important how we view children and our goals for their time with us.

Yes, 25 children can be a lot of children in a space that can get loud and noisy in a matter of minutes! To cope with the busy-ness of our work days, we keep to a routine but are flexible enough to give more time if some children need it.  We maintain good team work, communicating to each other if we need to take a group outdoors, change the activity that the children are involved in, or take on a task with some children that will help calm the room down.  We have meetings about how things can change in the room to help better support children that may need some special attention, providing enough appropriate activities to challenge and engage the children and maybe even change the routine.  Being flexible, creative and working as a team helps with the busy-ness of the work days in our program.

I don't see the busy-ness as something to cope with. I see it as a fast paced environment where new things are being discovered and explored constantly.

Yes, 25 is a big number!  We sometimes take small groups of children for walks and take some energetic children outside. We sometimes introduce the small groups of children to new activities. We do this so that the our room won't be too loud and full with overly energetic children. We also have good communication between the staff members to do something quickly when we see the energy level rise in the children.

4. If you had to name the best part of your job what would you say?

To listen to a child including interpreting words and actions, listening carefully, helps us determine a child`s needs and how to further the child`s development. Sometimes what we hear enlightens our day and leads us to reflect on our selves.

It doesn`t really matter where and when you listen to the children: playing outside, doing experiments, art, building with blocks, playing ‘mommies’ and ‘daddies’ in the housekeeping area, sitting in a meeting or just having a snack of lunch. What they say and do often makes us ponder our role as educators and as facilitators in learning along side them.

One of the greatest joys for us as educators is being a part of these children’s early experiences as they make meaning of the world. Someday they may not remember us but we know that we made a difference in the lives of these children. And the best part of our job is .......we are changing the world by honoring childhood.

There are many things that have attracted me to become an early childhood educator, but the most amazing aspect of being one is working with children who love you unconditionally.  They give you their wholehearted affection, and rarely hold back. Their show of love and interest in what you have to say or share with them is genuine while being very truthful in their opinions and expressions.  These attributes make you realise how sometimes we as adults tend to be so judgemental and create perceptions and thoughts about others which are based solely on our values and belief systems.

Secondly, I would add that I feel blessed to be able to witness a wonderful stage of their development where they are young and carefree and have yet not been molded into what a society wants them be. Moments when their eyes light up because they have just experienced or finally mastered something new become the highlight of my day and reason to join them even further in their exploration. Essentially, they portray how you can have a love for learning not only from others but from your environment as well.  I also feel I have the opportunity to help build a foundation in their lives that will enable them to be confident, creative, caring individuals who add value to not only their own lives but of those around them. Truly, in spite of challenging moments, I find this experience beautiful and I’m fortunate enough to be a part of it and witness it on a regular basis.

The best part about our job is seeing the children learn and grow.  When we look back and remember how young each child was when they first started at our centre, and see how they have progressed in their development, it astonishes us to think how far these children have come by.  We have seen how they have persevered, matured and gained so much knowledge, skills and talents along the way.  This is such a fulfilling experience for us daily!

The best part of my job is being involved in major milestones like potty training, getting dressed independently and being able to express their wants and needs through words.

5.  Other thoughts? 

I still feel inspired after our visit to Hilltop and hope that there will be more opportunities for us to learn from other centres and programs during pro-D days and throughout the year.

We want others to know that being an Early Childhood Educator is more than just caring for children physically and emotionally (some would label us as babysitters) but it is much more than that.  We are encouraging children to be challenged, educating them in many more different ways creatively rather than rote learning.  We want children to see the relevance and relationship about the world around them and experience it to the fullest.  As an Early Childhood Educator, we find that our job is so important to nurture this curiosity in every child and to help them become fully engaged citizens of the world!

I love my job. There is nothing else in the world I would rather be.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Giving gifts

Hello SRCC

It's that time of the year and I know many of you are checking off long lists of gifts to give to your children and family members, friends and colleagues.

I love giving gifts, its one of my favourite things to do.

But as a parent I have often struggled to balance giving my children gifts and also cultivating in them an attitude of gratitude.

The last thing I wanted to do was raise children who felt entitled to "stuff" and were not mindful of those around them.  Children who somehow thought the gifts under the tree were a measure of my love for them.

It is a struggle and I don't have the answer.

I know I picked a path that tried to balance the joy of giving and receiving gifts and the joy that comes from serving others, from giving to others.

I don't want to weigh my children down with guilt but I want them to know by virtue of the fact they live here, in Canada, in Richmond, they have a certain amount of privilege they should not take for granted.....that requires something of them.

You will soon see boxes in each of the centres for donations to the Richmond Food Bank.

We wanted to offer you an easy opportunity to initiate a conversation with your children about giving and others, to model giving to them, to help them notice that not everyone has everything they need.  It doesn't need to be "heavy" or serious but we think it's important to authentic and honest and we know children take up this information in ways that make sense for them.

We are raising global citizens together and we have our work cut out for us in this materialist western world.

Below are a few links that might help your thinking and give you some innovative ideas that move this season from its deep commercialism to one that grows your children's empathy and emotional IQ, builds your family and your community.

You take away all the other luxuries in life, and if you can make someone smile and laugh, you have given the most special gift: happiness.      Brad Garrett

Giving makes children happy

Mindful-gift-giving-families

Want-need-wear-read


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Annual General Madness

Hmmm I don't think that's what AGM actually stands for although from the vantage point of my desk it can sure feel like that sometimes!

Annual General Meeting....... a meeting no one really wants to be at.....

At least that is how it feels most often.

You don't usually get a crowd jumping up and down at the thought of spending an evening at an AGM.

I have come to dread it myself.

So many hours of work to get ready.  So many papers to be assembled....minutes, financial reports, slates for the Board and the Parent Advisory Committee....... coffee and goodies to order and this year, in a first for our organisation....we had to find a venue!

We are THAT big now!

And yet today as I was editing and reading my report, that chronicles the ups and downs and twists and turns of the last year in the life of the SRCC, I found a new perspective on the dear old, much maligned AGM.

I imagined that if the SRCC were a baby, a child, then the entries in its baby book would be all the things we talk about at the AGM......that the AGM allows us time to stop, take a look at how we've grown and changed from year to year.....to remember the milestones we reached, laugh at some good memories and shudder a little at some missteps...... but without this moment, this meeting, we might never stop to contemplate and celebrate and take stock.

So I am embracing the AGM at 7pm at the Nature Park tomorrow night...... and looking forward to gathering our clan together and having a moment.....I promise it won't drag on....there will be chocolate......and coffee.

It also gives us time and public space to thank each person who plays a part in the work we do and on a day when our neighbours to the South are all about Thanksgiving it seems fitting that we do a bit of that ourselves.

Plus its a legal requirement and no one wants to have to post bail for the Board of Directors now do they?

Happy AGM day Society of Richmond Children's Centres......... It's been quite a year!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Communities of Practice - The SRCC Learns together

Here at the SRCC we are trying to develop something called "Communities of Practice".  We have 5 locations, soon to have 6 and who know what the future holds beyond that.

Each location is a world unto itself..... a busy "town" of Educators with specific talents and strengths, Families and children from diverse backgrounds, talents, complications.....

Each centre develops its own culture within the culture of the whole SRCC..... we really can be compared to a family.....our eldest child (Terra Nova), Our middle children (Cook, Bowling Green and  West Cambie) and our new baby (Cranberry)..... All special, all unique, all growing and learning.

Singing a lullaby in Japanese
But, we wondered, do we get all these Educators connected?  How do we take the strengths at West Cambie and Terra Nova and share them?  How do we take the thinking at Bowling Green on a topic and share their learning with Cook?

We chose to do it by creating "Communities of Practice".  6 months ago we chose 5 areas of early childhood practice that happen everyday and divided all the staff into one of these 5 groups.....we really mixed them up.... novices and elders, extroverts and introverts, leaders and followers, talkers and listeners.

They were tasked with taking their area of practice and choosing an aspect of that topic to research together.  They were given a variety of resources and an afternoon together to kick start them but after that it was up to them to stay in touch, communicate their work, do the research and prepare a group presentation.

The topics were:
Role playing a negotiation
Relationships
Music
Outdoors / Nature
Digging Deep as Early Childhood Educators
Provocations  (ways we provoke children's interest / thinking)

This past week we had an All Staff meeting at Cranberry (so all our staff could meet the new baby)....and the groups presented their research.

No blog post can do justice to the work they presented.

With honesty they described some of their challenges. their struggle to accommodate a variety of points of view, sifting through research to find relevant information, finding time to connect and share...... and yet they persevered and they shared some wonderful insights with one another.....caused us all to think more deeply about their topic.  They did skits, sang songs, played music, used power points, did role plays and at one point a dance party broke out..... gifts were given as inspiration from one group to another..... I was SO PROUD of all of them.
An "outdoor family" discusses camping

Everyone participated and it was clear that relationships and bonds have formed across the SRCC in new ways.  One group has so enjoyed meeting with each other over wonderful potlucks.  Others sat together over our dinner time before the meeting animatedly discussing their work.  Some groups struggled to gel but despite challenges they showed their professionalism and commitment  to the work.

Listening and Learning
Once each group had finished they handed over their research to the next group who will be going deeper on the same topic over the next 3 months..... seeing what more we can learn about our work.
 
And so our commitment to do our best work, to be our best selves, to learn and grow and change continues...... we strive to live in to our vision  of "Changing the World by Honouring Childhood".

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Toddler Times

I personally love toddlers......I love watching them change from babies into toddlers and yet it seems such a fleeting time .... so soon they are Big Kids and want nothing to do with the toddler or baby rooms......but toddlers, I think, sometime get a bad reputation (ok... I know because I was the parent of two toddlers once in the dim distant past and may have contributed to this stereotype myself) and I wanted to find out what the Educators who choose to spend  many hours a day, 5 days a week with this age group thought about that... and they answered with wisdom and insight and a good dose of humour!

Enjoy!

Question 1 - What is it that you love about working with Toddlers?

I love working with Toddlers because every day is a new experience. Young children are so curious and joyful, they bring smiles, laughter and a sense of wonder with them each day.

What I love about working with toddlers is even though they are so little they are so capable. They are growing right in front of your eyes – physically and mentally at the same time. They are exposed to new things every day and they learn something new every day. This is also the stage where they first start to use simple sentences so they are able to verbally communicate.

Toddlers are energetic, passionate, and prepared to fiercely defend their right to be heard and grow. They want to know things; they want to learn. And despite their tendency towards egocentrism, they are incredibly compassionate, sympathetic and empathetic.

I love experiencing the uniqueness of each child.  I love the laughter of children.  It is amazing to work with toddlers and to watch them grow and learn.  The toddlers’ imagination and wonder about this world is amazing.

Their development sparks my days when I work with them. It seems that I witness their progressive growth and development in physical, speech and language, cognition, social, self-help, and emotion, day by day. How lucky am I!

Gosh, that’s a good question! You know it’s funny, while I was in school for ECE, I didn’t see myself working with toddlers at all. I saw myself at a preschool, working six hour days with three and four year olds. Now almost 5 1/2 years later, here I am at a child care centre, working eight hour days, with 2 year olds and… I don’t think I would have it any other way.   I think what I love most about working with Toddlers is the time of discovery and playfulness that happens all rolled into one. Of course discoveries happen at any age, but all discoveries at any age are still different. I love that at this age, the children really begin to discover who they are and that we get to be a part of that. I love their zeal, their passion, their ideas, their theories, their sense of humour, the way they don’t hold grudges, the way they nestle into me for a cuddle, the way they their eyes light up when we sing together, I just enjoy…them.

Toddler is my favorite program and age to work with. I love toddlers, because they are always being creative and they have an enormous amount of curiosity for their environment. I love how they share their life experiences and feelings with me. There are so many things that I learn from them, because the world they see is so much simpler than our world and it’s very fascinating to learn how they see things. In general toddlers make me feel inspired to work with children even more.

I love seeing them grow and developing into their own unique personalities gradually every day. Each individual child has their own character and each of their very own unique character make them who they are. As each day that they are in our toddler program they are developing in different stages of their growth. I enjoy being their rock and supporting them by their side as they grow and learn. I love witnessing their big and small steps or leaps in their development.  I really treasure the moments when they learn something new and how proud they get. There is such a twinkle in a young child's eyes when they are curious and learning and exploring with all their senses, And of course I love all the hugs and smiles!!!

Question 2:  Do the " Terrible Twos" deserve their bad reputation? 

I think the "terrible twos" is such a negative way to describe children who are trying to make sense of their place in the world. True, it can be frustrating and exhausting as they work through their days, but with patience, understanding, and many deep breaths, it's easy to slow my own pace down and watch with wonder as the children learn boundaries. A high expectation of their abilities helps them to focus and learn the foundations for their future in our society.

No. We all know that they can “push your buttons to the edge” but they are toddlers – 2 year old children. We need to adjust our expectations to their developmental level and they won’t be terrible but terrific. There is a reason for each behaviour we just need to find these reasons

I believe it was a group of very tired adults unprepared for the shift from babyhood to super-active child who coined the moniker 'Terrible Twos'. The shift from dependence to independence happens quickly and most adults are not prepared to let go and ride the vortex of energy toddlers create.

No, because people strive for freedom and toddlers do the same, too.  They all want to think that they are old enough to act like an adult.  They explore the world that they are in and they test the boundaries

No. Toddlers do not deserve "that" bad reputation because of their lack of speech and language skills.  People who are in any age could be assumed difficult anyhow.

Well…you know…I think everyone can have a preconceived notion about a person and for us to label toddlers as having a phase where they’re considered “terrible” wouldn’t be fair. At this stage in their lives, so much awareness is developing. Awareness of their environment, of their emotions, of the people in their lives, of changes that occur, so much is going on! It can be difficult to cope
with all of these new discoveries for a little person. So I think it’s fair to say that just like us, they have their good days and their bad days. If we’re there for them to pick up the pieces on a bad day, or join in on their fun and games on a good day, it makes all the difference.

I don’t think that the “Terrible Twos” is true!  Children during this age have not completely formed and developed their language and self- regulations. They need more time to express their needs and feelings when they are lacking the ability to speak and be understood. So I think that it is perfectly normal for them to feel frustrated when their thoughts aren’t understood.

To be honest sometimes toddlers can give us very difficult times with their behaviours.  But as I try to understand them and be in their shoes. I have observed that they are not trying to give as a hard time. They are at a phase where they are challenging their own inner self. They are getting older and they are knowing a lot more around them and trying to understand the world around them. They are trying to make their own choices without us telling what they should do. They are trying different ways to be independent and possibly make the right choices. They want to be powerful .They want to feel in control of their own body and decisions. I believe that around the toddler age they are just struggling with power. I don’t think the toddlers deserve the “Terrible Twos” reputation. They are just at the age where they’re battling with power. I believe through the processes of power struggles, they are actually slowly building up their own character.

Question 3.  If you had 5 minutes with a Toddler's parents what would you like them to know?

I would invite the parents of Toddlers to Slow Down, be patient and calm in the most frustrating situations, and wait at least 10 seconds before expecting a response as their children process and think about the information they are receiving or requests from the adults in their lives.

Enjoy the time you spend with your toddler. They are toddlers for a very short time and they will grow up very quickly. They need time to absorb, so slow down, relax, sit down with your child, read to your child, play with your child, observe what he/she is doing and respect them all the time. I don’t know who wrote this quote but I think it’s true: “Your child will follow your example, not your advice” so be a superhero for your child, he/she deserves it.

Trust your toddler! They know themselves very well.

Toddlers need lots of time and space in which to move their bodies in order to learn how they function, develop coordination, and grow healthy and strong. They need a variety of challenging materials to learn how best to decode the basics of reading, math, science, and problem solving.  (Electronic entertainments serve no value in teaching these)  And they need quiet time with you to learn about you, to get to understand your expectations and values, and to know the important position they hold within the family unit.

Slow down, observe and listen, without judgment or agenda, to what your child is trying to tell you. They need the security of your unconditional love, boundaries that are fair and deal primarily with health and safety issues, as well as your faith in their blossoming physical and intellectual abilities. Invite your child to help you with everything as often as possible. Life skills are learned best through practice.

I think I would rather have a toddler’s parents trade places with us for a day or even 5 minutes. Sometimes life experiences are easier to understand if one goes through them themselves. If parents experienced a day in our shoes, I think there would be a greater sense of understanding about what we do. Sometimes it can be difficult for families to grasp that we are caring for 12 children a day, all at the same time. We face many challenges throughout each day but nonetheless we always try our very best to accommodate each child and each family to make sure everyone is happy and thriving.

I would like to let the parents that it’s okay to let the children to get wet.  Children at this stage are learning by their five senses. Water play and sensory play are important to the children. The reason why we put out the water play because we think that water play is an unique activity for children because it’s always available, open-ended, and provides opportunities for extended learning. Water play gives opportunities for children to understand why and how things happen. It encourages the children’s to develop their eye/hand coordination through pouring, squeezing, stirring, painting, scrubbing, and squirting. Water play can help children to develop the attention spend by pouring. pounding, and swooshing.  The children develops social skills by learning how to share the materials, playing cooperatively and having space for each other.  Water encourages children to use their imagination and problem solving.  There are a lot of benefits for setting up water play so it’s okay for children to get wet and messy.

I would like them to know the importance of outdoor play for children. Outdoor play is very critical for children. When children play outside it promotes curiosity, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development. Children need the opportunities to explore, experiment, manipulate discover, practice, push their limits, yell, sing, and create through outdoor environment. Outdoor play also enables young children to learn lots and lots and lots of things about the world. How does ice feel and sound? Can sticks stand up in sand? How do plants grow? How does mud feel? How do I make my tricycle go faster? What does a strawberry smell and taste like? Do butterflies have to learn to fly? Much of what a child learns outside can be learned in a variety of other ways, but learning it outside is particularly effective and certainly more fun! They can also learn about their environment and the beauty of nature

Question 4.  Is there anything else you'd like to share about your work with Toddlers?

I feel very blessed that, for me, coming to work every day is an adventure. Over the years I have spent working with Toddlers, I have come to realize what a special and fleeting time I have with them. So many changes happen in this time of their lives, and it is wonderful to be able to observe their changes  as well as help them learn and grow.

They are really amazing. Give your child an opportunity to explore the world around them through their senses because they learn through their senses. You will see how happy they will be playing in the puddles, exploring the paint, water, soil, playdough, bubbles etc. They need this experience.

Because Toddlers want only to be the best they can be, they inspire me to learn more, be more, do more. As I see it, this can only make me a better me for all of us.

I absolutely LOVE what I do. Yes, it’s exhausting at times and yes, it tests my patience but I have the best time with these little people. They encourage me to be as care-free and spirited as they are. So, although there’s times I may leave work tired, stressed or even defeated, I always look forward to what each new day brings. Toddlers are full of surprises…but you know what? I LOVE surprises!

I enjoy coming in every morning to see the children's smiling faces, to hear the laughter, and to see their joy of accomplishment. It is so rewarding to see the children "blossom" into unique little people and watch their skills develop everyday. They make my days very interesting. Everyday is a memory for me!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Welcome to the Infant Program

My office is opposite one of our Infant programs.

This is a tough time of year in that program as 12 new babies have arrived over the last several weeks.

Some of them are happy, adapted easily, eating, sleeping and pooping like champs.

Others are sad and/or mad at this turn of events in their lives and letting us all know just how they feel.

I have been known to walk across the hall and close their door so I can hear myself think at my desk.

But when I close the door 4 educators remain in there holding, rocking, talking to, painting with, feeding, singing, reading books with those small people ..

I am in awe of them most days but especially so in September.

So I asked all our Infant Educators across the SRCC's 3 Infant Programs 5 questions.
1) What is it about those babies you love so much?
2) What surprises you about babies and might surprise others
3) Whats the toughest part of the job?
4) What do you wish others knew about Infant Educators work?
5) Is there anything else you want to share?

Here are their words that show so much about their hearts too, their professionalism and their dedication.

1)What is it about those babies you love so much?

I love everything about babies. Their curiosity that leads to discovering new things, their inquisitiveness that allows them to soak up everything around and most of all their resilience and ability to adapt to new experiences.


They are impressionable.

They grow and change so fast.  It is amazing how we can be with them and share their joy and tears. They are my loyal friends and part of my family. I am so proud that I can be with them daily.

I love how happy babies can make you feel everyday; the feeling you get when you get to have cuddles, or when they are so happy to see you in the morning. Also, the laughter you get to share with babies.

Babies are full of surprises. They make you very tired but also they make you happy. Their smiles bring you joy and energy to live.  The speed and amount of learning everyday always makes me wonder about human’s capacity of learning. They can learn multi-languages, songs, manners and actions that they are exposed to. Babies are amazing!

There is so much but all of us can agree that we love the connections and bonds made with the children.  The children usually begin very unsure and fearful of their surroundings.  When an educator and child make a connection, a bond that allows the children to feel calm, and safe that is one of the things we love so much. We love watching the children reach the simplest yet most complicated tasks such as... holding their own bottle, crawling, standing and walking!   We love to be there supporting and guiding their every step of the way.


2) What surprises you about babies and might surprise others?

Their ability to make connections with new people. Babies are able to connect with others without prejudice.

Their resilience.

They can adjust to the environment and cope with the stress so quickly as long as we can provide enough love and care on a daily basis. Children will adjust well if they feel secure and loved by us, they will build a happy, trusting and positive relationship with us.

What is surprising to me is how babies speak with their bodies. As I observe, I see that they use their whole body to explore and make sense of their environment.   I see a child reaching out with their hands when they need a hug.  I see the expression in their eyes when they are curious about a particular object and their surroundings.

Every moment is valuable learning experience for me. I see them explore and observe their surroundings. Then they seem to recall their memories and do as they remember. For instance, I was singing a Korean song about “Butterfly”( it is called “Nabi” in Korean) to my infant children for a while. At that time, I didn’t think that they will remember or imitate the sound of it. I just explained about the song and after a few days, I heard one child calling “Nabi” as she pointed at her own t-shirt. I looked at her t-shirt and there was a butterfly picture on it. I was very surprised and I shared the story with her parent and the parent seemed very pleased to hear that and told me that they had no clue why their child kept saying “Nabi” as pointing at butterfly until then. So, the child was not only remembering how to call the butterfly in Korean but also what it means. They are full of surprises and they are more capable than we dare think.  

Mostly, their curiosities when they are trying to problem solve. For example, a baby is trying to put a wooden block piece into a hole. I can see her enormous effect on concentrating to complete this task and understand the concept that she must try to get this wooden piece into the hole. 

What might surprise others is that babies have numerous ways of communication.
Some clues that babies give us may go unnoticed, thus, if we use pedagogy of listening can we understand what a baby is trying to communicate?  The pedagogy of listening involves finding meaning and understanding, and really listening to a child’s thinking.

A story that I shared about a little girl with my colleagues that had surprised them:  A little girl was sitting on my lap and she turned to me and put her arms up. I understood this as ‘pick me up.’ Afterwards, she pointed to her stuffed animal and then pointed towards the nap room.  The background of this story is that I have gotten to know this little girl for 3 weeks now. Through listening, and observing I had known she was saying she is tired and its time for nap.  We were so delighted with the way she had communicated with me.

 It still surprises us as educators as well as their own families about how capable they actually are!  Yes, we see them as capable but many times these babies surprise us by going beyond what we could ever imagine.  We often hear and see people under estimate what an infant can or cannot do, we are sometimes guilty of it as well.  For example, we would model putting away dishes and utensils in a bucket, dirty cloths in another bucket, and water cups in another.... not many times after, even the youngest of the infants would try and crawl to put away their cloths.  Many would think the child is just exploring and making a ruckus, but as we watched and waited... the baby was trying to get to the dirty cloths bucket to put their used cloth in.  Once we stop assuming, and begin promoting self-help skills the infants can really surprise us all.

3) What's the toughest part of the job?

We spend a large part of the day with the babies in our care and in turn make special connections and bonds with them. The toughest part of the job is saying goodbye to the babies as they grow up and move on.

Letting go as they grow smart and independent enough to move up.

If our Educator team has different beliefs about and goals for the children.   We have to discuss this and agree how to work as team as consistency is so important for our babies.

The toughest part of the job that I have experienced so far is going through gradual entry. Gradual entry was tough for me because it was also tough for the new babies. They were in an unfamiliar place with strangers and where they had to leave their parents for part of the day.  The questions that came to my mind were:  How can we make him feel more comfortable?  When will he be happy?
How can I build relationship?  With this in mind, relationship building was tricky at first, but I began to see them everyday. The teachers showed care and comfort and this part of the job was not so tough anymore!

I found that working with babies is physically challenging. Because most of babies are not very mobile at some point, you have to carry them around. It has negative impact on teacher’ back and knees.  Also, consistent crying is affecting teacher’s hearing ability which occurs headache. Especially, when you carry the baby close to your ear, that can be harmful for your hearing.  

 It is the gradual entry time of the year, when all new babies and parents are trying to familiarize themselves with the new environment.  It is trying to build trust and relationships with all the new families and children.  We want to give as much one on one time to each family and child, but with so many new families it is sometimes the toughest.

4) What do you wish others knew about Infant Educators work?

That while it seems like all we do is sit around playing with babies all day, we do so much more. We are the individuals that help shape and guide the future's Doctors, Architects, Engineers and Educators. We help build the foundation where all future learning will occur.

Educator's work is NOT childminding. The true Educator takes pride in being able to engage the whole child to facilitate self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-confidence.

I wish others knew the joyful experiences we get to share with babies. The laughter, smiles and watching babies grow up and seeing how they have changed, and how babies make sense of their world.

A lot of people think that teachers at Infant side mostly do “taking care of the babies” rather than “teaching” them.  However, I think that we teach them the most valuable and necessary skills/learning in their lives. Most of skills that they do here at Infant side, require to learn and start when they are young. For example, babies need to learn feeding themselves, crawling and walking, being friendly and gentle with their friends. Also, they learn to imitate other’s facial expressions and words. Without these crucial learning parts, it is very hard for the babies to step up to other level of their lives. We are there to support and celebrate all that moments of their milestones.    

 We wish others would not just see us as 'babysitters' but instead early childhood educators (professionals).  We wish others could see through our lenses for a day, to understand the work that we do.

5) Anything else you want to share?

In order to thrive, children need safe, loving environments where they are encouraged to grow and explore. If we expose them to a world where they have the opportunities to dream and become anything they want, they will be confident to make those dreams a reality.

Children thrive in an environment where educators and parents trust, respect, and esteem each other as partners in the important task of helping children find meaning in the world around them.

Infant Educators work is way more than a babysitter, and our knowledge can help children reach their potential if we really spend time to observe and build a positive relationship with them. Parents are always our partners and exchange any important information. Experienced and professional Educators can make a great impact and differences in children's life.

It is also very important to share all the thoughts and ideas with children’s families because they know their children the best. I think that as much as we communicate together about the child, we can understand them better

Each and everyone of us love the work we do everyday regardless of the challenges we face.  Being a part of the infant program and spending time with these babies is truly valued in our hearts.  When we talk about relationships, in the infant program it is almost all about RELATIONSHIPS!  The parents are leaving their child for long periods at a time for the first time, and vice versa for the child.  The babies are building relationships with new caregivers and environment.  The educators are relying on each other for support.  Trust and relationship is key!  That is something we work on and look forward to everyday.

_______________________

I am immensely proud of our Infant Educators and the work they do every day.  

You survived September ladies.....keep those relationships building and remember "Nothing without JOY".

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Welcome to Preschool

I pulled up a chair yesterday and over a slice or two of pizza I caught up with our Preschool Educators.

As pioneers of the a new service the Society of Richmond Children's Centres is offering to the community I was keen to hear about their first few days.

We have been in the child care business for over 20 years but this preschool gig is new to us.

One of the Educators, Kulvir, worked for us a while back and has had some preschool experience in the interim and Tianna, the other Educator has been working in one of our 3-5 programs for several years.

They really are two special ladies who are excited to be pioneering this program and it was great to dialogue with them.

The first two weeks have been challenging but they already see things settling down.

They indicated that getting into the "flow" of a 4 hour preschool class (9am-1pm) has stretched them as they are used to longer stretches of time with children.  They also had lots of children for whom English is second and new language and many of the children are very young. Communicating with parents has been hard to due to language barriers.

We dialogued for some time on how we could more authentically build those ever important relationships with children and their families and build the trust with them?  How to find allies in the group of adults to help us bridge the language gap and start the building of a preschool community and culture?  How our physical environment might need to be better reflective of the children and their families?

We chatted about some practical and logistical things and I came away with a list of things that might help them and they left, I think, knowing their work is important, that they have a chance here to build something special and to develop some strategies and tools that might help some of our other Educators across the Society encountering similar concerns.

I was in the room as the preschool ended and it was lovely to see the children happy and content and not wanting to leave....that is always a good sign.....

Stay tuned for more from West Cambie Preschool in the coming months as we learn and grow together.





Thursday, 4 September 2014

Starting up

The first few days of a new centre opening are tricky.

We have a new staff team with the benefit of a few days together but nothing can really prepare them for that first day.

When all the new families walk through the door with bedding, extra clothes, lunches..... everyone hesitant about where things go, how things work.....everyone wanting to talk to staff.

Parents linger. Children sense this is a BIG thing.

Some children walk in ready to play and meet new people and settle in fast.

Others much less ready to say goodbye show us their emotions.

It's a busy, full, sometimes trying day for all

Jennifer and I play a supporting role on these first days.

We step into the classroom when it seems another pair of hands would be helpful.
We heat up lunches, clean up messes, set up the nap room.....

So that the teachers can focus on the the important work of relationship building.

Of course we end up connecting with the children and families too but we try to stay on the periphery because we are exiting from here slowly to resume our regular work, attend to our full in boxes and messy desks (that would be me not Jennifer!).  We will be around all of September but less and less each week.

We have faith in the staff, children and families here that they will get through the firsts of Cranberry with grace and good humour...they will weather the inevitable bumps....celebrate the increasing times when joy replaces tears, chatter between children grows and a semblance of what we call "normal" settles over the centre....... this is no small thing ...a transformation worth watching and celebrating....marvelling as this Cranberry community grows into itself.

Jennifer wrote this reflection from her makeshift workplace in the Cranberry office yesterday....


Through the Looking Glass…by Jennifer Chen


Here is my temporary work station at Cranberry…right beside a big window peering into the Infant/Toddler Program.

I have had to hold back from going into the Infant/Toddler Program during this gradual entry period because they need to bond with their educators who see them regularly.  It is important for the children to build these relationships with their educator - to build trust and consistency.  

Yet I find myself wanting to make a connection with them…through the window.  Once these children settle in, I will be in there more often but in the meantime, here is our story…


I see Caelan being curious about the lady who mysteriously stands right by the window.





I see Abigail and Ariel communicating…without words






I see Victoria finding joy in clapping two puzzle pieces together







This is a good place for me.....to see and be seen .. to make connections, to observe the ordinary moments unfolding.  This will build a foundation for me to work with these children and their educators in the coming months as we live into our vision of "Changing the world by Honouring Childhood"

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Clearing Cook Rd

Do you ever clean out your house or office and you feel like its lighter....that the room is somehow unburdened?

I was struck while cleaning out our Cook Road Children's centre so the contents can be stored during the repairs and renovations that somehow, despite throwing piles and piles of almost 20 years of accumulated "stuff" out....the rooms were not lighter....it did not feel good to be purging and clearing out.

Three of us started the initial clearing out but I quickly became uncomfortable about making decisions about the materials and decorative pieces in the centre without the Centre Supervisor who is also the SRCC's resident Interior Design specialist.

So she and I spent yesterday morning there.

She was faced with 4 tables full of items she has lovingly procured over years and years.

She is the patron saint of Value village and has an eye for special pieces and a flair for making eclectic look homey and inviting and engaging for young children.

She is an efficient person and got to work filling boxes.

But as we chatted and together processed all that has happened over the last several weeks as our hopes for a quick resolution to the water ingress were dashed over and over....... I realised just how heavy a task this was for her.

These are not just things to her.

These are holders of memories.

As she picked up each one it reminded her of a time, or a particular child, or an event.

Even if she didn't speak it out I could see it in her eyes or in the gesture as she swept her hand over the item.

It was hard for her and it was hard for me to watch her.

She is temporarily displaced, as are her colleagues.  Our families relocated to other care.  Our "place" in disarray..... depressing....quiet.

To many it may be just another child care centre..... some shrug and say "not to worry it will open again"....

But for her and for me and for our organisation it is a loss....we lost the space in May and we don't expect to have it back until 2015 sometime.

 A loss of time, a loss of connections, a loss of a workplace, the loss of providing a service to families
we care deeply about.

We are all grieving a little bit.

Also hopeful a little bit of what will come back in this space.

What a beautiful new space will offer the community.

For now we are packing and purging and cleaning.

And the building does not feel lighter because you cannot pack 16 years of memories.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

An ECE in her element

I spotted this emergent/responsive Educator in her natural element the other day.

She didn't notice me at first.

She was intently listening to the children playing with the bubbles in the outdoor water table.

She was writing what they were saying, their observations about the bubbles.

She was taking photos.

She remained close by, engaging in conversation, asking a few questions about the play she was observing.


All the while she was scanning the playground to make sure everyone was busy and happy and safe.  She called out a couple of reminders to children going too fast on bikes.  She communicated with a colleague about a child who needed to go to the bathroom. She exclaimed with joy when a child showed her he had caught a bubble.  She asked him "where did that bubble come from?" "What will you do with it now that you have caught it".

They had a conversation.

This Educator is deeply curious about the fascination children have with bubbles.  She wants to know what it is about blowing bubbles that children fund so joyful and satisfying.  She wants to know how she and her team can offer children ways to think more about bubbles, to have more bubble experiences.... She wants to share in the joy and deepen the moment.

This is her work.

She does this same work with various children on various topics all day, everyday.

She shares her notes, her thinking, with her team. They decide on next steps in engaging with the children.  At some point they write it up so parents can connect with what the children are thinking and learning.  They show the children their process, their work.  They show them they are important and their thinking matters.

For this is our work.

To be deeply curious with children.  To listen to their theories about the world.  To offer them ways to test their theories or think more deeply about what interests them.

And as we do this children expand their minds, add to their knowledge, deepen social connections.

This is true learning, from the context of what the child is interested in already, building on their latent knowledge step by step.

We do this with authentic enthusiasm and personal joy.

We stand together in awe of what children offer us each day - their thinking, their perspectives, their unconstrained conversation, their unhindered theories, their genuine curiosity and joy in discovery.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cranberry Art Fence

Art is something we hold as a value in all our SRCC centres.
We have tried to create art studios in all our programs.
We believe children can express their thinking and feelings in multiple different art mediums.

It was, therefore,  a natural fit when the City decided to include public art at our West Cambie and Cranberry locations.

The City puts out a call for artists for the site and a community panel goes through the submissions and makes a decision.  I have been privileged to be on the art panels for the child care facilities.  A fascinating and humbling process.  Amazing to see such a diversity of creative ideas and then to work through to consensus with a group of other stakeholders and community members.

At our new centre Cranberry Children's Centre, space for public art was limited.

In the end I was delighted the panel chose THIS whimsical option for the fence.

Once the artists understood the centre had been named "Cranberry Children's Centre" they adapted the colour palette to tie in with the name and the trim of the building.

It has been exciting to watch it (2.5 tons of steel!) come together.
Our first glimpse











I met one of the artists the other day and we had a great conversation. I told him of my excitement that the shadows of the birds and animals would fall on to the  playground at certain times of the day and that I was curious about how the children would interact with them.

I expressed my regret that children were not involved in the process, their voices and opinions not sought and that if I was ever on another public art panel I would push hard for us to consider input from the children.  He was fascinated by this notion of the children's voice.

So we have invited the artists to come for a visit once we have lived in the space for a while and to dialogue with the children about the fence.

Exciting!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A fine balance

Designing a child care centre is a fine balance..... or rather requires a specific fine balance to achieve a wonderful result.

The balance between:
form and function
natural light and artificial light
durability and beauty
safety and risk
cosy and spacious
colourful and neutral
noisy and quiet
sight lines and hidden places
communal spaces and solitary spaces

I  don't think I quite have the formula yet and even if I did I am not sure I would have the budget to build it.

Most often the Architects, contractors, mill workers, painters, electricians etc..... don't understand the space they are building, the peculiarities that a child care facility demands.  They are patient with my requests for dimmer switches, lowered counters, big windows, sound barriers but not visual barriers.... but they tire of my requests for seemingly insignificant details like the specific location of outlets and switches, colours, door latches and storage.  We compromise on finishes and appliances and much, much more.

At Cranberry Children's Centre, our new baby, they put the kitchen and bathroom on motion censored lights..... as soon as there is 20 minutes of inactivity the lights go off.  "Energy saving" they told me.  Not understanding that 20 minutes of no one in the building moving would be cause for great alarm, is high unlikely and therefore a switch so we can eliminate or dim the lights when desired (like nap time) is preferable.

At this late stage in the build my request, as reasonable as it seems to me, is a real pain in the neck to everyone else. Or so it seems.

I pick my battles.  They pick theirs. The budget often trumps both.

We hold onto our vision of beautiful spaces for children and Educators.

These are spaces they live in for many hours a day, a week, a year.....

They must be functional and safe but that is the least they should be.

We can dream for more, work for more, build the spaces that childhood deserves.

So we have moved from "dwelling in the possibilities" as Emily Dickinson quipped to "living in the reality".

From design to ...... done.

We have done much right here at Cranberry.
Learned from other experiences.
Pushed a little harder for our dreams.
Found allies to help us advance our cause.
Let our voices be heard.

Represented the children who will enliven and enrich this space with their brilliance.
For that is the real reason we do any of this at all.