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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