Thursday, 26 February 2015

Stop getting your knickers in a knot

Are you drained, does your head hurt? Overthinking things? Is there a pill we can take for that?
Reflection is marvellous and so important for professional growth but then sometimes it enters into some dark place of our being where it begins to fester and turn on itself.
Self-doubt and questioning your own understandings, weighing up the sides constantly, justifying what you do, criticising what others do without even knowing the dynamics that shapes their rational can take over your waking hours.
Settle petals; take a chill pill.
One day at a time.

Get to know yourself first; what drives you to do what you do especially before critiquing others. Research for yourself, don't rely on others to plant their seeds; grow your own tree.
Yes by all means we should question what we see, read or hear, but with an open mind and for what it is. Don't dissect it with all ferociousness of a rabid dog as most likely you are not privy as to why it has come to be in the first place.
One of the most important aspects of reflection is everything you witness has the potential for good. So what if you do not like something or it doesn't sit within your ideology at least it has provided you with the opportunity to revisit your own philosophy and clarify why you think the way you do. 
So stop getting your knickers in a knot when you see or read something that you personally disagree with.
 Aren't you exhausted?

Monday, 23 February 2015

For the love of 'tradies'

Gabrielle and Christine from Sticks and Stones Education 
I remember the very first conference I ever attended as a new inductee into ECE. Back then we were referred to as childcare workers. I really had no idea of what to expect. What was a conference for anyway? I didn't understand the concept of professional development and its worth at the time. I went to work did my thing and thought 'wow what a good boy am I'. Of course time, experience, and meeting extraordinary educators opened my eyes.
But the one thing I remember the most from my first experience, besides the chatter of collective educators all vying for the perfect seat (or hiding up the back row) was the trade tables. Oh my. Tables full of exciting merchandise I could have only dreamt of as a child. Books, books and more books ranging from the latest 'must haves' to timeless classics. I still remember seeing and drooling over 'There was an old lady who swallowed a fly' an interactive puppet complete with all the characters from the book. I really wanted her. I even had dreams about her for weeks but just couldn't make my pennies stretch far enough to buy her (I now own her although I made her myself).

Kristy from Kipi Kreative Inspiring & Productive Innovations
I was gobsmacked at the elaborate displays, the thoughtfulness of table design, the unyielding passion the demonstrator expressed as she presented a particular item for the umpteenth time and spruiked about the educational value.  I remember the goodie bags over flowing with freebies and crammed  with the latest educational experience that was deemed a necessary resource because so and so had one. I watched as some easily parted with their allotted amount of cash, while others scrounged in the bottom of their handbags for last few coins to make up the price. I was envious. Wow I'd love to be a 'tradie' and surround myself with all that excitement and 'cash' were my parting thoughts from the conference.
Years later I now have a deeper appreciation of the kind of people 'tradies' are. My initial impression that passion must drive those working behind the calico covered folded tables has been proven to be true but little did I know at the time the other admirable traits that must accompany it.
Arrival at a well-planned conference is met with smiling faces, elaborately decorated and intentionally thought out displays of goods ranging from traditional educational must haves to tables laden with 'trending' apparel; and all at 9am in the morning.
It is obvious some kind of passion must drive the 'tradie' to get up at some merciless hour, drink copious amounts of coffee, drive km after km to then lug box after box after unwavering box of goodies that have been either been hand crafted or sort from catalogues or trade fairs to be carefully and skilfully displayed, just so, on the calico covered folding tables to entice you... the educator.
They then sit through most probably the same presenters workshop, Saturday after Saturday, hour after hour, slide after slide, story after story. With their heads buried in what looks like accountant worthy paperwork, they sit quietly scribbling notes or finishing up some handmade item but you will notice, they occasionally look up to nod and smile that 'knowing smile' at those whose gaze may have wandered from the speaker.
Lunch time and its time to put the smile on your dial and work it. Pleasantries, demonstrations, explanations and negotiations fill the hour until once more the drone of the speaker demands quiet. The end of the day is looming and the endless task of packing away begins. Whilst everyone else is safely on their way home from a day of networking and inspiration the 'tradie' is cursing loudly "why won't it fit in the car? It was packed perfectly at 4am this morning".
So as the 'tradie' heads for home with their remaining stock in half filled boxes shoved mercilessly in the car, they are mentally making  notes of all the items that need replacing, items that have been requested and what time they have to get up for the next one.
So do they make any 'cash' as I so naively envisioned all those years ago? Well ask yourself;  have you ever seen a tradie with paid roadies to carry all their wares? Have you seen them arrive in a custom built vans with shelving specially built to display all; Are they decked out in designer outfits with their logos splashed across in gold threaded calligraphy?
NO. Nine times out of ten the 'tradie' is or was an educator just like you. They understand we are not in an industry that pays our worth. Their driving force is not to make bucket loads of money but to stay connected, inspire, network with like minded grown ups and share wisdom and wares.
So next time you are at a workshop or conference give the 'tradie' a smile of thanks.
Or maybe even a coffee. They deserve it.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Rubber Ball- Look for the learning

I think sometimes we underestimate the learning potential that is possible from very simple ideas. Sometimes all we need to do is look.
I found this compacted ball of rubber bands at Officeworks in the discount bin for 50cents.  I needed the rubber bands. The thought of the ball being a learning opportunity for a child never entered my mind. It was not my intent when I purchased however, when a child saw it on the shelf and questioned what it was for, it then became an opportunity.

Handing the ball to the child was I curious as to what she would do with it.
She sat straight down on the floor, rolled the ball in her hands obviously feeling the bands textures and trying to get a sense of what they actually were (I didn't enlighten her to the fact they were rubber bands). She gently pulled on one of the top bands, twisted, turned the ball around and manipulated the first band off. It was a light bulb moment when realising what they were. Gazing up at me as if for conformation that it was alright to continue she then returned to her mission with gusto.
As you can appreciate if you have ever tried to untangle bands, string or wool how frustrating it can be especially if you crossover the wrong way. This was not evident at all. If the band wouldn't come off the child worked out the right way to peel or started a new band. It was very exciting to watch and a lesson in perseverance for me.
The cognitive value of a ball of elastic is astonishing. Unravelling the complex ball took determination and patience as investigative and trial and error methods were needed whilst at the same time enhancing fine-motor skills.

The sense of accomplishment was evident when completed.
Of course there was no offer of help to put it back together. Her job was done.
I will never look at a ball of rubber bands the same way again. A lesson learnt by the educator.

Are you looking for learning?

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Little boxes

  Our mailman is held in complete awe.
Yesterday when he arrived with a parcel it sent the children into a frenzy of anticipation. With all hands on deck the parcel was ripped open to reveal many treasures. One such treasure arrived just at the right time: coloured transparent mosaic tiles. Of course they were opened straight away. Hands were diving in the container pulling them up and the children laughed as they spilt out onto the table.

Today the children and I were eager to explore the shapes potential a bit more. What could we possible use them for? 
'Ding ding' an idea; explore patterns and sequence using the nail board.
Using a ball of wool we sectioned the board into ' little boxes'
A touch of impatience was evident as the children waited and waited for the squares to be roped off so we filled this time in by counting how many squares were already done. 

At last it was finished.

There was no prompting, suggestions or examples needed. The children already had their own ideas on what they wanted to do.
Patterns were made, colours were grouped, sequences constructed and then a child stood up with hands on hips as if she'd had an aspiration.....
"We have to cover the whole thing with red. It's going to be like a red show; we are putting on a red show today and it's going to take a long time till we have a rest but together we can do
it" flowed the knowing words of a
four year old.  Then without a second thought the children dug into the bowl to find all the red tiles. "Your doing great" Miss Four reassured Miss Two and before long all the little boxes were red.
To say the children loved this activity is an understatement. They were so excited to share their 'red show' with their parents at pickup time.
The activity was then enjoyed by a parent who sat on the floor with her child and changed the red to green.
It was a great day.
Learning Possibilities: Mathematical concepts such as sorting, matching and grouping: Colour recognition: Scientific discovery-transparency; Opportunity to make decisions and decide on the direction the experience will take:  Socialisation including collaboration, negotiation, consideration, co-operation and conversation: Exploring vocabulary and learning new words: Opportunity to share achievements.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Shades of colour

I really love to come up with learning opportunities that are interesting and fun using quirky things. I usually dream them or daydream them. I know that sounds ridiculous but my brain seems to work that way.

I was sent a large bag of mixed sizes of white plastic doilies. I knew exactly what I would do with them as soon as I saw them.
I got to work and crocheted around the outside with a particular reason in mind- to investigate shades of colour.

There are two shades of each colour and a mat made up of the same; plus one 'odd 'one.

The intention behind the 'odd' one out is to promote conversation and challenge reason. Where does this circle belong and why?
What is the name of the colour?
Have you seen it before?
Which colour does it seem to be?
Throughout the matching process I watched as the 'odd' one was picked up, held over the mat, passed over the top, hovered above a few that seemed similar and then put back on the table; all without a word.
The rest of the circles were easily placed and then the process of finding the 'odd' ones home began again. After circumnavigating the mat and a heated debate as to why it didn't go in particular places the 'odd' one was placed on the table with an exasperated sigh.
"It just doesn't go here" was the flustered response. "It's not this blue or this blue" said the child indicating the two blues on the mat "but it is blue" she concluded.

Of course we then chatted about all the shades of blue we noticed around the environment and investigated their names.

The 'odd' one was still on the child's mind some time later and she asked me ever so nicely to make some more so it wouldn't be on its own.
So often I notice environments have the same shade of colour throughout. It's like it has been deliberately colour coded. 
What a shame that is. Colour is not defined by one shade but many.
The subtle and not so subtle changes in shades are what makes up the ambience of the world.


Monday, 9 February 2015

There are so many more ways to enjoy a story

How many times have you read 'We're going on a Bear hunt'? (written by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury)
I have seriously lost count. While I absolutely love this book it can become a bit monotonous. However how can we deprive children of such pleasure because we are over it?
It's a bit like Ground Hog Day where each year with new children we usually visit some of the same books, experiences, learning techniques, interests, extensions and so on.
So what to do?
Make it fun. Change it up. Think outside the box. There are many benefits for thinking this way not just for yourself but think of the opportunities you open up for children to explore.

So after the initial traditional introduction of reading 'We're going on a Bear Hunt' (or any other book for that matter), the next time it is requested suggest the book be explored in different ways. Not only is the well-loved story still intact you may be surprised at different angles explored.

Today we got 'inside the story'. We touched it. We felt its textures, explored its curves and lines. Experimented with its colours and contrasts.

The table was our canvas to take what was visual on paper and add some life.
As we explored each page of the book the colours and textures were discussed and then added to the table via paint.
Using their hands and fingers the children were able to depict the scene using a range of strokes, smudges and techniques.
It was interesting to watch as each scene seemed to evoke a different expressive mood.

The gentler more whirly patterns emerged during the snowstorm, river and grass whereas the mud, forest, cave and bear demanded more urgent defined markings sometimes even erratic.

The children were able to be in the story; to depict the feelings each page evoked in them.

Not all the children stayed for the whole story. They wandered in and out, all confident knowing they would be welcomed back into the story at any given time. They were not required to sit still quietly shhhhhhh; instead they were encouraged to use the experience anyway they wanted.....even loud and messy.

Final note:
One particular child here is not very fond of books, however was totally engaged in today's activity. This allowed the child to enjoy a story and to actively be involved by expressing thoughts through creativity.

There are many mediums in which to enjoy a story; reading is only one of them.

Get creative with delivery.
The learning is obvious, but most importantly it is fun.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Professional Development can be fun too.

Ok so I hear you saying "I have to do a workshop on the weekend, I'm tired and I don't want to waste my weekend doing more work, its always the same stuff anyway and it costs me money".

I get it. I too have felt this way on many occasions however as professionals we need to ask ourselves why we need to do professional development in the first place.

Professional development enables you to:
-  keep up with current trends and legislative change
-  build on current knowledge and challenge your current views (reflection)
-  Ensures your practices reflect current policy in keeping clients, families and yourself safe from litigation.
- Network with other like-minded professionals
- Keep the passion alive. Let's face it we all need a hit of inspiration now and then.

I intend to find ways this year that not only satisfies workplace obligation of attending professional development but also ticks some of the items on my personal bucket list.

Who says PD's have to be conventional?
Who says they cannot be fun and quirky and make you glad you went?
Who says it cannot be incorporated into your personal life also; maybe even involve your own family?

I am going to find workshops and PD's that are left field and satisfy the adventurer in me and share them with you.
I intend to liaison with businesses that already offer valuable life experiences yet are not really geared for Early Childhood Education (but could easily be).

I found one such 'potential PD experience' this weekend.
I set sail on a 3hr Aboriginal Cultural Journey on-board a Tribal Warrior cruise with my daughter and two fellow educators, one with her family coming along as well. It was so interesting and relaxing. Through commentary we were told about the original inhabitants of Sydney Harbour including the Eora, Cadigal, Guringai, Wangal, Gammeraigal and Wallumedegal people. We then docked at Goat Island for a guided tour of its history and enjoyed and joined in an authentic Aboriginal cultural performance including dance and song and its significance.

Now that is what I call an enjoyable professional development opportunity. I took more away from the 3hr cruise than I would have sitting in a hall or convention centre and I was able to share the experience with friends and family.
So over the next few weeks I will investigate this opportunity and see if it can be modified to be offered as a PD opportunity for educators....and their families.

As educators we need to educate ourselves before we can begin to educate our children.
This is how conversations are started.


Thursday, 5 February 2015

From Humble Beginnings

I have had what could be described as an unusual life. You wouldn't believe most of it if I told you.

I was born the eldest child to Country Music singers who travelled the outback for most of the year. We lived a gypsy life. My father was a showman, my mother was amazing.
My cot or cradle was my father's guitar case and to wash my nappies my mother would put them in a metal garbage bin, add soap flakes and water, put the lid on tight and tie the bin between two cupboards inside the caravan. As we drove the motion washed.

So I guess my problem solving, 'think outside of the box' nature came from my mum.

We slept wherever the road ended and never stayed in a town long enough to make friends. I have even made a bedroom out of wooden crates by dividing a shearing shed room into sections and decorating it with whatever I could find in paddocks. But it was mine for the night.  I could cook a meal by seven years old and do the dishes.

 My brother and I were free. Free from conformity, free from restriction, free to roam and explore wherever we may have been at the time. I can only remember having one toy as a small child; a doll and I cut all her hair off so she looked like me. We played with whatever was handy.

We were explorers, adventures and amazing story tellers. We were independent, feisty, at times rebellious but mostly so very happy.  We visited parts of Australia that most will never see and for a long time I took that very much for granted. We even survived a cyclone.

I do not belong though. I have no home town or a group of school friends to grow old with (I went to 13 schools) but I am rich in other ways. I can relate to almost anyone, any class, age, race or religion. I have my parents to thank for this as they were such inclusive souls.

Unfortunately like so many, my parents' marriage ended and a new chapter in my life began.

I am settled these days with four wonderful children and seven grandchildren so far although every now and then I dream of buying a 5th Wheeler and hitting the road again. Maybe one day.

So from these humble beginnings is where I believe my emergent thinking was nurtured.

I am what they class as a jack of all trades but, master of none.
This is me in the Top End having a great time swimming with children