Welcome to my blog about my experiences working in early childhood. I have called it Nurturing Forests because I believe that raising children is not a isolated activity but takes a whole community.

As early childhood professionals, we are actively involved in this process but we also need to work closely with the children, parents, community as a whole and other allied professionals.

I hope you enjoy my site. I also have a facebook site of the same name where I provide links to useful sites for teachers, parents and others interested in the early childhood: www.facebook.com/nurturingforests

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Remembering who our clients are... the child and their families

I have been wanting to write a post about how important it is to remember who our clients are when working in early childhood. Everything we do must have the best interests of the child and the family at the core.

The reasons it has actually converted into making a post are two-fold. One, we are establishing new centre in my newly re-adopted hometown, Newcastle, Australia. I did grow up here but have spent most of my adult life/career in Sydney - but now I'm back. With this new centre, we have quite a few trainees and as it is a new centre, my Director and I are working really hard to make sure all of our practices put the child and their families first. My directors favorite line at the moment is "where is the child when this is happening?". Secondly, is my new partner (Drew) is having some issues with the preschool his son (my new step-son who's 3) is going to.

Engaging and learning with the child is our core job....
I know we have a job which involves a lot of 'extra tasks' such as cleaning, preparations, washing etc - but at no stage should your interactions with the children be compromised to achieve these tasks during your day. One of the easiest ways of doing this is getting the children involved. In my preschool room, the children help clean and set the tables for meal times, they wash their plates when they are finished and place their cutlery, cup (glass) and crockery (breakable) on the trolley (I would also like to point out here that the majority of breakages of our crockery and glass cups have been the staff - the children have been fantastically responsible). Very soon they will also be wiping over their place and their chair before stacking them - I have had children do this at other centres. The children also assist with sweeping the floors, making and stripping the beds and folding the washing. All these tasks are a really important way of building belonging and ownership at a centre as well as developing a child's ability to take responsibily for themselves and their community.

Are you appropriately using your staff?
Another way of dealing with these extra tasks is looking really closely at your staffing and how staff are allocated. If you do have a lot of 'not directly supervising/interacting with the children activities' then you have to look at your staffing arrangements to ensure your ratios are not being compromised. This can be as simple as sitting down with all staff and working out fair distribution of tasks during the day, utilising rest and other down times appropriately, and getting cleaners. If you are an owner or director of a centre and don't have cleaners - please think really hard about this - early childhood education and care is an important valuable job you should be employing your educators to educate and care for your children primarily not to clean the premises.

Listening to and addressing families' concerns?
The other situation with my partner and his child - is more to do with taking ownership when you have made a mistake and apologising to the family and then taking steps to ensure the mistake doesn't happen again. We all make mistakes -early childhood is a notoriously difficult job, we have huge workloads and a lot of expectations placed on us by families but that is not an excuse and if something gets missed, own up to it, apologise and then make steps to address the issue with staff and work with the family to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Building partnerships with families is a vital component of high quality early education and care and this is recognised in both our Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standard - so it is critical to remember at all times the reason you work in this field and the people you are providing for are the children and their families.

What do you think?
How do you make sure the child and family are at the centre of all your practices?
If you are a parent or carer in a early childhood service, what have you observed that you think are good or bad practices in this respect?
Do you feel your concerns are adequately addressed if you raise an issue?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Building a sense of trust with families

Having recently embarked on my child protection course - I know a bit slow off the mark getting that done. One of the things I found most rewarding from the very high quality Community Child Care Cooperative (or CCCC for short) course was the great discussion on ethical practice and building a sense of confidentiality at your centre.

The trainer argued that in order to build a sense of trust and confidentiality in your centre, you needed to build a sense of trust and confidence in everything you do. For example, if a family mentioned in the morning that they had been to the zoo on the weekend - Instead of going around and telling everyone and getting very excited about links to home on your program (I know I'm guilty of it) she suggested that instead you ask the family first if they are ok with you sharing this information with others.

Her point was that if you do this with non-personal information when the family have more personal or private information to tell you they are more willing to share as they know not every person at the centre is going to know - which is obviously critical with child protection issues.

While I had never really thought of it this way before, I think she has an excellent point. Building trust with your families that you respect them and are willing not to 'talk out of school' about them is a very important part of building quality partnerships within.

I believe it is a very large part of our role to share our knowledge and skills with family about issues that face them... whether it be contacts, information or referrals I think this attitude could really help in building this aspect of our roles (and recognition of our skills in this area)

What do you think of this issue?

How do you build a sense of trust and confidentiality with families at your centre?

If you are a parent, what have you found builds your confidence in your centre to share information?

Photo Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/valpearl/5103209989/