teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘from me’

Him, Her and Friend

As I dropped my youngest child off at Kindy today, I had the most wonderful moment. It was wonderful because I saw the connections he was making, I saw another child light up at his words and I got a massive boost to my work-esteem by seeing what I’ve taught get carried somewhere else.

For years I’ve watched children struggle with the concepts of boy/girl and him/her. Just as we’ve finally gotten them to acknowledge that they ‘are’ a name, a word that would have no meaning otherwise, we try to extend on their identity by introducing the boy/girl concept. Once they are happy to claim themselves and their sex (and not all of them are, my daughter was incredibly disappointed to realise that she wouldn’t grow a penis when she was ‘bigger’!) We try to encourage the sexual identity of others. What makes a boy a boy or a girl a girl? Hairstyles, names and colours of clothes are no longer the clear separation that many of us are used to. Our multicultural society introduces us to a plethora of names that trip our tongues and set our hearts racing as we try to get them ‘right’.

In fact, even though it’s a developmental milestone I am ‘meant’ to assess, I simply refuse to encourage a child to learn their last name if I have any doubt that I am saying it wrong. If it was my child, and someone was trying to teach them our family name but butchered it repeatedly, I’d ask them to leave it alone! I see it as a mark of respect for the family that I don’t go there, and am willing to stand up for myself if any accreditator questions me. But I diverge.

I introduce the boy/girl identity through play and group times, in discussions and transitions. It is something that needs explaining and I’m pretty open about that too. Him and Her, I will identify during conversations, using the correct terms as required and letting it sink in. If they seem to be struggling with it, I go into more detail, but it’s a concept that comes at its own pace and I’m happy with that.

‘Friend’ is a word I love. I love to ask someone to deliver an item or pass a message on to ‘their friend, Junior’ or complimenting a group of children with personal statements like ‘Sakshi, I can see you good friends with Akriti, because you are helping her with the puzzle’.Β  In the past I have used puppets to put on shows for the kids, had them explain what makes you feel good, what it means to be a ‘friend’, how to ask for help or how you can help out yourself. After all, it’s just a word until you give it meaning.

Quinn has being going to Kindy for 2 terms now. We talk about going to see his friends and where he can play and what they can do. We talk about wanting space and how to ask for it. We talk a lot πŸ™‚ So today, when he ran into class and some girls came up to say ‘Hi’ to him, he smiled, looked at me and confidently declared ‘This is my friend!’ The girls smiled and stayed around to chat. As Quinn settled his things in, he showed me the things that were important to him. He showed me the toys and told me what they were for, he pointed out others and called them ‘My friend’, each time eliciting a small smile from the intended person.

When he moved into his favourite space to say goodbye – the ‘Quiet Room’ with books we might read or toy, puzzles and doll houses we can choose and use – he stopped in front of a boy who was rolling cars down a ramp and into a mountain. The boy looked up at us with eyes that assessed the situation to see if Quinn was going to break his play. Once again Quinn announced ‘This is my friend’ and the boy relaxed somewhat. Now he was eyeing me off to see if I was going to overpower this play. I slid in, asked if a piece might connect together, the boys locked them in and now had two ramps with multiple cars and a ‘crash zone’ in the middle. I’m sure it wasn’t designed that way, but that’s how they built it πŸ™‚ As Quinn grabbed a car he said ‘This is my Best Friend!’ Suddenly, the boys demeanour changed. He relaxed and smiled and played with Quinn with a new openness. I can only attribute this change in character to Quinn’s words putting value on the boy. For him to feel accepted and wanted, to be a part of this relationship and not just a participant.

And that is the power of words. Once you have been introduced to a concept, you need to understand it. Even as kids try to understand what being a friend is all about, they know it’s a connecting word. A powerful word. A word that bonds them to another or identifies a place as a buffet of social relationships. Understanding what role you play and how to play it is as important as knowing what you expect from others – and for some of us, this takes decades to figure out! So I reckon anything I can do to help them start the process now, is a good thing πŸ˜‰



I went on holidays for 2 weeks and it was a fantastic break. I know that the girls in my room worked extra hard to share their knowledge of our kids whilst I was away. It’s hard for anyone to walk into a room and truly understand the dynamics of it. But they survived. πŸ™‚ Coming back, I was greeted with hugs and excitement. It really is awesome to feel that connection with the kids, to feel like *I* belong. All those elements of EYLF that we’ve been working on, coming full circle to include us!

I also got to come back on Halloween – which I love! Any excuse to dress up! I’d been on holidays for Diwali,Β  so wanted to do something different for this dress up day.

I stayed up making paper flowers, a skill which will come in handy for Remembrance Day, and checked out the sugar skull faces from Mexico. Normally on Dress up days, I face paint the kids in all manner of superhero, fairy, animal inspired wonder. But on the 31st I had heaps of requests for sugar skulls πŸ™‚ I felt it was a wonderful direction for my class to take, and they all looked superb as they ran around.

Sharing in the many cultures of the families at my centre just became all-that-more real to me, because I was able to bring a part of my life to them. πŸ™‚




Assessing your Environment

Recently, I have had the great pleasure to work with a lady from the Quality Inclusion Support Program. If you have multiple children with additional needs, look them up πŸ™‚

At the end of her time with us, she held an amazing seminar that inspired me so much that I have been unable to write about it, for fear of not doing it justice! So today I will give you an example of how she helped clarify our thinking. She got us all to break up into our ‘room groups’ and draw up a plan of our room. We added the play areas, routine areas, shelving/dividers and anything else that was part of our rooms. Once done, we were asked to add identifiers for which part of the room encouraged the following goals.

I) Identity – family, life, culture

H) Home – parents can feel relaxed and respected

R) Relationships – sharing enjoyment between adults/children

SD) Sensory Discoveries – textures, colours, smells and sounds

LM) Large Muscle – crawling, pushing, pulling, sliding, bouncing, hiding, throwing, going up/down, up/over, in/out etc

SM) Small Muscle – developing grasping, banging, poking, stacking, shaking, squeezing, patting, pouring, fitting together, taking apart etc

C) Cozy – area where children can get away and relax or watch

P) Powerful – children can feel independent, important and competent

A) Adults – can relax, enjoy, share their lives with children

S) Systems – communication and record keeping among adults

At first we tentatively marked the ‘obvious’ areas, as we gained confidence we began to see how so many of the areas crossed over. The art hanging on our walls elicits a powerful response from the kids, but also acts as a form of communication between adults and encourages visual sensory opportunities.

By the end of it, we had a large paper filled with little letters. Areas that didn’t gather a collection of identifying letters, were looked at again so we could either see the values we had missed or assess the areas to work better for the children, the families and us! Immediately after doing this exercise, I recognised that our book area was far from the relaxed spot we’d planned on – instead it was often used for rough and tumble play. So we moved it. We opened it up to more activity so that those who wanted to read could, whilst those who wanted to be active could use the puzzles, the zipper boards and the tactile activities.

Since then we’ve expanded further and turned our room around to accommodate our growing class numbers and changing needs. And you know what? It feels more like a kindy, there are more engaged learners and definitely less conflicts between kids! This is an exercise I recommend everyone does, I know for sure I will be doing it a few times a year to make sure I keep a fresh view of my room!

Now I want to share a resource with you that also has helped me for years! I can’t link you directly to it, because it is a downloadable document (which I suggest you save, print and keep!) if you google

Pre-K Spaces: Design for a Quality Classroom

you should go there πŸ™‚ It’s totally worth the trip!

Puzzling it out

Puzzles are wonderful. We all know the benefits of them in regards to cognitive skills and fine motor dexterity. We know we can encourage reluctant learners with puzzles aimed at their interests or introduce new concepts or views through divergent art styles. However, when I was sitting and watching two children do puzzles the other day, it got me thinking about how we approach problem solving. Some people never want to look at the ‘big picture’, instead choosing to work with the constants. Matching things they know together so that it all fits. It’s so logical and precise that you can see how, once finished, their pride is based on being able to compartmentalise and make the world ‘fit’ to their way of thinking.

Others know that they need space to think, they don’t want your help as they look at what is laid before them, assessing their options and coming to a solution in a more abstract way. By connecting pieces that match their memories of how things should be, they are recreating the picture.

Both are valid options. Both get the same results. It’s the process that differs. And it’s the process of problem solving that gets me thinking about learning, resolving ideas, creating opportunities and seeing things around us. I love what is happening around the world as “Occupy Wall Street” becomes an international concept, one that gets us thinking about what we see, how we reconcile what we live with what we know. What we accept as we see and what we feelΒ  we can achieve.

Living in this world is an ever-changing puzzle. As people and events slide around our boards, we keep trying to make it all fit so that we feel safe and stable.Β  I know it’s not easy, sometimes it feels exciting and other times it feels exhausting. But either way it’s happening and we need to ensure that our role as educators, family members and a complex society, encompasses teaching out young people to think. To understand the decisions they can make and the repercussions of their actions. To take responsibility for the little things, so that they can step up when they need to and say ‘I am owning my actions and mistakes.’

From social interactions to caring for our environment we all have choices to make and that’s why it’s so important for me to see that our children exercise their thinking skills, have opportunities to develop and discuss their ideas. After all these kids are the ones who will be looking after my world when I am old and vulnerable and I’d like to instill in them the skills and ideals of people I’d want to trust.

Still Kicking :)

It’s been a horrible time here for my internet. all sorts of drop-outs and issues, but (fingers crossed) it all appears to be back on track! Which means I can continue to post up stories that have impacted on me during the day.

Whilst I’ve been unable to update this blog, I’ve read as many others as I can and gaining inspiration for activities but also intelligence on what I want my writing to reflect.

Yes I want to maintain a record of my moments. Share with you things that I connect with. Now I realise that I want to be more than a blog of ‘look what I can do’ and more about ‘look how we got here’ Lots of my art things have been teacher led. Lots of interactions have been spontaneous and lots of my day is filled with moments that open up opportunities to extend on the children’s interests. I’m hoping among all these things you’ll discover what I love, what the kids love and the learning that is involved without me having to point out literacy, numeracy or motor skills (though I’ll still tag them).

Anyhow, yesterdays story was a prime example of what I want to do. There are some photos, but they are still at work. So I shall update that as soon as I can πŸ™‚


Balancing the load

One of the great things about working in childcare is that you are constantly reviewing your own bias’. We get opinions of experts, we hear from our peers and we share ideals, but when it comes down to it, it’s your own Bias’ that are most important to understand and learn to be flexible with.

Each and every childcare environment should be inclusive of sex, race, belief and ability. We are taught (and learn that it’s best) to leave our play spaces open – if boys want to dress up in fantastic fabrics and role play with dolls, we’re cool with that. If the girls want to get muddy in the sandpit as they dig with trucks or role play with dinosaurs, we’re cool with that. Often more so than the parents.

But children really do have their own agendas, their own favourite places to play. And that’s OK. If a girl is intent on carrying a baby doll with her everywhere, I’m happy with her doing so, exploring and working with her baby alongside. If a boy needs the physical feedback he gets from riding bikes, moving fast, kicking balls, let him have it!

The kids will express to you how they need the environment to change. Through increasingly diverse behaviours we’ll find ourselves wondering “What am I missing?” When in fact it’s the environment that is missing something. The challenges we need to take on are recognising the kids needs, interests and strengths so that we can include these in our daily environment and scaffold their learning with new opportunities.

There are so many educators and journalists have opinions on how to do this, but once again, it’s up to you. Challenge your bias’ on what is appropriate play and see how you can get the boys into the art areas. Rolling cars and big trucks through paint, using Ben 10 colouring in to scaffold pencil grips and skills, using house painting brushes to water paint on the walls and cement, just the tip of the iceberg. Adding materials,dolls, furniture or animals to the block area so the girls can create and learn about spatial awareness and balance.

I know this sounds kind of obvious, but this week I had an epiphany over one of my little men. My classroom has been female dominant for so long that his needs were not fully being met in our indoor environment. How did I not notice this? His behaviours were a form of communication, a connection, reaching out to me to tell me that he needed something more. Now my challenge is to change-up what I’m doing and see how he reacts to it. To watch how he uses the resources to see how I can better suit our environment to his needs.

It’s not going to be quick or easy. in fact, I think I’m going to be getting it wrong a few times first! But that is far better than doing the same things over and over again, yet expecting different results. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out I’d quickly go insane like that, but he did phrase it well πŸ™‚

A drop in the pond

My aim when creating this blog, was to write in it five days of the week. To keep thinking and revising and learning from each day that I work with kids. I wanted to share what I was learning and be able to look back on activities to see what I could do better.

However these last couple of weeks I have let that slip. I have been inundated with fantastic opportunities to dress up and enjoy playing at being some one else! It’s times like this that I find myself remembering how important role play is to connecting what we have experienced and have seen into actual learning and understanding!

But that’s not what I was planning on talking about!

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been covering shifts in the babies room. I’m finding it inspiring. To spend time with these little ones whose main form of communication is non-verbal. Who rely on us to understand what it is they are trying to tell us. Lots of this knowledge comes from time spent with each individual baby, getting to know their cries and gurgles, understanding their limits and strengths. Personalities are evident fromΒ  such an early age, each with their own quirks and interests. I love it!

Being with the babies has made me notice lots of the smaller details in communication. Things that might normally be covered up by the loud noises or mannerisms of boisterous kindy kids πŸ™‚ Watching two little babies reach out with their toes, showing interest in each other is like magic! The excited thumping of hands as they respond to toys that make noise or move. A cheeky smile as they look up to you or working a smile out of a wee little baby, using a quiet voice and eye contact.

It has me asking, how much am I missing in my own room? I know that I try to ensure that I spend quality time with the quiet ones in my class, to not let the chatterboxes take all my brain space. I am missing my kindy kids and am truly looking forward to getting back in, but for now, I’m going to enjoy what the babies have to offer and revel in the cuddles and the intimate moments πŸ™‚