11/48 Oakdale Rd Gateshead, NSW 2290 02 (49478112)
Advocacy, Community, Documentation, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Professionalism, Programming


Another brand new podcast episode has landed and we are pretty excited about it! This episode Nic talks to Carrie Rose of Rosie’s Early Learning in QLD, all about inquiry based planning. This episode is a little longer, but it is worth it!

Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to episode 007


EPISODE 007 – Inquiry Based Planning with Carrie Rose
What if we asked ourselves the question – why do we do it this way? What if the answer led us to “throw out” a whole way of thinking and working that we had engaged in since time began?! Carrie Rose and her team at Rosie’s Early Learning in QLD are the epitome of reflective educators. They really thought about the way in which they programmed and planned, observed and documented, and they made some really big changes. 
In this episode we find out more about inquiry based planning and why ditching the traditional portfolios might just lead us to even more meaningful documentation and assessment of learning. 

LINKS AND OTHER INFO
To find out more about Carrie Rose and Rosie’s Early Learning, you can contact: 
 
 

Did you know that one of our Inspired EC Co-founders, Tash, is a licensed trainer for Claire Warden and regularly delivers professional development on the Talking and Thinking Floorbooks Approach? To find out more about this collaborative approach which lends itself beautifully to what we discussed in this episode, please email us today – training@inspiredec.com 

You can also get a copy of the book “Talking and Thinking Floorbooks” by Claire Warden on our website




WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com
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Advocacy, Community, Pedagogy, Professional Development, Professionalism


Did you catch episode 6 of our podcast “The Inspired Educator” when it landed a few weeks ago?? You might have missed it, as we were crazy busy at the time and didn’t pop it up here so you would know all about it! 

Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to episode 006


EPISODE 006 – Men in Early Childhood with Tristan Page
Let’s face it – men are severely outnumbered in the early childhood profession. While I’ve known many services to say “We would love to have a male working in our service!” the reality is, that there are not enough men out there. Why? Are there issues of sexism at play? Are men deterred by societal “norms” and assumptions? In this episode, we chat with educator Tristan Page. Tristan has been an educator for over 18 years and provides a great insight into what it is really like as a male in a female-dominated profession. 

** We recognise that it is not a black and white – male/female situation and do not wish to exclude anyone based on gender identity. Gender identity and stereotypes are something we would love to continue exploring and thinking critically about in the way we present information and ideas. Please bear with us as we fine-tune!! **


WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com
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Professionalism



“None of them are mums – they have no idea.” 
“They are all so young.” 

“There’s one great educator – she’s a parent, so she gets it.”


These are some snippets of a conversation that I overheard at the school gate last week. As parents arrived to collect their children from school, one shared their frustration with their other child’s early education and care service. While there is doubt that their concerns were valid and that they ultimately want their child to be happy, settled and well cared for in the service, what stood out to me most was the assertion that the “young” educators were doing a lousy job because they weren’t parents yet. Other parents quickly agreed with this idea, expressing their preference for more “mature” educators who were already parents, suggesting that they were better at their job as a result. 

This isn’t the first time that I have overheard this sort of conversation, and I can be certain that it won’t be the last time either. When I began working in early childhood in a full-time position, I was 19 years old. I had just finished my Diploma and was keen to begin really putting into practice, the theory that I had learned. It didn’t take long before I noticed that some parents would talk to me about the “fluff” things (she loved the trucks in the sandpit today) but swiftly seek out an older “mum” educator to talk about the “important stuff”. Was I offended? Nope. Not only was I young and not a parent, but I was also indeed inexperienced. I had done 18months of training, a couple of practicums and a few casual shifts at a local preschool. I was a total newbie. 

As time went on I became more confident in my ability as an educator, and in my knowledge and understandings. 
When I was 21, I unexpectedly found myself in the position of nominated supervisor. While it was only intended to be a temporary position, I decided that I actually loved it and put my hand up to take it on permanently. The management committee (comprising of parents) discussed this at length and as I found out from them some years later, there was some concern about my age and the fact that I wasn’t yet a parent, and may not, therefore, be able to relate to parents as well as a more mature (parent) educator. Am I glad I didn’t know that they had this conversation at the time? Damn right I am! I would have been outraged! 21 year old me thought that she had the goods. She thought that it didn’t matter that she wasn’t a parent because she understood theories, research, programs and all of the “right” things to be doing with children. Looking back – 21 year old me was probably a little bloody smug! Parents occasionally said things like “you’ll understand when you are a parent”, and I would think – “I already understand.”


I was 24 when I became a mum for the first time. Did I think it would change me as an educator? Not really. Did it change me as an educator? YOU BET! But I don’t think it made me a better educator. I still knew what I knew (well except for the precious information that seems to get eaten up by baby brain – a condition that I hope will subside now my youngest is almost 5!!). But, it did offer me a different perspective. Now, when a parent was having difficulty separating with their child in the morning, I wasn’t just looking for the best solution for the child, I was thinking about how hard it feels for that parent who is leaving their child in the care of virtual strangers, crying and unsettled. Even now, being a parent has an impact on my work as a consultant. When I visit an early childhood service to observe practice, I find myself constantly thinking about whether that way of speaking or engaging with the child is how I would want my child to be cared for. 

But back to the conversation that sparked this train of thought (I promise I am getting to a point!) 

There does seem to be an assumption that being a parent or even just being older makes for a better educator. I have worked with and visited educators who range in age from 18 to 60+ and have seen non-parent educators who are insightful, connected, perceptive and provide the most nurturing, high-quality care for children. I have also experienced educators who are in fact parents, and yet their practice is poor, their patience low, their enthusiasm for their work lacking. I guess the point I am trying to make is that it isn’t as simple as parent = better educator. And while some families attending your service may feel comforted to know that there are educators who are there that have been through exactly what they are going through, it is most important that we have educators who are committed to ongoing development, who have the rights of the child at the forefront, and whose practice is infused with love and connection.   

Becoming a parent certainly changed me as an educator – but so have years of experience, and attendance at conferences, as well as opportunities to read, research and learn. 

And, next time I overhear this conversation I’ll be joining in. I will suggest that perhaps these educators aren’t “lousy” because they are young and not parents, but perhaps the parent expectations and service practice are misaligned, or perhaps they could spend some time in the service (we all know that the 10mins at drop off and pick up are not the best representation of the whole day) or perhaps they are just not cut out to be educators – I hate to say it, but there are some people in our profession who don’t appear to enjoy it or have a real desire to grow and be better for children (and if you know one of these people – a gentle nudge to another career is always a nice idea!) 

What do you think? Have you experienced this in your work? Has becoming a parent changed you as an educator? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Advocacy, Childhood, Environments, Nature Play, Outdoors, Professionalism


Last night it rained. It didn’t rain for long – perhaps ten minutes in total, but it rained. It has been so long since that pitter-patter sound was heard on our roof that my children cheered. 
“It’s finally raining!” they said. 

We are in a coastal area on level one water restrictions. Our “grass” resembles crunchy straw, and we took water play off the menu at home when our rainwater tank ran dry around two months ago. But we are not in the worst of it.  We have family out west who are running out of water. Our friends have a farm and have been hand feeding and selling off sheep for months, trucking in water to keep those that remain alive while their dam sits dry and cracked. 

And now, just when we thought that our country couldn’t take anymore, we have been ravaged by fire. There are currently over 130 fires burning in New South Wales alone and there is no real end in sight. The images being shown across the world are heartbreaking – lives lost, families fleeing and wildlife decimated. For those not directly in the fire zones, there may be a feeling of helplessness. What do we do? How do we help? How do we support those affected? 

There have been amazing stories of kindness and hope emerging during this horrific time. There are fundraising campaigns, food and supply collections, and people sewing pouches for joeys, and mittens for Koalas. 

What can we do as an early childhood community?
There is no escaping the stories, images and general sense of sadness that is sweeping our country. Children in fire-affected areas are experiencing trauma – let’s not downplay that. Some of them will have seen, heard and felt the unimaginable in the last few weeks.
They may have lost their homes.
They may have seen their parents weep. 
They may have sheltered on a beach, or in a hall, or in the homes of relatives, not really understanding why they were there. 
They may have lost their pets. 
They may have lost a loved one. 

As for the children in areas not directly affected, while they may not be faced with these immediate experiences, they are no doubt impacted by what they are seeing in the news, or hearing in their community. 

While we can advocate for limited access to the twenty-four-hour news cycle (which many experts recommend for children), it is impossible to truly escape what is happening to our country.
There is no doubt that children will want to talk about the bushfires.
There is no doubt that these themes will appear in their play. ‘
There is no doubt that some children will feel worry or fear more strongly than others. 

There have been some wonderful posts online and articles sharing ways in which we can support children and families. As early childhood services, we are in a position to make a difference. Here are just a few things that we can do: 


– Provide a safe space (and your full attention) for children (and families) to share their worries, experiences, and understandings
– Provide materials for children to represent these (e.g. art materials, loose parts, small world play) 
– Assist children to help in the ways that they want to. Many children will have suggestions for how to help – embrace these and bring their ideas to fruition where possible.
– Set up an initiative like a “community pantry” or clothing exchange to allow families to support one another.
– Act as a collection point for donations of supplies to send to those affected. 
– For families who have been directly affected by fire – support them to access the Temporary Financial Hardship Subsidy. 

There are many things we can do. Creating a strong sense of community within our services is vital for strengthening relationships and for ensuring that children and families feel loved, supported and safe.
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Advocacy, Childhood, Community, Pedagogy, Play, Professional Development, Professionalism, Risk


Episode 4 of our podcast “The Inspired Educator” is now available and ready for your listening pleasure!
Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to episode 004


EPISODE 004 – Social Justice with Alistair Gibbs
Here we are with episode 004 and this one is super interesting! For some educators, the term social justice conjures up all sorts of ‘scary’ topics and questions and may evoke imagery of picket lines and protests. This chat with Alistair, really breaks down some of the misconceptions about social justice and offers some great advice for how educators can get started in their service!


WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com
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Advocacy, Childhood, Environments, Nature Kindergarten, Nature Play, Outdoors, Pedagogy, Play, Professional Development, Professionalism, Risk


Episode 3 of our podcast “The Inspired Educator” is now available and ready for your listening pleasure!
Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to episode 003


EPISODE 003 – Nature Play with Jen and Narell from Birdwings
Here we are with episode 003 and it is a great one! Nic had a delightful chat with both Jen and Narell from Birdwings. These two took some time out from their adventuring in beautiful QLD with some very lucky children, to talk about why they do what they do, why nature play is so very important and what inspires them. 

If you are wanting to venture out into some wild natural spaces with children… this is the episode for you. Jen and Narell will have you wanting to get out, slow down and just be with children in nature. 

– You can see some of the beautiful images, story sharing and insights from Birdwings on Facebook
– We have some great resources available in our online store that support nature play in all its glory, including: Deep Nature Play 
How to Raise a Wild Child
Learning with Nature
And many more!


WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com
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Episode 2 of our brand new podcast “The Inspired Educator” is now available and we are pretty excited! 
Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to episode 002!


EPISODE 002 – RISK with Kate Higginbottom 

We are super excited to release our second podcast episode where Nic chats to Kate Higginbottom of Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool. The service was involved in a brilliant research project with the University of Newcastle and in this episode, Kate shares the learning that took place for her team as they explored risky play in their setting. 

Perhaps you are trying to take a more risk friendly approach in your service? Maybe you want to step outside of your comfort zone? This is definitely the episode for you! 

– Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool is on Facebook and Instagram
– You can join us in November 2019 for a professional development session which incorporates a visit to Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool  (while the children are there playing!) so you can see the practice happening! Visit our professional development bookings page to find out more and register!


WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com
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We are so excited to launch our brand new podcast “The Inspired Educator”. Our brilliant buddy Jeff A Johnson, over at Explorations Early Learning/Playvolution HQ is producing our podcasts for us (for which we are incredibly grateful!) and you can listen on your favourite podcast app under the Child Care Bar and Grill podcast feed. Here is a link to the very first episode 


EPISODE 001 – PHYSICAL PLAY WITH BELINDA TURNER

For our very first episode, Nic interviewed Belinda Turner. Belinda is the nominated supervisor of Woodrising Natural Learning Centre, a community based long daycare service in Lake Macquarie NSW (which also happens to be where Nic and Tash met and worked together for many years!) 

During this episode, Belinda shares the work that the team are doing with children in relation to physical play. Lots of talk about risk-taking, occupational therapy, outdoor play, brain development and SO MUCH MORE. This was such a great chat and we hope it inspires you. 

Below you will find some resources and references that connect to the episode and can further develop your skills and understanding in this area. 

– Woodrising Natural Learning Centre is on Facebook and Instagram
– You can find out more about Angela Hanscom and the TimberNook Program here
– You can see the work we are doing as a TimberNook provider at TimberNook Newcastle over on Instagram and Facebook
– Angela Hanscoms book Balanced and Barefoot (which is a HUGE personal favourite of ours), is available to order on our website by clicking on the image below


– You can join us in November 2019 for a professional development session which incorporates a visit to Woodrising Natural Learning Centre (while the children are there playing!) so you can see the practice happening! Click on the image below for more details and to register. 


WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

If you have any comments or questions about the episode, we would love to hear them. Perhaps there is something that we talked about that you would like more information on, or you have a topic you would like to hear explored in an upcoming episode? Maybe YOU would like to be interviewed! Our aim is to talk to educators all around the country (and overseas!) about their everyday practice with children. 
Feel free to comment below or email nicole@inspiredec.com 
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Over the last decade, the expectations placed on services and educators appear to have grown rapidly. There are curricula and risk assessments and critical reflections and quality improvement plans. So, I guess it is only natural that we seek out ways to reduce that paperwork, to limit the time spent in the office and maximise our time engaging with children (you know – the reason we chose to work in this profession in the first place!) I am all for streamlining processes and making things simpler – the old saying “work smarter, not harder” certainly rings true, yet I worry that in our attempts to do so, we may be missing out on some important opportunities for professional learning and growth.

When I first started back in early childhood some seventeen years ago, “box programming” was the norm. Almost every early education and care service used some form of template that outlined the activities to be provided in each area of the room or outdoor space. They had headings such as “fine-motor” or “sand pit” and there were spaces to fill in and items to tick off. If they were fancy, these box programs had colour coding or some other system to make it “easier” to ensure that all areas or children had been programmed for. It was a pretty simple system to follow. And I hated it.


Why did I hate it? It was supposed to make it easy. All I had to do was fill in the boxes.

My challenge was that it was so incredibly prescriptive that it left no room for spontaneity or creativity. It left no room to share a narrative or make connections.

While I believe that for the most part, we as a sector have moved away from this structured, formatted approach to programming, I do see an increase in apps and programs that utilise the “cut and paste” feature. Say, for example, I write a story about a group of children building with the blocks. At the end of that story I can open a tab with each of the EYLF Learning Outcomes listed and just drag and drop something that feels like it connects to my story. Is there anything inherently wrong with that? Well, I’m not sure. On the one hand, the ability to save precious time is wildly appealing – we want educators with the children, not stuck in the office or staff room typing up learning outcomes. On the other hand, I fear that it may be creating educators who are not truly connecting to the EYLF and to theories and ideas that may underpin their practice, programs and observations of children’s play and discovery. I worry that in our attempts to take the short-cut, we may be missing the joy of the journey.

What if instead of asking for an EYLF Cheat Sheet we spent some time reading the framework or debating its content with our colleagues?

What if instead of instead of using a ready-made summative assessment sheet with tick boxes of “Katy can hop on one foot” or “Katy is learning to share”, we actually told a story of the child’s time in our care, highlighting their deep learning moments, their friendships and connections, their growth and moments of wonder?
What might we learn about ourselves? What might we learn about children? What might we be inspired to wonder?
While it might be tempting to take the short cut (and let’s be honest – in some instances it just makes sense and may be a better option than reinventing the wheel), we need to remember that quality will always trump quantity. If we want our documentation to be authentic, from the heart and to truly capture the amazing moments of children – we need to stop looking for the short cut, slow down and enjoy the journey, and take note of the personal/professional learning and growth that occurs when we do exactly that.
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Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know betterdo better.” —Maya Angelou

 

Have you ever found yourself in an early childhood Facebook group? Perhaps you have a group that you love, one where those involved are inspiring, reflective and connected. Chances are though, you’ve been drawn in to one of the larger groups with the promise of more interaction, more ideas. You land in one of these large groups and the posts begin rolling on into your newsfeed:

“What are you all doing for mothers day craft?”

 “Here’s an hilarious video of a child doing something embarrassing”

 “Im so angry. Why do we get treeted like babysitters when we are profesionals? What are ur guys opions? “ (yes, the spelling mistakes are deliberate and way over the top, I know!)

 

Can I be honest? So much of what is posted in these groups frustrates the life out of me, as I know it does a great many other professionals. But it’s not the content that frustrates me – it’s the responses:

“We painted all the babies hands and turned them into flowers, laminated them and gave them to the mum’s. Soooooo cute!”

“OMG. That is so funny!”

“Its annoying isn’t it? We should get more money. Yeah, I know I should join the union, but I haven’t.”

 

Ugh. Response after response of groupthink. Every now and then, someone dares to speak up and offer a new perspective:

“Why do we feel the need to do a specific craft activity for mothers/fathers day?”

“I think this video is disrespectful to the child and shouldn’t be on social media.”

“Yes, it is disappointing that our professionalism is not recognised with higher wages. What action could you take to make change?”

 

And sure enough, that brave response is often shot down, the poster criticised and the practice defended:

“Our children love doing crafts like this and the parents expect it. We don’t force the children, we just keep suggesting that they come and get their hand painted to make a flower. They all eventually do, because it is sooooo much fun!”

“Oh lighten up – it’s a joke!”

“It shouldn’t be up to me to do anything, the government needs to do something. I already work hard enough and don’t want to do anything outside of my work hours – it’s unreasonable that you would ask people to do that!”

 

And, so it goes on. The people who are questioning, challenging and reflecting often dwindle away, frustrated with the negative backlash that comes from doing so. I have seen professionals who have received threatening personal messages as a result of encouraging others to think a little deeper about the post. That is never okay.

 

Over the last week, I have been reading Brené Brown’s book “Dare to Lead.” Let me just say – wow! In the book (I wont give too much away, you will have to read it for yourself), Brené speaks at length about vulnerability, and I believe that is a large part of what we are seeing here. When we post on social media, particularly in a public forum, we are being vulnerable. We are putting out our ideas, questions and images into the world, not knowing what we will get back. This should be an opportunity for learning and for growing. For some people though, I suspect there is a desire to simply get back affirmation that what they are doing is “right” or “good”, that they perhaps don’t really want their question answered in any way other than the answer that they already have in their own mind. This is coming from a place of knowing. 

None of us “know it all”. There are always new perspectives to hear, new questions to ask, new research to unpack, new discoveries to be made. When we approach posting on social media from a place of knowing rather than a place of growing we limit our own ability to evolve as educators, as professionals.

Being vulnerable in our approach to posting (and responding) on social media means that we post with an open heart and an open mind. We are honest, even when that is hard. We seek to understand, more than to be understood. We understand that there is always room for growing and it isn’t important to be all knowing. And when we do that – we gain new information, skills, understandings and ways of doing that enable us to evolve, both as an educator and as a human being.

 

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