It is so important to recognise parents as children’s first and most enduring teachers – we may be experts on child development but they are the experts on their own child! Together we have a far more profound impact than working in separate silos.
A recent example was a blog post I published for my nursery talking about a sunflower activity the children had been enjoying. It referenced the prior learning (investigating decay in the autumn term), encouraged families to watch a time lapse of a sunflower growing together and reminded them of a facility we offer to print photographs from home for children to share. As the children had planted two sets of seeds (one for home, one for nursery) it created a tangible link. Our children absolutely love sharing their home experiences with their friends and staff – they eagerly tell me how big their sunflower is (“it’s almost as tall as daddy..!”) and tell me how they’re helping it to grow (“water, but not too much – just right!”). Parents also join in these conversations – sharing their expertise (we have a few green-fingered carers who know far more about effective growing than we do!) and telling us funny tales about little people remembering at bedtime that they haven’t watered their sunflower so going out in their pyjamas and wellies with a watering can.
Learning and understanding: perspectives and experiences
This kind of continuity between home and setting has also been supported by our “What Does Your Day Look Like?” book. We created a sheet with prompts to enable our pre-school children and parents to share what their world looks like – from the special routines they have when they wake up to what mummy and daddy’s lunch times look like when they are at work (a tricky concept for little people that is sometimes tied up with anxiety – what does “going to work” mean? What does “work” look like – is it a place or an activity – or both!?).
The prompts are open-ended so parents and children can decide what is the most important for each section. Staff completed example ones to get the ball rolling – some chose to draw their day, some used photos, some used text. We made the examples diverse to showcase no one way is best or preferred. Completed pages go in to a special A3 book of experiences – children are able to return to review this book (similar to their “All About Me” photo albums) with their peers or Key Person.
This is also lovely if they’re having a tough day and are feeling a bit wobbly; being able to say “that’s mummy’s lunchbox, she’ll be having her lunch now too – just like you. After lunch, mummy will collect you because you’re going to the park – see, just like the photo?” is a lovely bit of reassurance and containment to help remind children of the day’s routine (now, next) and that mummy is doing similar things elsewhere, but will return.
By valuing children’s lived experiences – in all their wonderful diversity – we hope to celebrate and champion their perspectives and ways of being. This also links to the funds of knowledge research that I feel is vital for early years practitioners to empathise and make meaning for children within the educational setting.
A short watch which is thought-provoking and worthy of reflective discussion amongst colleagues.
I use a book club format when using film as a professional reflection tool, with questions to prompt discussion and thinking. For example:
What makes up Libby’s world?
How does Libby feel?
How do her parents feel?
What are her parents’ motivations?
What has informed her grandmother’s understanding of Libby’s capabilities?
How do you think society views people with hearing impairments (current and/or historical understanding)?
What is the role of the social worker?
Where is the line between state and parental responsibility?
What support is available for children with hearing impairments, parents, professionals?
What could improve the outcomes of children with hearing impairments?
Where does early years education fit in to this?
How did the film make you feel?
Will the film change your practice? If so, how?
This list isn’t exhaustive but it captures some of the main elements of discussions I’ve had on the film – your team will be different and bring different experiences to the discussion. Let me know if you have any other suggestions to include!
Synopsis: A deaf 4-year-old girl named Libby lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her to use sign language to communicate.
Last week I retweeted a friend’s intention to “Live Below The Line” in aid of the charity International Service. She hopes to raise £800 by living on just £5.74 a week – calculated using poverty baseline of $1.25 a day – including all of her food, drink and travelling costs. You can read about her experiences and inspiration here; if you’re feeling particularly altruistic today, you can support this worthy cause here.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
But what does this have to do with early years education, aside from the obvious concern that children in developing countries have yet to access quality early years education universally? Within the foundation stage, practitioners are encouraging children to empathise with and to give consideration to others’ feelings, needs and wishes. Usually this is an informal process, using everyday events as “learning opportunities”; occasionally fraught with tears (“but I WANT that fire engine!”) it can be an emotionally exhausting process as you filter and reflect the behaviour you want children to replicate independently (“he’s sad because I hit him… That wasn’t kind, was it? Sorry.”)Read More »
This short documentary is exactly 11 minutes long. If you only watch one video regarding autism today, I hope it’s this one. At my very first course on autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), the lecturer questioned our understanding and played this video. It is one of two films I always play when presenting training on ASD because I feel it gives a fresh perspective (that of children and adults who are on the spectrum) and hopefully enables practitioners to distance themselves from clinical facts to focus on the world-views of children with autism, to “empathise not sympathise”. Another reason I particularly like this film, is that it shows the variety of interests and day-to-day challenges faced by children, parents and teachers.Read More »