Published by CELA on 6 Jun, 2017

Two weeks ago our guest writer Doreen Blyth ‘broke the internet’ with her reflection on whether Outside School Hours Care was treated as the middle child of the education and care sector.  Today she returns with another reflection, this time keeping her story’s twist to the very end.

Where do we get our professional identity from? Did we learn for ourselves or did we have to ask someone?

In a recent encounter with final year teaching students, I could see that they were keen to demonstrate that they had studied well and heard them speak fluently about being a profession and the meaning of professional. They were well up on the definitions from Feeney, McDowall and Murray and all the others.

I asked which branch of our specialty they were considering. Only two students in the room understood that early and middle childhood had a range of specialised areas they could choose from.

You see, it was my job to talk to them about working in centre based care, outside school hours care and family day care.

So, to get started, I invited them to ‘meet’ Amelia.

‘We got this for you because we got told you might be really old.’

I was invited by Amelia to come in and help her make sense of all of the NQF requirements. Arriving exactly on time, I was delighted to be met at the door by every child in the room. ‘We knew you were coming!!’

I was led to a spot in the garden and shown a cushion and a blanket, ‘We got this for you because we got told you might be really old’.

Amelia rushed across to us, red faced: ‘I said cold’. Much laughter.

The children were dispersing already, getting back to a painting activity they had set up on the lawn, two older ones were assisting some younger ones to paint. Three languages flowed around the group, one English, one European and one was what looked like a signing. The fourth language was tactile, lots of touching and hugging and looking at hands.

‘We are talking about how hands communicate. We have spent weeks touching things and holding and pointing and working out new signs to ask for things and now we are working out new signs for telling things’.

‘What brought this on’ I asked?

Apparently one of the children said ‘Why is Ian not talking? How can we talk to him if he doesn’t talk’?

I worked out that Ian was the one laughing over there with the paint all over his ears (I was told later he wanted earrings like his mum so his friends decided to help).

Does he have a speech or language or other issue?

‘I am not sure, I am doing some filming and making some observations for his speech pathology visit next month.’

I saw the observations. Her research extended to looking at expected development, and to looking at the development of his siblings. She had, with permission, been talking to the speech pathologist to ask what type of evidence would be useful.  She had consulted the local child health nurse and the local preschool teacher to get their perspectives as well. She had made up a file to guide her practice and put reminders in her diary to ensure she worked consistently at it.

Her curriculum planning was open with the children in the group – there were ‘planning councils’ each week where they reflected and reviewed their week, and talked about what they were interested in.

Parents were asked to reflect via email each week. Their responses were careful and considered. Their suggestions were often brief, always powerful.

The observations, parent input, child input, analysis, research, planning, implementation and review were all there. It was clear and simple. Every word had power. Relevant articles that inspired her were cited on the bottom of each page.

Every portfolio had a clear pathway planned for each child, with progress reports and further planning done consistently along the way. Flipping through while Amelia dealt with laying out morning tea, I was struck not only by the limited number of photos but of their subject. Where there was written analysis of emotions or feelings of security or settling in – there were closeups of faces. Discussions on social engagement including developing negotiation skills, were all illustrated with black and white photos of the group (which somehow made you focus on faces).

During our discussion over the curriculum, with no reminding, a child grabbed a mattress from a side area and pulled it over under a tree. She piled on a pillow and a blanket and some soft toys and a book. Several other children did the same. After lunch, they were reminded to use the bathroom and then, without being asked, several settled down for a quiet rest, some with toys and books, some just gazing up at the tree and the clouds. One got up for another toy and went back. There was not one reminder.

My reflection

This is the third such area from this particular speciality I have seen in the last year, each with their own character but essentially similar. Each time I have been struck by extraordinarily knowledgeable educators offering rich programs and linking closely with parents and with local schools.

Welcome to Family Day Care.

Our profession is new and old, we are made up of disparate parts, but these are parts of a whole.

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Meet the author

Doreen Blyth

Doreen is a senior consultant in the education and care sector and is Policy Advisor (vol.) to the Educational Leaders Association. Doreen’s previous roles include Principal Policy Officer – Children’s Services with the WA Government, with national and state level participation in the development of the National Quality Framework including the Education and Care Services National Law and the Education and Care Services National Regulations.She has significant experience in children and family services management in small and very large services as well as in services supporting vulnerable communities. She has significant experience in sector and agency policy development, implementation and review and has taken a leading role in projects that focus on the delivery of policy outcomes and outcomes measurement.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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