Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Early Childhood Australia Conference

I found out about this conference quite early in the school term and thought it would be a good one to go to. Teaching Year 1 puts me in the "Early Childhood" category, so I figured I could probably learn some great new strategies.

I was surprised to discover how many people attended - I didn't expect it to be so large. I'd be interested to know exact numbers, but I guestimate it to be about 1000. (Which is big compared to other conferences I've been to).

I don't know how I could have failed to realise that the largest proportion of people would be from childcare agencies. I struggled to find anyone else from the Primary School sector, and only saw departmental staff from my own system. They were there to present a workshop.

I felt a bit out of place for most of the day, and had to try to relate the things I was hearing to my own situation, but on the whole, I did pick up a few things.

Ferre Laevers and Julia Moons talked about Emotional Wellbeing - how to recognise it and how it can be monitored through observational checklists over time. This was an interesting idea to me, as I have never thought of keeping records of students' emotional wellbeing and involvement with others. Here is a copy of the manual.
Ferre also shed new light on how to really respect children. He told the story of one little boy chasing another little boy with a tiger mask covering his face. The boy being chased was visibly scared. Ferre talked about how he took the little boy onto his lap and talked to him about his fear. He acknowledged the feelings and worked it through with the boy. Too often we adults dismiss the fear with comments such as "There's no need to be scared! It's only a mask!" I hope I can take this insight into my own dealings with children.

Some of the workshops I attended related to leadership and team building. I don't see myself as a "lead from above" sort of person. I'd rather be a "support alongside" sort of person. But, as I reach the top of my "rung in the ladder" I am considering how I can stretch myself further. One of the big messages that kept coming up for me was about relationships. Enriching relationships with the kids, with other teachers and with parents. It's one of those commonsense things that sounds amazing in theory, but takes a lot of time and energy in practice.

The final session I attended was about the care of infants (0-2 years). Now, I must admit, I actually went to this session more out of personal interest for my possible future plans than for the benefit of my class or school! One of the presenters discussed the RIE approach in some detail. According to the website "the RIE Approach helps raise authentic infants who are competent, confident, curious, attentive, exploring, cooperative, secure, peaceful, focused, self-initiating, resourceful, involved, inner-directed, aware and interested." Sounds good to me!
The things that I took from this approach were to really engage with the child in uninterrupted time. Talk to the baby, don't just assume it can't understand you. Unfortunately I didn't get down who said it, but someone clever said "What they can do is not valued. What they can't do is expected." I know I will be looking some more into this approach if I'm ever lucky enough to be a mum.

One other cool thing I wanted to share from the day, there's this guy in New Zealand who makes cool stuff for kids to play with - fancy blocks and magnetic water play equipment. Here's a link to his website - Kidantics.


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  2. It's fun looking back at this now and realising that the lessons I took away from the infant session became ingrained in my thinking and are present in the way that I care for my son. I believe that babies are much more capable than we give them credit for. We need to raise our expectations and give children the opportunities to thrive.


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