Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Break in Our Normal Transmission

As many of you have probably noticed, posts here on the Males in EC blog have been quite sparse of late. Initially this was due to a decision to not wanting to meet a certain quota, whether expected by me or anyone else. However, the dramatic drop in regularity can now be attributed to one major factor.....

......I seem to have lost my blogging mojo.

Now I hope to return to more regular blogging soon, but cannot promise anything. You see, I find myself busy with commitments on many fronts, particularly family.

Now I make no apologies for being dedicated to my family at the expense of this blog, but I hope my faithful, casual and new readers will understand such priorities. If you don't then I think that reflects poorly on you.

I have no idea when I will post next. Maybe it will be tomorrow, or perhaps next week. The only thing I will assure you is that although this blog and our accompanying Facebook page may appear dormant, they do not reflect the fact that I am still out there in the real world doing my best to set a positive example of a male working with young children. And right now in my case that means under twos.


Keep checking in and remember to look for all those other wonderful men and women out there. You can find many of them on my blog roll, in my post about male bloggers, or amongst the MiECE page's likes.

Here's to prioritising and knowing what's really important.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What Next?

You know I was planning on writing a post about the fear in the Early Childhood sector here in Australia over what the new Conservative Federal Government might have in mind for the future of ongoing changes to the sector.

What I find however, is our very own regulatory body, Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has plans to recognise primary trained teachers as Early Childhood Teachers. To be fair, these teachers need to meet all three of the criteria set out by ACECQA. Here is the relevant section from their site:

In September 2013, ACECQA determined that a person who holds ALL of the following will be recognised as equivalent to an early childhood teacher:
  • a primary teaching qualification that includes at least a focus on children aged 5 to 8 years old (e.g. a qualification with a focus on children aged 3 to 8 or 5 to 12) AND
  • teacher registration in Australia (or accreditation in New South Wales) AND
  • an approved education and care diploma or higher qualification (e.g. approved graduate diploma) published on ACECQA's qualification lists.
Now it can be quite beneficial to recognise the abilities, skills and knowledge of others, and welcome them into our profession. The problem I have is that this appears to be an attempt to address the apparent shortage of ECTs available, particularly for casual work.

Not only does this seem short sighted in my opinion, it also doesn't look at the problem it will cause when any teachers willing to make the switch from primary schools to Early Childhood Sector will be removed from a system that itself regularly complains about a shortage of teachers.

It is a sad fact that in both sectors there is an unfortunately high attrition rate amongst their educators. However, a measure such as the one prescribed by ACECQA does little to remedy those attrition rates or encourage people to consider the Early Years workforce as a viable career option.

Also, I am sure there are many high quality primary trained teachers who are willing to make the switch to Early Childhood. Yet I fear that most will not be prepared to take the pay cut that will be required to make the transition from Primary to Early Years.

That also begs the question who will want to make that change? Like I said, there will be those who simply want to make the change and will add to our profession. Nevertheless, I worry that many will be those who are unable to hold down a teaching job within schools for whatever reason. It is these additions to our stocks that I fear will be of detriment to the quality of care and education provided, and the Early Childhood profession at large.

Why not assist those already in the sector with Diploma and Cert III qualifications to upgrade? Many of these people have invaluable experience, knowledge and skills that cannot be picked up in a heartbeat. We also need to keep the great teachers we already have and encourage the best people to become Early Childhood professionals.

I hope I'm wrong and I am in no way bagging the teachers currently engaged in the primary school system. It is striking however, that the vast majority of individuals who gain Early Childhood Teaching degrees decide to go into the school systems rather than prior to school settings.


Finally, all this conjecture may be for naught if the Federal Government stop the ongoing changes to our sector as is predicted by many.

I suppose the bottom line is that any decisions that look at reducing the cost for families as a higher priority than the quality of the professionals and the quality of their practices will be to the detriment of all stakeholders.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Good and the Bad

This year has seen many changes in my career. New services, new children, new families, new colleagues, new communities, new situations new circumstances.

Throughout these changes I have encountered a variety of experiences that range from truly magnificent to the downright appalling. Now I am not about to go into detail here about what took place at these times. For one I do not have the permission of the people involved, many being children.


What I will do however, is ask for you to share one positive and one negative story from your time working with young children. They don't have to be extreme examples from either end of the spectrum, but just one from either side of the ledger.

The purpose for this is to try and gain a collection of reflections that highlight the vast array of experiences that make up the working life of an early childhood professional.

It is rewarding work that brings much pleasure and satisfaction to many, but it can also be quite tiring, stressful and at times thankless.

I will start things off......

Good: Working casually at one service a child gravitated toward me early on in the day. Several times she told me she loved me forever. When it was time for me to leave she hugged me and said I could come to her house and visit her.


Bad: Having a parent seem excited that I was beginning at her child's centre, but then clarifying that by checking that I wouldn't be working in the babies' room.

So there you go. They are mere examples, not guides as to what sort of story I want shared. Just please remember to respect the anonymity and privacy of all involved, and keep it all civil please.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Question Time


As it's been a bit quiet in here of late I thought it might be as good a time as any to pose a question to anyone prepared to read this. There's no pressure to answer publicly. Rather, see this as a provocation to look inwardly and reflect. Even reflect on your reflections if that makes sense.



When things aren't going the way you expected, or you seem at a loss to find solutions to the problems that present themselves to you, how do you cope?

Do you seek advice from others? Those around you who you trust to help guide you? Do you seek answers yourself from both familiar and new sources? Do you suffer in silence by putting on a brave face, for to appear vulnerable may be admitting you are weak, frail or fallible?


Do you open up to the world, admitting that you are unable to cope and embrace any and all assistance that may come your way? To hell with what people may think!
The reason I ask this of you all is that things have not gone completely to plan for me of late. I do not share this out of any desire to gain pity or help. In fact I'm coping quite well, thanks in no small part to my amazingly supportive family.
 
Yet there is much more to my coping mechanism. I am very fortunate to have many people in my corner equipped with the wisdom and understanding to say and do what needs to be said and done without taking it too far. After all, I need to get through these struggles in my own way, not as someone else may cope.
 

 
Some people believe in Karma while others believe that you reap what you sow. Personally, I am a firm believer that things often (although not always) happen for a reason and you will get more positive results if you remain positive.
 

 
So I am coping by remaining positive that something good will come of this ill. How do you cope?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

An American, a Yorkshireman and an Aussie Walk into a Bar

There is no punch line, just an account of the day I sat down with two of the most inspirational individuals within the Early Years Education and Development sector.

Apart from the American ('Teacher' Tom Hobson) being one of the most genuine and down to earth people you are ever likely to meet and the Yorkshireman (Marc Armitage 'At Play') being one of the funniest guys you'll meet, both are leading examples of what men can accomplish when they work with young children.

We also had the good fortune to also sit down and chat with Alan Wagstaff from the Internationally renowned Green School in Bali and Wayne Armstrong from Early Years Care in Wollongong, as well as two fascinating blokes from Woodrising Community Preschool and Child Care Centre, Gavin and Zac.

While this was not the beginnings of a return to face to face meetings, it was great to hear all the ideas and experiences that everyone was prepared to share.

Having heard Tom and Marc present for the first time earlier that day it was humbling to discover how much us regular guys are just like them. In fact, despite popular belief they are actually regular guys too.

This will remain a highlight of my EC career and my life for a long time to come, if not for good.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

This is Not a Commercial!

As the title of this post states, I am not advertising any commercial product here. I never have and I never will. having said that though, I am about to tell you about a very clever ad campaign that currently appears on Australian televisions and got me in straight away.

 
It's the 'Hip to be Square' ad depicting a collection of dads and their daily interactions with their children, wives and pets. Obviously this is inspired by the movie 'What to Expect When You're Not Expecting'.

 
It's funny and also refreshing to see something so mainstream paint men in such a positive light in such circumstances, even if it is a little tongue in cheek.
 
If you are unaware of the ad I'm talking about take a look at it here.
 
If only things fell into place that easily in real life, huh?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Celebrating Mud


For those of you who didn't realise, Saturday, June 29th was International Mud Day. In fact I wasn't aware of this day until I saw other bloggers posting about it last year. So this year I wanted to be a part of the celebrations.

Now I could try to go into details about the history of this event and its significance to Australia in particular, but I think you would gain a much better understanding by visiting the relevant page at the World Forum website which you can access by clicking here.

Now I had planned for the children to have access to some mud by adding waster & dirt to a tub. We have a mud pit about to be constructed, but it is not ready yet and a portion of our playground is cordoned off due to ongoing landscaping work, hence the trough option rather than open access.

Another reason for providing mud in this way was that I am relatively new to my service and there are some educators and parents who have reservations about children playing in mud. So rather than cause controversy and get new colleagues and families off side early on I thought this would enable those children who wanted (or were allowed to by their parents) to explore the mud without others 'accidently' becoming part of the play.

As it turned out those considerations were not necessary as it rained fairly constantly all week and there was a very suitable mud puddles right in the middle of the grassed area. Still, the other groups decided not to be part of this experience so my group of children headed out to enjoy the muddy fun themselves.
There was the expected jumping in the puddle, causing the muddy water to splash up all over those nearby. Some, including myself and my colleague, stood in the middle and wriggle our bare toes so the mud squelched between them. A few children then created a game where one at a time they ran up and leapt into the puddle. I waited for someone to slip and land on their bottom, but no-one did. Whether by chance or design they were able to judge their speed and time their leap accordingly so that they remained upright upon landing. Quite impressive.

Now I would love to do so much more next year, but that will be up to the children. As it turned out they had an absolute ball anyway. Even those who were a little apprehensive too begin with. I even found parents that were apparently against the idea of their child getting dirty supporting the idea and loving to here about their child's exploits upon pick up.

There are a couple of lessons to be gotten out of this experience. First of all we should never assume that anyone, parents or children, will be reluctant to be part of a particular experience or event. Secondly, we can plan things down to the 'n'th degree and yet it is usually the spontaneous moments that create they greatest joy and best opportunities for learning.

I will hopefully add some photos at a later time so you can see the absolute joy had by all. Even without photos though I hope you can envisage the benefits of such an experience. And I mean benefits to all, including us educators. I had a blast and it was a truly marvellous day for me as an individual and a professional. That can only be good for my overall wellbeing. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

WORDS or words

I've been wanting to write this post for a few days, but have been struggling with just how to word it. So I stepped back, let a couple of days pass by and have now returned.

One of the reasons I struggled it because words are so powerful. They deliver messages, pass on information, and are a useful tool for promoting learning. However, they also have the strength to hurt, power to destroy, and means to confuse.

It all comes down to how we decide to use the words at out disposal. The right words used in the wrong context or forum can have vastly differing impacts to our intentions. Written text is convenient, but can be very difficult to convey emotions, tone of voice or context. Therefore the written word can be interpreted in a number of ways.

This can lead to unintentional misleading or misinterpreting others. It can also be how some mask a more sinister motive.

Either way, the words we use, whether with children or adults, have a far greater impact that simply their meaning. The way you deliver them. The context in which us choose to use them. The body movements accompanying them, or the lack thereof. These can all change how our words are interpreted, as does the recipients context.

So next time you feel like peeling off a few choice words at someone, either in real life of electronically, why not step back and have think about it. Your words could be doing far more damage than you dare think.


This post is a result of a number of incidents witnessed over the past few months. I have seen friends, strangers and loved ones hurt by what other believe to be just a few harmless words. Be the bigger and better person.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

An Interview With Neville Dwyer

This is the next in the series of interviews with influential and inspiring men in the Early Childhood Education and Care field. The first in fact of an Aussie, Neville Dwyer.
 
Now many of you, especially those of you not from Australia, might not know who Neville Dwyer is. So let me give you a quick run down of his bio. Neville is currently the Director of Dorothy Waide Centre for Early Learning in Griffith, NSW. He is the Secretary/Treasurer of Community Connections Solutions Australia, a not-for-profit, non-government, membership-based organisation that supports the management of high-quality early childhood services and other community organisations. In 2004 Neville was awarded the National excellence Award for Teaching in Early Childhood.
 
 
So now onto the interview, although as with most of these posts, it's not so much an interview as a series of questions that I sent to Neville and which he replied with his responses. Check out the Centre's Facebook page where you can see photos of their wonderful renovations and read about the exceeding standards rating they recently received. Truly a guiding light in the provision of quality Early Childhood Education and Care.

 

When did you first consider entering the Early Childhood profession?

I entered early childhood by mistake I think. In 1981 when I graduated I was part of the first cohort of primary teachers, who while having a scholarship, completed Uni without guarantee of employment.  In fact there were no teaching positions.  It was just casual, and even then there weren't many opportunities. I took a part job as an assistant with the Griffith Mobile Resource Unit, having zero idea of what it did - I thought it provided resources for schools. Reality was it provided what would be regarded today as supported playgroups and community programs to small communities out of Griffith.  Hillston, Merriwagga, Darlington Point, Yamma Homestead.

There were just two of us and a Toyota coaster bus filled with a few toys and other resources - not much really, operating out of a neighbourhood centre. Within 6 weeks of starting I was the coordinator, and then over 5 years had transformed the service in to a mobile preschool, with an adult education component and also community arts program.

We ran preschool sessions in Rankin's Springs, Weethalle, Goolgowi, Darlington Point and Merriwagga, Playgroup in Hillston and a Dept of Housing Estate in Griffith as well caravan parks.


Was there ever anything else you wanted to do?

Theatre and film.


In your time as an Early Childhood professional have you noticed a change in the way men who enter the field are regarded?

I have never known discrimination against males personally. In fact in my community I don't think it’s really been noticed, we also have a high number of males across all the primary schools - even in early stage one. While there have never been lots of males in the early years, there have always been a few around the local area. We have two male Directors in the community, so we are probably punching above our weight per capita in the EC Sector.

I often hear of problems in other locations, particularly the metro areas where it is often difficult to attract and keep guys in the sector. I have heard of discrimination and active resistance to having men on early childhood teams. I have many friends across the state who would love to have men on their teams, but find it difficult to attract or keep them.


Do think the numbers have changed much, regardless of what the statistics say?

I think it’s growing. Part of that due to the growing understanding of the importance of the early years and that men have a role to play in the early years as well.  I know it’s not the money!  I know in my team, one of my colleagues reckons he has it made, he finds it one of the most enjoyable careers, and says that there can be few jobs in the world where you can have so much impact in a positive way on the lives of children and families.

I think it will continue to grow as we get better in articulating what it is we do in the early years and when men see that have a space there. We have to build that space and also say what it is we do.  Sometimes we don't do that well, and men and women don't work the same way in this space, they complement each other, but bring different qualities and work skills.  It also takes children's services to make their space a safe space for men - not only for males working in the service, but even for fathers and their children. Often I have found in some settings, men (fathers) feel alienated by the staff. In our setting dads are integral to what we do and all our team have great relationships with both parents.
 

Who is/was your inspiration (if you had any) when you first began working with young children? Note: it doesn't necessarily have to be a male.

I am not sure I was inspired by anyone really, not in the early years of teaching because it was pretty lonely and there were few role models in my world.  I was lucky though that I had opportunities to work with June Jeremy from Contact, Judy Finylason from Network (we put on the first Mobile Services Conference in Griffith) and that friendship has lasted a lifetime. When you are in the company of June you get to do some amazing things and meet some incredible people.

When I started at the Centre, I had the opportunity to participate in a Directors course that had been started up by Community Child Care Coop as well. This brought together directors from across the state, in my group mostly from rural NSW, all struggling with this new idea called child care! I met some amazing people then as well - June Wangman, Wendy and John Schiller. I think being around these people provided me with opportunities to see different possibilities.

When I’m in the company of colleagues I have known for years, I’m often say that I’m only here because I stand on the shoulders of giants. I’m lucky I have worked in the sector for a long time, as DWC for 27 years alone. I have worked with lots of people from across the early childhood sector, each person I meet shares with me part of their journey in EC. I still get invited to Mobile Meets, I think I am the only person who has been going to them sense the early days, I get to most of those. Being surrounded by people who work in difficult environments, challenges and who just get the job done, and make a difference inspires me.

Over the last 5 years I have had the great privilege if wing invited to the Aboriginal Children's Services Conference (Aboriginal Early Childhood Support & Learning), we share our stories and I leave lifted up by incredible examples of connected practice built on strong relationships. Some incredibly gifted EC practitioners.
 

Who inspires you now?

Children and families - everyday. Always amazed that parents entrust their children into our care, and always amazed at the complexity of children's thinking and knowing. I don't get that some EC practitioners don't get this and find it so hard to see learning and wonder in young children.


What is your favourite part of your job?

Ahh that’s a hard question. Children are the centre of my world - I know that can sound trite, but in essence they are.  I am friends with kids who I worked with when I first started out. I have been to their birthdays, weddings etc. I even go to music festivals with them.  I think being ivied into a child's world and into a family is an incredible opportunity.

I am lucky, I get to travel a bit in my role now, thanks to my board, but I get to share our stories and practice and also get invited in to others spaces to listen to their stories work with their teams – that’s a rare privilege.

I also get to be involved with a few different projects. I sit on the MacKillop Rural Community Services Board.  This operates out of Dubbo and provides children, family, disability and youth services in eight remote and isolated communities across NSW. I have sat on the board of the CCSA since 1992, in that role we have seen the organisation evolve into one of the key management support services in children's services. I also have the opportunity to work closely with ECA national office, especially in the delivery of support programs for the EYLF and the NQS.


What was your aim/goal when you began this career? What would you say is your goal professionally these days?

It’s always been the same - be the difference in someone’s life. It’s always been about the journey and about doing what is right and has the best outcomes for everyone - but most importantly for the child and their family. I’m lucky I have worked in the community I have grown up in.  That’s rare for most of us.

I think what is different now is that I have a greater understanding of what I do and how it makes a difference. I also get to influence the debate, for some reason people listen to me - sometimes important people listen to me - maybe it’s that hard head!!!

Around our EC practice – it’s not to win awards, or be regarded as "exceeding" our goal is to our best, for just that reason alone. Providing the best experience for the child and family, the fall out is that our team benefit because they get to work in a space that values what they do and supports them. What we do is more complicated than rocket science, we are building brains, to do this well and ensure that each and every child has an opportunity to reach their potential we have to be prepared to think mindfully how this is done each day and that it will be different.


In your capacity as a leader in the EC profession, how have you impacted on the sector as a whole?

I never intended to be a leader. My only goal was do my best and to encourage those around me to do the same. I have been lucky that I have gathered around me people who get how my head works - which can be a struggle for me and others sometimes.  We just do our job. I am often surprised that people look to us an example - because we don't seek that.  I certainly don't, what may surpass most is that I actually don't like people very much, I struggle with adults all the time. Yes I can talk in public, but it’s a struggle for me - a bit like a performance really.

I’m not sure I impact in a huge way on early childhood.  I think the profile i seem to have at this moment can be contributed to my hard headedness and maybe a letter I wrote to Maxine McKew a few years ago, it lead me to being part of the early development of the Early Years Learning Framework, I was one the few EC practitioners at the symposiums that began thinking on the EYLF.  Prior to that my role with CCSA lead me to sit on the Advisory committee that developed the NSW Curriculum Framework.
 

Have you influenced many men considering or already engaged in a career in early childhood education?

Some of my staff that I work with were children in my care, including one of the guys I worked with. Not sure I'm the best role model for blokes, but I do have opportunities now to talk with students at Uni and am often talking with male students.  Hopefully it gets them into the sector. Or maybe encourages others to take men on.

 

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for guys out there considering or beginning a career in ECE?

Best job in the world. Seriously, we should be doing the thing that we enjoy and that brings a smile to our dial everyday. It’s not about competing with anyone but ourselves.  Understanding that men and women bring different and complimenting qualities to an early childhood space is important.

We all need to do the thing we are passionate about and do it with the best intention, and do it well.  In early childhood this is a shared role, we share in the lives of families, we support and build families, and we give them the power to make good decisions.  We empower children to dream and grow.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of the universe. You’re playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. ........... It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” This is one of my favourite quotes by Marianne Williamson (author) it drives me to be mindful about my role and to dream big.  Being a leader isn't about being out the front, in fact the best leaders are those you don't see, or who you notice from a distance, but when you get up close its difficult to define them, or point them out, because they are surrounded by leaders.


What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t working in early childhood?

Theatre or film, but hey I get to do that now anyway.  I run an arts event management project, do part time film work, graphic design, websites, and community development.


Is there anything else you would like to add; a funny story perhaps?

We were celebrating 30 years of CONTACT Inc with a cocktail party at the Governor Generals sydney residence.  I have known Quentin Bryce for years, in fact when she took on the role of head of NCAC we invited her to a regional conference in Wagga and it was one of her first presentations in that role.  Anyway, at the Cocktail party, which happened to fall on my birthday, the GG broke all protocols by singing happy birthday to me, something her advisors said was a rare privilege as the representative of the Queen. A great friend, and a wonderful, respectful woman, who has done a lot for early childhood.

 
 
 
 


 
 
 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gecko Awards 2013

In 2011 I introduced an award for all those bloggers out there that inspired me and who I felt were leading lights in the Early Childhood Education field. I named them the GECKO Awards.

Want to know what GECKO stands for? It's Global Early Childhood and Kinder Osmosis. I planned to present them annually, but I totally forgot about it in 2012. So I have decided now is as good a time as any to resurrect them.

Here's a tip too. Go have a read of my original post to see who received the first batch of awards.


Now I will not discriminate. Just because someone received an award last time does not mean they are not eligible again. This time however, I have decided to create a few categories. Unlike other awards though, there isn't any voting and it is not a popularity contest. Nor is there a limit to the number of recipients in any category.

So let's get the ball rolling......


New Blogger/Site: Includes both new blogs/sites as well as more established ones that have recently been discovered by me.

Let Toys Be Toys - For Girls and Boys: This site is merely a petition against the gender stereotyping of toys for sale in the UK and Ireland. All their activity occurs on their Facebook page.

Advocating on Behalf of Males in ECE: Organisations or people who promote the benefits of increasing the number of males in the EC field.

Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning: These ladies do just about everything to help those within the EC field, but Donna in particular goes well out of her way to support Male EC professionals and promote men in the field.

Child Forum: A New Zealand site that does so much for the EC sector worldwide and part of that is the call for more men in EC through research. Sarah Farquhar in particular is a strong proponent of the Males in EC cause.

MenTeach: This site, while US-based, is relevant anywhere in the world as it has links, stories and research from all corners of the globe.

Promoting Play:  We all think about and 'do' play, but this  is for those who are out there spreading the word to the world.

Let the Children Play: You will be hard pressed to find anyone who does more to promote the benefits of play for children in a blog than Jennifer Kable. Not only does Jenny share plenty of her own tremendous experiences she is also a firm believer in spreading the word of the good work that others do.

Marc Armitage: A playwork consultant from England, Marc works tirelessly for the betterment of children the world over. He is passionate about the benefits of play to children's overall development and wellbeing.

Play England: A site dedicated to advocating for the rights of children to play. They do this by providing training, access to relevant research literature, and campaigning decisions-makers.

Teacher Tom: Tom Hobson is much better known by his alter ego. What else he is known for is the hands on, engaging, and interesting play the children at his cooperative centre are involved in every day. There is risk-taking, problem-solving, negotiation, explorations, creativity, and so much more going on.

Naturally Nature: For those who go above and beyond to ensure everyone is aware of the awesomeness of exploring nature and natural materials.

Learning For Life: Kierna Corr proudly promotes the benefits for children to explore the outdoors no matter the weather. The Quote on the site's header says it all - "Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, and snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."

I'm a Teacher, Get Me OUTSIDE Here!: Juliet does more than just blog about nature, she provides first hand accounts of her experiences working with the Forest Schools of Northern Europe and seeks to educate people on ways to create more natural playspaces and the benefits and children engaging with nature during play. Just to keep you on your toes, Juliet's Facebook page goes by the title Creative STAR Learning Company.

There for Parents: This is for those who specifically help and encourage parents.

Regarding Baby: Lisa Sunbury offers advice, support and a wealth of information for parents, particularly in regards to babies and young toddlers. Her words of wisdom are second to none.

Aunt Annie's Childcare: 'Aunt Annie' is a source of wisdom and advice for anyone with children in their lives from parents to early childhood professionals. Even policy makers would do well to take heed, but perhaps that is wishing for too much.

Helping Us Better Ourselves: We all need to continue our learning journey and these people/organisations help us do just that.

Inspired EC: An Australian consultancy service who, apart from other things deliver workshops, host conferences, provide networking and support group opportunities, and all by drawing on the best internationally renowned EC trainers. Natashja Treveton, Nicole Sheehan, and Niki Buchan are local inspirations on a global scale.

Claire Warden: Claire is a world renowned advocate for children and those working with them. She strongly supports engaging with the environment, providing challenging experiences and believing in the capabilities of all children. If you are lucky enough to hear Claire speak you will be inspired and energised for a long time to come.

Anyone I May Have Missed: For those who don't comfortably sit in any of the above categories.

Child's Play Music: Most people are aware of the joys music brings to young children's lives, but Alec takes it one step further and creates his own instruments out of discarded materials. The ultimate upcylcling.

Dorothy Waide Centre for Early Learning: This is actually a centre-based service in the township of Griffith, NSW, Australia. The reason it is included here is that it is a striking example of excellence and highest quality care and education of young children. Their outdoor play spaces are full of natural wonders that children will never tire of exploring while the indoor environments are equally inspiring, challenging, thought provoking and inviting. I could write a whole post on this marvellous service and may actually have to some day. For now we'll just settle for awarding them a GECKO.

Well that's it, but I must add that there are countless other individuals, groups, and organisations out thee that do great things for children, their families, the community and society in general. If you don't find yourself or your team on this list please don't be disappointed or offended. it is a very difficult task and I couldn't possibly name everyone who deserves it.

If you like however, you could include your own suggestions of sites that inspire and inform you in the comments.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air


We are all for more voices advocating for men working with young children. It is better when those new voices are students who already realise that more needs to be done to increase the presence of males in the Early Childhood Education sector. What is perhaps the best news is that these new student advocates for males are female.



They are Males in Early Childhood Education and are from Humber College in Toronto, Ontario.

Although just starting out, I think it's important we give these wonderful young professionals the support they deserve. So pay them a visit and say hi or offer you own insight into your experiences.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same (It Would Seem)

You don't have to go far to realise that the Early Childhood profession and society in general are becoming far more accepting and supportive of men working with young children. Personally I get countless comments from parents and colleagues on a daily basis about how wonderful it is to see a man with the children. How 'good' it is for the children (their words, not mine). What a breath of fresh air it is. How much the children (often boys) love having me or some other guy around.

Just last week a neighbouring centre's preschool room visited us for a picnic lunch and a male casual was with them. Now I was not present on the day (most unfortunate for me), but I heard several account on how marvellous he was with the children. He had them engaged with an impromptu group experience where he took a number of various types of gloves, gave them a personality according to their appearance and 'spoke' to the children and the other gloves through them. He also fully engaged with them during their play and exploration of the playground. I have been told that his interactions are to be held up as examples of how to engage with children authentically.


Now that is a wonderfully positive story and it is not a lone account. However, thee are still worrying incidents occurring out there that I have seen or heard first hand, or have been told about.


Things such as female colleagues telling male counterparts outright that they don't belong because of their gender. Instructors at training/educational institutions showing a bias against the males studying. Parents requesting that the man not be in their child's room or be present during toileting/nappy changing. Only employing men to work with older age groups. Men from outside the field viewing those who work with young children with suspicion, disdain and often hatred.

All these instances are regretful in the least and completely unforgivable to many. In the present day, how can a so-called professionals, and even academics, have such outmoded views? How can a women, for example, think and express a feeling that men are not capable of being in the Early Years field when they would scream blue murder if the same stance was taken against a woman wanting to enter a male-dominated workforce?


There are so many other questions that need to be asked, but I would need to write a mid-sized book to cover all areas comprehensively. My main question is this. How can such views and attitudes be allowed to exist, and even prosper in today's society? Have we really not progressed that far?

I would like to think that I have access to a skewed example of what is really representative of the Early Childhood Education and Care world.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Men (& Women) Are Coming!

Although it is Easter, there will be no Easter craft ideas here. Instead I would like to take the opportunity to advise everyone of the upcoming conference, "Unwrapping - Rediscovering the Unlimited Potential of Play" hosted by Inspired EC in Shoal Bay, NSW on August 3rd and 4th this year. Two of the Keynote Speakers will be world renowned and respected men within the field of Early Childhood Education and Care.


 
First of all there is Marc Armitage. Marc is a playworker from England. Now the term 'playworker' is not widely known within Australia, so if you would like to learn more about what it entails perhaps you should visit Marc's site.

 
Then we have Tom Hobson, better known to most of you as Teacher Tom. Tom is the only educator at his Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool in Seattle, Washington.

Both men have much to offer in regards to the benefit of play for young children and just as importantly, they are excellent examples of men working within the Early Childhood Education field. They are both great advocates for EC professionals, regardless of their gender, and guys to look up to for inspiration and guidance if you are a bloke in the industry.

So make it to the conference if you can and as a bonus (or consolation prize) you may get to meet me.

 
 
It has been brought to my attention that by highlighting the men who will be presenting at this conference I omitted the very talented and highly distinguished Niki Buchan. Niki has been at the forefront of the Early Childhood profession in three continents. We are lucky enough to have her here in Australia with us now and wouldn't trade her for anyone.
 
 


Friday, March 22, 2013

Hypocrisy

I'm disillusioned! I have encountered first hand, as well as heard anecdotal accounts of services contradicting their own ethos. While claiming to be child centric, following children's interests and being flexible in the way they provide experiences and guide children's learning with one hand, they demand educator strictly follow set formulae when documenting.

So here's a simple question. Should services expect all staff to document in a particular way, regardless of their individual styles? Or should educators be empowered just as their children are, to make their own informed choices and record, document, and reflect in a way that is best suited to their unique talents, knowledge and background?



Fort me there is only one answer to each - NO, followed by YES. As long as essential information and criteria are included, and that EYLF and NQF requirements are present and evident, then there should be no debate over this at all. If the individual professional can demonstrate how links occur and explain to anyone what it all means then what is the problem?

 


But there I go again. I was asking YOU for YOUR opinions. So can you provide them please?
For the sake of a balnaced forum I will rerfrain from responding to comments unless they specifically request it. Remember, this site is moderated so any inappropriate comments will not be published. Keep it respectful and professional people.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Solitude

Solitude - it's something we all need from time to time. Something we often seek out. Children and adults. Yet so often when we see someone by themselves we go out of out way to get them to join with others. Why do we do that? Anyway, that is a post for another time.

Personally I thrive on solitude at times. When I have paperwork that needs completing or a book I'm reading, being by myself eliminates many of the distractions around me.

The same can go for just wanting or needing a break. I love my family dearly, but there are times when I feel as though I need some time to myself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but we should be careful what we wish for.

For five days recently I was on my own. My son was competing in a national junior sporting championship on the other side of the country and I was unable to get time off work. So while my wife, son and daughter were over 4000 km away I had the 'luxury' of having the entire house to myself for 5 1/2 days.

Now while there were times it was great to have all that time and space to myself, the fact is that for most of the time I simply felt lonely. The house seemed empty and devoid of life and character. I yearned for the everyday things that we take for granted, even complain about. Things such as arguments over petty things, getting in each other's way, or having someone to simply talk to.

Yes we were able to stay in touch and communicate through a variety of means, but that physical presence wasn't there. So while I might yearn for solitude at times and actually need it, being alone is a completely different proposition and that is something I don't strive for.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

An Interview With Tom Bedard

A while ago I interviewed Scott Wiley and thought it was about time I interviewed another inspirational male early childhood professional. if all goes well I would like to see this become a regular series, but we'll just start with this one for now.

May I introduce you to Tom Bedard from the blog,
Sand and Water Tables. As we live in different continents the best way to conduct this interview was for me to email Tom a series of questions that he later replied to with his responses. Here we go.
 

When did you first consider entering the Early Childhood profession?


Entering college, I wanted to learn about children so I majored in Child Psychology. Coming out of college, I looked for a job in a childcare center. After being on the job and around children for a month, I knew I had found my place. Six months later, I went back to school to get a teaching certificate and a decade or so later, I got a Master's Degree in Early Ed.
 

Have you encountered many other males in the field, either working directly with them or via avenues such as conferences, workshops or other networking opportunities?

We are a rare breed. Whenever I go to teacher meetings, I am often the only guy. I have begun to see more men in the lower elementary grades, but not in early ed. Although I have been to two local early ed conferences in the last year and met four other male teachers and each has been in the field for over 20 years. That was a welcome surprise.
 

Who is/was your inspiration (if you had any) when you first began working with young children? Note: it doesn't necessarily have to be a male.

I must say that the children have always been my inspiration. They are full of eternal optimism and know how to live in the moment. As my own children grew, they were my inspiration. I had always told them to try. They did, so when I wanted to try something new, I had to follow my own advice and my children's example. Nearing the end of my career, I have many more people who inspire me. I have been involved with people who look to Reggio practice for inspiration putting tremendous amount of trust in the ability of children. And then there is the internet and blogosphere with inspiration a click away from all over the world.


What is your favourite part of your job?

Knowing that I get to be with children for whom every day is a new day to be discovered.
 

Was their ever a time when you doubted you choice of profession or considered leaving? If so how did you overcome those doubts?

 
Carlos Castaneda wrote something in one of his books that there are many paths in life, so take one with a heart and embrace it fully. Your heart has to be in it otherwise it will feel like every day you have to get up to do battle.
 
There were two times in my career when I had doubts. The first was five years into my career when I realized I was not making enough money to support my family. At that point, I became a director of a center. Five years later, I was able to get back in the classroom when I was hired by a school district that paid a living wage. The second time was when I worked with a colleague that questioned everything I did. Since I think I am reflective in my own practice, I began to question myself and what I was doing. I took a summer off that year even though I could not afford it. I came back in the fall stronger and have been all-in ever since.
 

How would you describe the general reaction from parents and colleagues to you being a man working with young children?

In 35 years, I can count only three times I felt negative vibes from parents. That is pretty good. One parent told me that she did not want me to change her daughter's diaper. Hey, I did not take that personally and was happy to let someone else do it. By the time the family left the program, though, I was told I could change her diaper. I actually feel a tremendous amount of support from the parents and colleagues.
 

Do you have a story or example that demonstrates how valued/respected you are by others?

In 2009, a parent in our program nominated me for Teacher of the Year in Minnesota (USA). I became the first early childhood finalist in the history of the program. (It was the first time my mother saw me in a suit as an adult.) Not only did I feel that my work was validated on a state level, but I got to spend time as an equal with some of the best elementary and secondary teachers my state has to offer.
 

What was your aim/goal when you began this career? What would you say is your goal professionally these days?

The past five years, I have been presenting on one aspect of my work with children, namely sand and water tables. I have done three national conferences, several regional conferences, and numerous local conferences. I am hoping to do more in a larger range of venues.

 

Have you mentored other professionals, whether beginning or those established who may have been struggling? If so how did you approach that/those situation/s?

I have been supervising student teachers from a couple of local colleges for a number of years. Most of the time they have assignments they have to complete. That is all well and good but I always try to first get the student teachers to relax and observe in the classroom. Once they have done some observing, we debrief. Any work in the classroom must be based on how children learn best. The only way to figure that out is to observe and dialogue about the observations.
 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I love to cook and to travel. In the 1970's I lived in Hungary. I met my wife when I visited a Hungarian preschool. I stayed and we married. Since I was an American in a communist country, I could not get a job. My family job became helping grandma. We went to the market every day and then went home to cook. There were no recipes, just a little bit a this and a some of that. I still use her methods when I cook. And I am always looking for a reason to travel. I have been on every continent except Australia (and Antarctica). I can still dream.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weather is No Barrier


Weather can be an intriguing subject for young children. They are often curious about it and usually have so many questions. Why is it then, that more often then not, when the most interesting weather conditions present themselves the children are likely to be inside?

 
What will they learn from inside? That the clouds block the sun? That rain makes a sound if it's heavy enough? That water collects on the ground in puddles? All true, but hardly engaging, at least not for long.


Children deserve to have opportunities to be out in all types of weather. Yes, if they are to be out in cold, wet conditions for a sustained length of time then appropriate clothing is necessary.


However, even without that clothing children can still explore rain, wind, snow or heat, just for briefer periods.


Just look at the pictures of these children felling the water on their feet, head, body, all over. Even though you cannot see their faces you can probably still tell they are enjoying themselves.


Sure they could still be enjoying themselves inside, but it would be at the expense of the opportunities available outside in these situations. The indoors will always be available, but such opportunities as this come and go far too quickly.


The decisions we make in regards to the opportunities available to children can have long reaching implications. Just so you know, well after we had jumped in the puddles (and I was right there with them, bare feet and all), the children were talking about it right up to when some of them went home. They discussed how the water felt, both under their feet and falling on them. There were ideas raised about what else they could do in the rain. Some role play scenarios even recreated the events from outside. So a simple act to go out and get wet provoked learning in so many areas and sustained interest for the entire day.


With the rain set to continue for days to come I envisage more of these opportunities presenting themselves. I bet the children can't wait either.

I really love the quote that heads the blog Learning For Life. It reads:
"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, and snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." John Ruskin 1819-1900

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Anonymity?

Having recently completed a workplace survey that was meant to be anonymous, I later realised that being one of the very few, if not only male in my part of the organisation, meant I could quite easily be identified.

This got me thinking. Other so-called anonymous actions could be anything but if the person's gender is revealed within the Early Childhood profession. With a few exceptions, a male is likely to be the only one, or one of only a few, in their workplace while their female counterparts greatly outnumber them, for the most part. Therefore anonymity is much harder to maintain for a bloke than it is for a woman in this field.

Now this is not usually an issue, but if someone takes exception to your actions, whether they be verbal, written or physical, than it can be relatively simple to make an educated guess as to their origins for anyone so inclined to take such measures.

Basically, I am wondering why a person's gender is notable information in an anonymous survey when names, ages and marital statuses are not revealed. Especially in a profession dominated so much by one of the genders.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What Matters

Play
Nature
Pretend
Sing
Explore
Dig
Paint
Share
Dance
Love
Discover
Build
Hide
Wonder
Question
Live
Imagine
Be

Monday, February 11, 2013

I Will Never Understand

Over the weekend I watched on as my son competed at a state junior athletics championships. All of his events were throwing events so as I watched on there were several other parents, coaches and interested onlookers in the vicinity.

For the most part it was a good natured, if somewhat passionate atmosphere. But hey, it's elite junior sport so you expect passion from athletes and their supporters.

What I have also come to expect, but by no means condone, is how some parents, coaches and supporters can become very belittling and even abusive. Two examples in particular come to mind.

While our son's were competing in the discus, me and another father were chatting. The leading thrower came over to speak with his coach, family and supporters. When he had finished talking with them the other dad casually asked him if he had ever tried throwing the hammer. As quick as lightning the coach turned on the dad and blurted out, "No hammer for him. Stay out of it!"

Now I was right there and it was just a bit of conversation with a lad the dad had spoken openly to in the past. Just because you get paid to teach someone a certain skill doesn't give you the right to speak like that to anyone. Imagine if I took that tone with a parent when they made a comment about another child? I would be raked over hot coals.

The other instance was even worse. Now this time I was standing further away, watching a separate event to the person in question, but that doesn't lessen their 'crime' any. I am also unsure if this man was the child's father, coach or some other interested party, but it doesn't matter as the behaviour is abysmal no matter who they were.

Now the first three pace getter in each age group for each event qualify for the national titles in Perth, Western Australia. So armed with that knowledge, here is the verbal exchange that took place.
Adult: "Do you want to go to Perth?"
Child: "Yes." (somewhat timidly)
Adult: "Are you sure? Because it doesn't look like it to me!"
Child: Looks forlorn and embarrassed then says even more timidly, "Yes."
Adult: "Then start bloody trying!"
The child then returns to their event and that is the last I notice of the two of them, except that the child was not there at the end of their event.

I feel really sorry for that child and part of me wanted to go up to that adult and tell them to take it easy, but that may have inflamed the situation. In the end I reported it to an official a little later, only to be told that unless I could definitively identify them there was nothing they could do.

What really irritates me about this is that there are strict behaviour guidelines for athletes, coaches and parents, yet in this instance at least they seem to have been ignored. If I could clearly hear the exchange from my vantage point then the officials at the vent would almost have certainly heard it even better, yet they did absolutely nothing.

In both cases people are asserting their domination of a perceived lesser being. In the case of the child however, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to my own profession. What if someone spoke like that to a 3 year old? Or even a 12 year old in school? I can almost guarantee that heads would roll, so why is it that sporting event seem to a more acceptable environment for such degrading behaviour?

Really, do you know? I would love to hear from you if you do.