I have been a qualified childcare worker since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy the work that I do, however I feel that it’s only since October 2013 when I started my E100 The early years: Developing practice course that I have have truly developed as a practitioner. I have more knowledge and understanding about what I carry out with the children and the reasoning behind it. Throughout this EMA I plan to analyse the way in which I have developed as a practitioner during the past year. Currently, I work in an extended day care establishment in an urban area of Glasgow. There are around currently 120 children attending on a daily basis and around 85% attend on a full time basis. Our establishment operates 50 weeks a year and is open from 7:30am until 18.00pm. There is currently 35 staff ranging from Head of Centre, Depute head of centre, team leader and child development officers. There are 4 main playrooms, 0-1 room, 1-2 room, 2-3 room and a 3-5 room. I work within the 1-2 year old room and there are 12 full time children with 4 full time staff, working on an 1:3 ratio. The curriculum framework that we use is the Pre Birth to Three: Positive outcomes for Scotland’s children and families.
The Pre Birth to three curriculum framework aims to give Scotland’s children the best possible start in life. It’s based around four key principles: Rights of the child, Relationships, Responsive Care and Respect. It aims to improve and also enhance our evidence based practice by building on our own knowledge of current research and our work with babies, young children and their families. There are nine features which have been identified to put the key principles into practice. These are Role of Staff, Attachments, Transitions, Observation, planning and assessment, Partnership Working, Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and Numeracy, Environments and Play. All of these key principles and features of practice are interrelated and interdependent. (Learning Teaching Scotland 2010) Part of my job is also about being responsible for my own professional development.
If I have a particular interest in a subject that I feel could develop my knowledge further then I need to source all the information possible and carry out what’s needed. Peter Moss in chapter 18 of reader 2 offers his own views on an alternative direction for childcare workforce. He pursues the the idea of a democratic and reflective professional, instilled with a number of core values and working in an integrated, inclusive and democratic childhood centre. (Moss,P. 2008) I can see where Peter Moss is coming from in his views as I believe that young children are more likely to learn more from individuals who are knowledgable and well trained and who also enjoy the job that they do.
Reflecting on practice is an extremely important aspect of professionalism in all areas of the early years section. Reflective practice involves interacting with, responding to and making links between theories, frame works, literature, policy and practice. It’s seen as a collaborative process of learning, growth and development. It also gives us the opportunity to provide opportunities to discuss issues productively. We nowadays live in a time of rapid change in terms of how childhood is thought of and experienced. This now means that we have to question our actions at every given opportunity as well as the need for a deeper understanding of learning and development. Reflective practice involves what Donald Schon called ‘reflection in action and ‘reflection on action’. (Schon, 1983). I believe this to very true on a day to day basis as there are certain experiences that will change during the course the activity itself and at other times there are experiences that you would change if they were to be done again.
I’ve noticed a change in my practice over the last year. I feel as though I have a better understanding of why I do what I do. An example of this is regarding Attachment theories. They have always been of interest to me but over the last year I’ve found myself having a clearer understanding of how these theories work!
John Bowlby highlighted the significance of young children establishing a strong emotional attachment to a significant adult and the influence that it can have on them as they develop their own relationships during the years. (Bowlby,1958) I always thought I had understood this theory but on reflection from research I’ve done during my time on the the E100 Developing Practice course i realise that perhaps I didn’t have a full understanding of it. I now know that a secure attachment is vital when working with young children.This is something that John Bowlby believed in as he suggested that babies have a predisposition to stay close to their caregivers. When I am settling a New child into the playroom I will work very closely with both children and parents as I now realise that it is vitally important for me to provide an environment that allows for both space and sensitivity to enable the child to gradually settle into the nursery environment. I feel that part of my role when introducing children into the room is to alleviate any fears that the their parents/ caregivers may have. Mary Ainsworth worked closely with John Bowlby and she believed that a secure and nurturing setting could also help children to develop and maintain a sense of confidence and self esteem.
I believe this to be true and I always try to ensure that the relationships I have with the children and families are very positive thus enabling the children to to learn and be happy. I learned that that children can also form emotional attachments to their parents or caregivers. It is through the work of Bowlby and Daniel Stern in study topic 5 that I now understand how crucial it is for me to establish a safe and secure emotional attachment to the children and parents that I look after as this is vital for their emotional Wellbeing. We now operate a Key-worker system and I believe this allows me to form a close bond with the children and parents. I find that when the children in my key group are happy and secure with not only me but the environment around them that this then brings out a secure confident side of the children. I know this as my observations show me that they are more willing to explore and try out new experiences.
The Pre-Birth to Three document that I work with highlights that responsive and caring adults are essential for babies and young children to develop and thrive. Practitioners must be aware of attunement which means having the skills needed to enable them to tune in to babies and young children. This determines needs by close observations of the sounds, movements, expressions and body language displayed. We already know that babies are born ready to make connections with the outside world and we must be ready to read these signs in order to develop the skills needed to interact with the wider community. This is something that I have at the forefront of my mind whenever I am working with the children. I am an avid believer that providing a calm and safe but also challenging and stimulating environment which always offer flexible, individualised and consistent routines is the key to promoting positive relationships and attachments.
Another way in which my practice has developed over the year is that I am now have a deeper understand of how the curriculum is used and how the young children I work with learn and develop. The Pre Birth to Three curriculum was brought out in 2010 and before I started the E100 Developing Practice course I only have a very simple understanding of how it worked not only with my practice but wasn’t really sure how it benefited the children that I work with. I realise now that it is a vital document for me within my everyday practice. I recognise now not only the impact but also the importance of my work on children’s lives and future life chances. for me the curriculum framework sets the context for a high quality care and education and seeks to identify key features that both support and promote evidence based approaches. It’s visible for me to see now that the children’s learning is based on a fundamental understanding that there are lots of factors that shape children’s development. Some of these factors can include relationships, environments, health, family and community.
Within the playroom that I work we make sure that every child is treated as an individual, and all experiences that are provided are suited to each child’s individual needs. I work with a similar age group with the of the Bud Room in The Lark Children’s centre (Open University, 2013) and in TMA 03 I noted that our young children are encouraged to be as explorative as possible and whilst they are doing this we are supporting and scaffolding their learning by providing these opportunities for exploring and an example of this would be a painting activity. We would be encouraging the children to explore the Textures and properties. (Stewart. 2013. TMA03) On reflection we observe that the children do get a lot out of this as they are being treated as individuals and encouraged to explore at their own pace thus encouraging them to develop their own schemas. Schematic play is of huge interest to me. Schemas have taught me so much about how children develop and learn over the last year. “Schemas are patterns of behaviour that are linked through a child’s current interest and which form the basis of exploration and play for young children”. (Lindon, 2007, pg124)
Schemas were first introduced by Jean Paiget and his work has been further developed by Christmas Athey during the 1980’s and in Study topic 3 The research discovered that repeating a sequence of like for like physical actions will support brain development. The age group that I work with tend to follow a transporting schema. (Athey, 1990). Our children often show interest in moving objects around the room in various ways. An example of this would be using cars to move building blocks around the room or using household utensils to move jigsaw pieces. This is something that fascinates me as before starting the E100 developing practice module I was very much a person who would almost insist in children keeping items in set areas, whereas now I see the benefits that it brings for children to freely transport these items all over the playroom and my role is to ensure that the learning environment and resources promote many schemas and this is crucial in facilitating children’s exploration and discovery of their world. This links to my next area of reflection. I have leant a huge amount on environments.
Environments play a huge part in the success of children’s learning. ‘Children learn from, and adapt to, their environment as they build a sense of self esteem from the attitudes and values from significant people around them. Adults who are affectionate, interested, reliable and responsive help young children to develop a sense of trust and positive self image’. (Learning teaching scotland 2010 pg 65) During my time researching environments in learning during my time on the E100 developing practice course I now have a deeper understanding in my role as a staff member.its fundamental for me to create an environment where the children’s natural curiosity is harnessed. It’s essential for us as early years practitioners to work closely with families in promoting a suitable ethos that incorporates respect for the rights of the child, interest and family values. I can now also see that it’s vital for me to be not only knowledgable but also to an extent inspirational, having these factors in place allows a high quality standard of early education to take place. Most babies and young children are sensitive to the moods of the people around them and I believe that they can pick up on staffs emotions for example relaxed, stressed, tense, happy.
Our young children look for verbal and non verbal communication signs. I alway ensure that that my demeanour gives out the signs of respect value and love. in study topic 10 developing positive learning environments I learned that I matter what type of space you work in wether it be a shared premises or a converted classroom it is essential to ensure that the area is child-centered. It is vital for us as practitioners to be seen to be promoting a positive enabling environment. In an indoor environment I feel that it’s essential that the area is warm, safe, secure and spacious given children the opportunity to explore independently. It should also reflect the changing needs of the child, for example in the room I work in the children are learning to walk and as they become more confident in their ability I can provide extra challenges for them to take their abilities further. By doing this I know that I am responding appropriately and positively to children’s needs and preferences. With regards to an outdoor learning environment it has to be remembered that as much emphasis should be placed on outdoor learning and the learning indoors.
By doing this I can now see that I’m ensuring that children are given the opportunities to be involved in experiences that promote a sense of wonder, discovery and challenge. Before I started the course we very rarely went outside with our young children but now there is a significant change as to some suggestions that I made at a room meeting. I mentioned that research suggested that ‘being outdoors has a positive impact on mental, emotional, physical and social Wellbeing. (Learning teaching scotland 2010 page 68). And as a result of this we are now using our outdoor area several times a day. Our garden now contains a variety of items that benefit the children. We have herb gardens, musical instruments and even a mud kitchen.this small change in our attitude to outdoor play shows me that I now have a much clearer idea of how important it is for me to have a significant emphasis on developing an enabling environment
Throughout this module I’ve reflected on how I have seen the importance of environments can enable learning and promote Wellbeing and I’ve also had the chance to look in the roles of relationships and partnerships in children’s learning. It’s been steep learning curve for me to evaluate my practice and also the theory behind it. It’s down to reevaluating my practice that it’s now inspired me to take my learning further.
Do you want to belong to a profession that works to transform how a particular body of knowledge is understood and practised with different communities? (Campbell and Page, 2003, pg 282) Campbell and Page have argued that this transformative approach to being a professional is integral to reflective practice. It is with this drive and commitment to professionalism that I have set myself short, medium and long term goals for the future. I have 2 short term goals and they both are essential for taking my learning onto the next level. Passing the E100 module involve me taking the time to read all essential course materials , reflecting on my practice throughout the year and passing all TMA’s. Better time management is next on the list.
I’ve struggled with this over the last year, working full time, running a home and the joys of having a two year old has been hectic but by working out a really tight schedule for all things important in my life will give me the time and energy needed to focus on my next steps. The medium term goals I’ve set myself are challenging, but I know I can achieve it. I’ve enrolled on the E105 professional practice in the early years. In order for me to complete and pass this course I will need to continue evaluating my practice, and present evidence of developing knowledge, skill and expertise against core professional development. My 2nd medium goal is a work based challenge. I’d like to work with more outside agencies.
I’ve had very little chance to develop a ‘community of practice’ approach within my everyday practice due to the age group and needs of the children I work with. In order for this to happen I will need to move to another age group and room within the nursery that have the opportunity work with multi agencies. This would enable me to be part of a shared ‘community of practice’ and be able to reflect and improve practice on a better level. My long term goal is to complete theQ51 course, BA (Honours) Early Years. I plan to study this course over the next 5 years. After the compulsory modules I’ll then go onto a more complex stage which is dependant on the setting I work in. I will achieve this degree with sheer hard work, focused study skills, good time management and continuing to be a reflective practitioner. ‘
We need a new type of worker for these services: a worker who can combine many tasks and work with the whole child and her family: a worker who is a reflective practitioner, able to think and act for herself, rather than a technician trained to do as she is told; a worker on a par with the teachers in terms of training and employment conditions.’ (Moss, 2003, pg.5) This statement highlights for me, the job description that we must adhere to nowadays as early years professionals. Education is constantly evolving and will continue to do so for a very long time. We need to be aware of changes and implement them into our everyday practice whilst always remembering that each child is individual. Each child deserves the best possible start in life and it’s by constantly reevaluating and changing our practice through reflective learning that will enable this to happen.