Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Baby seagulls

Over the last year with each new group of teachers at workshops I have been asking the same question:                                   Has anyone seen a baby seagull?

What does this have to do with ECE I hear you say - actually it has a lot to do with the view of teaching and learning that early childhood teachers have.  The back story to this question goes as follows:

My son and I were travelling in the car and heard the announcer on the radio ask this very question.  Which made Jordan and I curious about why in a country that has probably as many seagulls as sheep (maybe slight exaggeration)  is it that we have never seen a baby seagull.  We went to the obvious place to find out what they look like: Google.  The idea of a baby seagull that we had never seen made us very curious indeed.  Which reminded me of this quote from Rachel Carson:

"If  a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of
excitement and mystery of the world we live in"

The baby seagull question is a provocation to remind us all to think about the wonderment of the world around us.  Nurturing children's curiosity is hard work.  The best way for teachers to encourage children's curiosity is to stay curious themselves. As teachers we have a tendency to fall back on what we know, but curiosity is like a muscle: it atrophies without use. To keep it strong, we need to adopt the perspective of young children, and remain intensely conscious of what we don't know.

The story of the baby seagull is very fresh in my mind because this week I was fortunate to see 2 baby seagulls.  We were walking around The Mount on a beautiful summers day  - this is a walk I have done many times.   There are parts of the track that I have ventured off many times but there is one particular spot that I would not have visited since my childhood.  This area is known to divers and we were curious to see what we could find amongst the rocks and tidal pools.  We had no success in finding any kaimoana, although we were able to cool our feet.    As we were climbing back up to the track there they were, 2 baby seagulls - how very exciting.

This moment reminded me of taking the time to be curious because we don't know what exciting learning and discovers we will make when we leave the old well beaten track.  Teaching can be like an old well trodden familiar path but when we are brave/curious enough to abandon our plans and let curiosity rule then I am sure we will be delighted by the results.

Reflective Question: How do I show that I actively promote the well-being of all ākonga for whom I am responsible in my practice? 
I am meeting Criteria 2 by ensuring to the best of my ability that the teachers in workshops are valued participants,  respected for the ideas and knowledge that they bring but also stretched in their thinking which will ensure the well-being of the tamariki. This blog is also a way of being responsible for the ākonga as this gets shared with the teachers in the ELP leadership cluster.
As I thoughtful and reflectively consider my own teaching practices in line with latest research then I am actively promoting the well being of all ākonga.  I am prepared to reflect on my practice and make the changes necessary to ensure the best outcomes for children. Moving off the older and familiar track can be uncomfortable but it is an exciting learning space.  

Tinkering crosses sectors.

Tara Fagan is talking in this video about the similarities between the early childhood and school sectors.  As she points out the commonality is the skill sets that both sectors are fostering: risk taking, being adaptable, able to create and an ability to remix information.  These skills or dispositions toward learning are nurtured through children being able to tinker with their own ideas.
I think this has been the core of my thinking from the start of this blog.  Tinkering or playing with ideas opens up the possibilities for complex learning to happen.  In my workshop on Tinkering the teachers and I discuss how tinkering allows for collaboration amongst the tinkers as it ensures that everyone is the learner.  As Gavin from Greerton Early Childhood mentioned in his workshop (see early post) there becomes a level playing field where there is no knower as such.
With the schools now thinking more deeply about inquiry based learning we are starting to see how the two curriculums overlap and weave into one another.  It is about, as Tara mentioned, having conversations across the sectors.   
Lorraine Sands has created a blog called Inquiry Learninghttps://elpinquirylearning.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/39/ (click to read).  This blog is a conversation for teachers from both the ECE and School sector.
 Play has often been seen as something frivolous that children do to pass the time however play is an incredibly important part of a child’s healthy development. Play is children’s work or as the whakatauki says, "Ta te tamariki tana mahi wawahi tahaa - It is the job of the children to smash the calabash."

 Through play, children learn about themselves as learners.  They are also growing their knowledge of math, science and literacy in meaningful ways. They learn social skills like effective communication, conflict resolution, problem solving, collaboration and cooperation.  Through play, children learn where they fit in the world. Most importantly though they are leading their learning and growing the their ability to think creatively, collaborate, have a sense of belonging and grow their view of themselves as learners and thinkers.

Reflective Question: How do I help support my colleagues to strengthen teaching and learning in my setting?   This post and the blog in general is used as a place to share my ideas about tinkering and playing with ideas - this will support my thinking and also since it is part of the wider ELP self review question of inquiry learning then over time it will impact on my colleagues professional knowledge also.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Linking my inquiry question to the Practising Teacher Criteria

This critical inquiry will show ways that I am meeting my professional responsibility to evidence how my teacher practices align with the Practising Teacher Criteria.  While meeting the criteria I am  also meaningfully and passionately following my own inquiry.  This inquiry is born from a desire to know more about the impact of play or lack of play on children's wellbeing and learning.   I have not had a deficit view of where my own learning and knowledge lies but rather thought about what inspires me and from there have created an inquire that will have the same effect as throwing a pebble in a pond.  Tinkering, play and playing with ideas may seem a small pebble in a big pond but I am confident that there will be a continual stretching of my own ideas as I read, reflect and evidence practice. This is the same premise we hold for children's learning - that teachers would plan and support learning to grow through the child's passion or interest - not planning for what they do not know but rather what they bring by way of knowledge, interest, spirit and passion.   This make learning exciting and vibrant.  Below is an excerpt from the Education Council website plus a link to the resource that guides my teaching practice.   

Having these as part of this blog will assist me in lining up my ideas with the individual criteria and may also help readers understand my thinking.

The Practising Teacher Criteria are used by teachers in early childhood education services, schools, other approved settings and in English and Māori medium settings. They are for recent graduates from from an initial teacher education programme, as well as experienced teachers, professional leaders and teacher educators.

Reflective Question: How do I advance the learning of my ākonga through critical inquiry within my professional learning?   I feel that I am meeting this Criteria 12 through creating an inquiry question based on something that I am curious about.  Overtime I am sure that my thinking and practice will shift as I consider the effects of play.