I've recently been immersed in a book and one of the key pieces of advice that I took from it was to write what you wish you could have read when you needed to read it. So, with that in mind, I've decided to embark on a new blog post series about all the "mistakes" that I have made over the years as an educator. In this series I plan to share some of my decisions and practice that now make me cringe. But isn't that embarrassing? I hear you ask. Why would you admit to making mistakes or engaging in practice that you aren't proud of now? Well, I have always said that evolution is key. If I was the same educator now as I was when I started at 18... we would have a problem. Likewise, If I am the same professional in ten years time as I am now, that wouldn't sit right either. Mistakes are proof that we are trying. Evolved practice is proof that we are learning from our mistakes, that we are prepared to listen, and grow, rather than defend and remain stagnant.
Line Up, Line Up...
Allow me to set the scene... The year was 2003. I was a brand new educator, fresh out of my Diploma and ready to be the most amazing educator I could be. I had been through my work placements and had been observing other educators - I felt like I was ready to nail it. Into the preschool (3-6years) room I went. Each day I would work on my relationships with the children and try to determine what sort of educator I was. I felt like I was forward thinking - I was embracing the NSW Curriculum Framework (current at the time) and was researching different ways of thinking and learning.
But, when it came to some crucial areas of practice - I certainly had a long way to go. At various times during each and every day, we would make the children line up.
They lined up to put on sunscreen.
They lined up to go outside.
They lined up to come inside.
They lined up to wash their hands.
Looking back, there was an awful lot of lining up.
At the time, this seemed to be common practice in a lot of services, as a way of keeping the children on task, or organised, or "doing the right thing." But, what actually happened was that when children lined up, we spent a whole bunch of time reminding them not to kick the person in front, negotiating who had "pushed in", and resolving disputes between peers.
Did it actually make the transitions from one part of the day to another any smoother? No.
Did it make transitions more enjoyable? No.
What it did do was give the adults something that they felt like they could control.
In my role now, I am fortunate to visit many services (well in the pre-COVID days!) and it does surprise me to still see lining up. But, my aim as a consultant isn't to judge or correct, it's to understand and support. And so, I often ask educators to tell me about why they get the children to line up. Sometimes educators will tell me that it makes the transitions smoother (which honestly, I've seen these transitions and 99% of the time... it doesn't!), while other educators might tell me that they actually don't know, or that they wouldn't know how else to transition.
I recall working with an educator, more senior and more qualified than I, who insisted that if the children didn't learn how to line up now, they would struggle at "big school." This didn't sit right with me, but it took awhile before I could really understand or express why. I began to wonder - was lining up an essential skill that had to be taught? Did children need to know how to line up here in our early childhood service (where it really was quite unnecessary) so that they could do it later in life when it was deemed necessary? (although to be honest, I think a lot of the lining up that happens in schools is pretty unnecessary too) Surely like driving a car, when you need to do it - you'll do it.. and, you will be ready for it.
I look back now and lament all of that wasted time.
I wasted the children's time - they could have been playing, exploring, connecting, creating, problem-solving... or any number of things other than waiting in a line.
I wasted my time (and energy) - I could have been building stronger relationships with children, observing the magical little moments as they navigate their day... anything other than "managing behaviour" and begging them to stay in the line.
So, how do I do it now? How do you possibly transition without lining up. Simple - get rid of most of the transitions! Enable the day to flow freely... children eat when they need to eat (I realise this isn't always possible when hot meals are provided, but perhaps there is still room to challenge this notion, although that's a post for another day), sleep when they need to sleep, operate an indoor/outdoor program. Sometimes we just need to think beyond the box and be prepared to try something different to what we are used to.
There you have it... part 1 of my "why did I do that?" blog post series. How long will the series be? Well, only time will tell. I do know that I have an abundance of things that I once did as part of my practice that I know cringe and think "why did I do that?" so it really could go on and on... and on and on.
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