Sunday, 31 July 2016

Professional Development of the Third Teacher. 1.

This is the very first post I will share of the journey our third teacher will make this year.

For a while now we have been thinking about the idea of taking everything away and just letting the children play with their imaginations… well now we have decided to do that… but we are not taking EVERYTHING away, but we are leaving a great deal more space for the children's imaginations.

What will be left are blocks, stones, sticks, fabrics, books and materials in the art studio…

The idea is that we will add on to what we offer slowly… and each time we add something to the shelves it is considered…

I read a lot of posts about the third teacher… and the beauty of how we present the third teacher is often discussed…

I believe in the 100 languages of children… which means we as teachers have a hundred languages, and  a hundred ways to listen… BUT this must also mean the environment has a hundred languages too… and beauty is ONLY ONE of them.

Over the years I also think beauty is not something we can just use as a description for how a setting should look… as we all have our different perception of what is beautiful… from place to place, culture to culture, from childhood to adulthood… I know my sense of what is beautiful is quite different now than what it was as a child… and yet we tend to set up preschools from an adult sense of beautiful…

What I wish for my Third Teacher this year is develop the other languages (not abandon beauty… I don't want to lose languages, only gain them)… I want the Third Teacher to say welcome, to say explore, to say play, to say feel included etc…
The problem is that is an environment can say these things they can also say not welcome, don't explore, don't play, feel excluded… and I need to find out what my Third teacher needs for professional development to use the right languages… for a diverse, inclusive environment where there are equal opportunities for EVERYONE.

So we will be examining materials we will bring into the environment to see if they are inclusive… that boys and girls feel included, that all races, cultures, languages, religions etc etc feel included and valued.

So after a week of stripping our preschool down to the minimum… this is how it looks…

the art studio. Images have been taken from an adult height as well as a child height, to be able to evaluate the difference… we need to be able to see the rooms through the eyes of the child.

The BLUE ROOM… our rooms are given colour names so that we can change the purpose of the room without confusion. Children will still know where to go regardless of whether the construction area has changed with the library…
At the moment the blue room is a room where we have big motor activities… the is room for running, dancing, climbing, jumping, and louder voices than in other rooms… bigger actions often come with bigger voices…

this is one of the entrances… 30 children hang their clothes here… we have a whole system during the day so that we do not have all thirty coming in and out at the same time. Chldren are dropped off between 6:30 and 9:00 in the morning and picked up between 14:00 and 18:00 in the afternoon so there is seldom crowding problems then. The silver/white cupboard to the left is the drying cupboard… so we can go out in all weathers…

this is the other entrance for 10-11 children
the premises are an old post office… so they are not designed as a preschool… this presents both challenges and opportunities

The green room… for water play… also were the very small toilet is, and also where the nappy changing area is. This is one of the least developed areas.

the orange room… at the moment this is where the very youngest members of the preschool start their day and also where they nap.
The whole preschool is available to ALL the children. The children are aged between 1 and 6 - this also presents challenges and opportunities… more about these in later posts…

The rainbow room… this is where we have our philosophy sessions with the children… it is also where we have our little "library" - we also have a public library right next door to us. This room is our quite room… it is a room where we expect the children to play quietly, to read… and this is so that all children know there is somewhere to go when they need a quiet moment during the day.


The Red Room… this is also where we have a kitchen area and the dishwashers… it is the most central part of the preschool.  Again you can see the difference between photos taken at adult height and photos taken at child height. We have just moved the construction materials from the yellow room into here… they were not being used so much in the yellow room, so we want to observe if there will be a difference by moving them.

The yellow room.
Roll-play is now moved to the left, with a hug mirror there… the writing/drawing table has been moved from the red room to the yellow room.
Before this room was one ENORMOUS room… without the white divider to create the art studio… the room said run… which since we already has a room for running felt like we were not providing enough diversity… the preschool should say more than run… even though I know children LOVE running!


So there it is… the preschool, not quite ready for the children but almost…
Next week there will be a post… and then there will be two weeks break as i will be in Canada meeting up with other ECE teachers - sharing knowledge and inspiring each other… so no doubt I will return from there with more ideas, more languages for my Third Teacher to learn…

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Starting anew… (summer is almost over…)

The summer break here in Sweden is coming to an end… and the educational year will soon be starting again.

My daughters will leave "foundation school" which is from the age of 7 in year 1 until the leave at the end of year nine. They will be now going onto their next school (non-compulsary) for further studies. One of them will be moving across the country to a small sea town to do a "spetsutbildning" which google translates as top education in marine biology.. there are only two schools in Sweden that offer this kind of education, and the one that suited her best was not the one here in Stockholm, but the one 7 hours away.
So my 15 year old will be leaving home.
I was not quite ready for that… and while I am immensely proud of the fact that she will be studying in the place she really wants to, it feels so strange to admit to myself that she no longer needs me in the same way as she did when she was small.
Lucky for me that her twin sister is staying here in Stockholm… and attending a school not that far away from where we live.
My son still has 4 more years of compulsory school. AND I am so hoping that this is the year when we turn things around… and at the same time I am getting myself prepared to move him if it doesn't work. Sometimes when you have a history at a place then it can be good to free yourself from that history to start anew…

Starting anew is something we can do at the preschool too… at the moment there are only two children needing care… and although most of the staff are off enjoying their summer… there are a few at work… fixing and arranging and preparing for the term to come.

This coming year we will be have a special focus on the pedagogical environment as well as creating a preschool that is inclusive for all… i.e. exploring our norms and values.

A few of the staff came over to my place to watch the film "The Beginning of Life" and one of the points that was lifted was the fact that children should be given more time and space for their OWN imagination.
So in the next few days we will be taking away all the toys/materials from the shelves and leaving out only books, paper and pens (and the art studio… but this will also be thinned down) as well as some blocks, sticks and stones and cardboard boxes and pieces of material.

What will the children make of it?
Next week there will be 12 children at the preschool… they will be the first (of the 40 we usually have once the term gets in full swing) to get a taste of the preschool with space for imagination.

Later this month I will be taking the whole team to Ekudden Preschool in Uppsala to check out their pedagogical environment… to ask questions, to get them thinking about when we start adding things, what will we add and why.

Last year we started the school year with the hope to develop the environment… and while we have looked at it… we did not get far… and this is the first time I will be working as director of Filosofiska from the start of the year… and not taking over mid term… so hopefully there will be a different dynamic… my colleagues become more inspired which adds fuel to how we develop the environment together… this year we will be really giving it a challenge.

(Developing the Third Teacher - the post I wrote last year as we were about to embark a new school year).

So on Friday I will post images of our new empty preschool… and I have full intentions to write a weekly report here on its development… the good, the bad, the ugly, the frustrating and the celebrations of the Third Teacher developing with us and the children!!

one of the things I have noticed about children's play outside that when we have cited spaces that appear "empty" the children have filled it with their play. The play has always then been very socially rich. So I am looking forward to seeing if this is the case when we use this principle indoors

inspiration from Ekudden… where we will visit in a few weeks. I am curious to see what inspiration the teachers will take from the visit.

Boulder Journey School. It was alike a place of illusion. It gave the impression of having space… and yet it was filled with inspiration - the walls, floors and ceilings

this is our art studio a few years ago… there have been a few changes here over the last 24 months…

my visit to Iceland gave me a whole load of food for thought about having VERY few things out for the children… 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Why I will be marching in the Pride Parade this year

I appreciate that not everyone will share my views… that there will be those who do not approve of the lifestyles of others… my request is that you read this with the understanding it is about equality for all… for all humans to be equally valued… that being different is not bad… it is simply not the same as you… that we have more similarities with each other than differences in the end…




Next Saturday, July 30th, I will be taking part in the Pride Parade here in Stockholm.
I will be taking part as a mother, a teacher, a fellow human being.

I have always been a person who has felt strongly about valuing others… those who think like me, but also those who are very different from myself. And this has covered race, religion, culture, gender, sexuality… you name it, I try to be as open to the idea as possible… open to the idea of understanding, of wanting to listen… and most importantly having respect.

This is something that I felt was important for my own three children to have… and so there has always been an openness at hoe to talk about all kinds of people as the norm… not as if they were different, but just everyday people.

My daughters (twins) are now 15, my son is now 12. I find it fascinating talking with them and learning about their experiences… and how I have impacted on their lives… the good and the bad…

One of the things they conveyed recently was that one of the biggest shocks they got in their lives was when they were watching a film about gay rights in school and so many of their friends reacted shocked or disgusted… for my daughters being gay was normal, just as not being gay is normal… so they found it odd that so many found it not normal…

Of course if most of society thinks that something is not normal… then it is going to be quite hard to react normally with people different from themselves… whether it be gay or something else.

As a child I can remember all the times that I felt different and the sense of not belonging… I am 1.78m (just over 5'10¨) so I am tall (not excessively tall)… in fact I am 3 inches/7.5cm taller than the average male (in UK)… I was taller than all my male teachers in school… there were no teachers taller than me… although my German teacher was the same height…
Its not a big outsider thing, on the great scale of things… but it did make finding clothes that fitted hard… if you are short you can take them up… not quite as easy to add on…
It meant I bought a lot of men's clothes so that I could get the length.

I have also moved to Sweden… I have felt what it feels like to be an outsider… not to understand a language (although I do now!!) to be continuously judged as an English person… and that happened too when I lived for half a year in Sweden… when people in Adelaide discovered I was from the UK I was so surprised at just how many people accused me of brining over the sparrows and rats and other animals damaging Australia's beautiful indigenous wildlife… I know for a fact that it was NOT me that brought them over… more likely the ancestors of these people accusing me! But you kind of apologised and scuttled away.

Oh yeah, people are taller here in Sweden, so I don't feel quite as different… but I do work in a branch with lots of little people… means I get lots of bruises on my knees trying to manage tucking my legs under the child sized tables! hehe

Anyway - so at some point/s in our lives we have all felt different. The question is how do we use that feeling to ensure we do not allow for others to be made to feel different, not to be included…

During this last week I have been working on a plan for equality in our preschool setting, and also working on a handbook to help us question the way we look at things, the way we work, how we observe the children and how we can improve the preschool to be a place of equal opportunities.

The equal opportunity plan discusses children's rights, talks about what is discrimination, harassment bullying etc… how we work actively against it, what happens if it does occur… how it should be reported, documented etc and how the preschool's vision works for an inclusive environment…
it also explains various areas where people are discriminated etc

The handbook thing is more a reflective tool, to get the pedagogues critically thinking about their own prejudices and stereotypes… also to start dialogues about who this applies to, how our language, spoken and unspoken affect the children, how the environment affects the children… and how we can be more norm-aware… what are the majority groups what are the minority groups and how can we make the minority groups more part of the norm, everyday part of our lives to enable the children to be respectful and open to differences… not just to see the differences but enabled to see the similarities…
There is also a need to explore the multiple.identities of children… they are just not one identity - e.g. preschool child, but also sex, gender, religion, cultural group, their family etc etc etc… they are an individual and a member of the preschool group… but also their family… and we need to look at the complexity of each individual and give them value…
also exploring how we can actively support the children, by dealing with our own feeling s first… so a kind of philosophical approach… its not quite finished yet…

and of course its all in Swedish… and connected to Swedish school laws, Children's Rights, the Swedish preschool curriculum etc…


So back to the Pride Parade
I am marching for equal opportunities … for awareness that all children, alls families alls people have the right to be equally valued, and that they are included… to help us see the similarities and not just the differences… and at the same time celebrate diversity…


its complex

But basically I am a person that wants peace… and peace can only come through acceptance, through listening and understanding…



Sunday, 17 July 2016

Indoor v outdoor - play v learning

Yesterday I shared the following post on my FB page
Preschoolers need more outdoor time at child care centers


The phrase

"Only 3 in 10 children had at least 60 minutes of a full child-care day outdoors for recess, as is recommended by guidelines. "
concerns me not only because so many children are playing so little outside... BUT mostly because outdoor play is seen as recess...
For me outdoor and indoor play AND learning have equal value... one is not better than the other... both are equally vital as part of a balanced diet of play and learning... some days more out than in... some days more in than out... but everyday more than an hour, regardless of the weather...

I feel it is a little troubling that there is STILL this distinction between learning and play... that there is STILL this distinction between learning happening indoors and play happening outdoors...

There are so many aticles about the importance of outdoor play... but sometimes I feel it is becoming like a little seperate movement of its own... rather than being properly integrated into the play and learning that happens in a young child's life.

I remember the many dialogues about how to improve outdoor spaces at previous preschools I have worked at... and how we should value the outdoor space as a learning environment in the same way as the indoor space...

and from my Swedish perspective learning and play are woven together... indoors learning was not a sit down thing, learning was a hands on through play kind of thing... so please don't misintrepret my learning indoors and outdoors as taking sit down learning outside!!


I agree that children need outdoor play... they need to learn through play.
I also know that we as adults should not be hijacking their play either... we should not be controlling... but have guiding hands... we should not have a hidden agenda... but stimulating their natural curiosity...


So if we are providing stimulating environments where the children can play... they will also learn. I am also aware that my role as an educator of young children is also to inspire and to challenge them... so part of the day is activity based... one activity every day to build on their play, to build on the knowledge... either to solidify it, or to expand, or to challneg it completely...

this last year the activities provided have been

Mondays... dance and movement... the children's play and development needs always being the basis of the games they played here, and the group activities we tested out... often the children took ideas from this 1-2 hour session into their own play... (sessions always lasted as long as there is interest)

Tuesdays... philosophical dialogue... we talk about what is interesting and relevant to the project... to deepen our understanding, to allow me to know how the children comprehend the project, and how I can continue to challenge and provoke their thinking... this lasts anything from 10 minutes to 60 minutes depending on the children.

Wednesdays... in the atelier... creative axplorations... using art materials, technology etc etc... often a time to explore ideas with our hands...

Thursdays... excursion... we travel further afield to explore the city we live in, to find parks, forests, musems etc that are connected with the project and children's play... we are then outside for a full three hours.

Fridays... song meeting with the whole preschool together for 30 minutes, then outdoor play in a playspace/environment of teacher choosing... Monday to Wednesday the children choose where we go out to play... we play 1-2 hours each morning outside. The reason why we as teachers choose Thursday and Friday is to continually provide the children with inspiration of places we can go and explore.

The afternoons are dedicated free play... indoors and outdoors... where we as educators need to think about how the environment can enable to deepen their play... as we KNOW that learning happens within play... but if we are not aware of the play then we can not challenge it, provoke it, enrich it... however you like to phrase it. The children are not sorted by age in the afternoons, but are free to explore play across the ages... the WHOLE preschool is available to them

HAVING an outdoor space of your own is not essential...although "having" an outdoor space might have its perks...  something I have learned in the last 3.5years due to working at a setting that does not have its own outdoor space ( the problem of a city, taking over an old post-office to create a preschool)...

 we ARE outside everyday... we are a part of the community instead... we are in local parks, the local square, the forest, we take public transport... the city belongs to us...

So its not so much about what you HAVE... but what you do with the resources at your disposal... and sometimes those are resources the city has, the local area has rather than what your actual setting has.
Over the many years I have worked most have said it is impossible to take 1-2 yr olds out on excursions... and yet that is what we do every day... sometimes the "excursion" is just a few meters until the children reach a puddle and their full focus is there... sometimes the destination is not important, but the getting there... the process. It means we are listening to the children's play. We have put aside our agenda, we see the learning in what the children do... and we make that visible... to the children when they need to see it/hear it... and to our colleagues so we can improve the activities/facilities to further enable the children's play... and of course to the parents.

We do not view the outdoor play as a recess from the learning... neither do we see the indoor learning as a recess from play... they are all woven together... they are of equal importance... free play inside, free play outside, creative play in and out, child lead play, teacher lead play, role-play, games etc etc... all forms of play and learning occurring in both the indoor and outdoor environments...

 

It is not outdoors is better than indoors... it is not play OR learning... they are all essential components of a child's healthy development. 

 

I understand the need to talk about outdoor play... especially in countries that are not valuing it, not rpoviding enough outdoor experience... and are obviously not making the connection of play and learning... but still seeing them as seperate entities.

We need to bring it together, we need to value play AS learning... but not with an adult agenda, we need to value the outdoors as a space for play and learning of equal value as the indoor space... that play and learning happens in BOTH... not one more than the other... not one being more important that the other... but as essential ingredients in a child's learning/play diet.

Below are images of play and learning... indoors and outdoors...

 
risky play can happen indoors too... sawing to create robots... or cutting vegetables to make lunch... or jumping of stepp ladders with pillows piled high under... risky play is NOT just an outdoor thing


exploring weather is defenintely much easier outside than inside... and needs to be played in


water play... indoors and outdoors... and always so much learning going on with the play... from science, to weight and volume, to social learning of collaboration and problem solving...

learning about plants and nature is easier outside... especially how big nature can be


discovering wildlife... both inside and outside
seasons can be explored easily outside... but nature can also be taken indoors to explore and play with... I have experienced a wonderful thwoing leaves around the room session with two year olds indoors...


sensory play indoors and outdoors...
contruction, science, testing outdoors trhough play

art experience indoors... as winter is long and cold in Sweden we cannot always do full body painting outside... but it has happened
but art does not have to be full body all the time... we take the atelier outside as often as we can... windy days can be a bit more of a challenge...
clean up can be fun too... learning happens in play... and sometimes cleaning up is playful too!
and the great thing about taking art outside is that the children explore in new ways... and this is the local square... we took a table and the art things out... this also shows that if you really want to play and learn outside you can, even if you have no own outdoor space of your own... you just have to make it happen.

some activities are best indoors... as we just need the electricity to make the glue guns work... but I guess with a little determination, even this could be done outside!!!


this was an indoor experiment... letting go of a balloon to see where it would land... the children predicted all the balloons would land in the same place... we replicated the experiment outside... and there the balloon moved differently... because of the wind.

outdoor playoffers great opportunities for gross motor skill collaboration... but the outdoors is not the only space for collaboration

playing with the dark... of course this is something we could do outside as well... but living in the city means there are so many street lights that reall dark dark is hard to find... despite there being little daylight hours during the winter!


nature can be taken inside to play with in new ways... and plenty of problem solving, maths, collaboration, creativity etc going on too!

salt on a mirror offers a chance to be creative and also a sensory experience... hard to do outside... but outdoors it can be done in sand, snow, gravel etc...

there is more space outside for big play and big movement... but we also think this is important indoors too... and have a room specially for big movement play
contruction can happen outdoors too... not just inside in the construction area...


by adding new materials to the construction area... new designs, new ideas... lights were added!




learning through play... learning about the warmth of summer, about sun, water and rainbows... about plants needing water to grow... etc


learning about appropriate clothing... water is not always warm, or pleasnat to cool you down... soemtimes it makes you really cold...


exploring things outdoors... and then taking that experience indoors (see photo below)



newspapers and water... just warmer




the overhead allows children to play... but also learn about the world around them... size, math etc

play sometimes is just play... and the learning is not always obvious... its an experience... play can allow children to be filled with wonder, with joy, with security... and is valuable JUST for that... for without joy, wonder and security there can be no learning