Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

‘The Couch’

By: JANE JACKSON

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Against the backdrop of a wonderfully diverse modern Ireland, we are challenged to consider how we can ensure the meaningful participation of all parents and families in our ECEC settings. As the manager of a small sessional setting in a thriving multicultural and societally diverse Dublin suburb, I am acutely aware of the importance of strong, mutually respectful relationships with the families in our community. To achieve this, we must be flexible and receptive to new ideas. It is easy to assume that all families connect similarly with the setting. However, the reality is that this is not the case and while there are many similarities, this can look very different from one family to the next. Critical reflection supports the educator to identify ways to better understand the nature of these vital home-school connections and how the structure of the setting can either support or create imbalances in the opportunities afforded to parents. With the increasing awareness and recognition of the needs and rights of the contemporary family, it is essential that we connect with these lived experiences however they are represented. The context of the setting is an important part of the parental partnership process. If the culture of the setting is warm, open and welcoming the possibilities for meaningful relationships are realised. Settings are often more dependent on attitudinal factors than formal structures. However, utilisation of less conventional formal structures can prove very valuable.

The staff team at Tots of Fun considered “The couch” as one such structure with the potential power to break down barriers. The couch was a welcome addition to the setting some years ago and the impact it has had on relationships between children, staff and peers cannot be overemphasised. The couch has been moved around the setting several times according to the changing needs of the children and curriculum. It is more recently that we have begun to consider the potential impact of the couch in the context of parental engagement. We decided to locate the couch closer to the entrance of the setting and the importance of positioning was immediately evident. The couch, in this case, symbolises the value placed on the voice of the parents. The couch is important in and of itself, an object that speaks to us, a symbol of welcome, inviting us to sit.

We have always considered our setting to be inclusive, open and welcoming. Did we support warm and friendly relationships? Yes, we absolutely did. However, this viewpoint was from the perspective of the educators who in this case are from the majority culture with a presumption that all families connect similarly with the preschool. On deeper reflection we were compelled to consider the power boundaries underlying these interactions and relationships and the potential hidden barriers to meaningful relationships with parents. These barriers can manifest in several ways, such as the language we speak, cultural norms and expectations, personal experiences of childhood and the education system. Sharing of power and decision making can have a powerful impact on the lives of children and families and we as early years educators are perfectly positioned to provide essential support, but ultimately parents have a greater influence on their children’s attitude and inclination for learning in the early years, in my opinion.

Relationships with parents and families cannot be hurried; they require adequate space and time. The accessibility of the couch provides space for parents to spend time in the setting without feeling hurried or in the way, providing parents with an opportunity to see what takes place in the early years setting. We are also provided with an opportunity to discover ways in which parents and families can contribute to the setting. This process actively engages families, builds trust, and creates a much more welcoming environment. Our language and culture and the way we think, can make some factors visible to us and others easier to overlook or never see at all. This perspective provokes us to think about the elements of our settings that give the symbolic message ‘come on in’ or elements that may give the symbolic message ‘stay out, this is not a place for parents’.

 

Bio: 

Jane Jackson was born in Derry, Northern Ireland at the beginning of “the troubles” in 1969, her mother a catholic and father a protestant. She spent most of her childhood in Saudi Arabia, returning to live in Ireland in the early 90’s. Jane is owner/manager of Tots of Fun Preschool in Lucan, Co. Dublin which she opened in 1997. Jane has a BA in Early Childhood Teaching and Learning and is currently studying for a Masters in Education - Research in Practice in Maynooth University. Jane has 7 children of her own ranging from 24 years to 9 years. Two of Jane’s sons have Autism and she is a passionate advocate for inclusion of the child and family, herself having experienced the pain, isolation and confusion all too often associated with living with difference.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Pen green(1) role playing(1) DCYA(6) Reggio(1) curriculum(5) DES Inspection(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) mushrooms(1) E.coli(1) ECEC(3) IGL(1) Exit interview(1) child-centric(1) Story(2) Magnavacchi(1) NCCA(3) EM Standing(1) Recycle(1) Learning Journal(2) Halloween(2) annual conference(1) COVID-19(14) memories(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Touch(1) Plastic(1) play(35) Staff Motivation(1) Early Years Education(1) Thinking(1) Kindness(1) Impact(1) learning bias(1) Super Shed Stories(2) MA(1) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) preschool settings(1) purpose(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) ECCE(7) AIM(2) communication(4) Affordability(1) Academic Skills(1) Patterns(1) Inclusion(3) Flowers(1) Maths(6) aistear blog(3) Adoption(1) conference(1) Easter(1) Dance(1) Equality(1) Advocacy(1) Inspiring Practice(1) research submissions(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) social media(2) Community involvement(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Identity and Belonging(4) Síolta QAP(1) children’s learning(1) Belonging(3) Participation(2) pablo(1) Covid response(2) Autism(4) environments(1) Grief(1) Plants(1) Orla Kenny(1) curiosity(3) Lego(2) Event Guide(1) World Health Organisation(1) inspiring interactions(1) Time Out(1) Craft(1) Rich Documentation(1) Our Little Seed(1) UNICEF report(1) youdoodle(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Inter-generational learning(2) education(2) Funding(1) apps for children(1) baby room(1) Seas Suas(1) Limerick(1) PIP(1) outdoor space(3) Winter(1) Administrative Burden(1) InspireMe.ie(1) TOY Programme(1) Socioemotional development(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Primary School(3) Magic(1) Death(2) Margy Whalley(1) Book Club(2) Through the looking glass(1) dining experiences(1) research(6) Culture(2) Motor neuron disease(1) coronavirus(1) Family(1) Laughter(1) friendships(1) NAEYC(1) listening(1) Iraq(1) Weather(1) ECEC Setting(2) parents(6) outdoor environment(1) documentation(4) learners(1) preschool(4) Intention(1) Design(1) Pobal sector profile(1) New Appointments(1) Learning through Storytelling(1) Learning Stories(9) code of professional responsibility(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) Summer(1) ELC(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Music(3) Opportunities(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Identity(5) Wonder(1) Trigonometry(1) Time(1) pets(1) Online(1) annual awards(1) COVID-19 landscape(1) Maria Montessori(1) Settling in(4) phone apps(1) Technology(3) keezy(1) HR(1) scéalta(56) Imagination(3) Nonverbal(1) Supernanny(1) Childhood(1) Inspirational(2) value(1) Games(1) early years settings(1) Behaviour(3) Challenges(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Document Learning(1) Sessional service(1) Self-Esteem(1) show and tell(1) Fabric(1) grandchild(1) Care-giving routines(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Loss(1) Arts(1) Environment(2) Whole Group(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Infection Control(1) code of ethics(1) University(1) Xbox(1) Workplace well-being(1) outdoors(4) play stories(2) Feeding(1) Mud kitchens(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Youtube Series(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) education system(1) ECIAwards20(1) Magda Gerber(1) Research Conference 2019(1) planning(1) playleader(1) Cork(1) stories(3) play pod(1) Children and families(1) science(3) play therapy(1) Italy(1) blog(53) Teamwork(1) Playschool(1) routine(2) Light table(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Horizon 2020(1) Online Research Symposium(1) Independence(1) National Awards 2018(2) Decisions(1) Traditions(2) Interactions(3) interacting(2) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) ears(1) Workplace Relations(3) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Creative(1) Potential(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Health(2) National Holiday(1) GDPR(1) TRAP(1) Childcare(3) experience(1) Awards Night(1) dublin(2) Upcycling(1) Little Buddies(1) Looking Back(1) Small World Play(1) Gardening(1) early years learning(1) Wrapping paper(1) linc(1) Maternity Leave(1) Recycling(2) Maths Week(1) Universal Design(2) Rituals(1) Awards 2018(3) ERASMUS+(3) Sustainability(3) Mealtimes(1) Your place(1) Children(4) Visual Impairment(1) Scents(1) Pedagogy(2) Wesco(1) College(1) SAC(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Digital Devices(1) Mantra(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Diversity(1) Infectious diseases(1) Return to Work Training(1) Sustainable(1) risk(2) learning hub(1) Shapes(2) Line-ups(1) United Nations(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) budget(1) Party(1) iOS(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) maternity health(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Kilkenny(1) Creativity(6) Performance Management(1) Policy(2) GoToMeeting app(1) Pre-School Services(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) structure(1) multi-generational community(1) emotional well-being(1) Wilenski(1) Decision Making(1) Building Resilience(1) Children's Voice(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Montessori(3) keep in touch(1) ReCreate(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) Norway(2) Confidence(1) bonds(1) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Empathy(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Children's Research Network(1) Learning Story(1) Kindness Challenge(1) RIE philosphy(1) School Age Childcare(1) Reflective Practice(1) Santa(2) Emergent Curriculum(1) Gratitude(1) Glitter(2) early years research(2) developing motor skills(1) European Project(1) San Miniato(4) Laugh(1) Blocks(1) Elders(1) Facebook(1) Early Years Educators(3) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) CPD(1) Snacks(1) Trade Unions(1) Certificate(1) Giraffe(2) Traffic Lights(1) Snakes(1) Kids Own(1) Celebrate(1) Children's Rights(3) Scéalta Blog(104) Reggio Children Network(1) educarer(1) Maynooth(1) Exploratory Play(1) Sequins(1) Early Years(1) International Narratives(1) Investment(2) Mixed age groups(3) Maynooth University(2) Budget 2018(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) UNCRC(2) Budget 2019(2) development(8) Syria(1) transitions(10) Learning journals(1) Interests(1) Treasure Chest(1) Social Skills(1) Child Care(1) Anxiety(2) under 3's(3) conversations(1) Buddy Bench(1) Child mental health(1) Inter-generational(2) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Storytelling(7) Loving Relationships(2) Hand Hygiene(2) Leadership(1) listen(1) Covid-19 lockdown(1) risk assessment(1) Stress(2) Snack Time(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) social science(1) staying connected(1) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) Photographs(1) learning(19) UN(1) Japan(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) outdoor play(6) National Childcare Scheme(1) Siolta blog(8) Breathing(2) Educator of the Year Award(3) Performing(1) Iceland(1) Queues(1) reopening(1) UD(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Budget 2020(1) gender bias(1) Pobal(1) CIT(1) childcare services(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Bereavement(2) Brain(1) Irish guidelines(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Treasure(1) Yoga(1) Shoes(1) Frustrations(1) science week(2) Vertical grouping(1) Obesity(1) Meal time(1) COVID-19 crisis(1) Interaction(1) Engineering(3) imotion(1) Ariana Pucci(1) family time(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Spiders(1) Support(1) online training(1) MECPI(1) art of the relationship(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Kerry(1) Ceremony(1) child-centred approach(1) movement behaviours(1) Mayo(1) Mental Health(4) story time(2) CCTV(1) quarantine(1) gender stereotype(1) Leprechauns(1) creche(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Valentine's Day(3) Communicating(1) Inspired Practice Award(6) Consent(1) lockdown(1) Reading Time(1) Malaguzzi(1) Engineers Week(2) Mount Everest(1) june29(1) responsive relationships(1) food(1) Family wall(1) community(5) educating(1) Arithmetic(1) Appreciation(1) Twitter(1) Buddies(1) Sweets(1) peer group(1) play pods(2) First 5(1) emotional environment(2) SPICE Framework(1) Covid19 crisis(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Sleep(1) collaboration(1) Meet the Members(1) Favouritism(1) AsIAm(2) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Academics(1) Self-regulation(1) eating(1) democracy(1) Positivity(1) bloom app(1) Human Resources(1) dogs(1) Book Review(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Aistear(130) Graduate(1) Home Corner(1) Love(3) feisty(1) Capable(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) RTE Investigates(1) Drawing(2) books(4) journey(1) mental health problems(1) Eritrea(1) Inspections(1) an post(1) Care routines(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Pretend Play(1) Oireachtas(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Jenga(1) emotions(2) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Prexit(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) Quality(4) Vietnam(1) Awards(2) racism(1) Exclusion(1) early life(1) Playdough(1) Graduation(1) supportive environments(2) EECERA(1) Body Language(1) Reopening Childcare(1) behavioural science(1) continual professional development(1) Seanchaí(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Workforce(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Map(1) Fantasy play(1) INTO(1) Leargas(1) Titles(1) Engagement(1) meals(3) Rising to the Challenge(2) babies(7) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) dining(1) Awards 2019(1) Early Childhood Ireland(10) early childhood educator(2) toddlers(3) Art(6) ICBN(1) Mark Twain(1) democratic citizens(1) Confident(1) Anthony Semann(1) Nutrition(1) Study Trip(1) man up(1) Fee Play(1) overhear(1) Running(1) Arlene Forster(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Employee(1) Professionalisation(5) relationships(18) Window(1) reading(5) Sculptures(1) life long learning(1) Educators(2) healthy eating policies(1) The Jelly King(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Looking Forward(1) Masterclass(2) Trade union(1) Cognitive development(1) Routines(2) worries(1) Relaxation(1) primary education(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Visitors(1) Thanks(1) refugees(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Sport(1) Exploring(1) National Research Conference 2019(1) Builders(1) Names(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Communications(1) STEM(3) Mo Scéal(1) Irish(1) Counting(1) Penguins(1) Leaders in Practice(1) reopening ireland(1) Celebrations(4) Change(1) National Annual Awards 2020(1) Qualifications(1) Trick or treat(1) Early Childhood Education(1) awards 2020(1) National Awards 2019(1) Research Seminar(1) early childhood(1) Degree(1) Covid pandemic(2) Proceedings Journal(1) Competent(1) Training(2) Mathematicians(1) Afghanistan(1) Self Help Skills(1) children development(1) Painting(1) trust(4) respect(5) First 5 strategy(1) Mindfulness(3) Exercise(1) risky play(2) EECERA 2016(1) social media policy(1) Well-Being(10) Albert Einstein(1) christmas(9) Wendy Lee(3) Síolta(137) Biting(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Large Doll Play(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Smiles(1) Role play(1) Thank you(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Digital(1) Reggio Emilia(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) animals(2)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine