A day in the life of an early year’s educator can be fun, interesting and full of playfulness. It is commonly heard from educators that they love working with children because no two days are ever the same. Children are spontaneous, unpredictable and full of curiosity. We, as adults, need to find our place in this – focusing on the importance of this ‘childhood’ and documenting it in a meaningful way for us, the children’s families and community but most importantly for the children themselves.
Learning stories can be at the heart of your work and when the process of putting them together becomes a familiar task it can, in fact, lighten your load. In this blog I look at snippets from some of Early Childhood Irelands winning stories showing it really does just take a little bit of refocusing, alongside a passion for wanting to truly know the children in your care to get into this space of documentation.
I can’t emphasise enough the power of tuning in to children’s words. Capturing their words and actions throughout the day can become routine and will mean that the body of all your documentation is done! A pen and small notebook in one pocket and a camera in the other means you are always ready… A colleague once told me that it’s the moments when one of the educators return to the room and you say ‘you missed it’ and you continue to tell them what happened – these are the moments that offer us an insight into who the child really is. These are the stories that tell us a lot more than a tick the box observation ever will and it showcases Aistear and Síolta in a way that’s true to each individual child.
For example…in the story ‘Rosie Cheeks and Alex go to the eye Doctor’ we see that Alex comes to preschool with his new eye patch on. His shyness at wearing an eye patch was noticed by the educators who recognised Alex’s body language when he first came in.
This was followed by Rosie Cheeks, the class teddy suddenly having a sore eye, which meant she too had to go to the opticians and get an eye patch – just like Alex. The connection created between Alex and Rosie Cheeks meant that Alex became more confident and comfortable with his own perceived difference. Following this Alex says, “it was fun when I went to the eye Doctor and I wasn’t scared at all”. This story is a real example of inclusive practice. We also see educators who are in tune with children, recognising their challenges, documenting what happened and going with the children’s experiences. Take a look at Darcie from the story ‘Independent lady’- we might wonder how to meaningfully document the learning of an 18 month old, whose language is still developing. Although children’s words are powerful, it doesn’t mean that stories without words are not possible.
As the educator writes “you took a large piece of play dough and you pulled it apart you, noticed it got bigger as it stretched out in front of you. This was not what you had intended, you looked puzzled for a number of seconds. This led to you solving your own problem…”
The educator in this case is completely in tune with Darcie. She reads her body language, understands how Darcie is problem solving in all that she is doing and she respectfully trusts her in her task. This style of writing ‘to’ the child or children in learning stories is especially useful and personal.
As early years’ educators, in the midst of the busyness try to take a step back. ‘Be with’ the children, get to know them and celebrate them. This is what documentation should be and what tells us a lot about the children’s interests and competencies. Click here to take a look at all our wonderful learning stories.
So, keep that pen, paper and camera to hand to capture rich portraits from children’s words, photos and experiences. See how this impacts on how you feel and connect with your daily practice.
We would love to hear from you about how you make learning visible and it would be great if you could share some examples!