A Note to Say ‘Thank You’
Over the past eight weeks, our wonderful Early Childhood Education students from the first year to the fourth year in Marino Institute of Education have been out in the field, undertaking their annual placement. They have been afforded varied and valuable learning experiences all across the country, from Kerry to Dublin and all the way down to Wexford, and what has been clear is that we are indebted to the mentorship provided for our students by so many of those working across the sector.
I experienced first-hand during my visits to students, the time that managers, educators and teachers give willingly and voluntarily to our students to ensure that their experience on placement was a rich learning experience. From the formal sit-down conversations and the many incidental chats throughout the day – all the time imparting valuable knowledge, sharing wisdom, affirming, supporting and encouraging our young future educators. I visited settings that engaged in predominately outdoor play. I visited settings that were purely Montessori based. I visited settings that had whole-heartedly embraced the idea of an emergent curriculum and playful learning. And in each setting, I learned something new, as did our students. I watched as educators and teachers carefully observed children with additional needs, ensuring responsiveness to individual needs while staying cognizant of the child’s agency and need to develop independence. I watched on as a student was encouraged to engage the children in a gloriously messy painting activity, where the emphasis was so clearly on the process. I smiled as a student was encouraged by the other teachers in the room to take a risk and to facilitate a water play activity with a group of young children for her supervision visit. I listened as I heard educators ask carefully thought-out questions that encouraged children to think deeply, problem-solve and wonder about things. I noticed the purposefully chosen resources in the environment that promoted the development of curiosity, cooperation, perseverance and concentration. I enjoyed so much the many warm and engaging interactions between children and staff that I observed, and the attention that was paid to developing positive communication and language skills at every opportunity. I saw wonderful planting activities for Spring, engaging and interesting Tuff Tray experiences, interactive ‘Read- alouds’ with puppets and props, bodhrán playing, play-dough making and parents being invited in to teach Irish dancing for St. Patrick’s Day! I saw the most wonderful learning stories and journals that illustrated just how vibrant and rich the learning experiences are for children in so many settings. I saw so much…but what I saw most of all was the commitment, the care and the hope for our students and Early Childhood Education displayed by so many of those working in the field. The hope is that these young students will continue to build on the incredible progress that has been made in practice and in providing high-quality and playful learning opportunities for young children. That they will stay committed to their vision to work with those young children who need us most.
So, to all of our placement providers, we say a very big ‘thank you’. You truly are giants on which our Early Childhood sector stands.
Sinéad McCauley Lambe is an Assistant Lecturer in Education and Field Placement Coordinator at the Marino Institute of Education, in Dublin.