Introducing New Providers to Respectful Caregiving in a Daycare Setting: Observation

The Observation Process

After completing the Interview Process, prospective teachers have an opportunity to continue learning about the center’s respectful caregiving model by attending a series of observations.  This part of recruitment is considered training and candidates are paid portions of their observation time.

The Observation Process typically looks like:

  • Day 1 (2.5-3 hours) – Observe 30-45 minutes in each environment with special attention given to adult/child interactions and language. Followed up with Q&A and discussion with a member of the Administrative Team. This helps us gauge a candidates interest and level of enthusiasm for the approach.

 

  • Day 2 (4 hours) – Work alongside the Assistant Director during morning environmental preparation time. This is an opportunity to communicate outside the classroom and share casually observations or ask questions with a veteran teacher not directly involved in the observation. It also affords us the opportunity to tailor the upcoming two hour observation later that morning which is held primarily in the environment with the teacher opening. Guidelines may include tasking prospective teachers with objectively detailing one child’s gross motor development over a 10 minute period, making note of play objects in the environment, watching a two body care routines for a comparison/contrast, etc. Always we follow up with “What did you like?” “What would you change?” “How did you feel?”

 

  • Day 3 (8 hours)- Day 3 is the last day of the interview process before candidates may be formally offered an internship. During this full-day together, prospective teachers get a feel for what goes on behind the scenes in facilitating the daily operations at the center. The ENVIRONMENT, as the “third teacher”, becomes the focal point of this training work day with time spent with school administrators, mentor veteran teachers, and other members of the teaching community. It’s a day of morning set-up, lunch preparation, cleaning and maintenance, ups & downs, dishwashing, reading and video viewing and most important OBSERVATION. Our final discussion together provides the biggest insight on a candidates compatibility with the center. What did he/she observe during what others may feel are menial tasks in our profession?

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One of the greatest benefits to the entire process is the feedback we receive from prospective teachers during the observation process.  Not only does the observation provide fresh eyes is assessment; it affords us a glimpse into a person’s natural ability to appreciate the essence of these earliest stages in human development. We’ve found the candidate’s natural observational abilities the best indicator for longevity as an early childhood professional.

When a teacher completes the Observation Process he/she will begin as an Intern within the center gleaning those those fine details that define a respectful approach to early childhood education. As new teachers build an understanding for the approach, develop a relationship with the children, and integrate into the center social fabric, they find the best ways to make meaningful contributions to the team as they learn are through environmental care and preparation and through sharing their daily observations.

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Recently, Ms. Debbie (new to us, but not new to the field) shared her observations as we discussed the topic of IF, WHEN, and HOW TO INTERCEDE. 

I heard a fly buzzing in the window. My first instinct? Catch that little sucker.

However, once I saw Johanna light up with joy at the site of what I once thought was just a pesky little critter, I stopped. I watched. I observed.

Her face lit up with joy as she pointed and laughed out loud, “A bug! Buggg!”

Why interrupt this moment?

I watched her as she looked up and down the window, quickly moving from one side to the other. Her eyes wide, smiling big, laughing out loud with excitement.

“A bug!”, she said proudly as her finger pointed and her eyes watched closely, following each movement. Every movement the critter made was a call for celebration and laughter.

It is in this moment that we must stop and remind ourselves the importance of these teachable moments. What may seem like a cause of annoyance for an adult is a cause for celebration and discovery for a child.

It is all about perspective, truly. It is in these moments that adults can learn to appreciate the joy of discovery. The world is big, it is vast, but even something as small as a fly in the window can teach us an important lesson in learning to appreciate the little things in life. Yes, even a fly buzzing in the window.

Know what drew us to Debbie during her interview process? Her interest in photography. Our gut told us that a good photographer has the patience to wait for the subject to reveal himself. A good photographer finds the art in the details that are often overlooked. A good photographer is a great observer.

All the experience in the world… all the reading and education… all the love of children can not replace the effectiveness of an astute observer. Looking for a great caregiver for your little one or for your center? Look for a great observer first.

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Five Warning Signs During the Observation Process

  1. You ask what was they observed, and they say “It was good.”  It’s important that the early childhood professional is able to articulate what they are observing. The answer doesn’t need to be in line with center policy, what is important is that the candidate is able to stay present during the observation time to provide concrete examples of what they are witnessing. Future teachers will need the ability to communicate observations to parents.
  2. Observations are over subjective. Making objective observations can be a challenge; however, if your observer is overly subjective quantifying the child as “cute,” “bored,” or “happy” you might want to dig deeper. What was it about the child that you felt was cute? Why did you think he was bored? How did you know the baby was happy?
  3. Observer leaves the environment before the end of the observation period. We allow for at least twenty minutes of observation in each environment to afford observers the opportunity to witness several interactions and at least one body care routine. If an observer cuts this time short by leaving the environment, it’s a clear indicator that they do not value observation- something that is essential to our daily practice.
  4. Observer has all the answers. Sometimes a candidate feels that they already have all of the experience and knowledge as a childcare provider. Often times, these observers pre-describe childcare routines and expectations following their observation period with something akin to, “Yes, that’s what I expected/knew what would be going on.” In reality, good observers learn each moment they are with the children. If an observer didn’t one thing within a child or community that was new, interesting, or exciting for him/her, it may be an indication that their mind is already closed to future learning. Good teachers are life long learners themselves.
  5. Observer interacts with the children or teachers while observing. We coach our observers before entering the environment to be “a fly on the wall.” It is rare with infants, but if a child were to approach, please acknowledge (a smile works great) and return to your task of observing. At this time, observers do not have a relationship with the children and so we want to pay special care that the child feels safe and secure with their primary. Observers that over engage during this process often lack the security or ability to be still, do less, and enjoy most.

 

Preparing for Safe Sleep

Being with Infants: Episode 15 SLEEP  caused quite a bit of a stir for some that watched.

“Why do you have a blanket in the crib?”

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Some might think that an odd question- why wouldn’t you have a blanket in the crib?  Yet, others, question its safety.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, creating a safe sleep environment includes:

 

  • Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
  • Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
  • Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Whether or not your baby may permitted to have a blanket in the crib at the Center has become a matter of public policy. Some states have dis-allowed licensed facilities the use of blankets in bed after this research conduced by the AAP.  Others, like the state of South Carolina where the Being with Infants video curriculum guide was filmed, do allow for blankets in cribs .

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At the Center, we pay particular interest in this part of our body care routines. Letting go and allowing oneself to release into the most vulnerable position within an institution of what are first strangers is the most challenging part of our day. No one script exists for each child, as family culture plays the most critical role.

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Was the baby rocked to sleep?

Does she listen to music or does white noise play in the background?

Does he doze off while nursing?

Is the room very dark? Very quiet?

Does the baby sleep alone or with a parent?

Not all of these routines and rituals can be duplicated at the Center. Complicating matters, in the interest of safety, we are required to follow the policies and procedures of our state licensing agencies regardless of family culture. In doing so, the question that often comes up is, “Can we…?”

Rather, the question might be, “Should we…?

Such is the case with allowing for blankets in the crib. We decided to revisit some of our earlier video of an older infant letting go to sleep to evaluate the child’s well-being and safety.

Two things became obvious to us in re-watching this video. One, the blanket had become untucked and had enveloped the child as she transitioned to rest. It did not cover her head and she was not alone, but what if the caregiver had been distracted. What if the blanket had gone over her head and the child went into distress.

Yet, the child incorporated the blanket in her self-regulation routines to peacefully let go to sleep. As far as well-being is concerned, this Little One seemingly needs the blanket as a transitional item. According to Healthy Children.org:

“These special comforts are called transitional objects, because they help children make the emotional transition from dependence to independence. They work, in part, because they feel good: They’re soft, cuddly, and nice to touch. They’re also effective because of their familiarity. This so-called lovey has your child’s scent on it, and it reminds him of the comfort and security of his own room. It makes him feel that everything is going to be okay.”

That’s exactly what we need in centers and institutions! So, where’s the compromise?

We asked our friends at Pikler® and RIE® to weigh in on the topic. Combining their input, we’ve come up with the following soon-to-be implemented policy at the Center.

Facilitating Sleep at the Center

  • Infants in cribs will be provided sleep sack as a cover and perimeter while resting in lieu of a blanket.
  • Infants in cribs will be provided a transitional cloth which they can have access to throughout the day. Upon sleeping, this cloth shall be removed by the provider and stored within eyesight of the child.
  • Infants transitioning to rest mats (at least one year of age or older) may be allowed an additional blanket/lovey for rest
  • Parents will be included in Safe Sleep Discussions during regularly scheduled Center Community Meetings

How do you facilitate safe and peaceful sleep routines at your center? What would you add to the above? What might you change?

 

Additional References:

Recommended Sleep Sack

Sample Transitional Cloth

The Science Behind Safe Sleep Recommendation

When to Let Your Toddler Sleep with a Blanket

Authentic Caregiving in Centers

Authenticity: authentic caregivers, authentic baby

The RIE® method is one that makes caregiving a pleasant experience for every party involved. One of the ways this concept is best demonstrated is through the belief and practice of authenticity that Beverly Kovach discusses in her video series, Being with Infants.

As caregivers, we understand that children are coming to school on their good days as well as their bad days. For the most part, we are able to keep our expectations for them at an appropriate level. That means that we don’t expect the children to just stop being tired, stop being upset, or do anything to repress their mood on their own.

The Greeting

In my experience in centers, most adults feel the complete opposite way when it concerns themselves. Perhaps they didn’t sleep well the night before. Perhaps they are going through a situation that is causing them emotional turmoil. Despite the way they are feeling, they feel they must put on a happy face in order to be with the children.

Children can easily feel the tension in our bodies and have insight to what we are feeling – even if we don’t want to admit our feelings! Having a tensed and stressed body while having a smiling face can be confusing to any child and send them mixed messages. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to be honest with the children you are caring for? This not only helps the caregivers by being honest with her emotions, but also teaches the children about their emotions and empathy for others.

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In Magda Gerber’s book, Your Self-Confident Baby, she tells a story about a mother who learned to be authentic with her daughter. When the daughter was sick, of course the mother cared for her. When the mother got sick, she was honest with her daughter from the start. “I hear you crying, I want to give you what you need, but right now I don’t feel well.” The mother said the daughter was less demanding than she was ordinarily!

Children understand more than most caregivers might think they do. We can be authentic and honest with them.

Note: Thank you, Ms. Rebekah for sharing your thoughts on Authenticity: authentic caregivers, authentic baby. Ms. Rebekah began working with infants at the center May 2017

Sources:

Being with Infants Video Guide

Your Self Confident Baby

Introducing New Providers to Respectful Caregiving in a Daycare Setting

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The Interview Process

The process of recruiting and training the next generation of early childhood providers can be both the most exhausting and the most rewarding part of our profession. Often we hear, “I love children” from those considering entering the field. But do you know why you love being with children?

While loving the company of children provides a good start, a child in your care will demand much more from you. Working with groups of children in an institution requires the caregiver be well-versed in state laws and regulations ensuring each child’s health and safety. It may require hours on your feet, squatting, or on your hands and knees. At times, you’ll scrub dishes, wipe up floors, catch all the latest viruses, be covered in poo, deal with upset parents- or worse, upset co-teachers. The best early childhood teachers maintain a strong inner presence and calmness through all of this, modeling peace and security towards those in her presence.

They are aware of every child even as they are fully present with an individual in need. Teachers must have the ability to collaborate with other teachers who have a varied belief system regarding children. And they must respectfully communicate and partner with an even larger group of parents, grandparents and family friends all wanting what is best for a child. Through the course of their time spent working with young children, the early childhood professional will be challenged physically, emotionally and cognitively to balance her many duties in supporting the well-being of what is, at first, a stranger’s baby. And she must do this within a social culture seemingly having little care for her profession with long hours, little benefits, and minimal pay.

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When you find someone that has the character and capacity to do all of that, well- that’s exciting.

And also a little dreadful. Will they make it? Next to the fast food industry, child centers have one the highest rates of employee turnover.

In introducing new providers to respectful caregiving in a daycare setting, our first step is being honest with the requirements of the profession. We spend considerable time together at the onset ensuring that new teachers have the information they need to make an informed and honest decision. This is a matter of utmost importance for especially in these early years, young children need to rely on the adults in their lives. The caregiver must be there today and tomorrow. And teachers must be provided the support and tools to ensure each child within the institution feels accepted, valued, safe and free to learn.

Recently, our center went through a tough spell along this process with an unprecedented amount of new teachers leaving after only being with us a short bit. It has caused us to do some soul searching and revisit our introductory time together with teachers new to our center community.

Introducing New Providers to Respectful Caregiving in Daycare Settings must involve first, the interview process. At the center, we include the following in the process:

  1. First contact: the interview process begins by placing a carefully worded job description for potential candidates. Resumes are reviewed with an emphasis placed on where applicants are spending their free time and studies. A central administrator contacts possible candidates and discusses in detail the center history, philosophy, position details, vision and how applicants can obtain more information online about our offering.
  2. Second contact: applicants meet with a school director and at least one other administrator (separately) and have an opportunity to share their beliefs on child development, long-range plans, and what they have learned about our program offering online. Not a good sign if they haven’t checked us out- in fact, if they haven’t done their own research, we will write down several links for them read or demonstrations to watch. This part of the process needs to occur prior to the third contact. After meeting, the two administrators get together to share notes.
  3. Third contact: if a candidate seems to be a good fit and has done some online research, we will move to the “third contact” during the same interview time as above. If a teacher has been asked to do additional digging and returns contact with us to pursue learning more, we will arrange a third interview. This process involves a tour and observation of the facilities- regardless of age, each candidate will have an opportunity to observe at each developmental plane infancy through 5K as the center is all connected. After sharing observations, candidates are asked if they would like to continue the process depending on their natural observational skills. At this time references are checked, necessary DSS paperwork gets completed, and paid training opportunities at the center become available on a part-time basis.
  4. Paid Observational Training: candidates begin their training at our center’s hub, the kitchen. The kitchen connects all of our environments for the way we share meals with infants and young children is an integral part of our curriculum. Side-by-side administrator, co-teachers, and school owners wash dishes, prepare meals, and attend to the laundry. Here we have an opportunity to connect with the many adults comprising the center faculty. Each has an opportunity to share personally and professionally and candidates are able to contribute to the workload without yet directly working with the children. In the classroom, new teachers warm-in slowly tasked with observation, note taking, and environment preparation.

This interview process takes at least one to two weeks. At the close of the observational training, we meet again with new teachers to discuss the experience. The last question being, “Are you interested in making this work part of your profession?” with an emphasis on it being a one to two year minimal commitment.

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Photo: David Vigliotti

With a “yes”, we move onto the next phase of Introducing New Providers to Respectful Caregiving in a Daycare Setting- the observation.

We would love to hear how you recruit and retain early childhood professionals. What would you add to the above? What would you change?

Resources:

Recruitment Ad Sample

Daycare Turnover Research

 

 

 

Self-Care

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A few months ago, the idea of writing about my self-care routine as a new mom was presented to me.

My initial thoughts were something along the lines of  “. . . self-care routine? As in something “nice” I do for myself regularly? I couldn’t possibly write about this right now. I’m exclusively breastfeeding, and life pretty much revolves around taking care of Archer 24/7.. . .there’s not much self-care involved in my routine.”

As a first time mom, I had an idea of how EVERYTHING should go. I got my gym membership two weeks before Archer was born, brought glass bottles, a jogging stroller, and signed my husband and myself up for any childbirth and new parenting classes that were being offered in the immediate area.

Then, our son was born.

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Photo: David Vigliotti

Fast forward a couple of months and I think I’ve found my niche.

As he continues to grow older and in turn gains more independence I’m finding self-care to be easier, and more enjoyable. After preparing the environment, Archer is now independent enough to move on his own allowing him to enjoy time alone while I do things I enjoy. Most of the time it may be things such as tending to the garden, or preparing a new meal that may take a while longer. I have continued to nurse, but the introduction of solid foods has even allowed me ten to twenty more minutes of time for myself each day; and sometimes that’s all that’s needed. Making self-care a priority has been beneficial because it gives me a moment to check-in with myself, continue enjoyable hobbies, and make sure that my needs are being met. Taking this time also allows the child time to explore independently, interact socially with other children or adults, and have his own experiences.  Self-care will undoubtedly look differently for everyone, based on personal needs. These routines may even fluctuate based on the needs of the children in our care if we are practicing a more child-centered approach, however, I’ve found it to be a very important part of being able to be fully present while caring for my son.

“Raising children is not easy, and it’s important to take care of yourself.” -Magda Gerber page 61 Your Self Confident Baby under the chapter Go Out, Have Fun

  • A bike ride around the block
  • Long showers with my favorite music playing (so I know for a fact that I didn’t just hear the baby cry!)
  • Tending to the garden
  • Watching an uninterrupted episode of my favorite TV show
  • Enjoying a cup of coffee on the porch, or while checking out my aquarium

 

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