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