We can build a different infrastructure- one that supports families, early childhood professionals, and child. One that is seeped in fond memories, play, intimate and enduring relationships, and learning across all developmental planes. One with the child centered.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
First contact: the interview processbegins 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.
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.
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.
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.
With a “yes”, we move onto the next phase of Introducing New Providers to Respectful Caregiving in a Daycare Setting- the internship.
We would love to hear how you recruit and retain early childhood professionals. What would you add to the above? What would you change?
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.
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
One day as I was scrolling through a social media feed I stumbled across a quote that said, “You cannot make a flower bloom faster by pulling it.” I felt like this was a statement that most people could easily agree with in terms of flowers; but how about applying the same idea to the child? Each child will bloom in his or her own time when their needs are properly met and without the use of force. This requires a certain level of trust in the child and their abilities.
When our son was born his feet turned in pretty severely. As a first time Dad, and eager to make his mark he was pretty persistent in wanting to teach our son to straighten his feet and push off. His reason being. . . “Well if he can crawl faster, then he can walk faster and be ahead.” Shamefully my response was a little less than kind at just two weeks post-partum, however the fact of the matter is that this is a very popular belief. We are lead to believe that faster and sooner are always better. Walk faster, read faster, sleep through the night sooner, the list goes on. When we take that stance, it’s easy to assume that the child needs specific direction, coaxing, or force in order to develop a skill that would otherwise emerge naturally in due time.
We can often feel the need to be in control, which leads to a lack of trust in the child, and a more adult centered approach. In some cases our need to instruct can be more of a hindrance than a help. During the Pikler® conference (mentioned in a previous post) we performed an experiential to better illustrate this concept. We were placed in pairs, and given a chair. One person was to act as the adult, and the other a child. On the first round the adult was asked to tell the child what to do in order to climb onto the chair. For the second round the child was supposed to climb onto the chair without specific instruction, and the adult was there for support and guidance if needed. After round one when asked how they felt, many people described the experience as being more challenging because they knew what needed to be done in order to accomplish the task but they began to feel nervous, scared, or second guess themselves based on the actions of the adult. When left to climb onto the chair on their own with the adult as an observer they stated that they felt more confident in their movements, relaxed, and knew that if they needed the help it was available. Both in the classroom and at home, this idea of natural development and blossoming serves as a reminder to trust in the ability of the child. As parents and caregivers we can help our children to blossom by supporting their needs at the moment verses pulling them towards where we feel they should be.
“Nature never hurries, yet everything is accomplished”- Lao Tzu
For more information on this methodology, feel free to check out the websites listed below:
October 29th 2016, I became a new mother. Over the past few months there have been many shifts in both my work, and perspective of the relationship between the child and the adult. Nearing the end of my pregnancy I became eager for a new opportunity to observe the child. I began looking forward to applying the things I learned through RIE ® and time spent in the classroom in my own home. I quickly noted that raising my own child would be the greatest opportunity to be authentic and to raise an authentic child who is peaceful, cooperative, and inner-directed. In the early stages of infancy, the child begins to shape his understanding of the world, and himself based on the environment and the people in it. We are role models for our children. We are helping to awaken the hearts and minds of children who will then, go out and have an influence on others. On several occasions, my son has been referred to as “just a baby”, this is something I often find surprising.
Just; as in only or simply?
From the perspective of both a mother and caregiver this saying strikes a sore spot for me. Not only does it come off as dismissive, but it also implies that somehow the child is considered less than.
“Let us realize that the child is the worker who produces man . . . it is the child that society must take into consideration, this worker who produces humanity itself.”-Maria Montessori
Our actions as parents, teachers, or members of a community are far reaching. With each word, acknowledgement, and touch we are sending messages that will help to build up, or tear down the growing sense of self within our children. Modeling behavior not only sets an example for our children, but for other adults who may not be familiar with a more respectful approach.
So what can we do?
We can begin by treating the child with respect. We speak respectfully of children, and infants, as people of equal value. Not as “just” a child, or “just” a baby. Regarding children with respect helps the child to learn that they are worthy of receiving respect, and sets a positive example of how to treat others. We may also model respectful behavior by acknowledging our children’s feelings. This includes their likes and dislikes. Acknowledging our children in this way sends the message that they are respected as individuals with feelings that may differ from our own.
All of this is not to say that there are no boundaries or limits. We know that children need freedom within limits to maintain safety and order. However, it is possible to maintain this order while still providing a respectful environment in which the child can thrive. In The Absorbent Mind Montessori states that, “Nature does not merely give the power of imitation, but that of transforming oneself to become what the example demonstrates.” We must be the positive examples on which our children can base their understanding of their own value and the world around them.
“Respecting a child means treating even the youngest infant as a unique human being, not as an object.”- Magda Gerber