Category Archives: preschool

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.

 

Graduation Time

One of the most difficult tasks of the preschool teacher comes at the end of our journey together with the children- graduation day.

As a tribute to the specialness of the Class of 2015, please enjoy our parting farewell video:

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/128678355″>Graduation 2015</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/mmpschool”>MMP School</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

It is difficult to image our day without the contributions of these little ones- not so little anymore.  As they take flight, we will treasure our times together and their many contributions to our center community.  We have touched each other at the heart.

The Dreaded Minute

“Do you have a minute?”

As the mom walked closer, I wanted to say , “No… no, I don’t have a minute.” and make a run for it.  Little did she know that her husband had confided to mine the night before that A. had been accepted into the  public academic magnet school.  My heart sank.

After making the appointment to conference, A.’s teacher and I lamented over his loss to the classroom community.  Neither us us rested peacefully that evening.

As Mom and Dad both thanked us for our time together with A.  it was difficult to stay in the present.  Objectively, we shared our understanding of A.’s learning style,  his academic readiness, and his contributions within his peer group.  We discussed the pros and cons of A. finishing out his Kindergarten year within our small, private school setting knowing that to do so, the family may be giving up their chance to join the magnet school at a later date.

We parted with hugs while the parents weighed in over the weekend to reach a final decision.  The email arrived late Sunday night.

I couldn’t wait to share the news- A. was staying! I was both elated and terrified.

Would we live up to their expectations?

Over the next few months, parent became friend.  Whether she knows it or not, I often look to her for inspiration as I balance parenting thee children of my own.  Sometimes, though, I wonder-  is she fully happy with their decision?

And then, as if she had sensed my worry, this appeared in my feed in response to a school posting…

 

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Our program is structured for deep and long standing relationships, each child filling a space with whom without, would be a void.  Having a parent’s appreciation to this part of a child’s school experience , investing in that  outcome, sharing in the pride- priceless.

 

 

the final goodbye

One week into the summer school year and our new preschool friends are still getting to know us.  The typically peaceful playground where we meet each morning, now dotted with tearful goodbyes.  Heartstrings pulled as parents depart for the day.  One can’t help but worry of a child’s well-being the first time he is away from his family.

Another hug.

One more kiss.

The final goodbye.

Mid-mornings during the next few weeks will be followed by a series of check-ins as we assure parents and provide information regarding their child’s progress.  Separation during the time that a child is building a relationship with her teacher and peers can make saying goodbye in the morning difficult.  Always, the crying is the hardest part.

Crying, however, can be a positive indicator that your child enjoys a healthy attachment with his family.  More concerning would be if a child were to run off with us as strangers without the need for a final goodbye, one more kiss, or another hug.  Over time, teacher and parent will establish their rapport and your child will feel safe and secure with his new friends.

Until then, parents can assist their children with separation by:

1.  establishing consistent routines.  The more consistent you are in every details with the young child, the better she is able to process and incorporate what is to come- even to the detail of where you park your car.  When able, both parents being involved those first few days will facilitate a family ritual of coming to school that will continue when either Mom or Dad drops off.

2.  choosing a quiet place.  Avoid high traffic areas when saying goodbye to your little one.  It’s difficult to connect with your child and refuel her if you are trying to do so near an entrance.  Look for a nearby area away from the hustle and bustle, preferably near her primary teacher.

3.  maintaining a positive attitude, even when you don’t feel good about the situation.  Your child will absorb your attitude and words as you separate for the very first time.  It’s OK to acknowledge that you will miss each other and empathize that being in a new situation can be difficult.  However, when you believe your child is in good hands and when you value the experiences he will have with new friends, he will share in that.  In the meantime, do find ways to connect with your teacher especially during the next few weeks in order that you can cultivate your own sense of well-being and convey that to your child.

4.  resisting the urge to negotiate separation rituals.  Young children derive a sense of security when they are sure of the adult being in control.  Putting the power of separating into a child’s hands can make the process much more difficult for both parties and introduces confusion when a teacher may try to assist.  An invitation for another hug or just one more kiss becomes absorbed quickly into the routine itself.  Magda Gerber warmed “Be careful what you promise” as you will need to continue to provide for future experiences.  And when it comes to that final goodbye…

5.  saying goodbye and meaning it.  Don’t leave without saying goodbye and don’t say goodbye until you mean it.  It is better to interrupt a child who may have engaged with an activity or a friend while you were separating when you have to leave.  Otherwise, she may find herself at a loss looking up later to find you are gone.  When you do say “goodbye” mean it.  Leave. Yes, you can look back with a wave, but do not hesitate and do not return.  Allow your child to turn to his friends and teacher for support in moving forward in your absence.  He will learn that outside his family, you can always count on good friends.

Still not sure?  Give a ring if we don’t call you first.  With every “goodbye” comes a “hello.”

Don’t Wait to Cultivate Communication

Communication with your child’s teacher in center base care can often come at a premium.  Depending on the infrastructure, it can be a challenge for working families to connect with their early childhood professional on an on-going basis.  Most centers value the inclusion of family in the daily care and education of the young child- yet, the challenge remains:

How can parents help facilitate their relationship with their child primary teacher in center base care?

Do’s

  • Planned Lingering  Each morning at the center, the majority of the community gathers on the playground as we greet arriving friends.  While a drop off service is provided, we invite parents to walk their child in about once a week.  Doing so affords families the opportunity to connect with their child’s social network and adults during play.  If you are able to be consistent in timing or day of the week, your child’s teacher will come to expect you often greeting you with tidbits of her time together with your child during the week.  Often times planning an earlier pick up once a week can offer the same experience.  However, please conscious of transition times when teachers are “all hands on deck” in ensuring that children are safe and comfortable.   And ask to meet privately with your early childhood teacher once a year outside the company of children.
Photo: David Vigliotti
Photo: David Vigliotti
  • Sensitive Observation  Sometimes the time of year, time of day, or just plain timing isn’t conducive to connecting with your teacher.  Sensitive observation will help guide you in determining if your teacher has a moment- does she appear relaxed?  is she engaged with a child?  are any objects in her hands?  If you’re unsure you might want to ask, “When you get a chance, I’d like to connect.”  Your teacher will either seize the moment or let you know a better time.  Or if it is apparent that your child’s teacher is occupied,  table the “Do you have a moment?” question for another day entirely in order that she can stay focused on her task at hand.
  • Understand Center Communication Infrastructure  Asking about how to communication when touring and enrolling your child can often be overlooked.  Getting to know providers, attending to enrollment paperwork, understanding center policies take precedence during those first encounters.  Take a moment to connect with your center’s administration team BEFORE you feel the need to communicate with your child’s teacher to understand what measures may be in place to provide parents the opportunity to meet with faculty by phone or in person outside your teacher’s time with the children.  Be aware that daily or weekly sheets may only provide superficial information and can not take the place of your interpersonal connection.
  • Wants Nothing Time  The care and well-being of your child has brought you and your teacher together, but that doesn’t mean conversations need only be about the children.  Hopefully, the adults will be enjoying an extended time together over the course of your child’s development.  Teachers at the center are often together with their primary group of children two or more years.  Take time to get to know your child’s teacher, her family, her interests….Connecting during “wants nothing” time positively fuels your relationship together and helps when you might need to communicate something of concern later on.
Parent Volunteers
Parent Volunteers
  • Volunteer  Whenever you take a moment to give back to your child’s classroom, you demonstrate to your child and to your teacher that care about the well-being of the center community.  Time constraints or center policy might make volunteering during classroom time a challenge- don’t give up.  Other meaningful ways to volunteer include event or social get togethers after hours, organizing social media outlets, making classroom materials at home, leading appreciation weeks, fundraising, or grant writing.  During your “wants nothing” time together with your child’s teacher find out what she thinks might be of benefit.

Teachers  often balance the  need for parents to feel in the loop while planning the curriculum, maintaining the environment, administrative requirements, and the daily care and well being of a group of children.  At the beginning, your teacher will be getting to know your family and what means of communication fits best with your family culture.  In respecting individual cultures while balancing whole center dynamics, you may find both sides compromising.

While teacher and parents develop their relationship together, families sometimes inadvertently damage the communication process.  Common mistakes include

  • The Surprise Attack – Avoid unloading a concern while your teacher is involved in the classroom.  She won’t be able to give your concern the attention it deserves while she is caring for children and it can negatively impact her being able to enjoy the day.  An experienced teacher will know that parental concerns are simply a request to share in their child’s day or need for more information.  Ask your teacher to contact you (by phone preferably) at her convenience. 
  • Closing Time- If you are arriving right at the center’s closing hour, appreciate that your teacher might not be at her freshest.  Working with young children is a joyful experience requiring the adult’s full presence.  It is an outpouring of energy and emotion.  At the end of the day teachers often need the time to care for themselves and refuel.  If your schedule does not allow for you to be able to arrive early to connect about once a week, ask how you can touch base periodically.  Often teachers are able to contact families on an occasional basis during the day for a quick check in.
Photo: David Vigliotti
Photo: David Vigliotti
  • Going Over Heads-  Save communication regarding care and well-being  with your center administrator to address concerns only after you have first tried communicating with your teacher.  This can be a challenge if you have not been able to connect first with your child’s primary.  Even something like a diaper rash can inadvertently be perceived as a complaint against your child’s caregiver when it is communicated via administrative channels.  However, if a rash is on-going and you are not satisfied with your caregiver’s response, administrative communication may be warranted.  
  • Burdening Communication– We’ve found  communicating daily or even weekly details of care, classroom learning, center activities, or social interactions on an individual basis to be more than one person can burden.  Be proactive in sharing the burden of communication by reading the center Parent Handbook and emails, becoming involved in center social forums, participating in educational events, and reading on the topic of early childhood development.  Being informed makes the most of the times you are able to connect in person with your teacher by affording less general and more individualized discussions.

While you may not be able to know everything your child is doing while she is away from you in center base care, cultivating a relationship with your child’s primary teacher through on-going positive channel will help ensure that you are receiving the information you do need in supporting her social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.  Know, too, that ruptures in the communication process are normal and healthy components in a relationship and are bound to occur.  When approached in a respectful manner ruptures, too, provide rich learning opportunities for both teacher, parent and child.

We are in this together.