Tag Archives: early childhood

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.

 

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

 

 

 

Cultivating Cooperation in Center Base Care- what works and what doesn’t

Cultivating Cooperation with infants and toddlers at home or in center base care requires an investment in time with focus on continuity in routines and relationships. Continuity being the cornerstone.

In center base care, continuity also being the crux.

Unlike its professional counterparts of the 1920s, the early childhood frontline caregiver remains underpaid, under supported, and under valued by the mainstream. As a result, continuity- keeping the early childhood professional happy, fed and resourced in the field- remains the number one challenge in center base care.

Yet, without a stable and reliable primary caregiver spanning the first two or three years, toddlers are less likely to spontaneously cooperate. Why is that important?

Cooperation demonstrates an individual’s sense of belonging to the group (society) by demonstrating that person’s desire to contribute to the betterment of her community. Along Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs, it smacks right at the center.

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What does spontaneous cooperation in center base care look like?

Let’s take a look at a group of 8 Early Toddlers ranging in age from 13mths – 19mths as they come together to put on their shoes and venture outdoors under the guidance of their two caregivers. Warning: it’s an almost 10 minute observation, but I’ve had a hard time taking out even a minute, even those first few shoe chomping ones.

Early Toddler Cooperation from MMP School on Vimeo.

“Cooperation is an invitation; otherwise, it’s not cooperation.” -Anna Tardos

Remarkably, even though the door is wide open, each child chooses to stay with the group until all are ready. Although caregivers put shoes on a bit differently, the fluidity of the routine unfolds organically. Limits are tested, then reinforced. The children have free movement, are relaxed, and demonstrate cooperative gestures. At times the adult may need to break from the routine. Yet, she maintains a calm sense of order and control.

Do opportunities for improvement exist? Most certainly- to err is human. However, take a look a the intimacy in the relationship each child is able to enjoy nestled closely with his primary teacher who has been with him all of his infant life. Amazing to witness in center base care. Necessary for the toddler to cooperate without rewards or punishments on her compliance.

Given the time, commitment, and resources any early childhood center has the opportunity to cultivate toddler cooperations from the start- continuity being key.

What works- Small Group Size- children under two years of age should remain in group sizes no larger than eight. Even so, plan for times of the day where the child can break from the group individually and also in smaller groups of four or less.

What doesn’t work- Even an adult/child ratio relatively lower- for example 10 babies and 3 adults- can be less beneficial than a group size with a 1:4 ratio as the larger group overstimulates the infant brain.

What works- Primary Caregiving- dedicate one adult to be the primary caregiver for each child. She should have no more than four children under her supervision. As an advocate and resource to the parent, the primary caregiver should remain consistent over long periods of time.

What doesn’t work- Staggering caregivers or combining groups for before/after care to accommodate extended service times.

What works- Continuity of Relationships- keep the Primary Group of Four together with their Primary Caregiver as they transition through environments while in center base care. This means when a child develops the environment changes to meet that development rather than the child changes environments to meet the development. When transitions from one room to the next become necessary, the child moves with his Primary Teacher AND group of three friends. The longer the infant is with his friends and provider, the more likely he is able to be understood to get his physical needs met, feel safe and secure in a trusting relationship to explore, and then- feel a sense of belonging facilitating his cooperation.

What doesn’t work- Moving children up to the next level when they are ready physically or cognitively without considering his social or emotional needs. Severed relationships over time may inhibit the child from coopering in groups later on.

What works- Support the Early Childcare Provider with the time, resources, and salary enabling her to invest in her profession and be fully present to care for the well-being of infants and toddlers. We recommend the RIE® Foundations course as the precursor for this development. For those working in centers and institutions, Pikler® offers several advance training opportunities in the US and abroad.

What doesn’t work- Low pay, long hours, without opportunity for advancement results in a higher degree of teacher turn over.

What works- Share your experiences with parents. We’ve found coming together at least every quarter instrumental in developing consistency between home and center. A half hour in the morning every three months or so when parent, teacher, and child in primary groups of four connect is all it takes to pull the whole thing together. When parents have a sense of belonging with their center community the feeling is translated and absorbed by their child.

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Witnessing the young child in cooperation in center base care demonstrates that all components are in place for a happy, healthy and full early childhood experience.