Whilst on a recent placement visit to one of my students, I sat down with the Lead Early Childhood Teacher and had a conversation on my student’s progress. The usual items were on my agenda to discuss, such as the student’s ability to engage with the children, their involvement with the families and how they were progressing in their observations of the children and creation of learning experiences. However, what surprised me was when the Teacher commented that she had been stunned the other day when my student was readily impressed by a simple strategy used to transition the children from group time to the bathroom to wash their hands for lunch. This simple strategy of using a physical movement such as hopping or jumping to get to the bathroom is just one example of a strategy that Early Childhood educators use on a daily basis, but to an upcoming new educator they are like gold. To coin the Teacher’s phrase they are ‘pennies in your pocket’ that you store away for another day. Me myself, I have always likened this to an Early Childhood educator’s ‘tool belt’, but this phrase of ‘pennies in your pocket’ is growing on me!
So it got me thinking…
As an experienced Early Childhood Teacher, my ‘pocket’ is very full of ‘pennies’ already, but there is always room for more. So as a student who is aspiring to be an Early Childhood educator, what are some of these ‘pennies’ that they can place in their ‘pockets’? What is the real benefit of placement work in Early Childhood services?
Diversity of services
Placement offers a great opportunity for students to get a real feel for the industry. It’s a great chance to put yourself out there in a range of services and see what’s the best potential fit for you. Whether it be Long Day Care, Occasional Care, Family Day Care, Kindergartens or even Outside School Hours Care, having experience within these different service types is definitely advantageous. However the diversity of services doesn’t just stop at their service type. Early Childhood services differ according to demographics, socio-economic factors, and cultural diversity within the service just to name a few! Our industry is so diverse because we are dealing with people. So not only will the service types differ, but so too, from one service to the next. No one Kindergarten is the same as next and neither is one Family Day Care service to the next. The opportunity for experience is endless!
See theory into practice
Whilst in the classroom our students are immersed in theory around the National Quality Framework, child development, safe work practices, curriculum development, providing care for children, etc. However, when they begin their work placement, this is a chance for students to see this theory in action. How do other educators program plan? How do educators engage with families? What do educators do to ensure their programs are inclusive for children with additional needs? How do families orientate to a service?
Our students become keen observers and take note on all of these differing practices, both positive and negative. Which leads me to the next benefit of work placement in early childhood services.
Challenge the current practices with best practice
Beginning Early Childhood educators are often heard commenting to their trainers that placement is ‘not like you’ve taught us’. Training standards are set high, and so too are our expectations of our students and industry. Sometimes a work placement may not be a positive one. I myself have been victim to this whilst I was studying. However, there is learning at every possible turn and whether it is a good service or a not-so-good service, students are encouraged and supported to take these experiences and challenge them with the best practices they have learnt. There is just as much learning to come out of a negative experience, as a positive one. It’s all about your mindset, and you will come out of it a stronger Early Childhood educator.
Engage in reflective practice
Part of this learning journey of placement is also the opportunity to engage in reflective practice of your own beliefs, values and philosophy on children’s learning and development and the role educators play. Reflective practice is such an important part of an Early Childhood educator’s role. It can be worthwhile to keep a journal or notebook with your thoughts and reflections noted down whilst you are on placement too. Sometimes writing your thoughts down not only clears your mind and takes a weight off your shoulders, but it can also make you more productive as you can visualize where you want to go next.
Expand your repertoire of educator strategies
As mentioned earlier with my student on placement, using this time as an opportunity to expand your growing repertoire of strategies is essential. Don’t waste this opportunity to jot down what strategies you observe for transition times, routines, behaviour guidance, etc. Take note of ideas for experiences and learning environments – songs, movement experiences, learning centres, displays, etc. The list is endless!
So take every opportunity on placement as a potential moment of learning and collect as many ‘pennies in your pocket’ as you can!