Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas 2009: Pre-Casual Childcare Employee Leave procedures

Hi readers....

It has been a while since I wrote. As from the last entry (which has been a while!), my 485 Subclass visa has been granted! Yes, it took them 8 months to grant me my Temporary Residence visa! Anyways, I have since launched my 885 Permanent Residence visa application, so all is good.

For the next few months or so, I will be in South Korea for the 4 weeks (Seoul- Gyeongju-Busan), of which one week will be spent in Japan (traversing to Hakata & Tokyo by ferry and return). After which, the next and final destination will be Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for an indefinite period of time.

My quiet summers have been spent reading up on the Korean language and culture (necessary being my main destination), and possibly some Japanese phrases (for survival purposes being the least!). All my belongings have since been packed, pending their move to the relevant destinations. So YES, this will be my final week in Sydney!

My employers have been notified of my absence and change of address, and all is good. In all, regardless, if ever I wanted to work in Australia again, all I had to do was to just inform them of my relocation and I will be sent out again on shifts, minus the background checks and all the initial application process which I had to do when I first applied for the job. Of course, if I were to relocate to Melbourne, I will have to apply for a police check as well as a non-voluntary Blue Card before I went out to work. Each state has its own regulations, so one has to always be ready and be-up-to-date.

So to my friendly and anticipating readers, wishing you an early Blessed Christmas and Happy 2009 New Year!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Montessori by any other name?

For the past two days, I was on an assignment in a Montessori centre, located in the Western Sydney surburbs. I was actually rather excited and was looking forward to seeing what is called "normalized" children in a Montessori centre.

During my time there, I observed that though the children in the preschool group do engage and work with the Montessori materials and equipment each time I passed through the room...but this was more of name than in practice.

The centre is staffed by staff holding a Cert III, and some Diploma. trained as well as some trainee staff. The majority of the staff is of Lebanese background, with some others Greek.

The children however come a lot from Vietnamese, Lebanese as well as other Arabic backgrounds. The centre meets the Department of Community Service (DOCS) requirements, and like most centres, employ a daily diary for daily programming, besides the weekly program which is updated by a permanent staff.

However, due to certain circumstances, the centre justifies the employment of a management strategy that employs more of the common, than on what is supposedly to be Montessori.

Hence, if parents were aspiring of wanting to look for a centre that truly employs the Montessori Method, I believe that they should thoroughly do their homework; as some may be said to be Montessori by name, and less in practice as most are.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

December: Childcare casual jobs on the slow.

One of my agents, Agent E, had forewarned us casuals that summer will be a slow season for casual work.

This is attested to the reasons that there will be less staff who will ill or possibly apply for leave during this time. Another for the current situation is the financial recession.

I know this for sure as Agent E had always texted me to inform of work for weeks before hand. However, I hadn't received much in the last two weeks. So I guess I should watch my spending in the next three months (although I'm not doing a very good job at that!)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Agent S Childcare Staff Agency: Change of booking procedures

Today Agent S sent me off for a morning shift in the Ryde area. Initially when Agent S called, they said it was for a week booking. In the evening however, I checked with the centre that I was assigned. It was fortunate that I did, as according to the schedule that they had, it was only a four day booking, and not a full week booking.

Later in the evening however, one of the personnel from Agent S called to ask how my shift went today. I was definitely most SURPRISED.

Then she said that some changes were made now and it would be a day-to-day booking than a block booking. In my opinion, that might be better for us casuals so that childcare centres would not simply make a booking and cancel it. It is us casuals who have to take the bane of the cancellations, y'know?

Perhaps the Agent had a directive from above, or simply maybe they had a conference on the best booking procedures. Well, I'd definitely hope for the latter..

At least Agent S learnt something from here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Casual Childcare Employee retaliation? >_<

I didn't work much this week. As an act of retaliation, I had wanted to pass over one of my agents but was dissuaded by my mother who did not think it was a wise course of action.

Anyways, as said in my other blog... if truth be known, I did end up working for them for one of the shifts this week, so I do have to take my word back. LOL.

Agent S called me to go for a shift at this centre near the CBD area. It turned out that one of the casuals from Agent S' firm was ill, so they had to get another casual! I never thought that could ever happen, but it did. Well, it did nearly happen to me early this year when I was first starting out as a casual, but now if I know that I am ill, I would not take an assignment as it just isn't worth it.

I thought that cases of centres cancelling their shifts would be less under Agent E, but it turns out that it did happen. The consultant was courteous enough to provide a lengthy explanation for the cancellation, and then sent me off on another shift elsewhere that morning. To add to the bonus, I did enjoy myself at that shift (North Strathfield), so yeah, I do look forward to going there again.^^

Another bonus to add to it was that one of the recruitment consultants in Agent E decided to call me to enquire if I was looking for a permanent position at one of the centres (which turned out to be the centre that had cancelled the shift I was supposed to go to).. she was asking if I wanted to continue being a casual, or pursue a permanent position. Oh well, at least I have the knowledge that they did consider if I wanted to put in an application for it. ^^

Monday, October 20, 2008

Politics & Economic Factors: Disadvantages of Casual Childcare Staff work

There are some things I must put into words here for the rest who may feel that being a relief staff is something to shout about. As a full time casual relief staff, it can sometimes be rather difficult in certain situations. This is more so if you are a qualified staff (3 year degree qualified Early Childhood Teacher in this case, that is).

To get a trained ECT into the centres, the pay for the candidate ranges from 27 to about 34 AUD/hour. For the childcare centres, this would cost even more, but I am not sure by how much. I am fortunate to have been contracted to two agencies, and from there, able to observe how the agencies operate.

With Agent S, I have observed that in many often times,the centres have made bookings and then cancel them. For the candidate, this is not good as these candidates have to make provisions to avail themselves for this booking timeframe. The difficult part comes when the agency has to inform the candidates that their booking has been cancelled.

In order to keep good relations with the agencies, the centres could sometimes come up with reasons (which may not be true), putting the blame on the candidates with the excuse that they have performed poorly. It may not be the real reason, but could be an economic factor, and it usually is.

I was at a centre where three of their permanent staff (qualified positions- the Director, the ECT) had resigned at the same time. If these staff had any compassion, they would not have chosen to do that to the poor centre, or the children at the centre. But it happened.

Now in retrospect, a mate mentioned that if that is the case, it is possible that that centre has a management problem, and the staff do not get along. In any case, I was much better than working in such a toxic environment, eventhough the centre is of supposedly high quality repute.

At another franchise childcare centre in North Sydney, the Director asked me to leave after half a day because there was an electricity outage on that day, and half the children had left. She repeated the same decision for another day. So her decision was made on a financial basis.

Yet another one was in Randwick area, where I had worked there for two days. On the third day, the administrator had come in. I believe she must have checked her records
for the number of enrolment of children for that day, and she must have contacted my agent to inform them that I was not required at the centre the next following day.

After a conference with a friend of mine who works as an contract engineer for IBM, he informs me that that seems to be a similar case for those in other fields but working for agents. Fortunately, this occurence has not happened too often with Agent E. In fact, not much.

However in the case of Agent S, it has happened that they called me the night before to go in for a shift, and then the next day, the Agent will call me to inform that the shift has been cancelled. It is rather exasperating and annoying because we have prepared to go for the shift, and then it has suddenly been cancelled.

Perhaps it could be that both agencies have different arrangements with the childcare centres, in that in the case of Agent S, the childcare centres could easily cancel their bookings, and in the case of Agent E, because the charges are much less, the centres can't as easily cancel their bookings, which could account for the consistency of work.

I have been fortunate to have been contracted to these two agents to be able to make these observations. Agent E which pays less, but provides more consistent work, and Agent S that pays much more but has less consistent work. In my opinion, I would rather go for the agency that pays less but provides more consistent work. They have very good customer service and support system for their candidates, in which there is communication between the consultants.

The consultants do not call when a candidate is out on a shift, but instead what they would do is to either send a text message to the candidate's mobile number informing them to call back during their break time, or call the centre up and transfer the call to the candidate. This shows that the consultants do know the whereabouts of their candidates, and in this way, provides a more sense of security as well as that makes it easier for the candidates to contact them when needed.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Childcare Work: Being paid "Makan Gaji Buta".

Makan Gaji Buta, is the malay term for when a staff is being paid for no work done at all....

My adventures continues from my return from Melbourne in the last two week. The integrated train-tram-bus transport of Melbourne is efficient. It had beautiful weather, which was still wintery cold although it's already Spring in Sydney, and we're starting DayLight Savings here in a matter of a few days! Why can't Sydney provide similar benefits to its residents? Hmmph!!

There hasn't been much to write since I left my long block weeks in Canterbury. This week, I was assigned to this centre in North Sydney. This area has in its vicinity, many childcare centres as many of the parents working in this area has need for it. The centre that I had been assigned to falls under a franchise, and to a class of 25 children with 3 staff.

Surprisingly, I really did not have much to do as everything had already been prepared in advance. The teacher who applied for leave had prepared the week's program for the entire week... so basically, I didn't have to do any writing of any sort at all! As what the Malaysians call it "makan gaji buta!", I got paid most to sit and look pretty there...

It wasn't my fault anyways. The staff there didn't need me to do much, stating reason s such as "I did not know the children well enough to do anything". I told my mother, and her insight to the situation was that perhaps because it was a franchise, that perhaps they had their own format of programming, so I should do just what I can to help.Strangely enough, my mother remarked that 25 children of 3-5 years with 3 staff may be too little. WHAT??? She must be kidding.

I would definitely like to contribute more, however, apart from just supervising the children in the toilet, in the play areas, some general duties like sweeping the floor, cleaning the table, and maybe doing some reading to them, there really was not much for me to do anyways.

Oh well, that goes to the life of Makan Gaji Buta. Yeah, and also to all our muslim readers out there, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Child-like behaviour: 18 vs 29 kdrama

I have been ill for the past two days... so mostly just stayed at home watching Korean drama. LOL.

In one of the scenes, there was this high school boy (18 vs 29 kdrama) who kissed this glass bottle, because it contained something precious given to him by the main female character. It reminded me of this little anglo australian boy whom I saw who also gave his little teddy bear a kiss before having his afternoon nap.. So childlike....

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Childcare Centres: Things to look at when applying for a permanent job

These were some things that were running through my mind when I had too much free time recently.. (at least it was going through my mind when I had my tea breaks in the centres). I have been working as a relief staff for the past six months over, and some things have come to my mind through my past experience. At least these are the things that come to mind, if applying for work in Australia in childcare centres, or a similar context.

1) The centre must have a room just for the staff AWAY from the children where they can actually sit and rest (and compose themselves), and preferably has air conditioning/heater (very important during winter!). I have been to centres where I could barely find a comfortable place to sit when I had my breaks, and it was very difficult for me to rest.

Since I normally work for an 8 hour shift each day, I have to really contain my energy and compose myself that I have enough to maintain myself for the rest of the day. Taking time away from the eyes of everyone (staff and children), is important so that I can close my eyes, even for that 5-10 minutes, and regain composure and focus on what I could do for the rest of the afternoon. This is very important, if the children have been especially boisterous or acting up some time during the afternoon.

2)There are floaters who could come in for lunch breaks. Not all centres can afford to have floaters during lunch breaks, ya'know? This is essential because the person who comes in will be able to watch the children when the teacher writes up the main program, and needs to think and concentrates on it to write up a good one.

It'd be better if the children are able to fall asleep within 15 mins, which could be culturally different for children from asian and anglo-saxon background (which we shall discuss in another entry in future...)

3) The staff would have Programming Time. Not all centres can afford to have Programming Time either.

4) The staff would be friendly. For the past three days, I was working at a centre near Randwick, and I could barely get a word out of the Assistant who works in a room. Furthermore, it was a toddler group, so it was difficult for me to communicate with this age group. It is difficult to solicit any kind of relevant information from toddlers...If they were preschoolers (3-5 years), it would have been much easier. The assistant in the room herself was rather tight-lipped, and didn't smile much or very much friendly, so both things made it quite difficult for me to like the environment very much.

5) The centre does not have a Director who is overly pedantic. She has to have a sense of humour, able to laugh at herself, smiles at staff, and takes a joke every so often, as well as is able to motivate the staff to perform better.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Disadvantages of Casual Childcare work.

Today I was sent to a centre in Warringah area.. It took me about 45 mins to get there from the city (although it was technically only 30 mins proper travelling time). It was a community centre, so my one hour lunch break was unpaid. If it's a private centre, the lunch breaks will normally be paid though. So during my lunch break, I took a walk along the beach.... and I was rewarded with the sight of a whale! Wow....

That wonderful insight aside, if you had told me that I would have so much "crises" to handle in one day six months ago, I would have balked! But after worked about six months in so many centres, somehow everything just slowly fell into place. It just took six months (or hopefully less) to reach where I have....

One of the things a relief staff (or Early Childhood Teacher) should remind herself is that everytime they go a new centre, the children have the inclination to want to push the boundaries of how far they can get away with this "new person" on board. Perhaps she needs to be manhandled, or broken in, as the saying goes....?

On first observation, the children during the first two hours seemed rather sane and normal. But as the day progressed, and as the children went out for outdoor play, their true colours begin to display. It is much more prevalent especially if one is a relief staff. Thankfully, there were relief support staff who were on hand to remind me of what the children were capable of.. within the first 3 hours, (and hopefully it takes a shorter time the next time round), I had managed to identify the children who were bound to get cheeky with the new staff and teachers who came in...

As much as we would like to say to ourselves how sweet and innocent these children are, however what I have observed so far is that the children were doing things which were not only if not supervised and reprimanded, will start doing things that will not only cause harm to themselves, but the school and teachers will have to be made accountable. So before it can even reach this level, it is of most importance that the teachers/staff are extra vigilant and crack down on such misbehaviour and misdemeanors before they even can happen!

Many of these children will argue and ignore the relief teacher when reprimanded. Because the children know that these relief staff are new and not familiar with the rules & routines of the classroom, they will push as far as the boundaries as they can get away with . It is most essential that relief staff do not give in, and of course the sooner we learn to "pick up" and read the basic "body language" where we know the children are openly defying instructions given and "trying to test us", the sooner we are able to better manage and handle the children's disciplinary behaviour.

To end the tale, today Agent E called up and asked if I wanted to go the a centre in Bondi! *surprise, surprise*, it was the same centre that I went to earlier this week. Of course, it was not to their knowledge that I was contracted by Agent S to go to very same place on Monday & Tuesday!

Come to think about it, it is all down to dollars & cents isn't it? All childcare centres are at the end still a business, and businesses have to break even financially. As it is, if I had to manage the finances of a centre, it would be very much obvious that I had to find the cheapest alternative for the centre. If the first cheaper alternative could not help me, I would have no other choice but to source for another alternative even though it would cost the business more ...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Australia: Casual Childcare work @ Bondi centre.

Today, I was assigned back to the same childcare centre in the Bondi area. I met even more Early Childhood Teachers sent in by Agent E. Apparently, according to one of the supervisors in the centre, Agent S, the one that contracted me to work today, does not have a large pool of Early Childhood Teachers in its employment.

So they thought I was from Agent E. (which I also am, but that is another story... ) It is then no wonder why Agent S might be willing to give out above award rates in order to attract more Early Childhood Teacher qualified staff? That could be a possible reason.

I was sent to the preschool class today (the oldest class). The permanent staff had a staff meeting today so I was asked to write up the observations. When I looked through the earlier observations in the Daily Diary, it only struck me why the class teacher S., did not want me to look through it....

As I sat down and typed up those observations on the computer, it struck me that I found the task too easy, and had written up more than three pages of observations, reflection and planning on what that happened for the day (at least for Outdoor Play anyways).

The supervisor was probably immensely impressed (and maybe surprised at my command of English. LOL). ^_^

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reflections of my 6 week block: Canterbury Migrant Childcare Centre.

So it has come to an end of a six week block of my work at the Migrant childcare centre. It also happens to be the end of Olympics yesterday, after 16 days of competition and having Wang Lee Hom & David Beckham to appear on a London Red Double Decker bus at the Olympics Closing Ceremony! Seeing Lee Hom at the Olympics was definitely a bonus! At least we know where he was at that point of time!

The six week block was a god-send as it provided me continuity on developing my observation & programming skills. I definitely appreciated having the need for a floater (or an extra staff) in the classroom when I had to do programming or the daily diary in the classroom when the children had their nap time. I have learnt so much from just working with toddlers (when I was in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to work only with children 4 years and older), and how they behave and work.

Working with children who display disruptive and challenging behaviour, I have found that they too enjoy being "manja-ed" and actually did display better listening and compliance behaviour regardless of whether they were from chinese or anglo-australian background.

Because the results shown from the children of chinese background was positive, I decided to try it with the children at the centre I worked at today. The composition of the children who attended the centre came from a mostly anglo-australian background. Surprise, surprise! It worked really well too indeed, even from those who do display challenging behaviours. I definitely did surprise myself!

I really believe that it was a miracle and God's preparation that I have learnt so much in just six weeks. I have the wisdom to reflect on my work daily, and when I go to other centres, everything that I have picked up during the six week tenure just comes flooding back. It is essential & necessary for me to do that on a daily basis, as that will help me to learn from my mistakes and mentally prepare myself when I face the children each day. Trying to wing it is equivalent to CHAOS!

Indeed when I was writing up the observations today, all I had to do was refer to the daily dairy they had in the classroom, and everything just came flowing as I started writing. I thought it was going to be difficult, but it was easier than I expected.

Finally, it must be said that I have learnt to set boundaries on myself and have developed much more confidence in my skills as an Early Childhood Teacher. I have been to centres where the staff gossip away on how awful or badly ECTs perform compared to those who are diploma trained, or why as staff they do not get more work hours.

The sources of these comments have come mainly from staff who are untrained, and yet have the audacity to whinge. However I must direct a question back to these same people saying, if you really take your work seriously, or want more work hours, why are you not updating your skills and taking up serious training either at a teacher training college, or university?

Early Childhood Teachers are people who have taken time off to study, complete assignments as well as meet the requirements that are set out by the authorities. These assessment tasks and assignments were not easy, and we slaved away doing research in the library, asking questions and taking time off by sacrificing our time to not work. Some of us worked and studied and slaved away almost four years of our life to reach where we are. Some others even more than four years, to graduate with what is supposed to be a 3-year-degree.

So, to all Early Childhood Teachers out there who have either just graduated, and starting out on your journey, do not lose hope, and most importantly have pride in yourself and what you have accomplished. Do not let such discouraging words make you lose confidence in yourself as a teacher, and all that you have achieved so far thrown into the drain.

To all this, it must be said that I do believe that God is preparing me to much greater things and more responsibilities under my care, and I know He will. This is only just the begining.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2.5- 3 years olds: Crazy behaviours that drive you up the wall!

If you want to be the teacher of a class of 2.5- 3 year old kids, these are some of the things that you have be aware of. Whether or not you like, the children will still do better early than later!

Children that will...
1) Jump on their nap time beds during bed time.

2) Jump on the home corner couch/lounge.

3) Climb the chairs & beds (which have been stacked up).

4) Climb the windows & tables.

5) Lick the windows (yuck!)

6) Tear pages off the book

7) Start cutting everything in sight once they learn to use the scissors.....

8) Pee in their pants (and on their bed - otherwise known as bed wetting)

9) Eat the playdough. (although the saltiness is supposed to "deter" them)...

10) Keep opening & closing the home corner cabinet doors for strange reason.

11) Throw all the home corner toys/equipment into the home corner cabinet (and the teacher has to keep taking everything out).

12) Kids that will run round and round around the table for rounds and rounds.

13) and of course, the few children who will throw tantrums.... and throw themselves on the floor, crying and making a lot of noise with the other children watching when they don't get their way....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Canterbury Part 3: childcare employee adapting behaviour

It's been more than a month since I started at the chinese migrant childcare centre. Work has been challenging, and am learning the ropes on how to handle toddlers of 2ish-3 year olds. I have learnt a lot of things, and yes... I do realise that things that we can get away from being a "regular staff" rather than just a "casual" staff.

If the staff in a centre are familiar with a casual staff's (from the agency) style of working, they tend to let go off "little" eccentricities, rather than if you are new at the place. It is of importance that a person who is new at a childcare centre (or anywhere for that matter), to be careful of what they are always doing and always be alert and careful of what they say and do at all times. Because the other staff at a centre do not know you, they will jump to conclusions (and so will a lot of people at many other places anyways), and will never give you the benefit of the doubt. I have been truly blessed.

This week, I recovered from a bout of food poisoning from this place in Fish Market (yes, the one near Wentworth Park, Sydney). And of all places, in Australia! (You wouldn't expect that to happen, coz Australia is "supposed" to have high standards and levels of hygiene). Justin, for all his whinge-ing about the uncleanliness of the food stores in Malaysia, has yet to suffer any episodes of food poisoning. So, in conclusion, don't you ever dare to criticize our Malaysian food stalls before you even try them out yet!

I finally started work with my other childcare staffing agent, Agent S. a few weeks back. Going through my payslips, I noticed that they really do pay MUCH MORE and lunch breaks are paid. It's really exciting, as for my current agent, lunch breaks are mostly unpaid for, and the pay rate is also much lower. Anyways, I don't think I will ever be off work as the centres always require Early Childhood Teachers. If I am constantly working, my skills are always being updated, and that is what is most important when I go out to work.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Canterbury: 4th week at migrant childcare centre.

I have reached a different stage of my work as a casual childcare staff. This is my fourth week in the migrant childcare centre in the Canterbury area. It is great, as I am paid casual rates (where wages is considerably higher!) and working almost on a permanent block basis as an Early Childhood Teacher at the migrant centre I have been sent to.

This opportunity has enabled me to develop and work on my programming & observation skills for the 2-3s age group. I would definitely just hope it continues to be better from here onwards *fingers crossed*

The thing about developing activities for this age group is that the children are still mostly only babbling, and cannot speak much. They are also developing their Fine & Gross motor skills, so the activities which are planned should be catered for these areas. I would say that a lot of the activities from the Practical Life & Sensorial areas are suitable for children in this age group. However as the centre is not a Montessori centre, I have to find ways of integrating these activities into the programme.

The children really enjoy working with their hands, and materials for the activities are also purposely limited. I have noticed that when the number of learning materials for the activity is limited, the children are able to FOCUS more, and they WORK LONGER & CONCENTRATE BETTER instead of going from one activity to another.
I would say this is the same for example, if one were to go to a food court. If there are too many food choices available, you would not know which one to choose, and may end up not eating anything at all. Also, activities which are put out should "Look Inviting" to them (although they may be the one to mess it up!!!).

Finally, I have come to realise that whether in a migrant, or a anglo-australian childcare dominated centre, parents are all almost alike. They do not like to hear incidences of their children hurting & falling over, so it is most crucial that staff of a centre are vigilant in their supervision of the children when they are out in the playground. Filling in the 'Accident Report" form & having to inform the parent & watch their response to the news is one of the banes of my work that I have experienced so far being in the childcare field.

In my experience of Asian care settings, if these incidences happen to often, parents will feel disatisfied, and may/will pull their children out of the centre. Sometimes due to factors of the children's social connections (the children's friends are all in the centre, and the fact that the child has to adapt to a new setting, or the child always cries in new settings) are reasons why parents may think twice about doing so.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Canterbury: A migrant community childcare centre.

Last week, I was assigned to a three-day block at this chinese community childcare centre at a predominantly Chinese-Korean suburb of Sydney in Canterbury. It was indeed an eye-opener, as all this while, I have only been stationed to centres which students and staff were predominantly anglo-australians. Because the centre was only targeted at migrants, the families that came were mostly from Hong Kong, China, and even Malaysia.

The fees for this childcare centre was much lower than charged by a lot of the services I have been to. The normal rate in the city ranges from 70-80 dollars p/day, and in this centre it was about 55 dollars/p day. Of course, parents still have to provide their own essentials for their children (nappies, wet wipes).

I had told my agents that I wanted to be assigned off the current popular franchaise of childcare learning centres (which is widely expanding), so that I could go to the more conventional childcare centres & community centres. It is in these places that one experiences the variable differences in the spectrum of how childcare centres operate. Not every centre will work the same way, and each children's services centre will have their own procedures to strive to meet the accreditation standards that are set out by the authorities.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Off work for spiritual & godly refreshment: Hillsong Conference 2008

Hi readers.. been really busy at work the past few weeks. Anyways, I'll be off work for the next one week. I will be attending the Hillsong Conference 2008 at Acer Arena, Olympic Stadium.

It definitely will be a great break off work. My uni friends from Toowoomba have specially flown in for this purpose. It will be great to meet up with them, and chat with familiar friends.

See ya after the break!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cross-Cultural observations of Asian & Australian education & work behaviour in action.

For the purpose of this entry, I will write of my observations of what I have observed of the Asians (in general from countries like Malaysia, Singapore and the surrounding countries), and of Australia only.

In my experience, many Asians, and this includes Malaysians, have the incorrigible practice of looking up too much on the "western" way of doing things. When I say western, it comes to mean as the typical "causasian way" of thinking and doing things.

The general attitude as what I have observed in most asian countries are that we look down on ourselves and don't give ourselves enough credit for our accomplishments and achievements. I say that in particular as I am guilty of doing the same thing. This seems to be a particular common Asian trait, and our upbringing from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and probably to as far as South Korea & Japan.

A friend of mine from India recently observed that most of his Australian workmates at a prestigious operating systems company had only completed their education in computing studies to undergraduate level. They are almost always surprised when he mentions that he is pursuing post-grad studies.

From my experience in Australian childcare, I was led to have the initial impression from my lecturers that there would be many qualified staff in childcare, whether in Australia or the U.K. However, what I have come to know from working in so many centres is that even finding three-year degree qualified teachers is difficult. However, there were more diploma qualified, or Cert III qualified staff. (Cert III doesn't qualify a staff to be considered as train, only the Diploma).

Many of the locals I have come to know do not show much interest in pursuing further studies. Among the other factors I have come to know is that the highest post one can move up to is to be a Centre Director, or perhaps Area Manager. Once these individuals have moved up to this post, they can no longer move up any further. Other factors I have found are low pay for long hours of work, and that many do not feel that the practical work is more important than the paper qualification.

Most Asians will prefer to complete their studies full time before commencing on their jobs, whereas in Australia, traineeship is an option openly well known & available. Most Australians would work and study at the same time. As a result of such study behaviour & patterns, many Asians who have completed their studies come to work completely inexperienced. This is true in asian countries like Singapore & Malaysia. However the reverse seems to hold true to Australians, as they seem to pay higher importance to the practical work experience than to the paper qualification.

In Malaysia, employers will hire a fresh graduate with the right qualifications and good attitude, whereas in Australia, it is the opposite. The Australian employers here prefer to overlook the lack of qualifications and hire an individual with the practical work experience.

A Malaysian friend of mine noted that perhaps where Australians prefer to try working before pursuing further education if necessary to progress, Asians in the reverse may feel that having a higher qualification, even without having the work experience may give them the edge in securing a job.

The other reason to this point is (and you will notice that if you have friends of ANY asian descent) is that ASIANS pay high regard to pursuing EDUCATION. It will be highly impossible to ever hear a South Korean/Japanese/Chinese (and it is a well known fact) that they put play before work.

Many Asians have the impression that the developed nation's way of doing things are the best and should be emulated. Until one has actually experienced life in another country, many Asians often over rate the latter's ways & culture. However, and nonetheless, this does not say that we are not able to learn some of their ways.

Among some of the admirable practices that Asian families could inculcate in their way of living is:
1) to treat children like individuals and give praise when & where it is due. Doing so will do wonders for the children's self esteem and confidence in the long term.

2) Parents should also encourage their children to find work instead of point-blank giving their children allowance when they ask for it. Encouraging children to work for their allowance, or find work when they are legally able to do so will encourage the children to appreciate the difficulty of how difficult it is to work.

It also opens the children's minds to the world outside, and the intricacies and politics of the working life. I want my children to have respect for their elders, and yet are confident to step out on their own when the time is due.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Revisiting Montessori terms.

These are the terms that you will find used by a trained Montessori teacher in a centre that fully employs the Montessori teaching method.

Work Cycle: The three hour work cycle. Define what is that.

Cycle of Activity: From taking the task from the shelf to returning it to the shelf.

Cycle of learning:
It follows the Montessori three-stage learning process.
1. The learning challenge is given; a stimulus is presented.
2. The challenge is received; the student and teacher work together to complete a task.
3. The challenge is returned; the student presents for assessment.

Stage 1: 3-6 years old (multi age classroom).

Absorbent Mind:
Children learn through their senses. The babies put things in their mouths to taste, touch and feel.

What are the SENSITIVE PERIODS for children aged 3-6 years old?
1) Sensitive Period for Language.
2) Sensitive Period for Order (Especially in young children).
3) Sensitive Period for Sensory Refinement
4) Sensitive Period for Development of Fine Motor Skills.
5) Sensitive Period for Small Objects
6) Sensitive Period for Social Behaviour.

Areas of learning:
1) Practical Life
2) Sensorial
3) Language
4) Mathematics
5) Cultural
6) Creative
- Name some of the common activities found for each area of learning.

Materials in Montessori learning:
1) The teaching & learning materials have 'inbuilt' control-of-error.
- The development of concentration is essential to normalization. How is concentration developed?
- Use of Three Period Lesson: in teaching of names & nouns.

Answers taken from Michael Olaf's website:
I recently observed a Montessori classroom for a day. I was very very impressed, but I have three questions.

A. I can give you three very incomplete answers to your perceptive questions:

1. There doesn't seem to be any opportunities for pretend play.
(1) When Dr. Montessori opened the first Children's House it was full of pretend play things. The children never played with them as long as they were allowed to do real things - i.e. cooking instead of pretending to cook. It is still true.

2. The materials don't seem to allow children to be creative.
(2) the materials teach specific things and then the creativity is incredible. Like learning how to handle a good violin and then playing music. It is not considered "creative" to use a violin as a hammer, or a bridge while playing with blocks. We consider it "creative" to learn how to use the violin properly and then create music. The same goes for the materials in a Montessori classroom.

3. Children don't seem to be interacting with another very much Any help you give me would be appreciated. Thank you very much.
(3) there is as much interaction as the children desire, but the tasks are so satisfying that, for these few hours a day, children want to master the challenges offered by them. Then they become happier and kinder—true socialization. Also, since concentration is protected above all, as all "work" is respected, children learn early on not to interrupt someone who is concentrating.

Have fun!

Senior First Aid Course completed!

Hi people... I have the cough again. SIGH. Been breaking my vocal chords the past few days. I do know that on those days that I have a cough (or impending one), I would perform poorly at work. Being a casual, that is detrimental to work performance. Well, what can I say?

Anyways, under the Australian legislation (well most of individual states will mandate it anyways), a staff in a permanent position (whether trained or untrained) should possess a First Aid qualification. Nevermind the fact that in NSW it is only for trained staff that should possess it.

I had finally completed my Senior First Aid training with St. John's Cross Association on Tuesday. It was a two day training session. Although I would like to have opted for a one day course (and a self study of 8 hours), the thought that came to me was that since I am paying the same price for whether one or two days, I might as well have a face-to-face interaction with my trainer rather than study alone without feedback from other people. Nevermind if that means I work one day less, (since I didn't work today or yesterday for that matter!).

There was a 45 Multiple Choice Question which we had to fill in and could only get 10 out of 45 questions wrong = 35 was the minimum we needed to score to receive our Statement of Attainment from the workshop!
Thankfully I passed! For the practical assessment, we were assessed using a real life scenario and bandaging procedures on a male mannequin! The first aid credentials are valid for up to three years.

Among the units we discussed and learnt about was CPR procedures, basic training with the AED machine (Automated External Defibrillator), the emergency numbers to call within Australia, Asthma action plan, Poison action plan, the emergency procedures & measures to take in the case of an individual who has just got involved in an accident, or is not breathing, and snake & poisonous creature bites.

An AED is one of those machines (similar to those electrical shocking thingamajig that you would find in an ambulance that is used to deliver an electric shock to someone whose heart has stopped breathing, or ventricular fibrillation).

We were also given some information about Anaphylaxis, which is an allergy reaction (which could be anything, but in Australia, it is predominantly nuts, eggs, seafood and pollen). Most individuals who suffer from Anaphylaxis have their own Action Plan (as in management plan) should their allergies act up.

As for Asthma sufferers, have you noticed that they use two kinds of medication? The first one is known as the Preventers (and are in Autumn coloured containers) and the second are the Relievers (which are in Winter coloured containers).

Anyways last but not least, today I finally decided to send an email to my agent to enquire about possibilities of work in Montessori centres. I am not sure what the outcome would be, or why I didn't think of that prior to this. (I should have, but it probably wasn't the right timing??). Am just crossing my fingers, and praying everything will turn out fine!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gold Coast: Montessori Bashing

When I said that the Montessori method of education is just not popular in Australia, I didn't realise how much it would be. Most of the 'mainstream' childcare centres only state that is because its "too structured". Its funny, cause the sentiments of parents in Asia about Montessori who may not fully accept a "full on" Montessori learning program is because its would contain too much elements of play& not enough academic/structured content!

I just picked this from a websearch. Apparently a Gold Coast City Council had some idea of wanting to ban a childcare centre operator from running a kindergarten because some of the councillors consider it "too boutique". The council's city property executive co-ordinator, Brendan Madden, argued that Montessori was not 'mainstream' enough. A decision on the childcare contract will be made on Monday.

The Asians' Attitudes Towards the Importance of Education.

Asians view education as very important. That is my observation from what I have seen of my friends who come from across the globe. Malaysia, Singapore. India. South Korea. Japan. All whom I have met during my time at university in Toowoomba for the past three years.

An example would be a friend of mine, Avadhut, from India. He has observed that in India, it is very common for most young people to have had their first undergraduate/degree graduation. Many of them who come to Australia will come to pursue their postgrad studies, and rarely undergraduate studies.

A South Korean friend of mine, Claudia, who completed her undergraduate studies (she majored in Early Childhood) in Korea said that admission to universities in South Korea is extremely competitive. Koreans who have gone overseas to complete their undergraduate studies are looked down by their peers as it has been regarded that the level of studies in a foreign land is not considered as high as that of the status in Korea, as it has been the case that many of those local koreans would only go abroad to study if they could not enter local universities. Most however, would only go abroad to take up language studies (which is normally English) after they have completed their initial studies.

However the case is different for Malaysians. Many of the Malaysians who have pursued their studies abroad are normally of Chinese & Indian descent. The reason for this is due to competition with their own indigenous locals, as well as the "quota" imposed on the tertiary places in Malaysia. Also too, is the fact that many of the Malaysians who have completed their studies overseas are not keen to return to Malaysia for political reasons.

In Australia, students have the opportunity to be able to apply for government funding for their studies. The taxes for the common employee can be as high as 50% (the more you earn, the more taxes you pay!) and as such, many of the people expect much in return from the government. Another example I read recently, would be that sole parents who, once their children turn the age of 6 years, will no longer receive special parenting benefits unless they go and search for a minimum 15-hour job.

It is rare for any government in most Asian countries to provide any kind of government funding (unless you are eligible due to 'political' reasons), as well as the fact that taxes in Asian countries are very much lower.

As far as what I have observed from families in New Zealand, and Australia, even the asian parents do not feel obliged, do not have to provide for their children's education fees as many have the expectation that their children would be able to apply for funding.

Indeed, it would be the trend that most families too expect their children to work to fund themselves (for accommodation, entertainment and transportation fees).

In summary, it could be concurred that even Asians take on their current context i.e. political and ruling circumstances to provide financially for their offspring, but having just as high expectations from their children in terms of education regardless of the location

Cross Cultural Inter-Generational Gap of managing people.

Picture this scenario. Three men stood in the middle of the road to picket about something. Police cars could be seen with flashlights turned on, and the police personnel could be seen bringing these three men to the side of the road and taking down notes. If a similar situation were to happen in Malaysia, (or any part of Asia for that instance), the police would have just thrown the same three men into lock-up!

Now, let me give you another scenario. When I was at work at a childcare recently near Bondi, this is what happened when the children were having their outdoor play. One of the children was carrying a camera, and she had ventured out into the playground.
Adult D: Hei, could you pass this camera to CY? (pointing to me).
Child then proceeds to pass the camera to me.
much later....the child comes out with Adult D. She has tears in her eyes.
Adult J: Oh, I am sorry, D. I had promised the child that I was going to give her the camera to take photos today.
Adult D: (who then proceeds to talk to the child). Oh dear, I am sorry. I didn't realise that Adult. J had promised to give you the camera to use, and I had asked you to give to CY. Perhaps you could let her have it for a while, and then she'll pass it back to you later..

Now, to an Australian, that scenario may be nothing out of the ordinary. However to someone of Asian upbringing (and in an Asian country), that is something peculiarly foreign! Of course, when I look at this situation, I am actually viewing it through the lens of an Asian, rather than as someone who is brought up and understand the philosophies & mindset of the Australian upbringing.

If most Asian teachers were to face the same scenario in an Asian context, the normal practice would be that apologizing would not be found in the books. Then again, this scenario would not even happen. For one, the asian teacher would not even allow the child to hold the camera, much less apologize to the child! At least that is what I know about most Asian parents & individuals for the experience. However, I would say to the least, actually the same may apply for Australians. Depending on their age group.

An example of personal experience would be when I was out last year on a primary school practicum where the teacher (who is a single lady in her late 40s-early 50s) who manages the classroom in a style which may not seem "politically correct" to someone who may be in her early 20s. The style that this elderly lady used to manage her classroom reminds me of the way a traditional structured Asian classroom would be managed (I can attest to that, since I am Asian!).

I have had a mate from India (he's in his 30s) who had an elderly Aussie man who struck up a conversation with him wanting to know if they did the same in India, and continuing to say that that in his time, they were allowed to trash the children but they are no longer allowed to do that anymore. Even young boys & some men in trains have been seen to openly swear and use bad language in front of young ladies, women and the elderly.

Recently I was chatting online with this white Aussie friend of mine who had just spent the last 7 months in Hong Kong what he perceived of the society there. His very words were "parents only give their children attention when their children do well in their studies". His perceptions are very true, as this not only applies in Hong Kong, but in most asian countries including India, Malaysia and most definitely Singapore!

People are not looked on as individuals in the asian society. The way that asian parents interact with children is generally not positive to begin with. An example would be viewing children's work of art. A typical asian remark from the parent/adult would of a scrawling of a 3-4 year old would not be "Wow, it's so pretty", but "what's that?" or "stop scrawling, and do some proper writing!".

In general, I do think its the different way that Aussies talk to each other, with that general & deprecating sense of humour. Even the parents do that with the children, and basically talk with the children like individuals or have fun joking with them. For someone who has been here for two over years, I still find it difficult to comprehend. Perhaps Asians are just more serious and reserved until they have known another person for a while before opening up.

Although this "individualism" is something that I do admire in the western way of approach to managing people, I did not realise the extent of how they actually demonstrated it. In a way, the western way of treating people like individuals can be admired, but by the same token of behaviour, it is MUCH MORE difficult for asians who have not had a similar upbringing to fully comprehend it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

NSW: Application for a Children's Services/ Child Care centre licence.

In the state of New South Wales, the Department of Community Service (DoCs) is responsible for regulating the categories children's services. This includes the responsibility of the licensing, compliance, enforcement & prosecution activities. The legislation that supports the Department of Community Services in their regulation of the children's services in NSW is the Children & Young Persons (Care & Protection) Act 1998 (the Act) and the Children's Services Regulation 2004 (The Regulation).

It is important that individuals obtain a copy of the Act and Regulation and seek both financial & legal advice before deciding if opening a centre/children's services is in their best interest.

Before the application on a children's services licence, the applicant must advertise their intention in a NSW or local daily, no earlier than two weeks prior to the application. The community has about three weeks to respond to the ad, after the lodgement of the application.

Children's Services fall under among these categories, namely,
- Centre based: which is provided at a fixed premises (which is not the home of the licensee).
- Mobile: where the service is "mobile" and visits specific premises or area at specific times.
- Family Day Care: a service that arranges for the care to be provided at the home of a carer other than the licensee of a Home Based service.
- Home Based service: where the services is provided at the home of the carer, by the carer, not being the home of any of the children receiving the care (other than a child related to the carer).
The most common children's services used by working parents would be the centre based children's services .

All Children's Services have minimum national standards to meet. More information can be found on the Australian Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs website. Child care centres register under the Quality Improvement and Accreditation System (QIAS), which is run by National Child Care Accreditation Council (NCAC).

The same licence application form (CSDA 01 Children's Service Licence Application) will apply in either of the three event:
- Opening a new children's services.
- Renewal of Licence.
- Change of ownership.
A different form (CSDA 03- Application to Vary a Licence) must be used in the event of any changes is required or want to be made to the current license in terms of maximum licensed place for the number of children allowed, hours of operation or name of service, etc.

The grant of a children's services centre license is valid for up to about three years. Services must lodge a licence renewal six months prior to its expiry date. The licence cannot be sold, or transferred in the case of the change of a licensee, a move to new physical premises, or changes to the existing licensed premises such as major renovations that substantially alter the physical environment (such as centre based, or home based licences).

Should a service provider intend to sell to another provider, the NSW DoCs recommends that a time-frame of 8-12 weeks in the application of a new licence, to ensure sufficient time for the assessment & approval for a new licence. In the case of the service operator that intends to cease the operations of the services, the licensee is required under the Regulations to provide written notice to DoCs of at least 21 days.

Different application forms with evidence are to be attached, depending on the type of children's services being applied for. Among the documentation required in the application of the CSDA includes:

Building Plans (including site plan) which is applicable ONLY to centre- based premises:
- includes a separate area for staff to consult with parents/administration/ room separate for staff away from the child areas.
- separate areas for children under 2 years of age.
- surfacing areas (soft fall) under playground equipment meet the requirements of AS/NZS 4422:1966
- Fire Safety Equipment is provided in accordance with AS1851.1.

Evidence of Business Registration. (for applicants who register under the Corporations Act 2001)
- Proof of Proprietorship.

Qualified Staff: (applicable to centre- based, family day care & mobile chldren's services):
- The nomination of maximum up to two Authorised Supervisor at one centre, who can be present at least 50% of the time. The Authorised Supervisor can be nominated to a maximum of working at two services at one time.
- At least one person trained in First Aid is present at all times.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New South Wales, Australia: Qualifications for childcare centre staff

Recently I had my qualifications sent for assessment to the Department of Community Services in New South Wales and this is the information I have found relevant to the assessment of qualifications as required in this state.

The requirements are as per the Children's Services Regulations 2004, which falls under the Children & Young Persons (Care & Protection Act) 1998 No.157 and is relevant ONLY to the state of New South Wales.

In every centre, there has to be one, or more Authorised Supervisor. This normally includes the Child Care Director, and includes another staff who has the 'power' to supervise the centre when the Director is away & sign documentations. Of course, there won't be many Authorised Supervisors, as the centre needs to be cost effective and has a budget to maintain.

The positions of Authorised Supervisor , has the responsibility for overall supervision of a childcare centre, needs to have one or more of these qualifications being:
1) degree/diploma in early childhood education from a university of not less than 3 years (on a full time basis), or
2) a Childcare Certificate, Certificate of Child Care Studies, Associate Diploma of Social Science (Child Studies) from an (RTO) Registered Training Organisation, or
3) another approved qualification by the DOCS, AND

- has 12 months full time or equivalent in part-time experience gained after the qualifications referred to above as a member of the primary contact staff, (most centres looking to hire an authorised supervisor would prefer to employ one who has had more than one year's past experience) AND

- has successfully completed a course in child protection approved by the Director General.

Centres have to nominate the Authorised Supervisor by filling in the Authorised Supervisor nomination form & attaching the required documentation to the Department of Community Services (DOCS).

On top of this, most centres in NSW when employing for the position of a Child Care Director require:
- Sound understanding of the NSW State Regulation Centre Based Care 2004.
- Extensive experience in planning and programming with the Emergent Curriculum or NSW Curriculum - Framework.

- Demonstrated financial management experience.

If the centre has more than 39 children, there has to be a staff who is an Early Childhood Teacher, and if more than 59 children, then two ECTs.
For the positions of Teaching Staff Member who:
a) has a degree/diploma in early childhood education from a university of not less than 3 years (on a full time basis),
b) has some other approved qualifications by DOCS, or
c) has other approved training and experience.

In the nursery, the positions of Primary Contact Staff Member for a child under 2 years of age is a person who:
a) is an enrolled nurse (mothercraft) within the meaning of the Nurses Act 1991 who has obtained:
1) a Cert IV from TAFE in Parenthood, or
2) a Cert III from an RTO in Children's Services, or

b) is a registered nurse in Australia, or

c) has obtained:
1) a Child Care Cert, Cert in Child Care Studies, Associate Diploma of Social Science (Child Care Studies) from TAFE, or
2) Diploma of Community Services from an RTO, or

d) has some other approved qualification.

Other necessary requirements for the employment of permanent staff include:
1) three forms of ID for the 100 Point Identity Check,
2) To be over the age of 18, as required by the Children's Services Regulation 2004.
3) Senior First Aid certification compulsory for TRAINED childcare staff.
4) Working With Children Check, as required by the Child Protection Act 1998 (Prohibitive Employment) and Reference Checked.

Australia: Brief on the childcare/children services accreditation process.

Recently when I was out at work, I found that at some centres, the staff spent more time on accreditation documentation. Saying that, I must say here that when I was out on one of my first few work assignments some months ago, a male staff (he was a Classroom Assistant) had remarked that as staff, they should be spending more time with the children, instead of writing up all the accreditation documentation that the centre expected them to.

At that point of time, it was something that I had yet to understand. I have now come to realise that there ARE centres that are particularly pedantic in observing the childcare centre accreditation process. Also too, some centres have staff & directors that are pedantic in observing ONLY the rules which are given in the legislation in handling the children, without leeway of anything less, which should not be the way when it comes to working with children.

I have been to many centres who DO understand that there is no fast & "one size fits all" when it comes to handling children, eventhough that may be the ruling in the books. In my time during my tenure as a relief staff, it has made me come to realise that there is much differences in the way that the childcare accreditation is translated, and every centre has its own way of translating it.

In Australia, every state is governed by their individual State and Territory Government and have different legislation under which child care services are licensed. The National Council Accreditation Council Inc. (NCAC) was appointed by the Australian Government to administer the following Child Care Quality Assurance (CCQA) systems in:
- Family Day Care Quality Assurance (FDCQA),
- Quality Improvement and Accreditation System for Long Day Care Centres (QIAS),
- Outside School Hours Care Quality Assurance (OSHCQA).

The NCAC sets standards to improve the quality of child care and accredit services that meets the standards. Factors in accreditation includes structural quality factors which are most readily measured, i.e space, range of equipment, number and ages of children, number of staff and the length of their training.

CCQA builds on licensing standards to look at factors that determine quality. NCAC's roles include administration of licensing or child protection issues in services that participate in CCQA.

A transcript: Child Care Profit (2004)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Yes, that is SICK with a capital. I've been caught busy with work (thoroughly blessed if I may say so!) and now caught the bug.

I've got a sore throat, running nose, cough & fever. Periodically reaching for the tissue paper to blow my nose!

This is my second week being sick, what with Winter coming, and working with children who have snotty noses all the time. It is contagious, if I may say so. Can't really work well under these circumstances. Going to have a 5 day weekend this week.

Have fun!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A successful skill assessment outcome.

It's been a fantastic week so far. Well, fairly fantastic to sum it.

On Monday, I received a letter from my Skill Assessment board that states my skill assessment for Child Care Coordinator as SUCCESSFUL! Isn't that fantastic? I was worried that the application would not go through, so it was with trepidation that I actually opened the letter. The skill assessment is among one of the most important criteria in deciding whether a long-term migration visa can be granted, and mine did! Woo Hoo!! Thank you to all my friends for your prayers & support. Without it, I don't believe it would have gone through as easily!

When I went through the document, it did not state that it had initiated any telephone verification, internet search, business listings or e-mail contact with the companies as listed on my documents! That just shows the board that the paperwork I had put through must have been very clear, detailed & thorough that they did not have to think twice on making a decision for my case.

As one of my mates who helped me out with an assignment last year said "always presume that the person marking your assignment/ paper does not know what you are talking about. Make it clear & never leave anything to second-guess, and always present your paper/assignment in a way that will leave the marker never doubting your capabilities". I used that principle with my skill assessment to make it look really professional. And it works!

Today I had to take off work as I was feeling a bit under the cold, blustery & windy Winter season. It is ESSENTIAL that as casuals, we have to take extra care of our health during this time. Actually not just us casuals, but ALL staff should take extra precaution during this time as our susceptibility to catching colds is much higher now. Agent E warned us that during this time, a lot of the permanent childcare staff do get sick, so winter is also a very "hot" period to call casuals in for work.

Finally, the best news for today is that I received a call from a new company, Agent S enquiring on my days of availability for duty next week, and that I can start work with them next week onwards!

All in all, it's been a pretty good week altogether, don't you think?!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Australia: How to apply to be a volunteer in school

How does one volunteer in the public schools here? Actually the same procedures apply whether it is for pre-school, elementary, high school or in a religious setting such as Sunday School (if required to work with children under age of 18). It may differ from state to state, depending on what the state practices.

The Working With Children Check (WWCC) is a compulsory procedure that all individuals over the age of 18 has to undertake before working or performing services that has direct contact with children below the age of 18. Under the legislation in Australia, exemptions are given if the person volunteering to help out in the class is a parent of the child, but otherwise they would need to undertake a Working with Children Check prior to volunteering to the class, & or show evidence of a police check (for the state of Victoria).

Individual normally have to fill in an application form for the WWCC which is normally FREE for volunteers, but payable if for employment purposes. Registered teachers are also normally exempted from requiring a Working With Children Check if teaching at their own respective schools. Students under the age of 18 years also do not require a background or reference check unless if they were in the centre for purposes of completing a practicum (possible if enrolled in TAFE, or Open University study programs).

* Queensland: Blue Card (Working With Children Check) The charge for undertaking the check is abt 70 dollars for employment purposes, or free as a volunteeer under an association, or school.
* New South Wales: Working With Children Check (the background check is free & a new application has to be undertaken each time ).
* Victoria: Working With Children Check is free for Volunteers, but abt 70 dollars for employment purposes. A Police Check is also part of the requirement in many circumstances and valid for about every six months (not sure how long though).
* For other states in Australia, please check or Google it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Key Learning Areas (QLD) : Literacy

The literacy activities in this entry is more suited & is undertaken by children in the early years & in context of primary schooling.

Learning activity 4.2
: Access your English/literacy/language arts syllabus and compare its description of reading with the Literate futures definition above. Are the reading learning experiences in your syllabus linked to its reading belief? Give examples of this.

Reading is a social practice that draws on a repertoire of social, cultural and cognitive resources to construct and reconstruct meanings from various traditional and multimodal texts. It is enacted in different ways for different purposes in a variety of public and domestic settings. Reading is therefore a cultural, economic, ideological, political, psychological and social act.

(Source: Education Queensland (M Anstey) 2002, Literate futures: reading, p. 23)

A definition of reading is not found in the Queensland English syllabus, but rather, one that encompasses the practice of reading with other literacy practices as follows:

In English, students learn to speak, listen to, read, view, write and shape texts to make meaning with purpose, effect and confidence in a wide range of contexts. They learn how language use varies according to context, purpose, audience, and content, and they develop their abilities to use this knowledge. Students develop their ability to use language to talk about language and to reflect on and critique its use.

The study of English occurs in a rapidly changing world — culturally, socially, economically and technologically. Increasing social diversity, the globalisation of economies, cultures and workplaces, as well as new information and communication technologies, place increasingly complex demands on citizens to be multiliterate. (Education Queensland (2005) English: Years 1-10 Syllabus, p.1)

Both these definitions of reading and literacy practices place an importance on students acquiring skills which require students to draw from their background knowledge as well as learn and develop a multitude of skills from a range of literacy practices. The onset of globalization taking place in a rapidly changing world has come to mean that students would no longer be able to be complacent but would need to develop a wide range of literacy skills in order to be considered as “literate” and read from a wide range of texts, include that of traditional texts, i.e. newspapers, brochures, posters, banners, to multi-media, which encompasses website prints, powerpoint presentations, television advertisements, cinema advertisements and perhaps holographic shows.

The reading learning experiences in the syllabus are linked to its reading beliefs as stated, as the English syllabus framework is divided into three sub-strands, which are the Cultural, Operational and Critical sub strands. The study of these three interrelated strand are developed and planned that it encourages students to develop a range of literacy practices to help them become multi-literate, active and and informed citizens able to participate as lifelong learners in a rapidly changing world (Education Queensland, 2005, p.3).

An example for planning is taken from the Level 1 Statement for the strand Reading and Viewing as states: Students interpret and construct simply structured brief texts that make connections with own experiences in familiar situations. They use textual resources including awareness of stages of the generic structure of texts, patterns of simple sentences, words, letters, images, sounds and voice. They identify similarities between textual representations and own experiences.

(Education Queensland (2005) English: Years 1-10 Syllabus, p.15)

The core learning outcomes for this strand states that students acquire the reading viewing skills by the end of Year 2 are:

Substrand: Cultural

  • That familiar written, visual and multimodal texts have particular cultural purposes.
  • That texts maintain a topic or idea related to their personal experiences or familiar texts
  • The roles and relationships that texts can be produced for different audiences
  • The texts can be produced in familiar paper and electronic mediums.

    Substrand: Operational
  • Different Text types which have their own genre and generic structure
  • Students develop understanding of subject matter of what consists of a sentence, use of vocabulary choice, noun groups, verb groups, adjectives, statements, questions, and commands, questions,
  • Students develop understanding of the different types of mode and medium of what consists of linguistic elements of text, starting point and direction, simple conjunctions, patterns, pronouns, simple synonyms, Word structure (spelling) and punctuation,
  • Students develop understanding of skills reading through use of graphophonic cues, visual letter patterns and rimes, two-letter consonant blends,
  • Students develop understanding of punctuation in reading texts: full stops, question marks, capital letters.

Substrand- Critical:

  • Students demonstrate these reading and viewing outcomes
  • Students recognise that in texts people can be recognised by how they are portrayed.
  • Students understand that background effects and facial expressions can be used to represent people, places, events and things in particular ways.

Literacy tasks (2nd Year Studies: Part 2)

As per the continuation of this entry.

Task 6: Review of a Textless Picture Book

Genre: Textless Picture book.
Title: What about me?
Illustrator: Frank Endersby.
Publisher: Child’s Play International Ltd, Holland.

This is a book that depicts a young girl and her experiences with her new born baby sibling. The girl watches as her mother follows the routines of feeding the baby, changing and dressing up the baby. The girl also plays with the baby, and follows along as the parents take the baby in a pram to the park. The story concludes when the father plays a game of ball with her to remind her that she is a member of the family.

Evaluation: I shared this story with a girl, Marie of about 4 years. Marie said she had a baby brother who was just born. She said she had gone to the hospital and seen ambulances. She could also identify with the routines that the baby has such as changing, dressing up, and mostly diapers!

Marie said that her mother had told that she also used to wear diapers but now that she is older, she uses the toilet. Marie said that her mother did not allow her to feed the baby, but she has a baby doll that she feeds, changes and cleans up after. Marie concluded by saying that she loves her baby and wants to play with her baby sibling, but the baby sleeps a lot, so she has to wait till the baby is awake!

Task 7 Review of a Hard Cover Pop Up/Lift-the-Flap Book
Genre: Hard Cover Pop Up/ lift-the-flap book.
Title of book: Where is Maisy?
Author: Lucy Cousins
Illustrator: Lucy Cousins
Publisher: Walker Books, London.
Year Published: 1999.

I shared this story book with children from a group aged 2- 2.5/3 years in the centre where I did my professional experience. (24th , and 31st August 2006). According to the group leader of the class, the Maisy series of books was a well known and popular choice of the children in the group.

This activity was done both during choice time activities on a personal one-to-one activity or small group activity, during group times on the mat, or when the children come and ask that the book is read to them. This book talks about Maisy, a female mouse dressed in a striped red-and-green overalls, and her 5 friends who play a game of “hide and seek”.

The goals of the book: the child is able to remember the character and identify if they have found the character of Maisy, by turning the flaps on each page, and identifying if the character is Maisy, or some other character.
Maisy turns up at the last page of the book. This understanding of character recognition is reinforced visually through written words that state “not here!” if the character seen is not Maisy. Each page also asks the same questions with simple words of “Is Maisy in the ___”, depending on the picture illustrated on that page.

A huge majority of the children read to in the group could show their understanding of the story. This is communicated through the use of non-verbal body gestures, such as shaking their heads to state “no”, or verbally stating it out saying “no”, or something similar to it.

Many of the children also could nod excitedly when they came to the last page, and could indicate that the character “is Maisy”. So far, on the days of my practicum at the centre, the children have repeatedly asked for the same book to be read to them through either the group assistant, the group leader, or they could come up to me to ask me to read the book to them.

Task 8: Review of a Picture Book.

Genre: Picture book (Australian storybook).
Title of book: Snap went Chester!
Author: Tania Cox & David Miller.
Illustrator: Tania Cox & David Miller.
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books, Sydney.
Year Published: 2003

  • Apron
  • a hand- puppet crocodile
  • Safari animal manipulatives.

Evaluation: I shared this book with a 4 year old child in pre-school class. As I was telling the story to the child, I took out the hand puppet crocodile and made snapping motions. Then I asked the child if she wanted to have a try at working with the puppet, which she agreed to.

As we turned the pages, I read the words, and asked her to predict what would happen, and then said to her that if she saw the words ‘SNAP” on the page, that she could “snap” the crocodile. She “snapped” the crocodile and tried to predict and name the animal as we turned the pages.

It was initially a one to one story telling session, but there were other children in the class nearby who saw us working with the hand-puppet crocodile and decided that they wanted to join us. So we read the story together for a few times after that.

After which, I put on the story apron, and then told the children that I had mystery animals in each apron, and that they could put their hands into the pockets to take out the “mystery” animals. I started with the first, and then asked the children if they wanted to had a try at it. The children giggled as they each took a turn at taking the animal out and then made snapping motions at the animals.

I asked if they wanted to do it again, and they repeated this a few times before they decided to work with another activity. I would say that the animals in the story had difficult long names, so I changed it by using familiar animals (with shorter names) that the children were familiar with so that they can snap at the animals.

Task 9: Review of a Picture Book with puppets.
Picture book.
Title of book: The Big Wide Mouthed Frog.
Author: Ana Martin Larranaga
Publisher: Walker Books, London.
Year Published: 1999

  • A sock puppet.
  • Cut out drawn stick puppets.
  • The storybook “The Big Wide Mouthed Frog”.

How did the children engage with the story?
I shared this story with a group of 4 year old children. Each time I read the words “big wide-mouthed frog”, I curved my mouth as wide as I could and the children imitated the same actions and showed it to their friends. The children could identify the kangaroo, the koala, the possum, the emu, and the crocodile. The children could easily identify the animals except for the possum and the emu, which was not so easily recognizable through the illustrations.

What did they know about how the story developed?
The children knew that the frog was going around and meeting all kinds of different animals as each page was turned. They also knew that the frog asked each animal as it went along what food it ate, and that the frog always gave the same answer “And I eat flies!”. It was only when it reached the last animal, the crocodile, that the frog gave a different answer when the crocodile said that it eats “big wide mouthed frog”.

Did they want to follow up the story episode with further activity?
I asked the children what their favourite animals were and what they ate, and asked the children to describe it. I suggested to the children what about if they showed me what their favourite animals were and what they ate, and they decided to go and draw their favourite animals on paper.

Task 10:
Lesson plan: Mystery Bag.
Purpose of activity: To describe and guess the object that are in the bag.
Knot tie bag, black metal hair pin, battery, white plastic peg, black plastic button, silver metal coin
Age group: 3.5- 4 year olds. This too would depend on the context and how well the adult knows the children are fluent in their oral skills.

How it will be implemented: First, I will bring out the materials in the bag one by one to show to the children. This is for the element of surprise, as well as to maintain order when introducing the activity, or else if I bring all the objects out, the child or children may start fiddling or playing with all of the objects on display.
Then we will discuss each object that is shown and describe its characteristics. It is important that I bring out the object and describe it as children would not want to put their hands into a tie knot bag without knowing what it is inside.

For children who have difficulty in finding the words for describing the objects, this would be a good opportunity for the adult to introduce short and simple new terms for the objects. Then I will put all the objects in the bag. I would ask an older child, or an assistant, and we will demonstrate to the children how the game would be played. Then the teacher will ask a child to volunteer to start playing the game.

Task 11:
Design, describe and explain a literacy rich learning centre/corner in which children can engage in socio-dramatic play. Identify language and literacy outcomes.

Theme of literacy centre: The beach side.
This centre can be made out of a discussion after the school holidays, as many children may go away to the beach, or at the end of the summer Christmas holidays. Both children and teacher in the class can contribute to the literacy centre. The children can make their own creations and add them to the literacy centre, labeling it with their names, of course. These projects include making

  • Shell necklaces
  • Drawings of the beach
  • Shell mobiles
  • Mobiles of sea creatures.
  • The teacher can initiate projects relate to the beach such as making an aquarium (out of card boxes) and making fish.

Things that can be placed in the literacy centre:

  • A huge beach umbrella.
  • Beach towels.
  • A beach chair.
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Sun glasses.
  • Beach wear: for young boys and girls.
  • Sea shells.
  • Bucket
  • Spade
  • A box with sand
  • Labels of objects in different languages.
  • A float
  • Pictures and paintings of the beach side.
  • Pictures or signs at the beach that have to be followed. (different coloured flags denote whether the beach is safe to swim).
  • Popular storybook characters going to the beach:- Spot goes to the beach.

Language & Literacy outcomes: The children will learn that

  • Different names of the different people who have an important function at the beach. i.e. beach patrol, life guards.
  • Different names of the objects that can be normally found/used at the beach: spade, bucket, sand, float, suntan lotion, sunglasses,
  • Children will learn that the lifeguards patrol the beach and tell swimmers to swim between the right coloured flags and will blow a whistle if anything goes amiss.
  • Children will identify that different coloured flags means that the tide is in and it is not safe to swim on that day.
  • Children will learn that people make objects out of seashells and sell it for a living.

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