Sunday, June 27, 2010

Reflections on my first Australian Montessori school visit.

So this morning I did managed to make my visit to the Forestville Montessori School, as it had an Open Day. I almost did not make it as I woke up late. There are not many buses that run from the city to Forestville, so getting there also took a while. But anyways, I managed to make my way there. 

I am sure you're wondering excitedly how the school was?

The school, without any doubt, is a school that subscribes fully to Montessori principles. Apparently, as I later found out, the centre is also an outsourced AMI training centre, where local students who want to enrol in Montessori courses can do it there.

The 3 Year Cycle
The school strictly follows the three-year cycle as written by Montessori, and the enrolment of the children starts around the age of three. It would prove a difficult task for students who have never started in a montessori school from the younger age to be able to move up to the older classes, as Montessori schools have their own set curriculum.

The classes are divided into the three year cycle where students are enrolled from the age of three onwards.

Cycle 1: 3-6 years.
Cycle 2: 6-9 years.
Cycle 3: 9-12 years

At the end of any cycle, the parents are allowed to withdraw their children, and they may enrol in a normal public/private school of their choice.

State Regulations
In the case of most montessori preschools/kindergarten that are attached to a primary school, children in the Cycle 1 years fall under two different assessing and education boards.

In NSW, for the children that falls between the ages of 0- 5 years, that would be the Department of Community Services (DOCS), and for children aged 6 years and above, this would fall under the normal primary schools that falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education.

Hence, I believe the same legislation applies too for any other Montessori school that is attached to an elementary school.

As for how the Montessori schools can meet the National Curriculum, check out this link here from the Montessori Australia website.

My Impressions
It was a first for me to visit a fully Montessori preschool + elementary school. It was most definitely an exciting experience, as in Malaysia, we may have Montessori preschools, but not anything beyond that age group.

Further, in Malaysia, children start school at age 7, so if Malaysian preschools wanted to implement a Cycle 1 (three years) it may likely be possible. The difficulty being that there would b no continuity into Cycle 2 or 3 in the later years. 

One of the administrators brought me around the school, for I was looking a little lost in the huge area of the school. She was really friendly and warm!

I observed that in regards to the population of the school, it seemed to be the size of three houses put together, so you can gather that the school population is almost like a close knit big family. 

I did mention to the administrator that I had done my montessori training under the UK umbrella (Montessori Centre International) and was wondering how different it was compared to AMI (Association Montessori Internationale), to which, she said the most interesting thing...

That regardless of where one does their training, what matters most is that the student gets the heart of the philosophy was. Which was comforting to hear.

Montessori Certification 
I get the general idea that montessori schools that are attached to a primary school, may run on a similar platform. For schools that do run on the three year cycle, especially those which are attached to a primary school, where AMI's certification courses would be more relevant as it would cater for the 3 year cycle.

My understanding is that as many principals in Australia are trained under AMI, they therefore are familiar with the AMI, having gone through the training. As human nature would state, most principals will need some, or may want to some of the information background of the examination board/background/type of assessment done when looking at transcripts/teaching credentials as they want to be careful when hiring a teacher onboard. 

As MCI's certification is for children 2.5 -6 years, it may probably make more sense in Malaysia, or other types of montessori centres that are not attached to a primary school, since for the most part, children do enter primary school  at 6 years.

I really doubt I'd pay 12,000AUD just to redo a Montessori course, when I have already graduated from one. Yes, and the MCI International Diploma is no doubt recognised in the UK and other parts of the world.

and yes, if you are wondering again, ALL teachers in Australia still need their 4 year degree in order to be a registered teacher whether at public/private/religious schools. And if heading to a montessori school, the necessary Montessori credentials on top of it!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Abortion is illegal in Malaysia.

In Malaysia, it is currently illegal for a woman to have an abortion. For young women in their late teens who get pregnant, most just get married to the boy (forcibly by the woman's family), or have an abortion.

For the record, I do not support Abortion.

However, in the case of Malaysia, I would vote to have abortion legalised. There currently really is no support for teenage pregnant mothers here, or an asylum for these mothers to have any kind of mental support, or counselling like they have in western countries.

The support system really does not exist, and being a typical "conservative" thinking, a young girl who is pregnant does and is not able to get much support from the society as a whole.. she may even be "denounced" by her family for bringing shame to the family...

Even if they choose to have the baby, it is not a common practice for most other asian couples to be adopting babies. I have a cousin who adopted a baby, but that was after she had tried for 10 years, and she was in the States, where it was a more common practice, and she adopted a child from China.

In order to keep abortion illegal, there must already be in existence, be a support system, or family planning system in place for these young women, as well as an asylum for these pregnant mothers, as well for their born children to go to should they decide to give birth to the baby, but not keep it.

Malaysia still has a long way to go...

Gianna Jessen Abortion Survivor in Australia Part 2

Part 2 of Gianna Jessens's testimony as an Abortion Survivor..

Gianna Jessen Abortion Survivor in Australia Part 1

I found these videos when I was surfing the Internet today...

Gianna Jessen is an Abortion survivor. In Australia, and in many countries around the world, abortion is becoming legalised...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some Key Issues Identified So Far...

I was trying to source for information for teachers who work in through casual employment, as well the complexities of supporting Asian international pre-service teachers as they undertake practicum  in Australia.

The two articles from the journal would cost 60AUD, which would cost too much for anyone to pay anyways, but it is helpful to know that such issues does arise, and I'm happy to know that these problems were not uncommon.

I particularly like how the abstract of both the articles above as follows:

Teaching Staff in Casual Employment...
"The Educational Alumni Support Project (EdASP) indicated that there is an urgent need for the teaching profession to support casual beginning teachers (CBTs). The EdASP that was carried out at the University of New England provided online support for primary and secondary beginning teachers, yet the majority of postings were submitted by CBTs.

In general, these casual teachers experienced feelings of alienation, culture shock, a lack of school and systemic support, and are often not considered part of the school community by staff or students. The analysis of postings by CBTs provides further insight into the difficulties they face, as well as reveals or reinforces strategies that could effectively facilitate their teaching.

Many of these findings are not new, yet the call to aid casuals continues to be overlooked. This need for support is both professional and pragmatic.

Ethically, education - a nurturing profession - should support its novices. In addition, the transition period from pre-service to professional teacher has significant implications for teacher educators plus the potential retention of teachers."


Complexity of supporting Asian international pre-service teachers..

Increasing numbers of Asian international students are choosing to undertake their tertiary studies in English-speaking countries. For universities, international students are an important source of revenue. However, Asian international students face multiple challenges in adapting to a foreign culture, understanding the expectations of their role, and adjusting to language, communication and cultural differences.

These challenges are manifested, in particular, during practicum or field experience. This paper investigated the concerns of twenty Asian pre-service teachers before and after their practicum in Australian schools by drawing upon data from focus group interviews.

Although language barriers and cultural differences were identified concerns before the practicum, concerns about their relationship with their supervising teachers and the limited time in which they had to learn also emerged after the practicum.

Whilst the findings are limited to the present study, implications for supporting Asian international pre-service teachers during practicum are discussed."

The abstractly sweetly summarizes the issues and problems that I have identified in my blog entries so far...

Open Day @ Forestville Montessori School

This Saturday the Forestville Montessori School is having their Open Day.

10AM – 2PM
Infant Community (3mths - 3yrs), Pre School (3 - 6yrs)
& Primary (6 - 12yrs) 1 Angel Place, Forestville 2087

Secondary Campus
3 Myoora Road, Terrrey Hills 2084
This is a great opportunity to visit our classrooms and talk to the directors about our programme. ph 9452-2044

The Forestville Montessori School was established in 1981 by the Peninsula Montessori Association Ltd. It is accredited by both the Department of Community Services and The Department of Education. The programme offered is child-oriented and follows the development of the child according to the Montessori Philosophy. All staff hold traditional and Montessori teaching qualifications. A full Montessori programme is offered for 3 - 6, 6 - 9 and 9 - 12 age groups as well as an Infant Community and After School programme. The school's beautiful premises are located in Forestville, a leafy suburb on Sydney's northern peninsula.

"Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities." Dr. Maria Montessori

Note To Self
The centre is a bit far away from where I am staying, but I'll be heading there to have a visit, since they are having an Open Day anyways.

Staffing Agencies: Pros and Cons.

I'm in the midst of wanting to look for more consistent work in the same place.

Among the pros in working for a staffing agency is that we get to try/see different kind of childcare centres, be it Council owned, private, not-for-profit, and hopefully, the occasional purely Montessori centre (which has yet to happen in Sydney anyways, nor with any of my current agencies)..

In doing that, we learn a bit more about the different types of childcare centres, and in the process, are able to make more informed decisions on whether we want to work in those centres, or the kind of facilities available at the different kind of centres.

However, I've come to understand better that as the cost of bringing in temporary contractors from staffing agencies is high (and expensive!), most centres try to make use of their current staff, or always opt for a cheaper option, whenever possible.

Through discussions with other staff in the same field, I've come to learn that by applying for work under a network that directly manages (meaning, a childcare centre that comes under a similar network, or franchise), it is much more cost effective, and therefore less expensive, and more consistent in terms of the areas/centres where casual work is concerned.

However, the complication lies whereby when an agency sends in a temporary/contractor to a centre (or their clients), and if the centre would like to offer employment, whether directly/indirectly or through a third-party, the client is still liable to pay a "commission" to the agency.

This would be good in a situation should the contractor were looking for a permanent position, however, for most of us, may have other priorities in hand, and a permanent full time/ permanent part time may be the last thing for our mind, and I seriously believe that no centre will pay a hefty fee for a contractor who is looking at working only for casual hours.  

Where a pool of childcare staff is available through in a joint venture agreement or arrangement, it is much more cost effective by way of where the Management does not have to pay apart from the award + loading/penalty fees, they do not have to pay further outsourcing fees, hence making it cheaper for the centres.  Correct me if I am wrong, but that is at least what I am aware of.

Casual Relief work is good, however, I would like to have a bit more familiarity with the centres I would work at. It would look better on my resume in the long term nonetheless, not to mention better for my mental psyche, as well as the advantage of creating more intimate relationships (hopefully without the politics!) with the children and their families.....

So anyways, I'm now in the midst of checking out the different types joint-venture agreement/arrangment type centres, as well as other Montessori childcare centres, since I am trained in that field. Where do you think the web address of my blog came from then?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remember to keep it COOL!

One of the things I always try to keep in mind when I go in for a casual/relief assignment is to not let the little things/gestures of the first person, which may/would normally be the Director I meet at a centre to aggravate/upset my state of mind for the rest of the afternoon. 

Perhaps some people get upset, or are sensitive to a number of things. But as I have learnt from watching my dad (yes, even my dad!).

Being the owner and manager of a business, he learnt to ignore irrelevant gestures/comments and just disregards it. Sometimes he just warns us off with a look, or a comment, or just tells his staff off verbally when they start to panic/whinge/etc.

I really think it is a good skill to learn. Just learn to ignore irrelevent comments and just go in and do whatever work that one has been assigned to set out to do.

And seriously, being a teacher, we have to learn that skill. I had observed recently, a dear friend of mine, who works as a language teacher, and gets easily emotionally upset at the little antics of some students when she is teaching... and they're students who are in their late 20s!

Perhaps she may not have had students who have tried her patience much... I've had children who have bitten me and tore my sleeves/skirt/etc (and they aren't autistic, mine you!), starting running around the class in the middle of a lesson, and etc.... she can't beat that...!

Sometimes these gestures/words may have been said out of frustration, say when the manager has had a really bad day, or maybe she is just is like that, or when some students (who at the age of 28) may still try to be cheeky.  *Tsk tsk tsk*

But Always Always try to remember to keep it cool, and don't let it get the better of you! You'll feel much more in control, and better at the end of it. ^^

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pay rate for Early Childhood Teachers (ECT)

As ECTs are rare as Diploma qualified staff abound, I am and is always happy to meet another ECT. Our conversations are always towards amiable should our circumstances be similar in that aspect.

Recently, I did meet one in her early forties. She is Australian-Greek, and is working for a centre part time (three days) and the other two days, she works casual for an agent (not the same as mine).

For someone in her forties, she noted that she was fine with working three days a week, as having to work a 5 day week was much too tiring.

However she did noted to me that casual ECTs should earn at least AUD34/hour minimum.

She earned her degree in the same year as I did (2008), but was working as a Diploma qualified prior to that. Stating that we (ECTs) don't spend two to three extra years at university waiting on a degree to earn peanuts;

for as working permanent part-time for a non-for-profit childcare centre as an ECT, she earns about $30, in which case, she stated that I should think of looking for an employer which pays on a similar level.

Some thoughts are running through my mind now. To say, I must mention that perhaps it is also dependent on the number of years we have worked, as there are many contributing factors.

I must however add too that when one starts out as a fresh graduate, it is perfectly fine to be paid a lower salary. However, as we gain confidence in our skills, our salary should commensurate, and looking for an employer that pays appropriately should take priority in those circumstances.

As the chinese proverb says, "wool grows on a sheep" (羊毛出在羊身上), there are expectations to be met when one's earning is of a certain threshold, and hopefully we would have the ability to take it in stride.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Return to Relief Childcare Work.

Well, so I went to work this week.

It was for two assignments this week, one being a four-hour assignment in Ashfield, and another for a 7.45 hour assignment in Leichhardt.

I found out that apparently these days, lunch breaks are no longer paid for even as a permanent staff. But two to three years ago, that was possibly still possible before the economic crises, I guess?

So how did the work go?

For both assignments, I was working with children in the two to three years age group. It was a surprise for me as I expected either pre-school age, or nursery age group for both, but it came down to be of the same age group for both assignments. 

I was informed by my agent that my performance was marvellous in the first centre. In the second centre, the centre's permanent staff also informed that she was really happy that I was able to follow her "hints" and "directions", hence management of the class was though tiring, we were able to co-operate and work well together as a team. 


I really have to state that after being away from the childcare work for almost 18 months, I am quite happy to see that my skills have not deteriorated that much.

Of course, the fact that I kept notes during my one year as a casual relief staff helped a lot. Re-reading my written notes (which I kept in an notebook) helped me to refresh my mind on
  • classroom management skills. 
  • the ability to work well with other centre support staff in managing the children's behaviour.
  • appropriate age related skills 
  • preparing in my mind to prepare the activities relevant to each age group
  • spacing my strength and energy to work with children
  • taking care of my voice when working with children.
Before going out to work this time, I headed over to Basement Books (in Sydney CENTRAL area) to purchase story books. The books in Basement Books were quite cheap, as compared to some of the upper priced shops around town. I would believe that perhaps TAFE may have some resources, but I have yet to visit it.

Maintaining My Voice
At the end of my second assignment with the preschool children, (2-3 year olds), I realised that I almost had no voice left. So indeed, drinking a lot of water, my larynx moisturised, and especially in the winter, was of utmost importance to any teacher. Also, I had to continually reapply lip gloss, as it just became terribly dry and cracked.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Australia: Working With Children Check.

Recently, as you may have known, I went back to see my previous Childcare Agent.

Among the more important documentation that I had to fill in was the NSW Work With Children Check.

Now, if you have been following my adventures on childcare in Australia, you'd have known that the Work With Children Check are among the more important procedures that every person who wants to be engaged whether in voluntary or paid employment in any childcare related industry has to undertake before they can be legally released and approved to work with children.

As it has been more than 12 months since I've been inactive from my employment, I have to complete a redo of the Work With Children Check. The best thing about doing it in NSW is that the entire procedure is FREE, but it is payable in states like Victoria, and Queensland (starting from AUD70). However, it can be used immediately when one is in a lack of time!

Here is a recent February 2010 report that I found that describes the Pre-Employement Screening & Police Checks of all the different states in Australia. It is published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. You may also download here for printing purposes.

It would take within 10 working days for the Work With Children Check results to get back to Childcare Agency. Till then, I'd just be sourcing for my teaching resources.. (and going for my facials ^^ )

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Australia: Back to Childcare.

As most may know (if you have not been following my blogs, what have you been doing eh?), I am back now in Sydney.

So yes, I've been back here for almost a month. Mostly just rusting at home, preparing my application to TAFE. Yes, I've decided to put my grey cells to work by taking a course at TAFE. I've since put in my application, but only the lecturer assessing my portfolio will decide how well my application goes. It took two weeks for me to prepare my portfolio, and since I do not have any official letter from my employer in KL in relation to my course, the portfolio was necessary.

Anyways, as I had bought a 7-Day Rail City ticket this week, I decided to make full use of it and meet my previous employer, Agent E, to re-activate my "employment account" with them. With more than two months to go till studies at TAFE starts, staying and rusting at home is not exactly the best thing to do.

This entry serves to help those who are in a similar situation like me, who have previously worked for a childcare agency and left for a while. Of course, I am worried as its been more than 18 months since I've been away. But anyways, here's what happened.

When I was in the office, I had to fill in some forms. They were:
  • Working With Children Check (it's just filling a form, so that was really easy. But proof of identity with Passport, or Driving Licence is required.). 
  • Filling in the employment application form with the latest details (bank details, latest home details).
  • Tax File Number information. 
  • Nominating a Superannuation Fund (which I can choose) 
Anyways, Casual Staff Manager informed me that apart from the above documentations, I did not really have to do the test (yes, there are about two case study tests for Diploma & ECT qualified applicants to fill in) and two references, as I had worked for Agent E prior to this.

I believe they would try to get my case in soonest possible, as you would have to understand that Agencies make their commission from the casual employees that they send out. Agency staff would try their hardest to ensure that the staff that they send out perform well, improve our performance, as highly qualified (and experienced) staff in childcare are hard to come by.

The Agency is also linked to a training centre, but she told me that as I was already "highly qualified" there was not much that the training centre could do for me. For as far as childcare qualifications went, the three- year degree was the highest.. even recertifying my first-aid certificate had to be done at an institution like St. John's.

Oh well.

The Manager in charge of Casual Staff did ask me how soon could I start work?

Of which, I then informed her that I had to take time to source for teaching materials as I could not just waltz in, or "rock in" (as they call it) to a childcare centre unprepared. "I need to show some standard for my level, you know".

I told her that I would contact them when the necessary preparations were done. She just nodded her head.

Roles of a Coordinator in a Children's Services setting.

An Early Childhood Teacher is normally qualified to hold the position as Co-Ordinator... the roles & responsibilities as defined by NSW Industrial Relations are as follows for a Coordinator in most Children's Services settings. 

Qualified means a qualified carer who holds the Diploma in Children’s Services, an Associate
Diploma in Social Science (Child Studies) from TAFE or equivalent qualifications which are recognised under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 as amended, and who is appointed by the employer to co-ordinate, administer and manage a service. An employee at this level is required to perform the following duties:
  • be accountable to the employer for the administration of the Service;
  • co-ordinate and manage the day-to-day operations of the service;
  • manage staff through liaison and consultation with the employer;
  • oversee and ensure the maintenance and implementation of a healthy, safe and clean environment for staff and children;
  • ensure day-to-day administrative tasks are completed appropriately, including requirements for funding and licensing;
  • ensure the Service adheres to all relevant regulations and licensing guidelines;
  • ensure all appropriate records are maintained;
  • liaise with and consult with parents regarding the needs of the children and the community;
  • liaise with management to ensure that all matters and procedures relating to government funding are complied with in accordance with appropriate guidelines and, where applicable, submissions for funding to relevant authorities are made and funds applied in accordance with the relevant guidelines and approvals;
  • assist with the preparation of budgets in consultation with the employer, making appropriate recommendations and manage service financial responsibilities within approved levels;
  • attend meetings as required by the employer consistent with position responsibilities.
 In addition an employee may be required to perform some or all of the following duties:
acts as Authorised Supervisor in accordance with the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 as amended, where required by the employer;
  • develop, implement and evaluate Service policies and procedures and ensure these and licensing conditions are met in consultation with the employer;
  • prepare and present reports regarding service issues;
  • develop goals and directions for the service in consultation with staff and management in line with early childhood policy and practice;
  • ensure that government guidelines on priority access to services are adhered to;
  • other duties as required by the employer which are within the knowledge, skills and capabilities of the carer, including duties at a lower classification; provided that this does not promote de skilling.

    An employee at this level is required to possess and maintain a current first aid certificate recognised under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 as amended, and administer first aid as required."
 Woah. That sure is a lot of roles, and responsibilities, isn't it? ^^

    Australia: Regulation of ECTs by ECE settings, state and territory

    Here is an extract from Dr Louise Watson report in the DEEWR website.

    There is no national consistency in the requirement for qualified early childhood teachers at the pre-school level (4 year-olds). This varies by jurisdiction, and can be influenced by the type of provider and which set of regulations they come under.

    Child care services are regulated by different government departments within each jurisdiction – in some states these are education departments, but more often, they are departments of family and community services.

    For example, in most states when 4 year-olds attend a childcare centre, their program will be delivered primarily by childcare employees holding a VET Certificate in Children’s Services and possibly designed by an employee who holds a Diploma of Children’s Services.

    In some jurisdictions (eg. Queensland), the director of a large childcare service must have a 3-year degree in Early Childhood Education or an Advanced Diploma in Children’s Services. But in other jurisdictions, it is acceptable for the Director of a childcare service to have a nursing degree. In New South Wales, childcare centres are required to employ a teaching staff member (who must have a Degree or Diploma in Early Childhood Education) for groups of 30-40 children over the age of two.

    Within jurisdictions, pre-school provision can be a mix of government-operated pre-schools, private and community-based pre-schools and childcare centres (community-based or privately owned). While government-operated pre-schools usually come under the jurisdiction of an Education Department, other pre-school providers, such as childcare centres or early learning centres will be governed by children’s services legislation (which in many states is implemented by a family and community services agency, rather than an education department).

    Thus 4 year-olds attending a government-run pre-school (ie, administered by an Education Department) are likely to be taught by an Early Childhood teacher with a 3 or 4-year Bachelor’s degree (with the help of an assistant).

    In the ACT, for example, where all pre-schools are government-operated, children in pre-schools are taught by a qualified pre-school teacher whereas 4-year-olds in childcare centres fall under different legislation which does not mandate the qualifications of staff above VET Diploma level.

    A privately-owned pre-school might also employ a qualified Early Childhood teacher, but would not be obliged to do so, if it is registered as a childcare facility under children’s services legislation.

    A further complication is that in some jurisdictions non-government pre-schools may receive subsidies from State Education Departments and the receipt of this funding can involve meeting minimum qualification requirements – even though the pre-school would be registered under childcare legislation.

    Confusing, eh? I'm still trying to figure it all out too.... ^^

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