Friday, November 10, 2006

Debriefing: Reflecting on my internship.

Tomorrow I will be starting my 3rd professional experience (ECP2001) and then after, the 4th professional experience (ECP2002) at this C&K centre with a 4-5 year old pre-school group.

The last couple of weeks since I had my post-ECP1002 interview, I was reflecting on some thoughts that my lecturer, Alice was telling me about. My lecturer noted to me that I have a pretty strong personality in which, on reflection, may not be suitable for certain contexts in which, should I engage at.

As it is too recently, a previous communication with my friend, Annie, reminded me about the strengths that I have, and on reflection on that communication with Annie, reminded myself that I should take ownership of it and expand upon it.

Recently, as stated in my past entries, I have just completed in total, an 18-day "internship"(as I would define it) in a private based long day childcare centre located in the midst of town. At the same time, I was in the midst of doing my research in community based C&K centre. To which, I had attended and stayed a few hours in the morning for a couple of weeks to collect my data research. When I was there, I observed some things that was I thought was pretty uncharacteristic.

Saying that, it must be noted that this is my 2nd experience at "another" early childhood centre, and one, where the context of the environment is in total contrast to that of the first. I was pretty surprised at the way things were run there, because I had the impression that centres were to be as "structured" as the first one I attended. In fact, apart from the documentation that took place, everything else was done in a totally different manner. One which I kept on reflecting on.

The things that I had observed was that:

  • the children had the flexibilty to go in and out of the shed to take the outdoor play equipment as they wished to.
  • the children could paint on the pavements and run anywhere on the outdoor grounds without being reprimanded.
  • the children could stay indoors in they didn't feel like going out outdoors to play (provided there was a staff supervising indoors).
  • the children did not have to pack away their manipulatives and "work" just because they were going for lunch. There was no emphasis on that.
  • the children did not all have to sleep "at the same time". Only those who wanted to sleep will sleep. The rest could just work with the equipment or do their own work.
  • the staff did not emphasize on following routines anally, but was flexible on following the children's interests and how their play went like.

The imposition of rules & regulations reminds me of something I read in my ECE2112 (Managing Young Children) readings about following the children's interest, instead of imposing rules and regulations on them. It says that staff who follow the children's leads and interest, end up having a better time at work, because they are not always stressing out and expending too much energy in "policing" children to follow the rules and regulations of the centre all the time.

Last week, one of my lecturers, Michelle, took my Literacies course group to visit two different centres. One of which is another C&K centre in another part of town, and the other, which was a pre-school and kindergarten group in a school based setting.

There was a total difference between both the C&K setting and the school based setting in context to the ones I visited. I brought it up with one of my lecturers, Gillian during discussion about my research project today.

The characteristics of that C&K centre was:

  • The C&K had a really home based "feel" to it. It's like you get the feeling like you are entering someone's "home" instead of a school.
  • There was no dress code in place for the children
  • As it is, one of the notable things of the C&K setting is that, the learning experiences are "individualised" to the children's interest, more flexible
  • Very elaborately decorated.
  • Vey much less structured!

At the school setting, it was exactly that.

  • There was a dress code in place.
  • Less elaborately decorated.
  • More structured "feel" to the environment.
  • More of a "group" rather than "individualized" planning to it.

In reflection on it, after the students brought up the differences on both the centres to our lecturer, Michelle, she said that both her children were attending two different centres. One which had individualized programming, and the other which was the school based centre we attended. She said that both of the centres had its pros and cons, but it also depended as well on the children's personality too.

Michelle said that she opted to send her children to the two different centres, as she felt that her son could cope better in an individualized program class as his personality was suited to that kind of environment, whereas, her daughter benefitted and coped better in a more structured environment.

Of which, after reflecting on my thoughts on both the centres above, it helped me put in perspective my internship experience on the centres where I had done my internship. I should say that I should not "generalize" how centres are run, but individualize the way I respond to it according to how the centre's ethos and philosophy is run.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pre-ECP1002 Week Block.

I have not written in a while. I know that. Tomorrow is my ONE WEEK BLOCK pract. After which, I am FREE!!! (Well, at least until I start my ECP2001 & ECP2002 professional experience, that is).

I am kind of freaking out, just trying to prepare everything for this one week. Last week, I went to the Pedagogical Resource Centre (PRC, or formerly known as the EML) to borrow the resources that I think could be of use during the span of this week (maybe as spontaneous activity). The EML is closed on weekends and closes at about 5 on weekdays, so I really did not have much of a choice. I had to borrow what my puny brain could think of.

I borrowed stacks of books from the Toowoomba Junior Section of the Uni.

2 from Australian authors.
1 from Walker books.
and about 3 with animal themes.
A kangaroo hand puppet.
A bag of Safari wild animals manipulatives.

So here I am.

Trying to write up all the paperwork so that I can print it off tonight at the K Block later after dinner. Have to wake up early tomorrow by 6am (the least!) to get to the 6.45am bus. (Actually it really does not matter, as I have the luxury of taking a later shift for this week. But I'd rather wake up early, so that I can go home early. But beggars can't be choosers, since I am relying heavily on the public transportation to take me around town.)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Spring Bluff & orientation at a preschool room.

Last Thursday, the group at my professional experience went for a train ride to Spring Bluff. Coincidentally, this coincides with the local Flower Festival and the train runs from Toowoomba to SpringBluff. The trip itself took about 30 minutes or more one way.

We got back to the child care centre at about noon time. The children had their lunch and then went straight to their nap time. That day, I presented my "goop" lesson. I also showed my mentor the lesson plans that I had written and typed up.

It was the 5th day of the professional experience, and also the "At-Risk Day", if my mentor felt that I was at risk.
Well, it so happened that on the Tuesday before, I had gone to see my Professional Experience Co-ordinator, Alice, and had spoken to her. She in turn went and called up my mentor to ask for feedback.

Her general feedback to me was I needed to think about the ways I could put my knowledge I had into practice. Alice was very supportive and gave me a lot of ideas for me to use in planning my activities. It was very good, as I had prayed a lot about it for the past whole week. It just feel really *worthwhile*.

On Friday, I went to M. Child Care Centre, which was a C&K Centre to do my research work for my course. I am planning to do research on "literacy experiences through Play". The topic might be a bit too broad, but I plan to refine it and read up more on it. I also have to fine-tune the information I have collected, in order to categorize it, interprete it and analyse it.

Basically, I was not *really* ready before going there, because I had a lot of reading work to do before going.
I was panicking a lot, because I was trying to find a proper "data collection" method in order to collect the information I needed for my research, and did not really have had the time to read up on my work in the past week before that. So there I was praying about it the entire night before.

The next morning, I arrived at the centre at 9am. I spoke to Ruth, the Director of the childcare centre. I showed her my student ID and the Blue Card for identification purposes, and even showed her "hand-written" letter I wrote, but she asked me to get a formal one from the university instead.Then Ruth led me to the pre-school room (4-5 year olds) and introduced me to the two staff handling the room, Cathy and Janette. Cathy & Janette were really welcoming and friendly, and introduced me to the children.

They were having a structured lesson on music, and were working with Rhythm Sticks when I was coming and asked me to join in the group, which I did. I really enjoyed the morning there. It was really a child-centred programme and used a really child-centred approach to teaching and learning in the classroom.

The philosophy of the classroom was "What is important is not the Finished Product, but the the Process of learning". Which both the staff really took to heart. This they showed even in their outdoor play, where children are allowed open access to the equipment shed. All the children needed to do was just to open their mouths and ask for it.

(will write more about this in the morning tomorrow....too tired to think now).

Thursday, August 31, 2006

ECP1002: Day 2 in Toddler Room

It was raining this morning. I was feeling absolutely grumpy as I wanted to catch the bus at 6.50 am, but it didn’t arrive till 7.30 am, and I was caught at the bus stand in the midst of the rain. By the time I arrived at the centre, it was already 8.30 am.

I was annoyed not so much that I arrived at 8.30, but because I had a tutorial for one of the other courses that I had to attend on Thursdays at 5pm, and I thought I was going to have to skip it today.

I was mulling over it the entire morning, thinking of what to say to the mentor, if she could allow me to get off early so that I could catch the bus and get to the university in time. My attendance for this tutorial was also taken down, so it was important that I didn’t miss any of the tutorials.

Finally, one of the other university students told me that I could negotiate the hours with the mentor, and I could replace the hours should I had not done them. Which is what I finally did.

I told the mentor that I did not want her to think that I was slacking off, or that I did not want to help out in the classroom, if that was what she thought. The mentor was supportive enough that she allowed me to get off at the same time I did last week, and she discouraged me from skipping my tutorial. She was wondering why I had a tutorial on a Thursday, when the other students didn’t, and I told her that they were all Year 1 students, whereas I was not, and was taking a combination of differe nt intake courses as a result.

Anyway, the other thing was that, I felt that the spirits of the individuals in the classroom (children, classroom assistant) was rather low this morning. I also saw the classroom assistant crying (which I could immediately discern it to be a personal issue), and I tried to cheer up, so that I would not be feeling as low as she was. Having one staff feeling low is bad enough, without the need for two other adults to be feeling just as low as well.

I was praying hard this morning after coming into the classroom, as I really did not want my emotions and worries to affect my performance at the workplace, and that the entire atmosphere would lighten up. Which, fortunately it somehow did.

I know it’s not appropriate for a staff to bring personal issues to the workplace, but I would state that it is difficult for a human to always be able to divorce their emotional state from their work place state. Somehow, being at the workplace with all the children around helps me not to ponder so much on the issues I have at home, because I have to focus on the children instead and the r esponsibility I have towards them.

I really prepared very much for the first day of professional experience, but this week, I was not as emotionally prepared, although I had my paperwork typed out and printed to show to our university liaison, Megan , who had come in to examine all the university student’s work.

I know that, as I have been having issues trying to focus my studies in the past couple of wee ks, and my emotional state has not been at it most positive. Apart from the depression I was going through, I now have other emotional issues that I have to handle, and I am really trying my very best to overcome it.

The girl who cried last week when her nappy was changed (she only comes on Thursdays), did not cry this week. I remembered most of the names of the children, but there were quite a number of them whose names I did not remember.

The mentor was very supportive today, as she gave me some verbal guidance as I read to the children, and sang the transition song to them before their lunch time.

ECP1002: Day 1

24th August: Today was my first day at the Toddler 2 class. The ages of the children range from 2 to 2.5 / 3 years. I found it a bit disorientating, as even though the classroom had routines like the other age groups, nonetheless, there were slightly different group practices due to the children’s developmental stages.

Today was so far all right. The mentor did not write much in my classroom reflective journal, as she felt that it would be “presumptuous” to expect much as it was my first day in her room.

I am trying to understand the context of where my group leader, Ann, is coming from. I would say that I do look forward to working with an older group leader this time around, as Ann has had much experience working with older staff, parents and is a very the “senior” staff in the entire childcare centre, as well as in the Australian context.

This context would differ from mine, where, I come from a Malaysian city life, and context, and the kinds of services provided are very much different. In Malaysia, childcare centres are still a rarity, and there is not much demand for it, as compared to kindergartens (which services children from ages 4 - 6 years of age). This is due to the reason that many of the parents still send their children to their grandparents, or to nannies that they personally know.

Glasser states that the individual child has 4 basic needs, represented by 4 glass jars, in the following areas which are

  • Love and Belonging;
  • Freedom,
  • Fun
  • Power.

Children strive to meet these needs in order to be in a state of equilibrium, and would use different strategies in order to meet these needs on an unconscious level.

Today, there was a young girl who cried when her nappy was being changed. Somehow, I felt that this child was feeling insecure, and I went up to her and gave her a hug, and asked if she wanted to be read a book. Almost at once, she stopped crying and quietened down as I read to her. I feel that she was perhaps feeling insecure, and I had met her need, that is to feel safe and secure. I also had prior knowledge that she was still new to the environment, which is why I thought she might have still been feeling insecure in the group.

I believe that if we give positive attention, and meet the children’s needs in a positive manner, and are able to understand where they are coming from, as educators, we would be able to provide a learning environment where the child will look forward and safe to keep returning to again.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Orientation for ECP1002.

Today, six of the students from the university went in to the centre to do their Orientation for ECP1002.

I am going to work with the 2-3 year olds. My group leader leader would be Ann, who is a lady in her late 50s (I would presume). I am actually quite excited and am looking forward
to work with her as she is the most senior among all the staff and has had the most experience among all the staff.

I prefer working with older staff as I can draw and learn more from her, and her years of experience, as say compared with a younger staff, or my partners. However, in this round, I do not have a partner, so it would be mostly myself working in the class, and I am quite fine with that. From experience, I find that Ann would probably expect much more from students, but I am fine with that.

This professional experience would focus on the usage of play in the program, as well as understanding the context of where a childcare centre/school is in order for it to
function and how the different factors affect how the centre operates.

During the orientation, we discussed with the Director of the centre about the history of the centre.The centre is located in the vicinity of the CBD, or the city area of

One of the issues she brought up during the discussion was the privatisation of childcare centres. Some of the childcare centres in Toowoomba have been bought up by a education franchise company.

The director felt that childcare services should not be like a line of supermarket franchise chain, as too much structure would render the customised structure of each centre to be
too "structured" like, and lose the "home feel" of what childcare should be like.

However, in my experience, although she has some validity in her claims, I believe that a centre, or a business, has to adapt to its local context in order to survive. The way that a centre charges its fees has to be acceptable within the range of what parents in the current context is able to afford.

Although the director and staff of the centre may have a specific motto, philosophy, and goals in mind, the education program/curriculum that they put into practice has also to be adapted to meet the tastes and needs of the families and children around the environment, depending on the ethnicity and values of the families in that context.

Apart from that, what the staff can or cannot implement or do, depends hugely on the education legislation of the State in place.

In Australia, each state has its own different governing policies which looks after the different areas.So for example, what is applicable in the state of Queensland, is not applicable in other states, such as NSW, Victoria or Tasmania. Every state has its own different education
system, and it is only in the state of Queensland where students finish high school at 17, as in contrast with other states, they graduate at 18 years.

ECP1001: Final Day.

On Wednesday I finally completed my last day of the practicum. I am so relieved to have had all my paperwork done and completed it as I can then finally move up to concentrate on the second professional experience, ECP1002.

I came in at 8.30am this morning. When I came in, I told the director that I wanted to work with the infants in the nursery room. Which I did. The reason I wanted to it is because I would not have any opportunity to do so when I start with the second professional experience. Freed from paperwork, it allowed me the opportunity to actually explore working with the babies.

Today, I did not change any nappies. Somehow, I was feeling more lethargic today. I do not know the reason for it though, but I just was. There were about six babies today: Kieran,Lorrain, Phoenix, Isaac, Rohan, Emmi, Louis. Today is the first time I actually had all of them crying at the same time. I was such a shock that I did not know what to do or how to handle them!

Today, I fed the babies. The meal was a mixture made of powdered cereal (mashed fruit of some sort, milk &parsley).After a while, I was able to gauge whether the infants had enough to eat, as they would use their hands to push it away, or they will move their face away.

I also fed two of the babies with their milk bottles. One was a 4 month old baby, and the other almost a year old.
I even burped the 4 month old baby. It was most exciting for me, as it was my first time burping a baby, and you could hear the "gurgle" of the sound from the baby when it burped! It sounded really cute! I was actually rather afraid to feed it as it looked rather delicate, and I did not dare to hold it as I thought I might accidentally drop it or hurt it in some way!

One of the older babies was breastfed. One of the staff would inform the the mother to come in, and the mother would come in during a break in her work time to come in to feed the baby. I was most surprised, as the mother was most elegantly dressed and very elegantly coloured hair. Anyone would be surprised if she told a stranger that she actually breastfed her children, as she didn't look it.

Today my lunch was rice with soya sauce chicken and some vege. Isn't it strange that bringing strange things that invoke the beginnings of strange conversational topics? Renni (who is Pakistani) asked me how I cooked my rice, and this led to a conversation on brown rice by one of the other staff, and how healthy it is.

Another thing that I discussed with another TAFE student on pract, was about hair dyes and the UnderWater World. It was interesting as he told me that the TAFE had a hair academy (which I should have figured out sooner, that if TAFE have hair academies, they obviously would have students doing student services and charging low rates for that as well!)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Second final day!

Today I finally had all my paperwork done for my ECP1001.

Awesome! Today I was stationed at the oldest class, the Dinosaurs class. The furniture of the room had been re-arranged again, and didn't look anything at all like the past 3 weeks I was here. Even the outdoor slides and obstacle course was re-arranged, and didn't look anything at all like what I remember 3 weeks ago.

I would love to work with the infants again on Wednesday. I am going to ask the director if I could be placed there on Wednesday, since I won't be able to do that for my real pract when ECP1002 starts.

My uni professional experience liasion, Megan came today to look at my work. (I am relieved I prayed this morning!). She looked through my work, and noted some of the things in my written work.

She also noted that in observations, we have to reference our evaluations to another author. I know this, but I communicated to her that although I knew by heart, it was not stated in the ECP Study Book, so I didn't know if it was required.

As such, whatever I know to have told Belle much earlier, was right. But Belle didn't believe. It really is not my place to tell Belle everything as she would eventually learn, and she has to learn from her mistakes without my telling her.

Megan also noted that in one of the activity print-outs, that statements such as "the children really enjoyed themselves and had a great time" was not appropriate. This is as it would infer that we are assuming that the children are enjoying themselves, but we do not actually know what they are thinking, and the other is that "had a great time" was too vague a description without any concrete evidence to show what happened.

I know that in written work such as this, we are not supposed to do that, but I only wrote that as every one else had written the same thing.

Finally, I communicated with Megan the same concerns I had in regard to positive reinforcements and verbal statements to manage the children's behaviour. She stated that regardless of how other the other staff felt, if I know and have been exposed to what "constructive criticism" and how to go about it, I should stand on my ground and not follow blindly just because the rest of the brood is doing the same as well.

Which is exactly the same stand that I do not agree with "corporeal punishment". I do not agree with corporeal punishment as I feel that it had not benefitted me even when I was young, and it would not benefit children even now.

The only people I think it would benefit would be drug pushers, rapists, murderers
and drunks.

I also told Emma, the group leader of the infants class, that I was pretty concerned that there was dry pasta in the water play tub. The reason I state that is because infants are always putting things into their mouth, and in particular, the dry pasta bits can be "choking hazards", if staff is not too aware of their properties. I am not sure what she did next, but I will find out later when I come back on Wednesday.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Xeroderma Pigmentosum: A genetic condition.

Yes. is the title of this horror/thriller movie starring Nicole Kidman who lives in a house with her 2 children. The mother shuts every window with curtains and so the house is always dark where ever the children go.

Now, you are wondering...Hmmmm...
"Windows which are constantly covered with curtains.
The walkways are always dark.
The rooms are always dimly lighted.
The practice of never opening a door before the last one is locked.
Children who scream at the sight of light.
A mother who is highly strung.

Seems like an exciting premise for a horror/thriller movie. Well, I thought it rather lame a plot for a movie. Where in the world in real life do children actually go around do that?

And yet, THE TRUTH is that there are! In the movie, Kidman plays the character of the mother of two children who suffer from an acute "allergy to the sunlight".

It has been defined as "a rare genetic condition characterized by an eruption of exposed skin occurring in childhood and photosensitivity with severe sunburn; inherited as a recessive autosomal trait in which DNA repair processes are defective".

Now, you are probably wondering why am I being so "anal" about this whole thing by making an entry on it. The reason is that, being in education, it is important that I know that such disorders actually exists. Although these children will never attend school during normal "day time" hours, however, it is important still that I have an awareness of it.

You also have to understand that such children will also highly be at a disadvantage because they have to constantly depend on others to do service for them as they can never leave the house in the daylight. It is almost as bad as being handicapped.

You have no access to the real world except through the Internet and the telephone. You can't even go shopping.
You have to do mail shopping, or sew your own clothes. You can't attend school like normal people at day time.
And at night when you are allowed to leave the house, everything else is closed.

It is easy to dismiss a movie based on the initial premise that it is "theologically incorrect", as people will start with the premise that "oh, it is a catholic based", so the movie is ir-relevent. Unfortunately like so many movies, the movie is a mix of fact and fiction, which is why it may lead people to actually dismiss the entire premise of the movie.

Well, one thing I can say is that, if you read this particular entry, "you have been made enlightened" by my sheer reflection on it. You can say to yourself, I learnt something new today after all!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Nursery Room: Rules & Routines

Today I went to the centre again...*Oh Ya* you guys didn't know what happened since my last pract, right? Well, I will put it here later.

Anyway, the group leader and assistant for the pre-school class I was supposed to go today were away. Before being *dispatched* off by my Professional Experience lecturer, Alice, she told me to get ready some activities to do with the the children. So, the evening before, I had gone to the uni library to borrow a story book.

When I arrived at the centre this morning, I spoke to the director of the centre. I was then re-assigned to the nursery class. There were 5 infants that came in today. Queensland legislation states the ratio of 1 adult: 4 infants. Any more infants than that requires the aid of an assistant.

I enjoyed working with the infants. They were mostly crawling, crying or just putting things in their mouth. This is probably the Oral Stage, as Freud allegedly states that all infants will go through in his PsychoSexual Theory.

Anyway, among the OHS rules & routines of the nursery are

1) No student is allowed to stay with the room alone with other infants without the group leader or assistant present. This is a health & safety procedure.

2) Nappies are to be changed every 2 hours.

3) Sleeping infants have to be checked on every 15 minutes to prevent the occurence of SIDS (Sudden Death Infant Syndrome).

4) Feeding times and nappy change times are recorded down each time for every infant.

The assistant showed me how to change the nappy. It looked easy to do. By afternoon, I was *itching* to do that... anyway, by legislation, the group leader had to be there to supervise me. It was easier said than done. The male infant I had to change was having a great time squirming and freaking me out. He had a surprise poo waiting for me.....

The nappies were changed every 2 hours. Their nappy change times were recorded down each time. To change nappies, we were required to use different coloured gloves. If it was a dry nappy, we used a transparent plastic glove. If it was soiled, we had to use a thicker blue glove. Wet wipes were used to wipe the infants' bottoms. The gloves were removed from inside to out, so that any excretion would not get onto our hands. Then the "mat" where the infant was rested on their back, would be sprayed with disinfectant, and wiped. A separate bin for nappies was provided.

The director came in halfway to check on my progress. She grossed us out with stories of "poo" and how some of the children in her experience had wiped poo all over the wall or were playing with it....*GROSS*!!!

I also learnt how to feed the infants with the milk bottle. The group leader, Emma, said that the "tit" of th bottle where the infant's mouth feed on, has to be constantly filled with milk. The reason for that is also because the infant could get colic, which is air in their tummies, which causes indigestion. After their feeding, the infants have to be burped. Unlike adults, who are capable of doing it by ourselves, but not so with infants. The way to burp an infant is to rub the infant's back or tap it gently a couple of times until the infant burps.

I understood of how important it is to ensure that the infants do not have colic as it so happened that day, I had a case of "colic", where I had a tummy ache, which I realised that it was mostly "air" as well, so I was constantly trying to burp itself out. It took me almost half a day to do that!!

I also learnt how to carry the infants. I have always been afraid of carrying babies and infants, in the case I might drop them or some frightful thing might happen. It was really great and fun just interacting with the babies, as they really give you their full attention.

Unlike older children, they are not as mobile at to just run off and do something else in the next minute. But with babies, I could just sit with them there and they will pay attention to you without the thought of doing that. One of the activities I did with was to roll the ball to them, and the infants would roll it back. It was something you could with infants, but not pre-schoolers!

Anyway, as I have said, I borrowed a book from the library. But I have since, not read it to the infants. They obviously do not have such a long-term attention span, so I have returned the book and borrowed other more "younger" children friendly books. I enjoyed interacting with the group leader and the assistant, as they had more time to interact with me due to very fact that there aren't as many children running around and they didn't always have to be constantly on the move like at the preschooler's room.

I intend to spend more time at the nursery, as I would like to learn more about the infants and how to handle them. It is not to say that I do not learn anything being with the babies, as one of the supervisors originally thought so, but as I now realise, IT IS because I do not know as much about babies and infants, that I do have actually more and can learn from them. :-)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

ECP 1001: Day 3 Preschool Room Practicum

Today is my 3rd day of the practicum in a private childcare centre. One of the different practices here is the strict policy of having to disinfect tables & chairs about 3-4 times a day. This is normally done after meal times, activity time and depending on what the activity that has taken place.

There are 3 different coloured table cloth for that very purpose of differentiating whether it is just to
a) disinfect the equipment,
b) to clean the equipment, &
c) whether it is to clean equipment which comes into contact with food bits.

My friend said that it is a common policy here. The thing I am wondering is that is it that the practice almost the same in most childcare centres/ preschools? Well, maybe it is. I just am not sure how it is done as obviously I have not been to other centres before.

I am used to the rationale of having to "just" cleaning tables with soap and water. "Disinfecting" is really a new terminology which I have yet to internalize yet, and I probably would not be able to do so within such a short period of time.

The assistant of the group said that we aren't supposed to write the children's name on the paintings, because some of the older ones could write theirs. She also said that if the adults wanted to write their names, it had to be at the back of the painting, and if we wrote their names when they could write theirs, it was a sign that we disrespected their work...

What do I think? I basically think that there's really no point in writing the children's name in front of the paper because the paint would cover the name anyway! I also think that the practice probably differs from centre to centre, because this was the first time I heard anyone mentioning it!

Another practice I am also not used to are the long hours of outdoor play I have seen at the childcare centre which is part of the normal curriculum in most learning centres. In theory, I have read and learnt about it. In practice, the opportunity to observe this in action is almost a rarity in Malaysia, like how one could find a 1000 dollar note on a pavement. Which is almost close to zero. In practice as well, most Asian parents I have come across disapprove of their children having so much outdoor play as in contrast to book learning and writing activities as well.

There are different stations set up with different activities. The "permanent learning stations" are the home corner (dress-ups), book corner & block corner. The other stations which are rotated around depending on what the group leader plans could be 'mobilo' manipulatives, play dough, cardboard blocks, collage making, cutting magazines, baking, and puzzles.

I'd say that the set-up cost to provide so many different kinds of manipulatives in one place is not cheap, and especially in Asian countries, it would be costly if all these materials are imported and not hand made. It also requires a lot of resources in order for the success of the program to be realized.

Going through the practicums has enabled me to have a feel of how the running of a learning program in an Australian childcare centre goes. It is important for teachers in training to know what goes on, but even more important for those who come from a totally different culture so that they could compare and contrast, as well as understand and celebrate the similarities of how different learning programs take place.

It is probably unsettling for me to experience some of the subtle culture shocks that I am experiencing now, but that's probably how counsellors would term it: "something which is temporary to go through, but once I get used to it and have got it out of the way, would enable me to look at the learning environment in a more objective manner".

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ECP1001: Day 2 in Preschool Room.

Today was my 2nd day of the practical experience. I almost slept in this morning! However, the only thing I noticed was that I was not as tired as the first day I came in. This I would attest to the fact that I had a very long nap the night before. And as I thought, perhaps the first day would always be the most difficult.

Today I had a look at the childcare centre's programme implementation and policies. It was heartening to be able to have access to information, as it gave me a better understanding and idea of what was expected from the staff, and this included volunteers who came in to do their practical experience. It was a different experience from what I had in Malaysia.

In Malaysia, access to these kind of information is limited, and most centres do not really take kindly even to students who would like to come in to ask about their programmes which are implemented. I thought it would be the same here, but it seemed not. Perhaps in a sense, it is almost similar where the centre may like more children to enrol for the reason of the business thriving, but in retrospect, from what Belle says, it is pretty standardized in the way childcare centres are run.

I feel that in context of Australia, it probably is not how much the children can learn, since all and most schools here run a play based programme. The Australian government subsidizes some of the childcare costs (depending on the level of income earned by the parents), so it is that the costs is probably not that much of a concern? I am not too sure about this since it is only my own point of view. It is a good question that I could pose to the staff, and see what kind of different answers they will give me.

In countries like Australia (and other western countries), childcare is expensive, and is paid by the number of days that children attend. Unlike Malaysia, kindergarten school fees are paid by the month.

I think it is expensive because human labour is expensive, and that there is a minimum wage for every hour that staff come in to work. The minimum wage some of my university mates are earning for part time jobs are about 18 dollars an hour. If it comes to a childcare centre, I would think that it would cost more, as the staff would have to be trained to do the work.

Today we had two children in the class I observed who were not physically as "grown" as the rest. When I asked one of the staff, she said that the children were switched over from the younger classes. The reason for this switching over, as I come again to understand, is based on the fact that not all children come to childcare centres on a daily basis, and only on certain days.

Which explains my next point, about the disinfecting beds. As the children were rotated between the two classes, they did not sleep on the same beds each time.

One of my uni mates told me that, if the beds that are going to be slept on by a different child the next day, it had to be sprayed with disinfectant. Theoretically, it made a lot of sense, but in practicality, it still took a while for it to sink in, as it was not a common practice that I was used to.

By the time I ended my practical today at 4.15 (because I came in at 7.45pm), I was not as tired as I was yesterday. Which IS a good thing. It just shows that my body is getting physically adjusted to it after all.

Monday, July 17, 2006

ECP 1001: Day 1 in Preschool Room.

Today was the first day of my practical. I went for my practical at a childcare centre which was located all the way in the CBD. Childcare centres provide daycare service for children up till about the age before they start school.

Pre-primary attendance is not compulsory for children yet, but that may change with the introduction Prep by the education policy makers, which I am not too sure what it is here all about.

Anyway, I woke up at 5.45 and arrived in town about 7.10am. I was going in for the 8am shift.
I was worried about waking up early, as it was my first time I had to wake up early in a long while since the semester holidays started.

I was feeling both fear and trepidation on my first day. Well, the only exposure I had to what was considered what was similar to what I observed today at the child care centre was when I worked in this American international school in Malaysia a few years back. The "group leader" (so to speak) whom I was working under was Australian. The songs and routines were almost similar!

The difference is that, here, instead of being called the teacher, the main "teacher" is called the "group leader", and her assistant, was well, still called "assistant". There was a "floater" who'd go around the classes to serve food. Then there were two other staff who came to relieve both the assistant as well as the group leader.
There was also a cook, who served "home cooked" food, and not canned food.

My mentor would be the "group leader" of the class I would be stationed. Our professional experience liason would be the person in charge, but she was away, and would only be back on Wednesday. My partner for the practical, Belle, reminded me that we could be capable of failing our practicals if we did not do our paperwork. Being such, its better to keep up with the work than to have to catch up later.

Well, I found out that my partner, Belle, an Aussie, is only a year older than I am and has two children. I was pretty surprised she could go around carrying tables and chairs without seemingly any effort, but later I found out that she lifts weights. She also worked in a bottle shop, and said that she had to carry lots of crates.

Basically, I felt a bit lost, as I didn't know what to do, but I didn't want to look like I was...although I was. Well, the first day of our practical required that we get "orientated" to the place. Which is exactly what I was doing. But that did not really help me much, as Belle seemed to know and just flow into the routines like a duck to waters (which was true anyway, seeing that she is herself a mother of a 7 year old!)

Anyway, during lunch time, I was pretty interested to know what the other staff brought for lunch. It didnt' seem practical for me to be going out to buy lunch. The staff had all kinds of food for lunch, ranging from pasta to cup noodles to Caesar salad (without romaine lettuce though). I had packed my own lunch today as well, which was just rice in a box.

I was also not used to the working hours as I had not been up this long for a long while, and have not worked for a long while. The other thing was because I had only 3 hours of sleep the night before, and have been having trouble sleeping, so I had trouble keeping asleep. I would love to try doing the other shifts, which are either 6.30 to 3pm, or 9.30pm to 6pm, but I am limited to the bus time table, as I do not have any transport, and the centre was in the middle of town.

I was almost exhausted by 4.30. Perhaps I will be able to adjust physically to it as the days pass. One of the things I noticed today was that the children were taking their sandwhiches apart and playing with it. I do not know how the other personnel feel about it, but I definitely do not like to see children playing with their food.

The other thing I am not used to is that staff have a lot of cleaning work to do. In part, it is because I come from a country where human labour is cheap, so teaching personnel are not required to do cleaning up. To do that here as part of my professonal experience, is not an experience I am used to yet. However, one thing though, I am waiting to see when it is my turn to change the diapers, but that is not possible since the group I am stationed with were already toilet trained!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Play Group: Day 8

Today, well, is my last day I will be at the the Play Group in a very long time. They'll be off for 5 weeks of Winter holidays..

I read the story to them....actually, when I brought the books home yesterday, I read it once to my housemate, Justin. Then my other housemate's sister, Helen also read it.(she was doing Early Childhood in TAFE as well!) Justin started complaining coz he had to hear it twice . *LOL*.

Well, if you remember, I wrote about one of the girls, Cammie*, last Friday.

Actually, the little girl had asked me if I knew what her name was....I was pretty surprised when she said that...(as I never knew any 4 year old who had ever asked me in that way before!)

Truth be told, I couldn't remember, and I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I asked one of the other mothers! We were at the dressing up corner.

Then I went over to the collage making table and beckoned Cammie over. Which she did.
I was watching her at the table, and Cammie's mother came over to sit by us, and asked the former if she knew who I was.

Me: She's pretty observant, isn't she? Kind of knows what she wants....
I remember her asking you something about "Who is that lady, and what she doing here?" when I came.
Mother: Yeah......You've been here for 3 weeks?
Me: 2 weeks. 2 Fridays actually. (It would seem that long anyway...)
Mother: Well, last week she told me something about you..
Me: Me?.....Oh. She did? What did she say?
Mother: She said, "I like that lady. She's my friend".
Me: Woah...Ohhhh........she didn't tell me anything like that though. *LOL*

Now, isn't that the most interesting little girl you'd have ever come across? I don't think I've ever come across any 4 year old who'd have ever told me that!

*Names changed to protect the child's privacy.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Play Group: Day 7

Well....well...Tomorrow's the last day the play group will be open
before their winter holidays start.

I will be reading them a story (or maybe 2!) tomorrow. So I borrowed
the books back to practice with it.

I spoke to WS, who also happens to be my distance course lecturer for
one of my courses in Sem 3, 2005. I said that I didn't actually know
the results for my course, except for the fact that I passed, and she
asked me to check online.

So I did, and went online earlier to check, and I saw my results. 42/
60 for the 2nd assignment.

I only barely passed the first one, and I had a hard time trying to
explain the Bronfenbrenner's Bio-Ecological Model last year, (for the
first assignment). Hmmmm.....she just said that as long as I passed
the course, it was alright.

(But not when it comes to the Grade Point Average though). *Sigh*

I took a video of WS reading to the children, and will burn her a copy of it.

Not a very happenin day today though.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Play Group: Day 6

WS mentioned that I left early which I didn't give a reply in return. *Hmmm* What could I say? I could have told her, but....maybe another time when it is more appropriate. I guess??

My lecturer, Leisa dropped by, to which I told her the circumstances that I am currently in. I would say that it's the cultural adjustment that I am still trying to get over with. The interaction style that I am used to in KL, would not be suitable in Toowoomba

(or in an International School context where there are many foreign international students. This happened to me a couple of years back when I was back in KL, so I can tell you that from experience!)

The way that parents interact with their children is similar almost everywhere, but at the same time, there are elements which are different. For me now, I am still concerned with the "right" and "wrong" way of approaching the children here. My lecturer told me that the best way to approach it is to observe WS when she interacted with the children and parents, using her as a basis I can model my interactions on. I think that that is a good advice.

I guess, now is the best time to use my knowledge (after all the amount of reading I have done!) and put it into practice. What is knowledge (theoretical as it is) if it can be made use of, isn't it?

The best part about today is that I actually finally sat down with the children (and parents) and read to them from my resource book. (It is not that much different of how I would have done in KL anyway..) but the most important part is that I got it done. I still need more practice...but heck. I need to get started somehow. Somewhere.

I told my lecturer about how I wrote my science resource appraisal, and she said that if it was in the wrong direction, she would get back to me. I told her that I would re-do it if it was necessary, but *I am crossing my two fingers*. Re-doing an assignment is not really a problem for me, as long as I get the context right.

Digressing here, I would like to write about something and bring up a point that a classmate of mine, SY brought up in mid-2005 when she returned to KL after one semester in Toowoomba. SY said that when she was on a bus ride one day to town to Grand Central, that she saw pre-teen girls dressed up too adult-ish for their age, even though they were barely in their teens. They were talking about boys and all that kind of things. To tell you the truth, I really didn't think too much of it then, as I thought it was pretty normal for people here.

That is, until a local parent brought this same subject up today. We were actually talking about Enid Blyton storybooks (and I how I loved the Five-Find-Outers!), but somehow the topic changed to what children did these days.

The parent (who has a large family herself and children in their early 20s) brought up a similar point, stating that she notices that children these days, and the girls rather, at a young age want to dress like adults.

Instead of watching shows appropriate to their age, they are watching teen Beverly Hills 90210 soap-opera-ish shows like Home & Away, and OC. She was out at a supermarket one day, and overheard aconversation that a young girl (who looked about 8 years of age) who asked her mother for a "g-string"! Surprisingly the girl's mother didn't disapprove of it.

Not wanting to critique too much, but even children's shows like Hi-5 (which I actually enjoy watching, and so do children and girls in KL like!) perpeatuate this style of dressing.

(which is something that I noticed initially about the style of dressing, but I was more concerned about the content of the show, but that is a totally different topic altogether).

I was actually surprised that in the Australian context, the Anglo-Australian parents are concerned that their children (mostly about the girls) that children are no longer dressing like children. In dressing like adults, I mean clothes like jeans that are hanging and showing the bum, or spaghetti strap and piercings. I would have only expected that Asian-Australian parents to notice that, but I guess I was proven wrong in that point.

The thing about dressing adult-ish and looking adult-ish, is that people expect more adult behaviour from them, but the reality of the situation is that that is not necessarily true of the child themselves.

Anyway, I went to the library last night and borrowed a British published book I found on play-groups. It would make an interesting read, since there is much I do not know about playgroups. Play groups have been in existence for a long time, and one of the books was published in the early 70s. I will write more about it once I am done reading it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Play Group: Day 5

Today I woke up early. Well, by definition of early, it means 7.30am
(which is the same time I wake up back in KL). Never did wake up any
earlier than that if I could possibly do.

I stayed up the night doing the report appraisal for my Science
Resource. It was not too difficult, but I hope it goes well?

Today, the children who came are mostly babies (as young as 5 months
or younger). What I observed about the younger toddlers are that they
tend to be on the shy side. It is the second day I will spend with
this group. It is different last week as it was my first day then.

However, as I have observed, and as one of the home-schooling mothers
Tania, observed, once the toddler has got to know the adult, they will
be a bit more open.

As it is, the needs of young babies and toddlers are that they will
and need to spend more time with their own parents (unless they were
in a full time childcare centre), before they are willing to go out
independently to explore on their own.

For that reason, I decided to leave the play group early, as I felt
that there was not much I could observe for today.Then I left to go to
the library to go and get some research done.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Play Group vs Kindergarten.

I was just wondering the differences between Play Groups, and the normal schools here.

What I have seen (so far) is that Student Teachers do not have access to parents during their practicals. In part, the parents also do not come in contact with these Student Teachers, I realize, due to the structure of the hierarchy in the system. Student teachers also have to refer to the main classroom teacher in all incidents. I came to be aware of that, as during the assessment of one of my courses, MOST and practically all the student teachers said that they do not come in contact with the parents, but the main class teacher does.

Play Group is the only place (I have seen so far) where the parents actually came (or talked to me). This is because parents have to be there for the entire duration of the playgroup time, and at normal schools, parents just drop their children off and go off straight to work. Parents who come to play groups are also mostly non-working, and mostly full time professional homemakers.

Human nature also dictates that (apart from the hierarchy), parents anywhere almost always refer to the main class teacher when she is present. However if the latter is away, then they will look for the next one in the ladder, which is the assistant, or the teacher aide, if there is a supply teacher, as she is the next one who knows the children best in the classroom. This principle applies not only in the classroom, but in any situation as well. In a nutshell, you can pretty much get the gist of the point I am trying to make here.

Anyway, a new ruling in Australia has come to pass which states that Single Mothers have to go back to work once their youngest child turns 5 years old, or their benefits, or the Allowance they receive will be reduced (or something of that sort).

I do not think that it would affect mothers in a playgroup, as most of the mothers who take the option of sending children there are by choice, and their circumstances allow them to do so, say, compared to one whose child is going to the normal school (which also starts at 4 years), and these mothers would mostly be financially stable to not need the financial assistance.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Play Group: Day 4.

science resource book
My science resource: a book I made.

craft paper bag
A paperbag craft I made at Play Group.

Well, if you noticed, I removed my last name from my pictures as well. As I have stated, no last names are allowed on my blogs, and even if I do mention them, it will only be their first name.

I made the paperbag craft at Play Group today, coz I realised that one of the children was watching me. She even asked the mother why was I there, and the mother told her that I was there to observe here.

When I take the turn to join in to make a craft at the table, it arouses the children's curiosity about who I am to them. Technically, it is a strategy for a stranger to come in and slowly join the children. Some of the children were quite outspoken, but most of them were rather shy, so I needed some time before they can get used to me being around them. As I made the craft, the girl kept watching me. She even gave me some of the red cuttings she had for her collage and put it in my hand as she saw me sticking collage on my paperbag. Then she ran back to the chair she was sitting.

I even played ball with one of the children, MD. He is about 2 years old, and he asked me if I wanted to play a game of "catch the ball" with him. Actually, I couldn't really catch what
he was saying, but it was clear enough for me to understand him. So I followed him out in to the pavement and he pointed to the ball.

Some mothers come in early to Play Group, as they realise their child finds it more difficult to mix with the others when everyone has arrived. However, if they come in early, their child has time to settle in with the others and greet them as they all start arriving in one by one. It's not a very uncommon strategy used by parents for their children, but also with adults themselves.

I used to use this trick when going for parties, as I do not like arriving at parties late. The rationale is that if you arrive early at a place, it allows you to move in slowly to the "mode of the place" earlier. Rather than arriving late, to a person who has just arrived, it looks like everyone else seems to belong and the former would feel like an outsider. To a child, depending on their temperament, some may not be able to handle such a situation. It really depends on the parents and how they are able to wisely handle the situation.

Blue Card: Working with Childen Check.

blue card

Australians have this issue with Identity Theft, as well as Privacy of the Individual. Whereas, in nations like Singapore, as well as Malaysia, we really do not care two hoots about such issues.

In Malaysia, the trend is unless, if I were to write something bad about a company, and put out their full name, and defame them, would I then get into trouble. You can see why it is an issue that partially affects why Australians don't blog. (Apart from the fact that not many Australians I have met ever even heard of blogging to begin with!). I am not really sure if it is because they don't like keeping journals, or they totally dislike writing!

Anyway, enclosed above is my BLUE CARD! If you were wondering how it looks like, the picture of my card above will give you a rather good idea. I have taken out my Last Name, my signature (yes, it is printed on the card!), as well as my registration number.

If an adult does not have a Blue Card, he or she is not allowed to work in the state of Queensland, Australia. This applies to all citizens, permanent residents, international students, local students or anyone, who wants to work with children, regardless of whether at school, the church group, paid employment or volunteer work, or private childcare.

When a child first enters school (or playgroup) in Australia, the parents will sign a letter stating that they give authorization for their child to be observed. In a way, it a procedure that will avoid trouble with legislation, and to provide documented evidence in the event of a disagreement (or trouble of any sorts).

Us malaysians (or singaporeans for that matter) are probably not aware of such issues as it is not really practised locally. Of course, if you are doing a correspondence course with a foreign educational institution, they will normally remind Education students to do just that.

I remember asking a parent to look at a parent authorization letter before I wanted to do an observation of her child in mid-2005, and she was wondering what it was about. *Lol*

Friday, June 09, 2006

My Blue Card finally here....

After weeks of waiting and waiting and waiting....
Finally, my long awaited Blue Card is here! I kissed the card the moment I opened it!!!

Technically it was supposed to arrive in the middle of May, but the letter was misdirected for the first letter, with a non-existing residential housing estate on an existing street. I bet the postman must have definitely got lost halfway...Ha ha ha.

Yes, I was praying so hard for it. When I called the Blue Card Commission on Wednesday, they told me that the letter had been re-sent back to sender....(Amazingly..)
Well. I can finally get started on my practicals now. My churchmates are like saying that I can even start advertising for jobs as childcarer and stuff. Ha.

Anyway, I finally made my Science Resource. It's a book, showcasing the different Natural & Processed Materials. I showed it to WS, the administrator, as well as my lecturer, Leisa. They said it was Good.....(OH....I am so happy. He he).

I was up all Thursday night working on it. I bought all the materials on Wednesday, and was so tired by the time I got home. Then I put the papers together and went about enquiring about if there were any book binding services in the vicinity.

You would think that the staff, or the students who have been here for years and years would know.....but no. Fortunately I had the fore-sight to look the website, and I noticed that the university actually has a Printing Building. Well, you can't print and not bind, and you can't bind without something which was printed. I put the two and two together, and I guessed that (by hook or by crook), there has to be such services on the campus.

Actually, I didn't have any bright ideas what to write about. I was praying so hard for an idea to come up to my mind......and one just popped up. Well, actually a few popped up, and I was thinking of illustrating, but, cartoons are not exactly an easy way to depict natural resources to children, so I had to skip that idea. So finally, I just decided on the "butchering" catalogues which featured real pictures of objects. That looked more realistic. I also included some "touch and feel" objects in the book, so that the children could get a more realistic idea of the concepts of the natural and processed materials.....

Well, I kind of enjoy going to the Play Group centre. It's not really work, but it helps me to acclimatize to the kind of learning environment here. And it makes me wakes up earlier than normal...or else I will be sleeping in till 12pm every day.

Hei, that means I have to wake up by 7am, to cook & prepare breakfast, and pack some morning tea, and get everything packed in my backpack. The Play Group starts at 9am, so I have to be there early, and prioritize my time on when to sleep and wake up...
The first day, I was pretty shy, as I was trying to get used to the environment, and by the 3rd I was there, I started talking to all the parents who came in. They were quite interested to know that I was from Malaysia, and asked me heaps on my country.

Play Groups allow children to play with other children, and socialise with others. It also prepares the child for the concept of "school" before formally entering school.
The parents, meanwhile, take this opportunity to get to socialise with other adults. It can be once, or twice a week. Play Groups allow children to socialise with others in the presence of their parents, and using their parents as a safety net to return to. It also allows the administrator to observe the toddler's behaviour, and watch for developmental milestones.

In the Play Groups, parents play a more major role, and the adminstrator basically, well, is there as a facilitator. They also provide advice and parenting training to parents who need it.
However, once the children start attending kindergarten at the age of 4 -4.5 years onwards, the teachers play a more major role in the environment.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Play Group: Day 1

This morning, I woke up rather early to go in to observe the children at the play group centre. I was quite excited, to be exact. I wanted to ask the administrator, WS, what I needed to do, or I could do when the children came in.

Now, if you were wondering what is a playgroup centre, it is basically a place where parents bring their children (babies, toddlers to about 5 years and older) to get acquainted with other parents who do the same. For this centre, they do it once a week, and on the same day each week.

Play Groups exist a lot in places like UK, Australia, and all these western nations. It also does exists in Malaysia, but very rarely heard of. Children at the age of 3 are expected to start learning to read the letters of the alphabet, and learn 3 languages before starting pre-school. I think it is ridiculous that Malaysian parents expect their children to read English, Malay and Chinese before starting Primary 1. The schools should just focus on learning to read and write English, and Chinese, and just speak spoken Malay.

Malay and English use the same Roman 24 letters of the alphabet, and I feel that it would seriously confuse the child, who has to differentiate between both languages, which has some similar words, and the pronunciation of the letters are different as well.

Anyway, before I start deviating from the main topic...

It was essential that I spent some time observing at the centre, as I really needed the time to get used to the environment, as I really do not know how the routines, or the playgroup is run. It was necessary, as I come from a learning environment which is heavily structured, and highly teacher controlled.

I did feel a bit at loss at the carefree freedom and freedom of choice allowed even as low as at playgroup level, as I didn't know what to expect from the children, or the environment itself. However, with this group, it was the children's own parents who looked out for their own children, so I really didn't have to much, except perhaps to just sit back and observe from a distance away.

I will be going in tomorrow again, so that I could acclimatize myself to the centre better. Yup. Acclimatize.

There are a few points in relation to the centre that I have to take note of in regard to the resource that I will create. Firstly, the children only come in once a week for he play groups. So, because of that, it would take a while before the children can get to know me. I could also see that the children knew that a newcomer was in their presence, and I could see that it was either they were shy, or hesitant to talk to me. Which I was not sure, nor could I tell.

As this is not a group of children that I would have under my observation for a long while, it would be not practical for me to prepare a resource (like a feelie/mystery bag) as I would not know what the children's prior knowledge,where or what kind of things that the chldren will

I have narrowed my options to make a board book. Out of the board book, I have narrowed it to about two options, being, either a "touch and feel book", or, a big book that talks about the different kinds of materials in the environment. (one of the Outcomes in the QSA guidelines).

It would also have to be taken note, the children's ages who come in to the Centre, so that it would be appropriate to their context, and that the board book that I would make is at least content relevant for their age, but still challenging enough that they could think about it, or relate something they know (like when they are doing something) to it.

My impression is that a book (or one in a storybook context) would be much more appropriate in a context where I am able to read to them, and leave it on the shelf so that they can take it and look at it without an adult's supervision. This would definitely meet the safety aspects of the resource.

The first day was not bad..I even managed (arranged by WS) to talk to one of the parents who told us all about HomeSchooling, and why she home-schooled all her 5 children. The parents were having morning tea, and I didn't know how to go in to the group, so the administrator did the initiating.

Yes, if you want to know too...we do have HomeSchooling in Malaysia as well. By law, children have to attend a normal elementary school for the first 6 years of elementary school. But families are allowed to homeschool their children after that for their highschool years. However, that's another topic altogether...

Seriously, I do just pray that my Blue Card would arrive soon. This whole issue about the Blue Card has really inconvenienced (and I am sure a lot of students are complaining about it) students who need access to children, as a lot of our courses are linked to practicals, and we need to test out these resources, in order to complete our assignments.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Problem- Based Learning.

I had left one of my Problem-Based reference books that I borrowed from the library on the table, when one of my Aussie-born mates came in and saw it. He made this rather distasteful look on his face and said that he didn't like any of these PBL stuff. (He is my Aussie flat-mate).

Which is interesting, as my knowledge on it is mostly theoretical....

Well, this mate is majoring in Engineering, and he said that he had to do a Problem-Solving course and he was one of the guinea-pigs that did the course.

He stated that it was an awful experience, as the assignments were mostly group based, and as much as (wishful as it sounds to be able to work peacefully and co-operatively as a group, where everyone did their fair share of the assignment) he wanted to do well in the assignment, it was mostly a horse shit experience to him. Out of four PBL courses he had to do, only one was properly structured, and workable to his knowledge.

The case went where, it was either the assignments were too difficult, or deemed impossible & unworkable, or some members of the group decided to drop out, or did not do anything at all. The ones that scored a HD, basically did everything on their own, and lied that everyone had put in a fair share of the work, but which basically was squat work.

He went on to say that the lecturers were not much of a help, as many of the students were not able to make head or tail of the assignments. (I lost him halfway....)

In which case, I would like to state the case of another Aussie-born mate of mine who told me about his case. He majored in Business, and had a group assignment where he did his share of the assignment, but his team-mates somehow managed to alienate him, and handed in the group assignment without including his name! He was obviously un-nerved by this, and went to the lecturer to plead his case.

As theoretical, and rhetorically the institutions would like to implement Problem-Based learning, there are many aspects that course- coordinator should look into, before doing so....As I much as I would like to write much on it, that is not the case, as my knowledge on this is still rather superficial. Of course, group work will always be difficult. I can say that having lived before with house-mates whom one cannot get along with, it really is able to drive one up the wall, and out of the house. I concur!

A time of frustration: Science Resource

I wrote an entry a few days back where I was pretty pissed off with my Science assignment. However, it is not something I would want others to read it, as I by nature (now) do not like to talk bad about things. In particular, when I have a bad eery feeling about it.

Anyway, I went to see my Science lecturer about it today, and was complaining about my designing and creating of my Science Resource.

I was thinking of doing a Feelie/ Mystery bag, but then she said that it didn't have adequate science content. So then I went home and thought of doing something under Solids & Liquids. I was quite sceptical about that one as well, as it had safety concerns, as well as the fact that it was very teacher-controlled (or needed a teacher or some other more mature student) as the control of error.

The lecturer said that it could be an activity that could be done at the end of a unit, partly as a reinforcement, but, then I told that was not possible, since I was not doing my practical, due to the absence of my Blue Card.

Then the lecturer, Leisa, said that the assignment assumes that all students doing it would be "theoretically" engaged with some children, or practicals. Hence, she emailed the uni Play Group centre administrator today so that I could go and try out the science resource with the chldren.

Which leads to the next point. Since I do not have much time at hand, the next thing at hand would be that, the science resource would very much depend also on the ages of the children at the childcare centre at the university.

I have narrowed my options to two. One, which is to create a "touch & feel" book, or two, to create a big book, with pictures categorizing Natural & Processed Materials.

I feel that the Touch and Feel book would be much more appropriate with younger toddlers, whereas, the Big Book would be suitable for the chldren of 4 & 5 years old.
As much as I would think I would want to make a Touch and Feel book, I prefer to do the Big Book instead.

If I were to do so, I have to go around getting pictures off picture brochures from shopping malls, and also photographs (from my digital camera).

Anyway, tomorrow I will be going off to the uni PlayGroup centre to go and observe the children. As much as I would like to go and use the resource with the chldren, I think that it is best that I get a feel of how the childcare centre works, so I don't get cold feet. And yes, I dont like the idea of just going into some centre and say, "hei, can I borrow your kids for a while".

That is SO NOT me.

I like the idea of the book, as it is much more easier to work with the children in the form of a story. And yes, I am thinking of ideas of how to incorporate science learning through the usage of a story form. It's more engaging and child centred in that sense, I think.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Report: Constructivism- approach to teaching science(Part 2)

This is a continuation from the entry here.

c) Transmission approach

The transmission approach to teaching science is the strategy of transmitting knowledge through use of teaching materials and demonstrations to an audience, and does not allow individual one-to-one attention between the teacher and learner.

This teaching strategy is the most widely used and especially in most traditional classroom contexts. However, the way it is used would depend hugely on the teacher’s understanding of this strategy to transmit knowledge to the classroom.

Among the advantages of using this strategy is that being the traditional form of teaching strategy and the one mostly used, the teacher is able to have a sense of control and use it in managing large group of learners in a classroom. Other advantages include that children would be able to be highly involved and focused during the learning.

The use of demonstrations of the teaching materials is an important instrument which could be utilized to initiate the children’s curiosity of scientific ideas. This, the teacher could use as a “stepping stone”, taking opportunities of “teachable moments” when it happens to cross over into discovery learning. It also raises queries, focusing the children’s curiosity about a unit to be studied, clarifying confusion and tie loose ends. (Abruscato, 1992)

The challenge is for the teacher to be able to select & modify the learning content that its content is both age and language appropriate, assuming a continuity to bridge the learner's prior knowledge. (Fleer & Hardy, p.78- 79).

The disadvantages to this learning strategy is that it places a heavy emphasis on scientific knowledge to be learnt (Fleer & Hardy, 1996), being a teacher- initiated and not learner-centred environment. It also does not allow students to have a say in what they want to learn in science curriculum (Fleer & Hardy, 1996)

As Fleer & Hardy states (1996, p.80) states, the probability of the teacher in failing to motivate children as well as authenticity of student’s participation is high, and that there is only a superficial understanding of science concept as an idea.

How it may improve my teaching?

As teaching professional, the knowledge would assist me in the management of the classroom, through strategies such as providing children with basic grounded concepts and ideas before allowing them to undergo any tasks or science investigations, in order that students are able to ‘make meaning” of the lesson. (Fleer & Hardy, 1996)

Other strategies include that to be an effective teacher, one should make good sense to learn about the student’s prior knowledge in an attempt to link it to the activity that the teacher would teach. (Fleer & Hardy, 1996).

d) Interactive aka. Conceptual Change Teaching Approach

This approach as a teaching strategy is a culmination of the of each of the other three teaching strategies, and consists of five main components: preparation, exploratory activities, children’s questions, children’s investigations, reflection (Biddulph & Obsborne, as cited in Bell, p. 94) The teacher using this strategy has four main teaching roles, namely being the stimulator of curiosity, challenger of ideas, resource person, as well as senior investigator (Biddulph, as cited in Bell, p. 99).

This teaching strategy places heavy emphasis on the importance of both science concepts & the processes of science, with a teaching focus on achieving change in the strategies children use to make meaning of their world. It assumes the importance that children have knowledge of their own understanding and learning processes, and they should be taught to do so.(Fleer & Hardy, p. 112-113)

It is about achieving conceptual change in children It emphasizes the importance of exploring children's initial understandings, encouraging a high level of responsibility in pupils for self directed learning, and assistance is doing so. It must be carefully introduced so that the student-teacher can develop and consolidate both skills and understanding about the processes involved. (Fleer & Hardy, p.118).

The advantages to this approach is that it builds in processes that focus on conceptual change in children, lending itself to a vast range of topics, which must be linked to children’s experiences and interests. (Appleton, 1993, p. 199)

Other advantages include that this strategy is able to stimulate children’s interest in science concepts and intellectual and investigation skills would have developed in the course of investigating topics (Biddulph & Obsborne, as cited in Bell, p. 94)

The disadvantages to it is that it may be too ritualistic as a teaching-learning strategy and may create problems in covering a curriculum (Appleton, p. 199). Teachers may have trouble getting adequate relevant resources for all subject areas, and may feel pressured to conform to traditional practices when evaluating (Biddulph , as cited in Bell, p. 96)

Reflect- on impact on the way I have been taught before?

I come from a cultural background whereby the context relies heavily, and emphasizes the utilization of the transmission approach as a strategy to transmit information and knowledge to learners. Knowledge is merely an abstract concept, and teachers do not have the time to be able to cater to the sheer amount of students who may not understand the concepts. Students are not expected, nor wanted to question the scientific concepts posed, but just merely memorize by rote, and regurgitate it out during examinations. As such, critical thinking skills and processes are not able to be developed nor flourish under such repressed environments.

Discovery learning is not an approach emphasized even at preschool level as the children are expected to learn and know three languages, and not just merely one! This does not give the leeway or the time needed by the children, as teachers need to cover the curriculum areas, and children need such time to be able do develop their observation and concentration skills. Yet again, many administrators have to give way and conform to the expectations of society in order for their institutions to survive financially. Peer based learning, or co-operative learning groups are unable to flourish under such environments, as the children concentrate more on memorization rather than social development skills.

An interest in professional teaching institutions is growing, and tertiary institutions are beginning to be established. However, it would take the span of ten years and more, before there would be adequate supply of trained teachers to be able to change the trend in teaching here, as in context, the culture and political situation does not provide for such flourishing situations yet.

Outline my personal approach, how it had been developed

An understanding of what, how and when a teaching professional would like to teach is influenced by the their understanding of theory and philosophy in Early Childhood

Other factors such as the underlying theories and philosophy behind Early Childhood curriculum decisions and the teacher’s own personal experience will affect what the teacher is and is not able to bring into the classroom.

The context where I come from, mostly only provides for merely the use of transmission approach, and textbook learning. However, after undergoing training in Montessori methodology, it has changed my view on the learning approach. The Montessori approach emphasizes much on hands-on learning, through using of the 5 senses, hands and mind.

It also emphasizes skills in most of the approaches as written above, which is discovery learning, which emphasizes exploration of materials, peer and multi-age learning. The Montessori methodology also places much importance in the child on the development of the scientific processes, and to a degree the utilization of transmission learning by the teacher.

This knowledge has allowed me to develop my own personal outlook of teaching, whereby I now view that the teaching of young children is not limited to the textbook, nor by the book, but it is through planning and providing the children with purposeful and meaningful activities. These activities which caters to their interests, as well as careful observation from the teacher and allowing them the opportunity and the freedom to communicate and interact with each other which could contribute more to their learning than the teacher could ever transmit.

It is important that as an early childhood professional who is working with children in pre-operational and concrete operational stages of cognitive development, that I carefully assess and observe their cognitive development as it will “bear much fruit” (Gega, 1994) and be satisfying for a teacher to see how much the child has developed in that span of time due to their dedication and love for the child.

However, the utilization of my skills would be very much dependent on the preschool’s ethos and the kind of learning content it places emphasis on.

The context from which I come from, is mostly a teacher initiated and teacher controlled classroom environment, and pays much emphasis on transmission learning, with a significant amount of knowledge and expectancy that the children should learn and remember (Fleer & Hardy, 1996) . As such, I find it difficult to be able to even use the skills and knowledge in such an environment, as the staff and other teaching professionals may not understand, and this may cause much pressure in the environment.
The understanding of the different strategies, and the experiences and outlook of the other teaching professionals throughout my readings, has enabled me to broaden my view that it is much more dependent on the teacher’s attitude and mindset, and willingness to learn with the children, which could propel the process and is an important factor and motivation for the teacher in preparing to plan and teach the concepts to a classroom full of children.


This paper has attempted to examine the different learning strategies based on constructivism that teaching professionals are able to utilize in their teaching of science in the classroom.

The different context which places emphasis on the kind of learning content and processes will influence the kinds of learning outcome in the educational institution. Regardless of whether in elementary, or in a higher learning institution, these are the factors that will influence the manner which teaching professionals are able to teach. The quality of professional training and the teacher’s background theory knowledge of the different strategies will also influence their classroom management skills and how they are able to purposefully transmit the content of their curriculum in a creative yet learner centered manner.

Developing a purposeful and creative science teaching curriculum with the right attitude in mind is important, and as Gega states (1994, p. 19) it develops in children the kinds of attitudes, ways of thinking, and a solid knowledge base that promote success in the real world.


Abruscato, J (1992) “Discovery learning: teaching strategies, textbooks, and management techniques. Integrating science with other subjects’, Teaching children science, 3rd edn, Allyn & Bacon, USA, pp.72-109

Appleton, K (1993) “Using theory to guide practice: teaching science from a constructive perspective’, School science and Mathematics, vol. 93, no. 5, pp.269-74.

Bell, Beverley (1995) Children’s Science, Constructivism and Learning in Science, Deakin University: Australia.

Fleer, M & Hardy, T (1996), Science for children: developing a personal approach to teaching, Prentice Hall, Sydney, pp.71-83.

Gega, Peter.C (1994) Science in Elementary Education: 7th Edition, Macmillan Publishing Company: USA.

Martin.D (2001) Constructing early childhood science. Delmar Thomson Learning


Harlan, JD, & Rivkin, MS (1996), “Guiding discovery science’, Science experiences for the early childhood years: an integrated approach, 6th edn, Prentice Hall Inc, Ohio, pp.27-44.

SAPA, Science- A Process Approach, as viewed on 23rd May 2006

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