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!

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