Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 2008: Pictures from my graduation ceremony.

For those who weren't aware, I was away to Toowoomba, Queensland last week to attend my graduation ceremony.

This as Dr. Karen N., the Dean of my Education Faculty aptly states, "I felt so proud when I read out your name (to come on stage). It was worth all the blood, sweat & pain you went through last year!"

So, for the benefit of my avid readers, here are the pictures from my convocation ceremony. Enjoy! ^^

sitting hall crowd
The graduation ceremony...

sitting hall
Guess where I am?

In the marquee..

At the quadrangle.


crazy girls
Girls posing.

Hanna me
Hanna & I.

jiaren photographer
Jiaren, the photographer messing with my hair.


10 rules to survive your first six months in a new job.

When I first arrived in Toowoomba early 2006, I had to re-adjust my lifestyle to that of a full-time student without a salary and fully depend on my family for my living expenses. The pain of dependency is painfully excruciating. Everyone I knew was much younger. It really needed a shift of thinking to adapt to the new environment. I was almost ready to pack my bags & go home!

Fast forward to 2008, I have now graduated and am fully dependent on myself. This is very much different from that in Malaysia as when one is with & stays with the family, there is less worries of getting your own transport, paying for rent or even to cook for your meals (Hah!).

Although I could have gone home, but I made a choice to stay on longer here to survive on my own as a single asian female. My family initially didn't approve of my decision, but it is a choice I have to live through. It is a much tougher context than what I have experienced before. I guess that is where our human instincts & will to survive kicks over to dominate.

The rules of work are so much different from that in college. When one is paid to do work, the expectations are always higher. Even one who has only done voluntary work may not fully appreciate how much is expected of you as a staff, and the politics at play in the background if others feel that you are a threat to their "rice bowl".

I was back at Toowoomba for my graduation convo last week, and had an audience with the minister's wife. Sis. Elena is in her late 40s, and she gave me and some of my mates advice on how to handle working life in a world strife with politics, back-stabbers, and colleagues who are scheming to be promoted on the career ladder. I am blessed to have her & my other mates who in the background are constantly looking out & praying for my safety here alone in Sydney.

Sis. Elena has worked over two decades of her life in Singapore before migrating to Australia with her husband. Her breadth of experience includes the position of being an administrator, a manager, and setting up of her own company by the time her first child was born in Singapore. Elena now voluntarily uses her time to help out in a migration organisation to help others settle in. She is like the "mother" to us students where I was studying.

Her 10 rules of work for the employees in a new environment are:
1) Humbling oneself to have a learning attitude to work in a new environment.

2) Having the right work attitude. You are there to work, not socialise, so know your priorities.

3) The quality & evidence of the work will demonstrate itself. There is no need to use dirty means to get your way up because the managers can discern who & who are not capable of producing quality work. But remember to know how to "blow your horn" at the same time.

4) Do the work without complaining & murmuring. This builds character & endurance.

5) Work within your legislation & boundaries.

6) When more work comes, how do you as a staff respond? Take each work as a learning opportunity.

7) Keep yourself busy during breaks. Ie. read a book, write stuff, read policies. (This is especially relevant when you are new in the company), when other long-term staff are observing you (they will report back to the boss-). The boss will always ask them how you are getting along with (the other staff, the assignments, how hardworking you are, your initiative, etc).

8) If you are new staff, be submissive. If you know that there is still much to learn, willingly admit that you still have much to learn. There is a season to stay, and a season to leave.

9) DO NOT get involved with the centre's politics, do not talk bad about anyone, and its always wiser to not make any comments till you are long in the workplace,

10) and finally, ALWAYS BE AWARE of your body language.

Other Related Links:
-Surviving first year as a teacher.
- Transitioning from College to Work: How to survive your first job.
- Surviving your first 30 days.

Malaysia: Accreditation & Renewal of kindergarten/tadika licence procedures.

This entry is per the discussion with a registered tadika (kindergarten) operator in Malaysia recently, and I will include in my blog here. As a disclaimer, this is only a skeleton draft, but it will give you a general idea on how the accreditation & licence renewal procedures in Malaysia takes place.

The Ministry of Eduation (MOE) is responsible in implementing the Education Act 1996 in which pre-school to post secondary (Lower/Upper Form Six) education fall. The other government agencies that offer preschool education are the Ministry of Rural Development, the Ministry of National Unity & Social Development, and the Ministry of Women, Family & Community Development.

As said, tadikas or kindergartens are centres licensed to enrol children in the age group of 3.5/4 - 6 years of age. A centre which does not have the title "tadika" is questionable in its status of being a licensed centre under the Ministry of Education in Malaysia. So it is important for prospective parents, or trained teachers to do their research before settling at a centre to work at, or enrolling their children.

The tadika which I was working at is a private kindergarten, and hence by law, they are required to follow the National Preschool Curriculum set out by the MOE. This comes to mean that the private tadika is allowed to implement their own curriculum on provision that it is implemented on top of the National Preschool Curriculum.

Only International Pre-Schools are exempt from the jurisdiction of the Education Act 1996, and from abiding by the National Preschool Curriculum. The operators normally provide services for children from expatriate families and the learning program normally takes places in a foreign language (or fully in English, for the British & American International Pre-Schools).

The logistics & steps as per the accreditation & licence renewal procedure in Malaysia are as follows, that to renew the yearly kindergarten licence, the Ministry of Education (MOE) Malaysia requires tadikas to submit the set of forms that includes the processes of:

1) The Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) or your respective city's planning department approval. This depending on the discretion of the deptartment - may require renewal every 1-3 years). This includes having to check for fire emergency exits, structure of the building and passing the examination of the Fire Department's check. However, due to lack of work personnel, the authorities may or may not come to check.

2) Teachers' permit being required to renew on an annual basis. A renewal fee of RM2 is charged per application. This includes any new teachers that is being employed by the centre.

3) Filling in of relevant documents and statistics which includes information in each respective category of:
the enrolled children- number. of children in each age group, ethnic groups, gender,
the teaching staff- number of teachers, their gender, their qualifications,
the managing/administration staff- the Board of the centre: i.e, chairman, manager, princiipal, treasurer, secretary, etc. their occupations, their experience, their qualification.
the facilities of the centre- building size, equipment, building plan.
the hours taken per week for each subjectm, the medium of teaching, subjects taught in the centre.

According to the principal of a registered tadika (kindergarten), so far there has been no officer that comes to check the school over the last 12 years that the school has been in operation. It seems that there are not adequate enforcement officers in the MOE as they have to look into the public schools, the primary & secondary schools. The privately run centres also comes under the administration of the MOE. This includes private colleges, institutes, tuition centres and private tadikas.

The tadikas are zoned into different areas. The zone leaders will inform the schools for meetings and training workshops. They may have plans to award stars for outstanding kindergartens, but it is only a plan as there is always short of manpower in the MOE to implement ideas and quality control.

Tadika operators are facing decrease in enrollment each year as many unregistered preschools have sprouted up without any licences. Many operate in shoplots & dilute the business of those licenced & registered tadika operators.

Related Links:
Study Malaysia: Malaysia Education System.
ERIC: Promoting & Investing in EC Dev. Projects.
ERIC: Teacher Preparation & Professional Dev. in APEC: A Comparative Study.
ERIC: Experiences with the Situation Approach in Asia.

Play theories: Classical & Contemporary

Play theories are divided into 2 categories, namely,
1) Classical Theories: 19th & Early 20th Century.
2) Contemporary Theories: After 1920.

Classical Theories:
1) Surplus Energy: Spencer (1875) It is the result of surplus energy that exists because the young are freed from the business of self-preservation through the activities of their parents. Energy finds its release in the aimless exuberant activities of play.

Recreation/ Relaxation: (
Lazarus 1883, Patrick 1916) It is seen as a mode of dissipating the inhibitions built up from-fatigue due to tasks that are relatively new to the organism. Play replenishes energy for as yet unfamiliar cognitive activities of the child and reflects deep-rooted race habits -- phylogenetically acquired behaviors that are not therefore new to the organism.

3) Pre-exercise:
Groos - 1898) Play is essential to later survival. The playful fighting of animals or the rough and tumble play of children are essentially the practice of skills that will later aid their survival

4) Recapitulation: The word itself means "the stages an organism passes through during its embryonic development to repeat the evolutionary stages of structural change in its ancestral lineage."
It is seen not as an activity that develops future instinctual skills, but rather, that it serves to rid the organism of primitive and unnecessary instinctual skills carried over by hereditary. Each child passes through a series of play stages corresponding to and recapitulating the cultural stages in the development of the race.

Contemporary Theories:
1) Psycho-analytic: (Sigmund Freud).
-play as catharsis that allows children to rid of negative emotions & to substitute more positive ones in place.
-express feelings through play (Wehman & Abramson, 1976)
-through play, children dramatize the past, present and future (Erikson).

2) Arousal modulation- the theory where individuals assumes some optimal level of central nervous system arousal that a human being tries to maintain through play.

3) Meta-communicative:
(Erikson, 1955). Erik Erikson was of German/Danish-Jewish heritage who is known for his theory on 'psychosocial development' and for coining the phrase "identity crisis". He was born out of an illegitimate affair and hence, the development of identity was one of his main concerns.

His ideas of play is based on playing during the eight-life stage development planes,
1. hope- Basic Trust vs Mistrust.
2 will- Autonomy vs Shame & Misdoubt
3. purpose- initiative vs guilt.
4. competence- industry vs inferiority
5. fidelity- identity vs role confusion.
6. love- intimacy vs isolation.
7. caring- generativity vs stagnation.
8. wisdom- ego integrity vs despair.

Play is different during these 8 stages to enable learning to function concurrently on 2 levels
1) make belief purposes
2) authencity of life, roles, actions, purposes.

Cognitive theories of play:

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was known for his work on studying children (particularly his own three children), and particularly to his contribution to that of "cognitive/intellectual development" and "constructivist theory of knowing". He was a biologist & also a professor of psychology for over 45 years at the University of Geneva.

His theories on play is based on his four stages of development namely,
1) Sensorimotor stage.
- Through play, children learn the actions of movement and the senses and of object permanence (using their senses of touch, taste, hearing, seeing and smell).
2) Pre-operational stage:
- Through play, children acquire motor skills.
3) Concrete operational stage:
- Through concrete activities (hands-on activities and things that can be seen) and games with simple rules, children begin to learn to think logically.
4) Formal operational stage:
- Through rules and instructions, children begin to learn to think abstractly and independently.

Lev Vygotsky: ( 1896-1934) was a Soviet developmental psychologist. His works included an emphasis on interpersonal relationships & on higher mental functions through interactions with significant people in an individual's life.
- play supports development of children's cognitive powers.
- focused more on normal tensions experienced by child rather than on extreme or abnormal ones.
- make belief helps them to interpret the object they are representing in their dramatic play.
- through play, children learn cultural mediation & to internalize knowledge of their specific cultural groups & function as a member of their society.

QLD Australia: Requirements for Montessori teachers

As my avid readers would know by now, every state in Australia has "almost" different set of requirements to work in the education industry.

These are the requirements for working in Montessori centres and schools in Queensland, Australia as per the Queensland Montessori Association (QMA). As said before, holding a Montessori diploma does not entitle the candidate to "teach" in a Montessori centre in the context of Australia. You still need to have a tertiary qualification (3 or 4- year teaching degree on top of it).

Take note that although these are the requirements set out in Queensland, the criterias are almost similar across the states in Australia. Also particularly important to know that across the states, candidates who are registered as a teacher with the individual state's College of Teaching are normally exempt from possessing a Blue Card / Working With Children Check (WWCC).

A WWCC is a compulsory regulation for all individuals who have long-term direct contact with children across all settings, whether it be in a commercial or a voluntary basis. Each state has its own regulations of obtaining a WWCC, so be sure to check out beforehand if you intend to travel & work inter-state and save you the trouble of how to obtain it.

To work in a Montessori School as a Teacher you need
  • Registration with the Queensland College of Teaching
  • Recognised teaching degree - Bachelor of Education for primary grades, or Bachelor of Early Childhood Education for Cycle 1
  • Montessori qualification
  • Current senior First Aid and CPR qualifications

To work in a Montessori Primary School as an Assistant you need

  • Current Blue Card
  • Previous experience in an educational setting
  • Montessori credentials
  • Current senior First Aid and CPR qualifications

To work in a Montessori Creche or Kindergarten as a Teacher you need

  • Montessori Diploma
  • Minimum Bachelor of Teaching (early childhood), preferred Bachelor of Education (early childhood)
  • Queensland College of Teachers (QTC) registration
  • Current senior First Aid and CPR qualifications

To work in a Montessori Creche or Kindergarten as an Assistant you need

  • Montessori qualification
  • Certificate 111 Diploma in Community Services (Children’s Services)
  • Current senior First Aid and CPR qualifications
  • Current Blue Card

To work in a Montessori Long Day Care Centre as a Director you need

  • Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood), or Bachelor of Early Childhood, or Advanced Diploma in Children’s Services
  • Registration with the Queensland College of Teaching (for teachers), or Current Blue Card (for Group Leaders)
  • Montessori credentials
  • Current senior First Aid and CPR qualifications.

To work in a Montessori Long Day Care Centre as a Group Leader / Teacher you need:

  • Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood), or Bachelor of Early Childhood, or Certificate 111 Diploma in Community Services (Children’s Services)
  • Registration with the Queensland College of Teaching, or Current Blue Card.
  • Montessori credentials
  • Current senior First Aid and CPR qualifications

To work in a Montessori Long Day Care Centre as an Assistant you need:

  • Certificate 111 Diploma in Community Services (Children’s Services)
  • Current Blue Card
  • Current senior First Aid and CPR qualifications

New Zealand: Montessori Teaching Positions

Although the webpage is a bit backdated (it was last updated in in 2001!), Steve Lee still has some good advice for Montessori trained teachers who would like to find work in New Zealand. On his site he talks about the "Catch 22" of applying for the employment process, so have a read & think of it before you decide if you want to go to NZ (or Australia for that matter, since both countries are almost similar!)

It seems that as early as 2001, teachers in NZ who want to teach in primary/secondary schools have to in their hand, possess a university/tertiary qualification. (Whether it is now a 3 or 4 year qualification, I do not know for NZ). Primary teacher qualifications had to be assessed by the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA).

Steve Lee's advice includes:
- prospective candidates to come to NZ on a visitor's visa.
- if the candidate's English (accent) is acceptable, and if they also have good teacher skills and a good personality, it would be guaranteed that they could find a job.
- A more affordable alternative would be to send a professionally made video of the teacher, including an interview and teaching methods.
His opinion is that it would be difficult for the teachers from (from other non-English speaking countries / Eastern / Asian) teacher to be appointed without the NZ principal and school board actually seeing and/or speaking with the teacher first.

Monday, April 21, 2008

NSW: Status of Early Childhood Teachers.

I was surfing through the internet recently for research on the status of ECTs in NSW, and this surfaced. The research papers are quite detailed and I find that it relates to much of my "off-hand" observations that I have seen since the beginning of my tenure as a relief staff.

Links to these recent research papers (2004) on the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in pdf format is available for downloading on these sites.

1) Review of the ECT Shortage Interim Policy (ECT Final Report)

2) Early Childhood Teachers & Qualified Staff (Revised April 04)

Have a read. I'll be referring much to them in future.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"You just have to GET- OUT- THERE ! "

My predictions came true. Agent C. texted me this morning to "ensure that the centre has informed me that my shift has been cancelled".

When she called later to ask me to go for another shift (you mean another one so soon?), I asked her to tell me what transpired and she informed me that they had been informed the day before. My agent was surprised that the director didn't personally inform me that I would not be coming in today, as she would normally do.

Of course you can only guess what was running through my mind when I received the text this morning. I knew that the Director was already on a rampage last night, and was already half expecting that my shift would most likely be dismissed.

When I told my agent that, *surprise, surprise*.... she just dismissed the whole incident saying, "remember when you first attended the orientation interview, I told you guys that these are some of the things that will happen. There WILL be PERSONALITY CLASHES. You just need more experience. You JUST need to GET OUT there."

*Ok, point taken*.

When I told her I was not sure if I was ready to go out for another shift, she then told me she would give me 5 minutes to calm my emotions down. Ok fine, I had to make a decision. I could sit at home & muck, or I could go out to work for the next two days to make it a learning & productive experience for me.

The five turned to twenty.

Then she called me back.
Her: So, are you going or not?"
Me: Yes, I am.
Her: Okay, I will send you the details.

*Phone clicks dead*

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A bad day in the nursery room.

Have you ever noticed that in the first few days that you start work at a new place, everything seems to be running really smoothly and then a problem just crops up?

For each day that I go to work as opposed to staying home, there are new issues that crop up. Ones that cause me to think & worry a lot. But in a way that's a good thing as I eventually find a solution to it, & I DO learn something from there. Whether it be personal, or work issues, somehow a solution is found. I meet people, and I learn how to handle these issues the next time they crop out.

This past one week, I was based in a near city centre where I have been working with babies for the past three days. It is a good thing as I rarely have the opportunity to do so in Malaysia. To get to work this week, I had to either take the train or bus to work. But since mornings are always congested & I am always rushed for time, the trains are always a wiser option. I take the Sydney bus home however. Might as well put my Travel Ten ticket to good use anyways!

The staff that I have met in the room so far have been quite kind & nice. They were very different from the one which is fully localised staff that I went to previously near Chatswood. This centre has rostered permanent staff from India, China and even casuals from Germany and Lebanese-Aussies. Even the programming done by the Chinese group leader includes chinese language as well! It was the first I had ever heard for this particular franchaise of learning centres!

Today is the JONAH Day for this centre I am based at.. My director L., was in a really bad mood. I do understand that to be a director, there IS a lot of responsibilities. Stress & expectations of having to answer to DoCS as well as meeting parent's expectations & complaints, as well as to the board of directors. (But then again, she could be having PMS. Who knows?!). She's also holding a staff conference next week in the same centre, as L. manages two centres part-time (working 11 hours/p day, where the normal is only 8 hours in Austalia!).

The day started off with a complaint from a parent, and the entire thing just snowballed.. The air of uneasiness just lingered the entire morning. I was also given a severe rebuff for an incident was quite minor. Even the permanent staff in my room could only dare to *whisper* when she came into the room. A lot of the babies were crying, so that only exacerbated the tension in the air.

The only thing I kept repeating to myself throughout the day was "never let your emotions control you" and "calm down" to both my colleagues as I could feel their tempers were going up as well! Fortunately they took my cue & did the same!

At the end of the day, my group leader finally asked me how do I feel about working in childcare, relating the incident to what the director had said earlier in the day. I guess she was also feeling a bit frustrated as she was only just starting her studies in Cert III, and she was not ready to handle the issues & responsibilities that came.

Coming from a background of management, I can understand the problems that come with all the work, but I feel that it's all part of the job. Someone has to be "choleric", to direct, delegate, and reprimand workers. Else the staff will not do their jobs properly. The centre has accreditation goals & financial targets to meet, and she is the only one who has to make sure staff fulfill them, else she has to answer to the stakeholders.

So I guess that is why I do not, and was not surprised why the director may have acted the way she does (whether for reasons I had predicted or not!). Sometimes as staff, we think that it might be our behaviour that exacerbated the problem. But at times it could be the manager's personal issues. These issues are the same everywhere. It's just a matter of how we handle them, I guess.

I texted my mom & she returned my call. When I told her what happened, she reassured me that it was not my issue. Isn't God great to provide mothers during these times of distress?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NSW: Requirements for hiring an Early Childhood Teacher.

Hi readers, how are you guys getting on? I just came back from trying to catch a glimpse of Keanu Reeves at his premiere of Street Kings in Sydney earlier this evening.Well, so much for my brushing with fame anyways. Ha ha.

Last week, I was assigned to a centre on the way to Chatswood for a week block to work with pre-schoolers (3-5 yrs) and toddlers (2-3yrs). The centre was further away from the city, so the staff were mostly Anglo-Australian locals. This week, I was assigned to a centre in North Sydney. So far, I realised that the childcare centres which are nearer to the city have more multi-cultural staff compared to those which are further away. I would say this is how most cities are like anyways.

For the past two days, I have worked with babies (0-2 years) group in the nursery. Compared to the toddler age group I have worked with last week, babies are much more dependent on adults than toddlers are. Adults have to do everything from feeding, cleaning, and changing their nappies. Because babies can only babble, adults have to rely heavily on non-verbal as well as verbal clues given by the babies in order to meet their needs.

When babies cry, it could sound like a happy bubbly laugh, a whimpering, or plain loud crying! The two main contact persons in the centre are a trained Montessori lady from India, & the other a local-Aussie girl who is just completing her Cert III.

Yup, for the past two days, I have been changing nappies for babies! I don't know how I managed to go through so many weeks without ever having to change nappies, but I did not manage to escape this week! In the past two days, I must have changed nappies like 15 times in day, from the whole routine of putting on gloves, lining the bed with napkins, changing poo-filled nappies & disinfecting the beds to clearing out bags full of smelly, stinky nappies! Phew..!

I also understood more about the (NSW DoCS (Dept. of Community Services) requirements today. The director that is in charge of the centre I am assigned to this week is actually in charge of another centre I was assigned to a couple of weeks back!

Apparently the reason why I had been contracted to the centres in the past two weeks is because of the DoCS requirements that if the centre has more than about 39, or 59 children they need to adhere to Clause 52 whereby they are required to have a "teaching staff" to commensurate with the ratio for this amount.

1) Clause 52:
a) has a degree/ diploma in early childhood education from a university following a course with a duration (on a full-time basis) of not less than 3 years, or
(b) has some other approved qualification, or
(c) has other approved training and other approved experience.
The director also asked me to bring a copy of my qualification based on :
Clause 93:
1) Centre based and mobile children’s services
The licensee of a centre based or mobile children’s service must ensure that the following records are made and kept up to date in relation to each member of staff of the service:

(a) a copy of any relevant qualification held by the member,

(b) a copy of any first aid qualification held by the member,

(c) any other particulars that the Director-General requires, by notice in writing served on the licensee, to be kept in relation to the member.

(2) The licensee of a centre based or mobile children’s service must ensure that records are made and kept up to date of the day to day attendance of each member of staff, casual employee or contractor of the service, including times of arrival and departure during the day and including details of all absences

(3) All children’s services: The licensee of a children’s service must ensure that records are made and kept up to date of the attendance of any visitor to the premises of the service, including times of arrival and departure.
(4) The records kept under this clause in relation to any person must be signed by the person.

Anyways, regardless of the requirements that an ECT is needed as per the legislation set out, candidates have to know that if the centre doesn't like the ECT who has been contracted, they may not ask that candidate to return to the centre to work again. So, work rapport & managing interpersonal skills with other staff is important aside from having the right credentials as well as qualifications.

Have fun working, kids!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Near Chatswood: Observation in a chain-childcare centre

Last week, I was assigned to a centre in Chatswood as an Early Childhood Teacher. The centre was quite a distance from the CBD, and took about 45 minutes of travel time. Being assigned in the position as an Early Childhood Teacher would mean to say that the person assigned holds the qualification of a 3-year Teaching degree to be employed in a childcare centre, or preschool.

Even as casuals, we are able too to observe the "unspoken" setup of the centre, if assigned for a one-week block .This blog entry is specifically written about this centre near Chatswood I was assigned to.

The teaching materials were the same for the entire one week. Although it is structured differently in the classroom learning program diary as different teachings on different days. It is no wonder why the children were totally not focused and restless!

I could observe that the activities planned were just not attractive or interesting enough to keep the children's attention! In this case, the whole set-up of the class programming just did not seem to cut it, or was the right fit for the children at that centre

On consultation with my previous employer, she suggested that I could create some Montessori activities for the children to work with from the materials and learning programme that was written in the class programme.  That would be viable as I had been booked for a week basis in that centre.

I am not sure how, but it definitely seems like a good idea. It would definitely show a lot of initiative on my part, as the class programming was really beginning to get on me!

Salary of montessori teachers.

Recently when I was going through my web analystics, I found some keywords looking for salary payment in Malaysia. Just to be honest, to all the teachers who are thinking & planning of coming to Malaysia to work as a Montessori teacher, the salary scale for people even as a directress would not go above RM1,500 month. Most supervisors in a normal main-stream pre-school who work maybe until 3pm may only earn around that much.

Then again one has to know that if you were looking for a high-paying salary, teaching is not really the best profession to come into in any place unless if was done for the love of the job & children vs the monetary pay-outs.

Costs of living are going up, but the salaries of workers are not there. In Malaysia, there is no standard Union that negotiates for the salaries of the people, and is mostly done by the company itself in preparing a pay package in wanting to head-hunt or employ a staff personnel. Furthermore teachers are at a disadvantage due to union laws, as Malaysian regulations state that in order for teachers to have their unions established, they need to have an 8 work day. As most main-stream and also currently trained Montessori teachers either get off at 1pm or later, the establishment of teacher unions will have to take a long wait into the far future.

Montessori teacher training programmes in Malaysia do not come cheap, and are expensive for the average local Malaysian. It costs average about RM12,000 for the entire cost at most private colleges. This includes tutelage fees, membership to the MCI board (UK) and examination fees. Students who have failed their examinations are only allowed to retake their examinations once for the entire duration of the International Montessori Diploma (MCI) programme. After which, they will have to re-enrol for the entire program if they failed both times.

In summary, unless you had a supplement income aside from being a teacher (even as one in a Montessori position), it is difficult to make ends meet on that one job, even in a permanent position. A lot of these teachers need to have another part-time job, or like my friend, Annie, who comes from inter-state, although she did work as a Montessori teacher, her parents had to help her pay her rent because of her low pay. She knows that she can't survive on the pay that she is given.

To digress, if a candidate wanted higher pay per hour for work as either a casual childcare staff or teacher, a good place would be Australia.

However in order to be eligible to work as a teacher in preschools & kindergartens (it is different from Child Care Centres & Long Day Care Centres!), the candidate would need a 4-year teaching degree equivalent to the Australian Teaching Board requirements, & you have to be registered in each state's teaching registry if you are planning to work there. Casuals get higher pay rates as they do not get the whole package that permanent staff are entitled to i.e. unpaid leave, sick leave, medical benefits & all.

I'm not too sure about Montessori staff requirements, but as stated previously in one of my earlier entries, the candidate by legislation needs to possess a 4 year degree in order to work as a registered teacher in New South Wales preschools & kindergartens (since I am based here currently). Candidates not only need to possess the 4 yr degree, but need to have the Montessori diploma on top of it to be qualified to work as a Montessori teacher in the Montessori schools (there are Montessori primary & secondary schools in NSW).

Of course, that is in the books. In practice, the schools may work otherwise due to lack of Montessori trained teachers available that they have to settle for main-stream trained teachers to work in the schools.

However in retrospect, I was just thinking that if you do possess a Montessori qualification even with only a normal 3 yr or other degrees, the pre-school & kindergarten may consider you for work, but placing you in either a "unqualified" or "trainee" position (meaning less pay!). Anyways, this is all at the discretion of the employer who will decide if they want to employ or not. It is financially onerous on the hiring & education system in Australia by the way it is set out, but that is something that they have to work out.

Just remember, in order to work in a Preschool & Kindergarten (i.e Queensland's Creche & Kindergarten), the position of a registered teacher needs a 4-year-degree, & in a Child Care Centre & Long Day Care Centres, (i.e ABC Learning Centres, CFK Childcare Centres), the Early Childhood teacher needs a 3-year degree (otherwise known as Early Childhood Teacher).

Other positions available in a childcare centre (either long day care or similar) which is not a teaching position includes the Classroom Assistant (generally thought of as an untrained position) who requires a Cert III in Children Services, and Advanced Child Care Worker which requires a Diploma in Children Services (a trained position). If you are wondering, these are all Australian TAFE qualifications. If you have no idea what it is, it doesn't matter as only mostly locals and foreigners who have been in Australia for a while would have considered taking it.

The hourly rates for Early Childhood Teachers casuals (ECT- 3 yr degree Bachelor of Teaching/Early Childhood) who work in Childcare Centres & Day Care Centres, have rates starting from AUD26.6/hour to as high as about 37/hour. For registered teachers (4 year Bachelor of Education) work in public/private schools, preschools & kindergartens, rates should be about AUD 40+. This depends on the pay rates that agents are willing to pay their casuals, so do your research & pick a good one to develop a relationship with!

Permanent staff are paid lower but they get more stable shifts, as it is costly for centres to take on casual staff. If you are good at your work, the centre will repeatedly for you to return to work. I have been to centres where there are casuals who have been working there for months! Some from the same agent that I am from, and others from the other childcare agents in Sydney.

For the international and foreigner, you have to know that if it weren't for the adult:children ratio that is mandated in the Australian childcare legislation, casuals like us would not be able to find employment. So it does provide some advantages of providing employment to companies and relief staff like us. I doubt you'd be able to find work as a relief teacher in Malaysia as such a system has yet to exist, and probably not even in the far future yet.

Till now, I have not been assigned to a Montessori school for relief work. So I am unable to tell you how it is like although it is my desire to check out the Montessori schools around here soon. I do hope that my agent will send me to a Montessori school, as though I am trained to work in a play-based educational setting, my desire is still to work in a Montessori school.

As much as I would like to encourage you to take up permanent work, from what I have heard, pay for staff in childcare is horrendously low whether in the States, Australia, or Malaysia. Hmm... But it really depends on what you want.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Play-Based vs "Structured" Education Systems.

Anyways, in my previous entry, I mentioned that there were two ECT casuals that came. One of them, Gloria was here today. I believe she's in her mid 30s-40s. When we were having outdoor play today, I decided to take the opportunity to have a conversation with her. And yes, a lot of my previous assumptions were spot on.

Gloria has been a registered elementary teacher for about ten years! However during her time, she only had to complete the 3rd year degree, unlike the current Australian batch which are required to complete four years before graduating. Gloria was put on a waiting list to be able to go to her school. Tired of waiting, she decided to go to Singapore to work as a teacher. Ironically, it is easier for her to find work overseas than in Australia... (as usual).

It must be stated that Gloria did share some similar view points as I do.

The Singaporean education system is too competitive and could do with some play for the younger age group, but the Australian childcare context could do with a bit more structured work, as opposed to having so much play. She complains that early childhood "group leaders" emphasize too much programming for "play" for the children without realising how different it is in primary school.When children make the transition to primary school, it is difficult as the system is very structured. This I agree with her.

As stated, Gloria was one of those who came into the preschool room and states that she has a "choleric" personality. She said that Group Leaders & staff she has met so far have been very adamant that having "structure" in the schooling system may hurt a child's self-esteem, but she knows that the children need a certain amount of more structure otherwise the children may run into misbehaviour.

She was pleased to report that as as she was concerned, many of the staff in the centres where she goes in to relieve have allowed her to do-it-her-way. In her defense, I would agree and state the perspective where Group Leaders and childcare staff who only work in daycare or childcare centres may not understand that until they have done practicum in a primary school. There really is no easy way to convince them otherwise.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Toddler Jonah Day.

Today is one of those days that just started out right but have a very exasperating middle & a fantastic ending.

It started out a warm & sunny day. Remind me that I should never complain about the sunny weather especially when I am running out of warm clothing (just waiting for my supply to arrive, hopefully in the next two weeks). Winter clothing costs an arm & leg, so I think I shall just wait for my parents to send it from KL. Postage isn't too bad when the Australian currency exchange is about RM3: AUD1.

Anyways, today I worked with the toddlers..... Oh my gosh.. the toddlers were acting up! There were 5 boys who were pretty disruptive, and the rest of the group who were watching decided to join them. So the entire group was pretty much acting up.

I kept on reflecting about the reasons why I could have such difficulty in handling them, & partly the reason I realised that is because I wasn't using the right way to interact with them.

Toddlers have different needs from pre-schoolers. This age group requires more kindness, patience & a different way of talking than from the older age group. Of course, sometimes what we read in books at university can only be translated to knowledge with a real life scenario on a continual basis. Since I do not primarily handle this age group, it was a real tremendous learning curve for me.

These are some of the things I remember & observed about them:
  • Toddlers are at the developmental stage that they don't take well to strangers & new faces.
  • Toddlers are still mostly blabbing and speaking in two or three word sentences, sometimes its harder for a casual to understand what they are trying to say.
  • Toddlers respond better to a kind word rather than a direct instruction (they may not understand what the adult wants and thus ignores them!).
  • Toddlers listen better if the adult makes it like a game for them to follow instructions.
  • Toddlers still need a firm hand at the end of the day.
I guess that just means that I have to adapt the way I talk to them than what I was originally planning to do. Oh well!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

An Early Childhood Teacher at work.

It could mean coming into a room of children & just taking control. Or even at a cafe. There are many factors that enable a person to be able to come in to take control. A huge factor is to do with the person's personality as demonstrated by my flatmate, Titi, who works in a cafe but possesses a rather "choleric" personality.

Titi is Indonesian & has horrible English grammar, but the moment she steps into a restaurant, she starts ordering people around & everyone else listens to her. Even the Australian white locals take their orders from her! When she has toothache & walks into the dentist's office without making an appointment, even the dentist acquieses to her to avoid trouble. No one dares to upset her when she is in the house!

To illustrate a point about this in childcare, I'd like to share what happened at work today. The centre that I am currently based for this week only takes in ECT casuals, (in other words, degree-qualified casuals). It was "over-booked", meaning there were too many casuals that were booked in. The scenario that took place was that Agent C had booked me in to go to the centre but they did not receive any email confirmation from them to confirm that I was going in. However the centre still kept me in.

What happened was that instead of asking me to go home, I took turns being a "floater staff" in both the toddler & pre-school rooms to enable the Group Leader, Nikki & Michelle to do their programming. Floater staff are basically staff that float around to relieve staff according to the adult: children ratio needed as per the childcare legislations. I.e. when there are more children than normal, and there is not enough staff around, or staff that relieves the main skeleton staff when they go off for lunch or have to do their curriculum-programming. (Granted, we don't have this in Malaysia or most asian countries if you're wondering!)

Today there were two other casual ECTs from two different childcare staffing agencies, apart from mine. From my observations, I would say they were both much older women in their late 40s (not thirties, mind you). As this is actually my first time in contact with other ECTs, it was a great learning experience for me to watch how other more experienced ECT casuals work as well. In my weeks of doing my casual work, I have actually had not had the opportunity to be able to work with staff of ECT level, but mostly the group leaders and assistants. (which in other words are the diploma & certificate qualified staff).

In the centre I am based now, I am pretty much the only asian casual staff which I'm not too fussed about. I could tell that these ECTs had been to this centre much as they addressed the children by their names and they were quite experienced as they used a lot of behaviour management strategies which I had not seen used yet. What I like most about the class is that they came in and just took control of the children, which is an area that I am trying to strengthen, regardless of whether it is with children or adults. Or even animals!

What I believe is that I think that these two ECTs demonstrate much choleric traits compared to the other staff I have seen in the centre. It is just something I perceived. Reflecting on it, I remember an incident that took place last year when I was back in KL for Chinese New Year festival & I had gone to my uncle's home for visitations. It was a really hot & sunny day, and I was rather cranky & had a really bad tummy upset. Anyways, when my family left the car to enter my uncle's home, their pet dog was barking like mad. It seemed that everyone was afraid of the dog.

My crankiness must have shown through because the moment I looked at the dog, without a word I gave him such a stare that the dog just kept quiet & started whimpering. My mom who was behind me then asked me what did I do to the dog, to which I told her that I had not done anything but given him a stare. Later I went to the dog & tried to be friendly with it. As you could guess, my personality does not fall under the "choleric" category although I do demonstrate some of these traits as my entire family members are ALL choleric!

In conclusion, I believe that learning to take control of an audience or group of "creatures" is a skill that can be self-taught regardless of their personality, although that does play a major role in helping a person to put out or take on an authoritative role in the group.

Literacy in a play program- Part 2

A continuation of this entry.

Discussion of Results (Data Analysis and Interpretation)
Observations of the environment
The centre where the research has been undertaken is at a C&K childcare centre. C&K is one of Queensland’s largest and longest provider of community based early childhood education and childcare services. Currently, C&K has just launched a new curriculum framework, called Building Waterfalls, which the staff refer to in the planning of the activities and the overall play based programme.

How the classroom teachers plans.
The classroom being observed is managed by two classroom teachers and an assistant who take turns to share and manage the classroom over the period of the week. The centre employs a mixture of both a play-generated curriculum and curriculum-generated play in planning for the classroom activities.

Our play-based curriculum provides a dynamic environment, which encourages exploration, enquiry and creativity, and gives children the time and opportunity to have control over their own learning” (The centre’s philosophy, refer to attachment in appendix given).

As in reference to the above, the teachers plan along these lines and alongside the children and follow the interests of the children as the day progresses. They look at their observations, evaluating it, and then plan on what they think is important and to meet the children’s needs, to extend and develop the child’s skills, and maintain continuous play as a result of their planning choices.

The teachers in the classroom use a variety of ways to observe children’s growth and learning of which these are:

  • Photo stories.
  • The record of the activities the children have been working on for that day.
  • Curriculum Plans (using coded symbols) to maintain the children’s privacy.
  • Observation sheets (that are kept in each child’s folder).
  • Work samples.
  • Children’s own work folders.
  • Galleries displaying children’s paintings and artwork.

As the classroom is shared by two main teachers, both teachers utilize a different manner of observation to document the children’s development and learning. Although these methods of observations are different, it permits others (parents, administrators, relief staff and floaters) who view the documentation on the children’s development two different perspectives on how a child’s development can be monitored and recorded down.

Kieff & Casbergue (2000, p. 198) states that teachers who wish to foster language and literacy knowledge, skills and dispositions in young children move beyond planning and providing materials to facilitating development by engaging children in language use and interacting with them in ways that scaffold their learning.

The teachers have attempted to scaffold and extend the children’s thinking and creativity skills through strategies such as

  • Initiating ideas to start on a topic of interest, such as a book or a topic of discussion to start on the topic of puppet making.
  • Providing support such as providing materials to start on a project or start on an activity, i.e, wooden spoons for the spoon puppets.
  • Involving the children in all aspects of the learning environment, i.e transferring the responsibility and ownership of the maintenance and care of the classroom to the children, so that the children will have a shared sense of ownership of the classroom, i.e Ruth’s farewell gift, or in the case of decorations to put up for the classroom.
  • Not providing answers, but asking open-ended questions to assist children in looking for solutions, problem-solve and find out answers for themselves
  • Assisting children in making choices and decisions for themselves.
  • Staff and teachers to join in the children’s play, and scaffold it without taking over the children’s play.
  • The teacher joining the children’s play, by providing ideas and supporting and guiding the children in their ideas, by providing questions and cues that could lead the children’s thinking to explore options not previously thought of before.

The planning proforma:

Kieff & Casbergue (2000, p.191) states that knowledge of literacy goals for young children enables teachers to make informed choices about materials, activities and play opportunities that are effective and appropriate for each child.

The planning of the activities for the class is done on a daily basis, and what the teacher has observed of the children have been working on and said for the day.

The advantages of the this strategy of planning is that it is able to extend the children’s interest onto a much deeper level, sustain their interests in the activity, and is relevant to the children’s ideas, knowledge and current thinking.

The disadvantages of this process is that because it is done as a daily planning, it cannot be planned for the week ahead, as the children’s interest may have changed by then and the activities may not be relevant to what the children are working at. Teachers have to always be in touch and observant of what the children are working at in order to provide for their learning experiences at a current pace.

According to the classroom teachers, though they plan the activity according to the interests of an individual child, it has to take into consideration the other children’s interests too so that the other children could participate in the activity as well.

How the planning is set up

Kieff & Casbergue (2000, p. 197) state that planning a classroom environment that supports and extends children’s language and literacy learning entails designing classroom centres, theme studies and projects that incorporate both oral and written language.

The mentor’s philosophy is reflected in the planning of the literacy activities where she believes that the children should take ownership of their own learning. Common centres are set-up with materials already accessible to the children.

These centres include a Collage Do-It table, Puzzles, Book Corner, Blocks, Dress-Ups and Home Corner. As with the rest of the other learning areas in the classroom, the literacy materials are set-up on low shelves where the children have easy access to.

The children have the freedom and choice to take the materials from the shelves to work with. Apart from that, the teacher also plans out other specific and structured language art activities such as sourcing and bringing out materials for puppet making, easel painting, or paint activities if she feels that they have shown an interest in it, or if they specifically requested for it.

As the centre employs a play-based programme, the children are given the time and freedom throughout the day to work with activities of their choice at the different centres. They are not hurried throughout the activity, as the teachers also believe that “it is not the end product, but the process” in doing the activity that matters, where the children learn the skills through working with the activity and experiences provided, and not making the final product. The teachers continuously make a conscious note of this statement and are always finding ways to reinforce this philosophy in the classroom to other staff, parents and visitors who may come in to observe or look at the children’s work.

What the teachers do to enhance the children’s literacy
Literacy is language in use, encompasses speaking, listening, reading, writing and critical thinking. It is developed through involvement in everyday home and community experiences. It is a process that is interactive, dynamic and purposeful. (Early Childhood Australia, 1999, viii, as cited in C&K, 2006).

The teachers state that they do not separately plan for literacy activities, or compartmentalise the developmental and key learning areas when planning for the activities in the classroom, however, instead they plan for activities that integrates the developmental and key learning areas into on activity.

As Van Hoorn, Nourot, Scales , & Alward (1993, as cited in Kieff & Casbergue, 2000, p. 186) states, play can “offer children opportunities to make meaningful use of language and literacy knowledge and skills. …and the unifying quality of play enables it to unite and integrate the socio-emotonal, motoer, and cognitive aspects of learning and development”.

In reference to this, the classroom teachers attempt to develop the children’s literacy skills through different activities such as

  • Literacy games
  • Name tags and name games
  • Signs
  • Discussion at Carpet time or any time in a 1:1 or small group.
  • Pictures
  • Stimulus materials
  • Visual cues
  • Role model language
  • Reading a lot of books: reading it from left to right and pointing to the words as the words are being read.
  • Use of verbal and non-verbal language
  • Sign language

All these indirectly involve developing speaking and oral communication skills. Goodman (1980, as cited in Kieff & Casbergue, 2000, p. 187) states, it is continuously being accepted that literacy learning is actually language learning…that oral language development is critical to literacy as learning to read and write is simply an extension of oral language learning. Hence, it is important that children develop a good foundation and base in their oral communication skills as they learn to read and write.

The children in the classroom are engaging in emergent literacy (Clay, 1966 as cited in Kieff & Casbergue, 2000), as their knowledge of oral language is immersed in the print-rich environments of the classrooms, the children are encouraged to explore the different ways written symbols can be used.

What is the teacher’s role?

Co-Construction of Knowledge:

“When teachers use the prior experiences and current questions of children as the building blocks of their curriculum, they too have the potential to learn, be surprised, and join children as researchers (Nimmo, 2002, 9, as cited in C&K, 2006).

The teacher adopts the centre’s underlying philosophy of teaching. The centre employs a child-centered philosophy to teaching and planning activities. This is shown whereby:

  • The staff shows the children how to do it.
  • The staff do not just transfer the responsibility of the learning to the children, but in the process, support their needs as well.
  • The staff show by supporting the children in their questioning and following up on to what the children are doing.

Kieff & Casbergue (2000) continue to state that language and literacy occur not as a result of solitary exploration of things in the classroom, but from the rich interactions that should infuse every part of the curriculum.

It is because of this reason that the teacher in their roles, attempt also to foster a classroom culture that places importance on developing social and interaction skills among the teacher and staff and each other. The teachers do this by participating and interacting with the children in their play themes and working with them as the children enact their play scripts and creations.

What responsibility children assume for their own learning?

Teachers transfer the responsibility of making right learning choices to the children by evaluating the appropriateness of the learning choices made according to the context and needs as it happens and how it happens. The teacher’s roles in this is only to guide and extend the children’s decisions as they make their choices, plan as to maintain extended interest and focus on the child’s intended play, and bring into a deeper depth so that the child can explore their own interests.

Kieff & Casbergue (2000, p. 197) state that children’s language and literacy knowledge and skills, as well as their dispositions to use those skills develop best when children interact with print and with each other, exploring, hypothesizing and creating their own rules for written language.

At the childcare centre, the teachers believe that children should take ownership of their learning. It is a conscious decision, and is incorporated into the planning that children make their own decisions. Teachers provide teaching and learning opportunities for the children such as possibilities, scaffolding, and extensions for learning. It is out of these choices, and as a result of these choices, that the program believes children will learn from the outcomes and consequences.

Kieff & Casbergue (2000, p. 197) continues to state that because children are engaged in language use for their own purposes, they are invited to construct their own knowledge about critical aspects of language.

Observation of a child: Gini

Attached are the observations of a child, Gini, who has been enrolled in the childcare centre for the past two months (2006). English is the child’s second language and she speaks a different home language that from at school.

The individuals (staff and peers) in the classroom have encouraged Gini in the development and learning of the English language skills. The results of the observations show that as a result of the play in the class, Gini from speaking only one word (12/10/06), yes and no (26/10/06), she had progressed to drawing and naming objects, communicating by showing and understanding instructions (9/11/06). The greeting card that Gini made showed she understood the meaning of words and its importance attached to words in her creations.


Children are able to develop skills in the language areas as the child socialises with surrounding peers, be it another child or his/her guardian. By taking part in play themes initiated by either the teacher or the child's self, the child will be able to put into practise the literacy skills they have learned and acquired.

With the observation of Gini, it can be concluded that surrounding peers and a conducive environment play an important role in helping a child to develop his/her communication skills, be it written or oral. In the play based program, Gini was able to develop her literacy skills holistically as it gave her the opportunity to put her newfound skills to practise.

As such, the outcome that has been seen through the implementation of a play based programme, children are able to practise and develop their written skills, communication skills, oral speaking skills in an environment, which is individually planned and catered for their learning needs, interests, personality, free to make choices, and have the freedom to play and follow their own interests without being hurried by the system or the individuals around them.

Campbell, Rod, & Green, David (eds) (2000) Literacies and Learners: current perspectives, Prentice Hall: Australia.

Cohen, Louis & Manion, Lawrence (1994) Research Methods in Education (4th edition), Routledge: London.

C&K (2006) Building Waterfalls: A living and learning curriculum framework,

Theobald, Maryanne & Houen, Sandy (2000) Monitoring Children’s Progress Using Child Portfolios, Theobald and Houen: Queensland.

Diaz, Jones C & Makin, L (2002) ‘Literacy as social practice’, in L Makin & C Jones Diaz (eds), Literacies in early childhood: changing views, challenging practice, MacLennon & Petty Pty Limited: Eastgardens

Hoorn, Nourot, Scales & Alward (1993) Play at the Center of the Curriculum, Macmillan: USA

Hughes, Fergus P (1995) Children, Play, & Development 2nd Edition, Simon & Schuster: USA

Kalantzis, M & Cope, B (1997) Strong and weak languages in the European Union: aspects of linguistics hegemonism, 26-37 March 1997, Thessalonika: Greece.

Kieff, Judith.E & Casbergue, Renne M (2000) Playful Learning and Teaching: Integrating Play into Preschool and Primary Programs, Allyn and Bacon: America

Merriam, Sharan. B (1988) Case Study- Research in Education: A Qualitative Approach, Jassey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco.

Neuman, S & Roskos, K (1993) Language and literacy learning in the early years: An integrated approach, Harcourt Brace & Company: Florida.

Stake, Robert. E (1995) The Art of Case Study Research, Sage Publications: USA.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My experience with Sydney childcare recruitment.

Today is my third day in a new centre. It is located near Chatswood. It takes about 40 minutes of travel by bus, as there is no direct train to this area, and I had to change buses halfway. Actually I do believe that Agent C has been sending me to further & further childcare centres then I was originally signed up to be. So far even without having a map, I have been able to find my way around to the various centres that I have been assigned to.

Perhaps my sense of direction is getting better? LOL. (Now, you're probably wondering what in the world is this crazy female talking about, I'm sure?).

Well, I was initially signed up for three days with this centre, but my agent called this morning to ask if I wanted to work the other extra two days more with them, to which I told her why not? Well anyway that is not the point of my entry here. The point of this entry is to write about my experience with the agents I have worked with till date.

In NSW as far as I am concerned, there are quite a number of childcare staffing agencies which one could easily find if they logged on employment sites like Seek.Com. It is among one of many sites used for Australian job opportunities. Some childcare staffing agencies have offices in each state, whilst some are just primarily based in one state only, and they do advertise heavily on these sites.

If my readers want to know, I am currently signed in with two childcare staffing agents. The former, Agent E, of which is a pretty big company with offices in Victoria & NSW, and the latter, Agent C, primarily based in NSW with links to shipping & a booming franchaise of learning centres.

As a disclaimer, please do not take my word as gospel, because in terms of what I know about both agents is only my experience and through hearsay. Perhaps you had a different experience, and if you did, do share.

Of both agents, my preference is for Agent C. This is primarily because it only has a small office and staff which are able to work effectively & effeciently. In my time working as a casual for them, I have come to know the "administrator" T. , who goes around personally calling & scheduling & arranging shifts. This makes the work & company more personable.

Every week Agent C's office sends out a text that asks all casuals whether they would be free for work in the next week. When there is an occurence, she would personally call the candidates. As a casual, I find it very assuring as I would know whom to speak to if I were to find myself in a difficult spot.

The former, Agent E gives the candidates a very intimidating impression. At least that is the "feel" that I as a casual get. They give candidates a common hotline number & candidates are expected to inform the office of their availability each week independently.

Agent E's office which is based in Sydney is very particular about following rules & regulations, and everything to the dot. Because the company is huge, I find that each time I would like to speak to someone in the company, I have been directed to 3-4 different personnel, and I have no idea who they are because they are all dealing with different areas in the company. In some ways, I would state that Agent E's work practice & ethics is good to what is considered Australian standards, & probably re-assuring for the parents & staff, but in some ways it can be rather very intimidating.

The company (at least the one based in Sydney) does not make it a practice to give out staff tags until the candidates have passed their Work With Children Check & even double-checks with the NSW Dept.of Community Services in regard to their qualifications. Agent E is very particular about their casuals following the rules, and also the centres which they send their candidates to meet up to their expectations as well.

Agent E would probably work very well in a very idealistic-perfect- world where children's rights are the top-most priority, but in the real & political world, not many people actually hold up to the same perspective. ( I shall probably share more on this later) As a casual who is already qualified with a Bachelor of Early Childhood from Queensland, however I think that I would have starved if I had been made dependent on Agent E in providing shifts & work vacancies.

I do not believe there is one right way of handling a business or following the rules, as I know that what one learns in the books at Uni is different from what is in the real working world, as you can see this from reading my previous posts. (You mean you don't? That just means you have to start back-log reading NOW!)

However I believe that my experience in working with both agents have enabled me to understand the dynamics & the different kind of requirements & staffing agencies that are available in the market, at least in terms of NSW. This is just a small sample of the market, but a representative of what is really out there!

In the end it really depends on the candidates on what they feel works best for them, because eventually they have to find that one company that they can actually focus & spend their time building & developing long-term work relations with for a better future for no one else but themselves.

Related entries:
5th May: Important things a Casual Relief Childcare Worker should know.

Literacy in a play program- Part 1

Enclosed is the first part of my Research Project in 2006. This research work is the outcome of 20 days practicum in a childcare centre and thereafter about 10 days of analysis & consolidation of data.

You may use the information here provided that you link it back to here, or quote this site. Just remember, the work of this website falls under the Creative Commons author rights if you plan to take any ideas from here.

1. Project Title:
Literacy in an integrated play-based program

2. Definition of the question:

  • How does the Centre plan for an integrated play-based program to develop young children’s literacy?

3. Significance of this study:

  • This project will help contribute understanding on how literacy can be fostered through the different learning areas in the preschool program
  • On a personal level, it allows the researcher to foster a deeper understanding of the utilization of both a play-generated and curriculum-generated play program.
  • This study will link theory and practice through the application of contemporary and current perspectives of literacy practices. In a context which is becoming more multi-cultural, findings on multiple intelligences state that there are different multi-modal approaches to a person becoming literate.
  • Literacy is not the matter of just learning to read and write, but being “literate”

As to be able to use the technologies and skills acquired to communicate affectively and effectively and contribute to their own personal growth as a member of society. (Diaz & Makin, 2002)

  • The results of this study could advance the work already reported in the literature through the use of the observations and data given to reinforce and substantiate the theoretical and hypotheses given, or to give a different analyses and interpretation to the information that a different slant could be taken.
  • The results could have potential benefit both theoretically and practically for

Childcare workers in this field of work through the interpretation and explanation for a student researcher who comes from a different culture and upbringing from the host culture in the current context.

  • The results will enlighten and bring to understanding as well to other child care workers of the Western counterpart, the different learning styles, especially Asian cultures that value learning by rote and worksheets, and how they as workers, in a context that values learning through play, to prepare emotionally and adapt and adjust their interaction styles when working and interacting with families and children of diverse learning styles and cultural backgrounds.

On a personal level, this investigation:

§ could clarify appropriate courses of action on my part through allowing the development of understanding the preparation of activities that value literacy through play if working in a context that values learning through rote.

§ could produce a product for future use by allowing me to share my knowledge either through verbal interaction and presenting my knowledge with similar staff in the same field of work in education settings, or to work with other staff who may be experiencing conflict whilst working with children who come from a background that values a different learning style than held predominantly by the host culture of Australia.

§ could clarify a process for the improvement of learning though facilitating and providing a supportive environment for staff who may have difficulty understanding and following a program that values the learning of more hands-on literacy activities through play and the value of play itself. This is especially so in Australian schools where Campbell & Green (2000, p93) states that “it is a challenge for schools in today’s diverse society to understand how to cater for the needs of all students within traditional school structures”.

4. Literature review and conceptual framework

What is Literacy?
An environment that only fosters learning by rote and memory, and worksheets, may deprive young children of the opportunity and skills that they need to develop and learn when they develop into adulthood.

Diaz & Makin (2002) states that the traditional view of literacy, that is just only learning how to read and write, has been unable to account for the different ways that people read and interpret situations. They continue to state that literacy is a “social tool”, and far from just knowing how to read and write, but “making meaning out of it” and using this knowledge of literacy in a wide variety of contexts and using the different technologies and popular culture to communicate out their ideas.

The implications, Diaz & Makin (2002, p.12) continues to say that as such, it is important that among the steps that early childhood educators need to take are to “plan to develop children’s ability to think critically, to compare, contrast, evaluate, make judgements, and to relate what they hear, read and view to them”.

Multiliteracies is a word coined by Kalantzis & Cope (1997, p. 28) to describe the “awareness and growing significance of cultural and linguistic diversity” in many nations. They attest that what was thought to be adequate by learning the lingua franca, the main language which is colonial version of the British English in the past, is no longer sufficient and does not work as well in different contexts as it was previously thought to be. (Kalantzis & Cope, 1997).

Kalantzis & Cope (1997, p.32) state that in order to move on with the times, it is important that schools have to “service linguistic and cultural diversity”. They continue to attest that as the world becomes more networked and interconnected, through use of modern technologies and new developments that are being discovered each day, it is or importance that students have to develop skills in “negotiating dialect, register and semiotic differences, code switching, interlanguages and hybrid cross-cultural discourses, …for the hope of averting the catastrophic conflicts about identities and spaces” (Kalantzis & Cope, 1997, p.32).

Why is Play so important?

Play is important in facilitating general cognitive development and consolidating learning that has already taken place while allowing for the possibility of new learning in a relaxed atmosphere (Hughes, 1995, p. 19).

The availability of play materials (Barnard, Bee & Hammond, 1984, as cited in Hughes, 1995) is among the many factors in stimulating children’s intellectual development. Bradley (1986, as cited in Hughes, 1995) states that young children spend much time and have a huge interest in playing with toys. Hence, it is important that good quality play materials are available for the children to work and explore with as this is among the factors in intellectual development.

What are the benefits of literacy learning through play?

  • A play based programme could employ either a play generated curriculum

“that emerges directly from the interests of the children” (Hoorn, Nourot, Scales & Alward, 1993, p.59) or Curriculum- generated play where “the adult’s observation includes materials/ technique the adult suspects will create a match with children’s spontaneous interests” (Hoorn, Nourot, Scales & Alward, 1993, p.59).

  • Play facilitates children’s language development:

Ø In a centre that employs a play based programme, the adult attempts to

plan activities which cater to the needs of the child such as their interests and matches the child’s developmental stages. The adult understands the child’s individuality through a variety of different ways such as undertaking observations of the child, making note during interactions with the child, as well as when the child asks for it.

The different “learning centres” in a play based programme include:

  • The physical environment: the sand play areas, home dress area, the book corner, art construction areas and the outdoor play areas.
  • The temporal environment: the interaction and activities planned out by the adult in the classroom, the interaction between teacher and child.

A play based programme accords the child ample time in working at the “learning centres” without being pressured to complete the product within a specific period of time, and children are encouraged to work on the activity they do over a period of time.

The “learning areas” in the classroom such as the home corner, or sand play corner, allows the child the opportunity to develop skills in the language areas as Hughes (1995) states, by the child socialising and taking part in play themes that could be teacher initiated, or child initiated, and extended over a period of time.

During play, the child will be able to put into practice the literacy skills they have learn and acquired. For example, when the child is working at the collage table, the child may want to create a card for a loved one, or at the writing centre, the child decides to make a shopping list for their dramatic play.

This requires the child to draw on their repertoire and own knowledge of numbers, letters of the alphabet and social knowledge of context. This is all just to create a card, or a shopping list relevant and acceptable to the rest of the members that the children are playing within their context.

The values the researcher assumes in undertaking the current research:

The values that the researcher is assuming when tackling this current research is that the play based program is a program that highly values early childhood as a right by itself. Children in this program are given ample time and are allocated a time period for both outdoor physical play as well as indoor play with activities.The researcher has to keep in mind that the play based program is written and based in Australia, where the values are completely different from that of the researcher’s, who comes from an Asian- Malaysian background, which values learning by rote, and not through exploration or “play”.

There are the limitations that the researcher acknowledges in analyzing the topic is that the researcher may have difficulty in reconciling the freedom and learning opportunities that may be accorded in a play-based programme as opposed to children who learn through working with worksheets and learning by rote.

5. Methodology

The questions to ask in regard to the topic itself:

  • How each learning centre contributes to the literacy learning in the classroom?
  • How does the adult use the information/observation to plan and scaffold the learning to the next stage?
  • How does the adult in the classroom plan for the child to learn what is considered “literacy skills” from the different learning centres through the play based program employed in the centre?

The description of the research approach that will be undertaken:

The researcher will undertake research for this topic through the use of case study as the research approach. The data that is collected will be made done through observations of one childcare centre.

The location of the childcare centre where the researcher will undertake is in a small town in the state of Queensland, Australia. The centre is a community funded childcare centre which is located near a tertiary institution and is provided as part of the services rendered to the staff who are employed by the tertiary institution.

This centre has been utilised as a training centre for both local and international undergraduate and post-graduate students who are undertaking professional teacher training courses with tertiary institutions in the particular province in that specific area itself.

The method used by the researcher in context of this research is that of the Case Study. Case study is defined as observing the properties and characteristics of a particular unit “with the intention to probe deeply and to analyse intensively the workings and life-cycle of the unit with a view to establishing the generalizations about the wider population to which that unit belongs” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 107).

This case study method will be used in the manner of participant observation as this particular method utilised in terms of data collection in regard to non-verbal behaviour, is more “superior to experiments and surveys” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 110) as it allows researchers the ability to be able to discern “ongoing behaviour as it occurs and make appropriate notes, and are less reactive than other types of data-gathering methods” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 110).

Case study methods allow observations made “over an extended period of time that the researchers to develop a more intimate and informal relationships” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 110) with their subjects. This is possible as the current observation to take place will be over the course of 6 weeks and the researcher will have close contact in the classroom with both the adult and the children under their care. This would allow the researcher the opportunity to understand the “contextual influences” that play a major role in the planning of the programme outlines for the classroom.

Type of Data Collection tools used:

  • Interviews: Interviews to be conducted with the

Ø main teacher,

Ø assistant teacher in the classroom.

The other staff that could be interviewed would be:

Ø a particular childcare centre’s principal.

  • Document review – curriculum planning:

Ø This includes asking for consent from the centre to access the classroom’s lesson plans made over the period of the year,

Ø The observations of the children made and how they have developed their literacy skills throughout the year.

Ø Observation of the children’s written work.

The research interview has been defined as “a two-person conversation initiated by the interviewer for the specific purpose of obtaining research –relevant information, and focused by him on content specified by research objectives of systematic description, prediction, or explanation” (Cannell, and Kahn, 1968, as cited in Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 271).

Data Analysis – how to make sense from the data collected:

Ways of making sense of the data collected include:

  • Direct Interpretation: whereby, aggregating and testing the researcher’s unrealised hypotheses that they may have of the subjects or the findings (Stake, 1995).
  • Naturalistic Generalisations: conclusions that arrive as a result of personal engagements in life’s affairs so well planned it may have happened to themselves (Stake, 1995).

Another strategy would be the utilisation of triangulation, which is the use of “two or more methods of data collection in the study of some aspect of human behaviour” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 233) as it would produce a more “holistic view of educational outcome” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p 239).

As the researcher, I shall make use of the information gathered, and look through the observations and findings on the play-based curriculum as well as the literacy experiences in the centre. Out of which, this information shall be evaluated, analysed and interpreted in order to summarise and present the final results in my final paper.

Cohen & Manion (1994, p.348) state that it is possible that in the course of research undertaking, “ethical issues will stem from the kinds of problems investigated by social scientists and the methods they use to obtain valid and reliable data”.

In the course of the undertaking of this research, informed consent through the tertiary institution has been made and given to the said Centre before any prior observations have been made. This is made through the utilisation of an official letter requesting access to the centre on the student researcher’s behalf.

(to be continued.... !)

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