Thursday, May 22, 2008

A successful skill assessment outcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Australia: How to apply to be a volunteer in school

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Key Learning Areas (QLD) : Literacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Substrand: Cultural

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

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

Substrand- Critical:

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

Literacy tasks (2nd Year Studies: Part 2)

As per the continuation of this entry.

Task 6: Review of a Textless Picture Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Task 8: Review of a Picture Book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things that can be placed in the literacy centre:

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

Language & Literacy outcomes: The children will learn that

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

Literacy: Cross-Cultural Literacy Practices

These activities are more suited for those in the early years, and in preschool as well as for beginner readers. These are among the tasks besides just doing article summaries that students have to undertake ias part of the assessment tasks for a literacy unit for 2nd Year studies.As said before, the more elaborate & detailed the explanation for a task, the higher a student can score.

Task 1: Comparison of the beliefs of two different sets of parents and their literacy practices at home.

Parent: Mei Ling
Ethnicity: Chinese.
Background: She comes from mainland China and has an elder son, who is 15 years old. Mei Ling has been in Australia for almost 5 years now, and is currently undertaking a two year undergraduate teaching training programme.
Age of child: 2.10 years.

Parent: Steven
Ethnicity: Chinese.
Background: He spent his childhood and growing up years in Brunei, but did his tertiary studies in Australia. He has been in Australia for almost 12 years. His wife comes from Taiwan. He has two children.
Age of child: 4.10 years.

Understanding of own children’s personalities
: Both parents show much knowledge and understanding of children’s personalities. Steven says that his son has a strong will, and therefore has to cater to his son’s interest and tries to individualize his responses accordingly.
Mei-Ling states that her son is still in the midst of developing his personality, and his speaking skills.

Foundation in own cultural language: In particular, the striking aspect of both parents interviewed is that they come from chinese backgrounds. As what has been communicated, both families show the intention that they would like their children to master the speaking of the mandarin language.
They said that they spent much time in trying to teach their children speak mandarin at home. Mei Ling’s son is at preschool, and has exposure to English language. She is attempting to develop her son’s foundation in the Mandarin language as she states that she knows her son would no longer use much of that language once he is older, as there will be limited and less opportunities for him to practice his language at school or socially
Steven shares the same sentiments as Mei Ling in that he wants his children to develop his foundation in Mandarin. He states that is would be beneficial for his children to know two languages, and easier to develop it from young. He also stated that he regrets not knowing much of his Chinese dialects as his parents did not speak to him in Chinese, and he is now struggling to pick up the mandarin language as an adult.

Range of different literature: Both Steven and Mei-Ling also share similar understandings that providing different and a range of literature at home will help develop their children’s literacy skills and understanding. Steven states that much of his knowledge of literacy practices that he practices at home is derived from his son’s teachers at schools and the advice that they had given him.

Multi-Media: Steven and Mei-Ling are also very open to their own children working with multi-media. They are also aware of the influence of that the mass media (television in particular) has on the language development skills of their children, and both monitor the kind of television programmes and duration of the shows the children watch.

Task 3: Evaluation of a Television Program.
Title of television program: Sesame Street Visits the Hospital.
Language quality: Very Good

  • Speakers speak very clearly and pronounce their words clearly.

Different mode of language: Very Good

  • Puppet show and song. So children understand concept of “patients are to be patient
  • A “play room” – song “Busy getting better” song,

Pace of the program: Very Good

  • The program is paced appropriately where the conversation can be heard and the acting is very clear. It does not rush through the plot.

Foundations for social skills: Very Good

  • Multi-cultural: Introduces children to people from other ethnicity.
  • Relates more to children in the big city. The video can be used to introduce children who have not been exposed to hospitals. It also prepares children to the concept of hospitals.
  • Introduce rules & regulations, routines at hospitals and post hospital check-ups.
  • Procedures- health insurance, what adults have to do before registering a patient into the hospital.
  • Routines- identification patients tag, blood pressure, looking at tongue (tongue depressors), looking at ears, breathe in and out, appetite, sleeping well, blood tests and x-rays, lunch menu, paging machine.
  • Social- people visit their friends who are sick and bring toys and fruits during visiting hours only.
  • How the x-ray is to be taken. Children will learn that it is a painless and fast procedure.
  • Uses of paging machine which is demonstrated by Big Bird.

Children’s interests: Very Good

  • Real life situations- children can relate to their experiences.
  • Common cold- a sickness that children have experienced before.
  • Children can relate to Big Birds’ fears of going to the hospitals.
  • Prepare children emotionally and mentally before going to the hospital.

Dramatic play: Very Good

  • Characters introduce themes of “playing hospital” in the Sesame Street with other Sesame Street puppet characters.

Gross motor skills: Very Good

  • Use of puppets with the song “Patients are to be patient” song is catchy andencourages movement.

Structured well: Very Good

  • The script flow starts from where Big Bird catches a flu and he goes to the hospital then after. It flows smoothly and in a coherent manner so children will understand that it starts with the child having symptoms of being sick before he goes to see a doctor.

Literacy: Literacy Partnerships Home & School (Article Summary)

These are some article summaries from my 2nd year Studies. It should be longer (although course requirements state a short summary is only required) but normally if the student wants to score higher, lecturers would prefer a longer summary. At least that is what my lecturers at university did.

Morrow, L (1997) “Family Literacy Partnerships home and school working together”, Literacy development in the early years, Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, pp.52-85

The article first describes a grandmother demonstrating and taking advantage of the print in the grandchildren’s life that is familiar and extending and using it as a pleasurable experience to enrich the grand children’s literacy knowledge.

* Family literacy encompasses all members of the family, as well as extended family members to make use of the different literacy activities that could be the outcome of spontaneous activities, parent or child initiated, out or routines, using drawings or writings to communicate ideas.

* It is important because:

1) Findings reveal home practices that play a major role to literacy success in school settings and the crucial role a family plays in the development of children’s literacy & on how they as members of the family can help.

2) Leichter (1984) states that families influence literacy development in 3 ways: interpersonal interaction, physical environments, emotional and motivational climate.

* It is important that parents provide a lot of materials for writing in the home as the author believes that learning to read is enhanced by concurrent experiences with writing is facilitated by experiences with reading.
* I agree with the author as I believe literacy should also be a family affair and not just left to the school. When family members engage in a family literacy process, it creates a win-win situation, whereby parents learn more about their children and develop a closer relationship as a result. I believe that the author’s perspective is in line with the current practice in education trends, where educators are advocating for families to once again learn to take responsibility and share for their children’s success in developing literacy skills.

2008: Happy Teachers' Day!

I have been so busy at work and all that I didn't realise it was already 16th May, Teachers' Day till James, an uncle of one of my students in KL (at least 5 years ago!) sent me a comment on my Friendster profile greeting me as such.

Thanks James, for reminding & encouraging me on how important our work as both caretakers, & teachers of children are in their lives. ^^

So to all kindergarten, primary & high school teachers, caregivers, professors, lecturers, cikgu dan guru-guru di tadika, sekolah rendah, sekolah menengah, as well as to everyone else in the world,


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Winter: A nursery/preschool room's parent-teacher dynamics.

Actually, the dynamics is almost similar across the board for even older preschoolers, but these are some of the things that staff should take more notice of in the nursery room, as babies are unable to communicate & talk much yet.

It's my 4th day working at this childcare centre at the shopping mall this week. So far, the work has been good. Actually, there's quite a number of casuals working there. There was also another ECT in the pre-school room, and I was talking to her.

Jessica is the name of the other ECT, and she told me that she had worked in two other Montessori centres before (surprise, surprise!). She is also contracted to Agent E, so I could probably ask her more about her experience with them so far with Montessori (now, isn't that a good idea?). She said she had worked as an ECT in another Montessori centre for about 7 months, so I guess that means the Montessori school follows the same accreditation process as other private childcare centres. It's really difficult for me to say for as yet, I have not actually stepped in to another Montessori school in Australia.

For the past 3 days, I have been based in the nursery room. As said before, although university ECT graduates do have a degree in the early years, the university course units do not & have not necessarily focused on studies for children in the nursery age group. Sad, but true. Most graduates are not aware of this till they have finished, but yes, most directors of childcare centres as well as childcare recruitment agents are aware of it (although they may not tell the candidate that).

Whatever I have written here is not something that candidates can pick up from reading, but mostly from work experience or maybe at practicum. Whatever one reads cannot actually "make sense" or translate to understanding till the person experiences it personally.

My research has led me to know that most centres prefer catering to the pre-school ages as the adult child ratio is higher, and it is more cost effective in sourcing for staff. As a nursery room relief staff, it is of utmost that the casual relief staff university graduate (even if they have not learnt before!) is able to quickly pick up the skills of nappy changing as well as learning how to handle babies.

As my learned readers can guess, Australia is coming up to the season of winter in the month of May now. I have not actually had to really speak to parents in my stint as an ECT up till this week.. (which is good, since I have only since been absorbing everything in). I have realised that when irate parents have grievances, it is irrelevant whether the personnel they speak to is a permanent or casual

(they are in the state where "emotions" over ride the "rational". Same goes for any IRATE customer!)

To make the story short, it was difficult & really unfair for me in my place as a casual when parents have grievances or make complaints especially to a casual, when their instructions were given to permanent staff of the place. However even as a casual, one knows that it is not wise to say anything on our defence to an "irate parent" who feels that they deserve the best just because they are the paying customer.

For those unaware, there will always be parents who are pretty easy going, and then there will be parents who are fussy. As a precaution, whenever you have babies (crawling ones that is), losing their socks, staff should always pick them up and put it back on especially around 4.45pm (ish) when the nursery children have their nappy change. This applies to any other "belongings" of the children that may dropped off, so that parents won't make a fuss when they come to pick their children up.

The reality of the situation is that it is difficult for staff to keep track of everything that a baby/toddler drops, but the "irrationality" of the situation is that parents do not look at it this way. Unfortunatley, some parents are known to have removed their children from a centre for such things.

Among some of the other complaints that parents make of their (crawling) babies include their babies losing socks (especially with winter coming, babies get colds & sick more easily than usual. Not so much the case in summer), and losing their dummies/comforters (the "sucking" thing that they put in their mouths), and their winter coats. Older children are able to search for their own "lost" belongings & will demand for it back, so this is not so much of a concern for the staff.

Parents on arrival to pick their children up from school would also like to see their children occupied in an activity with the class teacher or adult (whether it be reading a book, playing with a toy or just busy, having their meals, and NEVER NEVER by themselves). I realized that the same scenario goes whether it is in Malaysia, or Australia, and the same even goes for older preschoolers.

To take note, as staff (whether casual or permanent), the queries that parents will always ask the staff (even though there already is a parent-communication book on the shelf !) are:

* "what did the child have to eat today?" (so you as the staff need to know what they had for lunch, & afternoon tea, and how much they ate, & how they enjoyed their meals. Tell this to parents to make conversation).

* "how many hours did the child sleep today?" (so they will know if the child can sleep well that night...)

* "how much milk did the child drink today?" (in comparison to the bottles the child has in their bags).

* "where did that bruise come from?" (that will be referred back to the permanent staff).

* "how was the child in class today?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bilingualism: An asset in life.

It's been a long day at work today. I am physically, emotionally & mentally tired. Agent E has so far booked me in for a week block at a childcare centre in a shopping mall near my flat. Work has been fantastic this week. The Director of the centre is great. The staff work well together. It's also great that I don't actually have to take the bus, but I have to walk a distance every morning for about almost 45 minutes. Its a bit strenuous, but so far the exercise has been great. My colleague recommends that I take the bus, (which may only take 2 minutes for the entire ride), so I was thinking perhaps that is a better time-saving option.

At the centre I am based, there is a lot of children from all ethnic groups. Anyways this thought came to me as at this centre, its amazing that I am able to understand the children who hail from so many different nations when they speak either Bahasa Indon (obviously from Indonesia), China (in Mandarin), Hong Kong (cantonese), as well as the local children (in English, of course). However what you may not know too is that I am also a Chinese who is brought up in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia... Now, how is that relevant?

Malaysia is pretty much a "multi-cultural" country, with the official language being Bahasa Malaysia (which is different from Bahasa Indonesia, but there are similarities). All official primary & high school exams are undertaken in Bahasa Malaysia, except for language papers (Mandarin & English, that is). Apart from that, most people who live in the capital city read & write in the English language. As a chinese, most of us speak either one of our main dialects (Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka) and for those who go to a Chinese medium school, that would be written & spoken Mandarin.

I was just thinking to myself that if I were ever to settle down in Australia, I would do as my cousin Kim (a Malaysian born Chinese) has done in The States. She speaks to her children in Mandarin, and her husband (who is Vietnamese born Chinese) speaks to them in Cantonese. The children speak English at school. It is the only way that they as parents could ensure that their home language maintains its continuity, and it has worked so far as both the children now are able to converse between three languages interchangeably (and they're still only in elementary school!).

How many of you readers out there are able to speak (nevermind if you can't read or write it) three languages interchangeably by the age of 10 without attending formal language classes?

Now you might think that the English language is the most important language in the world (well, it is important in the workplace, socially & for moving up the career ladder). It is to an extent important, but no school teacher is going to tell me that I have to speak to my children in English if I didn't want to.

I once met an acquaintance who told me that his children's school teacher was telling him that he had to speak to his children in English (the father is an Australian born Chinese who married a French lady, so they both speak French at home). I am just going to tell my readers that no school teacher is also going to tell me, nor intimidate me by telling me that my children won't succeed in life, or have a developmental delay if they can't still master the English language when at elementary school.

In my opinion, it is important to anyone (and more so for a Chinese) to be able to speak their own ethnic language. It is of even more importance when they are in a foreign land to be able to do so. My mother made the mistake of not speaking to us in Mandarin (she was educated in a Chinese medium school), so my brother & I grew up being "bananas". "Bananas" is the term that is given to a chinese who is "yellow on the outside, but white on the inside". It is also a term used in Malaysia for the chinese people who don't speak Mandarin. However, my parents & relatives spoke Cantonese, so I grew up in that environment. But I barely spoke Cantonese much as a child until my later adult years.

For the record (and uninformed), I can read & write both in English & Bahasa Malaysia. I also speak Cantonese, & understand some Mandarin. As you can probably tell from all my past entries, I have a pretty good command of the English language & its grammar. Since I scored a band 8 in Academic IELTS (for all testing areas), you can pretty much be rest assured that it can't be all that bad. LOL.

Fluency in two language is the minimum norm for most Malaysians, and three to four is about the max. My friend, Ai Ling who went to a chinese medium primary school, is now currently in Japan teaching English to adults. Surprisingly, her command of the English language (actually not just her, but all her siblings who were educated in a chinese medium school), have an extounding command of the English language that puts many white Australians & Americans to shame, in terms of both grammar, vocabulary & spelling skills (I bet they're going to check this entry, since I've linked them... LOL). The four siblings can read & write in Bahasa Malaysia, English & Chinese.

With China being a major trade player, many now realize how important the ability to speak another language is, and many too are (if not already) enrolling to learn the Mandarin language. I had to do that for work purposes a couple of years back on my own initiative. Maintaining the home language is also important for a family to maintain its family roots, across the nations if they have migrated, as well as the pride of its ethnicity. Yes, and I can say that I am proud of my heritage of being a Chinese, and being able to speak Cantonese and Mandarin (no matter how half-broken it is.) LOL.

With that in mind, if your children are going to an English-medium school and as a parent if you can read & write Chinese (or any other language for that matter), make sure you transmit and pass it off as an inheritance to your children when they are still able to absorb it effortlessly. They may not like it much, or hate you for making them study it, but they will thank you for it in their later adult years when they did not have to pay heaps of money & waste a lot of time in the quest to pick up another language.

It is also definitely a way to pick up the opposite gender as well . . .

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Malaysia: Early Childhood Teacher Training Programs (May 2008)

To the Reader: Please note that the author is only providing the information as given by the educational provider on their website. Prospective students are encouraged to make their own informed research and decision before proceeding to enrol for any teacher training courses available.

Information provided is deemed to correct as published on May 11th 2008.

(Subang Jaya, Malaysia).
Program: Basic Childcare Short Courses (Dept. Social Welfare, Malaysia).
Duration: Part time.
- Creative Arts for Young Children
- Child Psychology & Development
- Music & Movement for Young Children
- Nursery & Pre-School Management
- Special Educational Needs

Program: Diploma in Early Childhood Education
Description: teacher training program that provides the basic understanding of becoming a pre-school teacher.
Duration: Approx. 28 months.
Requirements include:
- 24 units of study
- 3 compulsory subjects.
- 1 practicum.

Program: Stage II- Montessori Theory & Methodology (MCI, UK).
Duration: Approx. 14 months.
Requirements include:
  • Registration with MCI UK.
  • 210 Workshop & Seminar Hours
  • 420 Hours Home Study
Program: International Diploma. Montessori Pedagogy (MCI, UK).
Requirements include:
  • 420 hours supervised teaching practicum
  • A teaching practice portfolio
  • A child profile.
The completion of either study programs with SEGI COLLEGE enables students to receive exemptions & unit transfer into the Bachelor of Early Childhood (BECH) with University of Southern Queensland. (USQ). Exemptions granted is at the discretion of the university, and also based on the student's previous other studies/work experience as well.

Diploma in Montessori Method of Education (Certificate Level)
-11 day practical training workshop
- Complete & pass written assignments
- Pass written & practical examinations

International Diploma (Diploma level)
- 420 hours supervised teaching practicum

ALL studies at private colleges now require the study of:
* Bahasa Malaysia A/ or B
* Malaysian Studies
* Islamic/or Moral Studies

History- An overview.
Address: Off Jalan Malinja, Taman Bunga Raya, 53000, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
(O) +603-4142 6362 (F)+603-4142 5402 email:
Program Coordinator: Dr. Frances Lee.

Courses available: more information here.
Institut CECE provides a localised teaching training curriculum program in context of the Thematic Integrated Curriculum as set out under the Malaysian National Preschool Curriculum.
*Basic Course
*Intermediate Course
*Advance Course
The completion of the Advance Course allows a credit transfer of 9 units of study into the Bachelor of Arts (Early Childhood Studies) out of 25 units with Edith Cowan University (ECU).

Address: 29, Jalan Maharajalela, 50150 Kuala Lumpur
Courses available: more information here.
A recently established teacher training institute that provides workshops, seminars & studies for aspiring teachers as well as parents.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Part 2: Important things a casual relief childcare worker should know.

Consult the centre's permanent staff about what they use. Each centre has DIFFERENT practices on this.
I-messages "I don't like it when you do that. It makes me sad. Tell the children why it is not acceptable behaviour.

- The way to handle a distressed child is that firstly, try not to let the crying or the emotions of the child to affect you, or the way you respond to them. It is important that as the adult, you do not panic as you are the person who will "contain" the child's emotions. If you can't handle your own emotions, it will interfere in the way you will settle the distressed child. I know it is easier said than done, but this will come with LOTS OF practice. The more, the better.

- A warning for the first incident.
- A warning & consequence for the third incident.
- Implement the consequence for the third incident. set a limitation, or re-direct the behaviour.

It's not the casual's roles/responsibility to communicate with parent about the children's developmental. Communication with parents in regard to any behaviour management concerns should be dealt with by permanent staff ONLY.

Start off with a question. Put it back to them. Broaden the horizon & reduce & eliminate discrimination.
Centres comment a lot on casuals not having the confidence on stepping in during a conflict where/when it happens.

Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) procedures.
- Protect your back by bending your knee.
- Sharing physcial tasks.
- Get another staff to help you, especially when lifting heavy playground equipment. Don't try to be a hero, and end up breaking your back!
- Put your weight on your leg when bending.
- Centre of gravity- where your baby will be if you (the mother) are pregnant.
- One person SHOULD NOT change the nappies all day. The tasks should be SHARED. That's what teamwork should be all about.

Duty of Care:
Mandatory Reporting- to the agency you are recruited to, not to the centre.
Let the agent handle it. Anything in writing will under a reputable & responsible childcare staffing agent "duty of care". The issues could fall under the category of Child Protection, Accidents/ Injuries (OHS concerns), Incidents, and Duty of Care & Quality. This can be made in email form, and does not necessarily need to be in a specific forms.

Other reminders for the casual staff:
-As a staff, and casual, you may disagree with the family's behaviour management strategies or their childrearing practices, but IT IS the family's practice.

-Try not to eavesdrop on a conversation between parent & permanent staff. It really is none of your business.

-You job/responsibility as a casual is to follow the routines & program the centre follows.

-Should an incident/arguments between children happen, report it to the permanent staff. Let the staff know how you have handled an incident that has happened. This is to PROTECT YOURSELF as an employee and casual,
and also for the permanent staff's knowledge.

- Although by law there is supposed to be an ECT in a centre with more than 39 children, the Dept. of Community Services is also aware of that (I can't remember what she said to that though).

- Finally, the agent also explained that it is common for qualified staff with a degree (from Australia) to not have experience with babies/nursery, as there has not been much focus by the universities on children from this age group. What is required to work in the nursery age group was mostly a qualification/credential in mothercraft, nursing. (or something similar).

- A quality childcare recruitment agency on receipt of negative feedback of a candidate's performance, should call the particular candidate to tell them. This is to help the candidate improve their performance at the next centre that they go to.

Ok, hope that you guys learnt something from here... If it was of any use, do pass this around to your other friends who are working as casuals in the childcare industry.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Part 1: Important things a casual relief childcare worker should know.

Maybe I was a bit too quick to judge when I wrote this initially. In retrospect, somehow I had a more different impression of Agent E after attending their staff childcare refresher workshop last week. The interactions during the workshop gave me the impression that Agent E has a really good quality support system for its employees, both casual & permanent candidates, as compared to Agent C.

Its really important that as employees, whether casual or permanent, and especially casuals, that they find an agent that has a quality support system that takes into account performance review & feedback. It is essential for an employee who is starting out on a new job to know how they have performed throughout the assignments as without knowing their weaknesses and strengths as a casual, one may lose future work opportunities due to bad feedbacks. This in return will affect the number of assignments the casual candidate could get. In other words, you get less income.

Below is listed some of the questions that one as a candidate would be asked during an interview with a casual relief childcare agency.. it may seem unfair for an unqualified staff, but if you read up on it, you might be able to answer them, even if you didn't have any experience. I applied for work with another agent recently, and was able to answer the questions posed due to my past experience and also because I had revised them recently.

The NSW Community Services states that all staff in childcare have to attend at least two refresher workshops per year. During the workshop some of these issues were covered..
* Quality Care
* Interactions
* Roles and Responsibilities (for the 0-2's, 2-3's and 3-5's age groups)
* Behaviour Management
* Child Protection
* NSW Childcare Regulations


Based on Centre feedback, among some of the Unsatisfactory Practices include that the casual candidate:
- did not attend to the children's needs (nappy change, crying, alone, wanted something).
- did not interact with the children
- returning late from breaks (breaks start the moment you leave the room. Staff are on a TIGHT schedule to meet things, so do your part to help relieve the burden).

- LACK of initiative, i.e if you see children alone, go to the children and observe what they are doing. Think about what you want to say & see how you could lead or encourage the direction of the play the child is involved with (not just simply muttering the first thing that comes into your mind though!)

- answering mobile phones whilst working. (a big NO-NO).
- not helping with tasks & routines. (you are being paid to go there to help out to relieve the staff's, NOT to add to their work).

Bottle Feeding: Children under 12 months should not have cow's milk. Infants 12 months and younger are not ready for it. When heating milk bottles, do not put in together with the bottle plastic teat as it will expand when heated. Some younger children may choke on it, and the staff may not realise it.

Burping: Babies 6 months and younger need to be after/during a bottle feed, as their bodies are not able to do that independently yet.

Read to an infant. Even if they may not answer you back (they are just not capable of!), they are still picking up language. When you read/talk to the infant, you may have to give an answer to it. It doesn't matter, as it is a time of bonding between the adult & infant, and the infant responds.

Learning to get their balance.
Lots of falls & bruises
Use 2-step instructions.
Use "dramatic tones" chance your voice and tone to convey your message across, or whisper.
Toddlers still understand what the adults say even though they may not yet have the language to speak yet. So the adult can still talk to the toddler, and the child will respond accordingly, especially when the adult wants the child TO NOT do something which might disturb the peace of the room.

TANTRUMS- Why? Children to no have the language to communicate.
Set up equipment according to number of the children as children of this age group are still "egocentric" & do not know how to share yet.

'Stranger fear' should develop around the time an infant is about 7-9 months. This is common for children of this age, so it is common that infants are afraid of new casuals that they meet for the first time. So it should be that when there is a new casual in the room, there should be a permanent caretaker too that the infant is familiar with.

Begining of fantasy play.
Shows a preference for 'handedness", or maybe ambidextrous.
Use 'dramatic tones" too.
Learning to share & turntaking.
Learning letters & numbers.
Starting of "separation anxiety" (14-18 months).
Toilet training- accidents & emotional period of time. It is important for the adult to not get frustrated with them.
Transitions- setting boundaries and preparing primary school readiness.
Children are responsive to a new song, even in a different language.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Behaviour Management: Guidance language in Preschool Room

I was going through some of my old reports and thought this might be beneficial to those who are working in a preschool room. The age group is 4-5 year olds, so they are capable of communicating fairly well & express their feelings.

1) New Migrant Child: G
G is a new child in the classroom. G was seen with a tear stricken face. She did not speak, but the adult, J came in and spoke on her behalf. J told one of the other girls, SC that G wanted to join in the game. G sits on the chair without saying a word and looked at the other children. The adult, J explained to the children (SC, KL, GR and A) that G is a new child in the country, and did not know the language (English) much, so they have to be friendly and understanding of her situation.

I was observing all this when it happened, so later as we were doing activites on the table I told SC that she would feel the same if she went to a place where everyone spoke Cantonese. SC asks me to speak someCantonese, so I said “do you want to eat?” in Cantonese. Then I asked SC “do you understand what I just said?”. SC does not say a reply to that.

SC then is later seen inviting G to play in their dramatic play.

2) Learning to Access play with other children:
Alex had some problems accessing the Earth Tub play. She came to me and told me that the other children won’t let her play with them. I told her “why don’t you go and get a cup from the sandpit and fill it up with sand, and just play along with them without asking them”.

Alex took a cup and went to the Earth Tub and filled it with sand and then played alongside the group.

3) Initiating play with others:

I have noticed and observed that Raj has had difficulty in initiating play with the other children. Today he poured out the entire contents of the goop tray into the blue saucer. Later, he interrupted the play between Y & Rhys. The boys had arranged their cars in a line, and Raj took his car and crashed into their line, which made Y & Rhys. really angry! So I had to quickly intervene, and re-directed the attention of the 3 boys to something else so that the flow of play could continue.

The game was then interrupted again by this new African boy (who could not speak any English) from the kindy group. So the boys left with the cars.

I spoke to Raj, and told him that he can’t do that if he wants to play with other children. Then I re-directed the attention to him by asking him, whether if he likes it others did the same to him as well, continuing to add that I would get angry if someone did the same to me when I was playing as well. At this point, Welly spoke up and said that “it is very true”!

In Raj’s case, I think, and feel that he would benefit more from direct intervention and require social coaching skills in order that other children will let him participate in their play.

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