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?"

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