Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Disadvantages of Casual Childcare work.

Today I was sent to a centre in Warringah area.. It took me about 45 mins to get there from the city (although it was technically only 30 mins proper travelling time). It was a community centre, so my one hour lunch break was unpaid. If it's a private centre, the lunch breaks will normally be paid though. So during my lunch break, I took a walk along the beach.... and I was rewarded with the sight of a whale! Wow....

That wonderful insight aside, if you had told me that I would have so much "crises" to handle in one day six months ago, I would have balked! But after worked about six months in so many centres, somehow everything just slowly fell into place. It just took six months (or hopefully less) to reach where I have....

One of the things a relief staff (or Early Childhood Teacher) should remind herself is that everytime they go a new centre, the children have the inclination to want to push the boundaries of how far they can get away with this "new person" on board. Perhaps she needs to be manhandled, or broken in, as the saying goes....?

On first observation, the children during the first two hours seemed rather sane and normal. But as the day progressed, and as the children went out for outdoor play, their true colours begin to display. It is much more prevalent especially if one is a relief staff. Thankfully, there were relief support staff who were on hand to remind me of what the children were capable of.. within the first 3 hours, (and hopefully it takes a shorter time the next time round), I had managed to identify the children who were bound to get cheeky with the new staff and teachers who came in...

As much as we would like to say to ourselves how sweet and innocent these children are, however what I have observed so far is that the children were doing things which were not only if not supervised and reprimanded, will start doing things that will not only cause harm to themselves, but the school and teachers will have to be made accountable. So before it can even reach this level, it is of most importance that the teachers/staff are extra vigilant and crack down on such misbehaviour and misdemeanors before they even can happen!

Many of these children will argue and ignore the relief teacher when reprimanded. Because the children know that these relief staff are new and not familiar with the rules & routines of the classroom, they will push as far as the boundaries as they can get away with . It is most essential that relief staff do not give in, and of course the sooner we learn to "pick up" and read the basic "body language" where we know the children are openly defying instructions given and "trying to test us", the sooner we are able to better manage and handle the children's disciplinary behaviour.

To end the tale, today Agent E called up and asked if I wanted to go the a centre in Bondi! *surprise, surprise*, it was the same centre that I went to earlier this week. Of course, it was not to their knowledge that I was contracted by Agent S to go to very same place on Monday & Tuesday!

Come to think about it, it is all down to dollars & cents isn't it? All childcare centres are at the end still a business, and businesses have to break even financially. As it is, if I had to manage the finances of a centre, it would be very much obvious that I had to find the cheapest alternative for the centre. If the first cheaper alternative could not help me, I would have no other choice but to source for another alternative even though it would cost the business more ...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Australia: Casual Childcare work @ Bondi centre.

Today, I was assigned back to the same childcare centre in the Bondi area. I met even more Early Childhood Teachers sent in by Agent E. Apparently, according to one of the supervisors in the centre, Agent S, the one that contracted me to work today, does not have a large pool of Early Childhood Teachers in its employment.

So they thought I was from Agent E. (which I also am, but that is another story... ) It is then no wonder why Agent S might be willing to give out above award rates in order to attract more Early Childhood Teacher qualified staff? That could be a possible reason.

I was sent to the preschool class today (the oldest class). The permanent staff had a staff meeting today so I was asked to write up the observations. When I looked through the earlier observations in the Daily Diary, it only struck me why the class teacher S., did not want me to look through it....

As I sat down and typed up those observations on the computer, it struck me that I found the task too easy, and had written up more than three pages of observations, reflection and planning on what that happened for the day (at least for Outdoor Play anyways).

The supervisor was probably immensely impressed (and maybe surprised at my command of English. LOL). ^_^

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reflections of my 6 week block: Canterbury Migrant Childcare Centre.

So it has come to an end of a six week block of my work at the Migrant childcare centre. It also happens to be the end of Olympics yesterday, after 16 days of competition and having Wang Lee Hom & David Beckham to appear on a London Red Double Decker bus at the Olympics Closing Ceremony! Seeing Lee Hom at the Olympics was definitely a bonus! At least we know where he was at that point of time!

The six week block was a god-send as it provided me continuity on developing my observation & programming skills. I definitely appreciated having the need for a floater (or an extra staff) in the classroom when I had to do programming or the daily diary in the classroom when the children had their nap time. I have learnt so much from just working with toddlers (when I was in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to work only with children 4 years and older), and how they behave and work.

Working with children who display disruptive and challenging behaviour, I have found that they too enjoy being "manja-ed" and actually did display better listening and compliance behaviour regardless of whether they were from chinese or anglo-australian background.

Because the results shown from the children of chinese background was positive, I decided to try it with the children at the centre I worked at today. The composition of the children who attended the centre came from a mostly anglo-australian background. Surprise, surprise! It worked really well too indeed, even from those who do display challenging behaviours. I definitely did surprise myself!

I really believe that it was a miracle and God's preparation that I have learnt so much in just six weeks. I have the wisdom to reflect on my work daily, and when I go to other centres, everything that I have picked up during the six week tenure just comes flooding back. It is essential & necessary for me to do that on a daily basis, as that will help me to learn from my mistakes and mentally prepare myself when I face the children each day. Trying to wing it is equivalent to CHAOS!

Indeed when I was writing up the observations today, all I had to do was refer to the daily dairy they had in the classroom, and everything just came flowing as I started writing. I thought it was going to be difficult, but it was easier than I expected.

Finally, it must be said that I have learnt to set boundaries on myself and have developed much more confidence in my skills as an Early Childhood Teacher. I have been to centres where the staff gossip away on how awful or badly ECTs perform compared to those who are diploma trained, or why as staff they do not get more work hours.

The sources of these comments have come mainly from staff who are untrained, and yet have the audacity to whinge. However I must direct a question back to these same people saying, if you really take your work seriously, or want more work hours, why are you not updating your skills and taking up serious training either at a teacher training college, or university?

Early Childhood Teachers are people who have taken time off to study, complete assignments as well as meet the requirements that are set out by the authorities. These assessment tasks and assignments were not easy, and we slaved away doing research in the library, asking questions and taking time off by sacrificing our time to not work. Some of us worked and studied and slaved away almost four years of our life to reach where we are. Some others even more than four years, to graduate with what is supposed to be a 3-year-degree.

So, to all Early Childhood Teachers out there who have either just graduated, and starting out on your journey, do not lose hope, and most importantly have pride in yourself and what you have accomplished. Do not let such discouraging words make you lose confidence in yourself as a teacher, and all that you have achieved so far thrown into the drain.

To all this, it must be said that I do believe that God is preparing me to much greater things and more responsibilities under my care, and I know He will. This is only just the begining.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2.5- 3 years olds: Crazy behaviours that drive you up the wall!

If you want to be the teacher of a class of 2.5- 3 year old kids, these are some of the things that you have be aware of. Whether or not you like, the children will still do better early than later!

Children that will...
1) Jump on their nap time beds during bed time.

2) Jump on the home corner couch/lounge.

3) Climb the chairs & beds (which have been stacked up).

4) Climb the windows & tables.

5) Lick the windows (yuck!)

6) Tear pages off the book

7) Start cutting everything in sight once they learn to use the scissors.....

8) Pee in their pants (and on their bed - otherwise known as bed wetting)

9) Eat the playdough. (although the saltiness is supposed to "deter" them)...

10) Keep opening & closing the home corner cabinet doors for strange reason.

11) Throw all the home corner toys/equipment into the home corner cabinet (and the teacher has to keep taking everything out).

12) Kids that will run round and round around the table for rounds and rounds.

13) and of course, the few children who will throw tantrums.... and throw themselves on the floor, crying and making a lot of noise with the other children watching when they don't get their way....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Canterbury Part 3: childcare employee adapting behaviour

It's been more than a month since I started at the chinese migrant childcare centre. Work has been challenging, and am learning the ropes on how to handle toddlers of 2ish-3 year olds. I have learnt a lot of things, and yes... I do realise that things that we can get away from being a "regular staff" rather than just a "casual" staff.

If the staff in a centre are familiar with a casual staff's (from the agency) style of working, they tend to let go off "little" eccentricities, rather than if you are new at the place. It is of importance that a person who is new at a childcare centre (or anywhere for that matter), to be careful of what they are always doing and always be alert and careful of what they say and do at all times. Because the other staff at a centre do not know you, they will jump to conclusions (and so will a lot of people at many other places anyways), and will never give you the benefit of the doubt. I have been truly blessed.

This week, I recovered from a bout of food poisoning from this place in Fish Market (yes, the one near Wentworth Park, Sydney). And of all places, in Australia! (You wouldn't expect that to happen, coz Australia is "supposed" to have high standards and levels of hygiene). Justin, for all his whinge-ing about the uncleanliness of the food stores in Malaysia, has yet to suffer any episodes of food poisoning. So, in conclusion, don't you ever dare to criticize our Malaysian food stalls before you even try them out yet!

I finally started work with my other childcare staffing agent, Agent S. a few weeks back. Going through my payslips, I noticed that they really do pay MUCH MORE and lunch breaks are paid. It's really exciting, as for my current agent, lunch breaks are mostly unpaid for, and the pay rate is also much lower. Anyways, I don't think I will ever be off work as the centres always require Early Childhood Teachers. If I am constantly working, my skills are always being updated, and that is what is most important when I go out to work.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Canterbury: 4th week at migrant childcare centre.

I have reached a different stage of my work as a casual childcare staff. This is my fourth week in the migrant childcare centre in the Canterbury area. It is great, as I am paid casual rates (where wages is considerably higher!) and working almost on a permanent block basis as an Early Childhood Teacher at the migrant centre I have been sent to.

This opportunity has enabled me to develop and work on my programming & observation skills for the 2-3s age group. I would definitely just hope it continues to be better from here onwards *fingers crossed*

The thing about developing activities for this age group is that the children are still mostly only babbling, and cannot speak much. They are also developing their Fine & Gross motor skills, so the activities which are planned should be catered for these areas. I would say that a lot of the activities from the Practical Life & Sensorial areas are suitable for children in this age group. However as the centre is not a Montessori centre, I have to find ways of integrating these activities into the programme.

The children really enjoy working with their hands, and materials for the activities are also purposely limited. I have noticed that when the number of learning materials for the activity is limited, the children are able to FOCUS more, and they WORK LONGER & CONCENTRATE BETTER instead of going from one activity to another.
I would say this is the same for example, if one were to go to a food court. If there are too many food choices available, you would not know which one to choose, and may end up not eating anything at all. Also, activities which are put out should "Look Inviting" to them (although they may be the one to mess it up!!!).

Finally, I have come to realise that whether in a migrant, or a anglo-australian childcare dominated centre, parents are all almost alike. They do not like to hear incidences of their children hurting & falling over, so it is most crucial that staff of a centre are vigilant in their supervision of the children when they are out in the playground. Filling in the 'Accident Report" form & having to inform the parent & watch their response to the news is one of the banes of my work that I have experienced so far being in the childcare field.

In my experience of Asian care settings, if these incidences happen to often, parents will feel disatisfied, and may/will pull their children out of the centre. Sometimes due to factors of the children's social connections (the children's friends are all in the centre, and the fact that the child has to adapt to a new setting, or the child always cries in new settings) are reasons why parents may think twice about doing so.

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