I am in the fortunate position of being able to visit different child care establishments throughout the country. I get to see indifferent child care practice, thoroughly bad child care and excellent professional standards and real care and education.
Education and Training
What concerns me most is that a number of individuals coming into the industry have little or no interest in children and see it merely as a ‘job’. I find this difficult to comprehend, as working with children can be the most exhausting and most stressful experience in one’s life. The responsibility we have for these children and our future is formidable. We become their role models, their friends and teachers. We often see more of them than their own parents and we know them in a different environment away from the constraints or permissions that home offers.
We have a part in shaping the future of each child we work with. I do not see how that can be boring, a time-filler or something that anyone with no qualifications or insight can achieve.
Sharing Best Practice
When I see or hear about excellence in practice I want to tell everyone and share the secret methods! There is nothing to compare with the first impressions of walking into a child-centred room where everything is there for the purpose of stimulating, encouraging, reassuring and rewarding children, whatever their difficulties or challenges, whatever their race, culture or family background. An inclusive environment is actually quite hard to create. It indicates the mind of an intuitive practitioner with theoretical knowledge to support their instincts for what children need and want.
A Fine Example
I visited a setting recently where the lead practitioner donned a brightly coloured cloak and a witch’s hat and walked around the rooms calling out, “Story time, story time”. The children flocked to her side and when she eventually settled them down in a quiet corner, she proceeded to tell the most amazing story of Anansi the Spiderman and how he got his thin legs. Out of her cloak she produced visual clues as the story progressed. She had spider webs, cooking pots, beans and other items all hidden from view until the moment they appeared with a flourish then promptly vanished again. Each child, whatever their age, gained so much from that experience: the joy of a social gathering, the satisfaction of understanding some if not all of the language spoken, the pleasure of being transported to a different time and a different country. The list is endless.
Is there a Future?
I met with a number of colleagues last week and we were expressing our concern that yet again, the funding for child care and children’s education is ring-fenced or non-existent. Training for child care is less popular than ever. Financial payment for being a child care professional is very low and not likely to rise. Higher qualifications specifically for practitioners who wish to take a management route do not necessarily lead to bigger and better employment prospects and in truth there is nothing bright on the horizon. Yet, we all remain - and willingly - so that we can be part of such a huge event, the modelling and shaping of the next generation.