Herding Cats Whilst Juggling with Ferrets – Why would anyone want to work in Early Years? By Alistair Bryce-Clegg

15th March 2017

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Young children are truly remarkable beings and masters of ‘the unexpected’. There is one thing that you can be certain of when you work in Early Years and that is that you can never be certain of anything!

Like the moments that you have them eating out of the palm of your hand, they gaze at you wide eyed as you deliver pearls of wisdom. Then from amongst the crowd a hand slowly rises and you pause with anticipation, waiting for confirmation that you are indeed the worlds best teacher and that this child is going to utter a statement of learning and understanding – only to be met with the phrase ‘My Granddad’s dead’. Just three little words that can completely kill a moment!

It takes a skilled practitioner to be able to Segway from death to ‘Five Little Speckled Frogs’. Difficult, but not impossible!

It is in the very impetuous and inquisitive nature of little children that their potential for learning lies. The more we can embrace and enhance their ‘uniqueness’ the more we can enable them to pursue their interests and engage in learning.

Sometimes as adults I think that we impose our agenda for learning onto children a little too much and that can result in children switching off, disengaging, fiddling with the person next to them – or usually in the case of boys – fiddling with themselves!

The more experience I have in working across the very diverse Early Years sector the more I am convinced that the more child initiated we can make learning the more success that we will all have (children and adults).

As a teacher I was completely ‘topic’ driven and I LOVED it. A topic meant that you could theme everything to one interest or subject and on the whole that made things significantly easier when it came to planning and resourcing. But…the problem with a ‘topic’ is that it can be too focussed.

It is one thing when as an adult you are talking to your children about a subject. A good  Early Years Practitioner can make anything sound exciting .It is what the children are expected to do when they leave the adult and enter the realm of their own learning.

They may well have loved it when you were regaling them with tales of planets, rockets and space travellers,  but when they get to the Malleable Materials area – why do they have to make a planet out of dough? When they get to the Junk Modelling area – why do they have to make a rocket?

As practitioners we need to think about why we create the areas of provision that we create and what it is that we want children to learn and experience as they play in them.

If we are encouraging our children to develop dexterity in the dough then does it matter if they don’t make a planet? If we are teaching them a variety of joining and construction skills in the junk modelling area, do they have to build a rocket? Of course, the answer to all of the above is ‘no’!

When we are planning for children’s learning we need to think of ‘topic’ as a stimulus or an enhancement to Continuous Provision. What is more important is that we identify what it s that our children need to learn and how we can use our environment and their interests to teach them those next steps and allow them to consolidate and apply the new skills that they acquire.

That way you have the most potential to maximise opportunities for learning and engagement and keep fiddling fingers occupied!

We are delighted that Alistair will be joining us at Childcare Expo Manchester. Be sure to register for your free tickets today.

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