Archived—Exemplary Practices 2008

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Collective Wisdom

Prior to attending the workshop in Ottawa, each of the PMA Excellence winners completed a comprehensive questionnaire providing answers to questions that explored their personal and professional qualities, attitudes and experiences. During their visit to Ottawa they shared experiences and passed on their insights and hard-earned knowledge during the two-day workshop. The following are excerpts taken from the questionnaires.

Here are the questions the PMA Excellence winners answered. The answers are direct quotes:

Describe Yourself in a Single Sentence

The following observations are typical of how ECE PMA winners see themselves:

"I am outgoing and nurturing while having a strong belief in the importance of quality education for our young children." — Jennifer Durkin

"What ever I do, I do my best." — Brenda Rempel

"I strive to be loyal, empathetic, dedicated and kind." — Terri Calder

How Do You Instill a Love of Learning in Children?

"Three and four year olds have an instinctive love of learning, I don't have to instill it! I need to provide many opportunities for exploration, provocative materials that spark curiosity, and a safe environment where children can take risks." — Kim Atkinson

"We believe all children are unique individuals and that we need to respect each child. We provide a safe, caring and friendly environment for all children. We allow each child to grow at their pace when they are ready to take the next step in the program. We realize the importance of teaching our language and culture to the children. By loving all children for who they are. To play and have fun." — Vivian Scott

"Most important is relationships and attachments. I believe a child must feel safe and secure before they will be ready to explore and learn. By taking children's knowledge, adding to their information, always moving them forward and believing in their individual abilities provides a desire to learn more. Learning must be fun with many opportunities to create a desire to explore and expand a child's world." — Brenda Rempel

What Practices Do Teachers and ECE Share?

During the two-day workshop in Ottawa, the PMA Teaching Excellence winners and the ECE winners were brought together to share and discuss common values and ideas and to acknowledge the importance of the role they each fulfill. Given that education is a continuum, it is also important to share information from each end of the educational spectrum. In the companion booklet that describes the exemplary practices of the PMA Award Winners for Teaching Excellence, ECE practitioners similarly communicate the importance of teaching from their own perspective. Following are expressions of how teachers perceive the role of ECE within the education system. When asked to comment, teachers said of their ECE counterparts:

"How vital their role is in helping to prepare students for school. Teaching is most effective when it mirrors early childhood education. Hands on constructivist learning, modelling, discussion and free play are all integral to learning at any age." — Milissa Gavel, Teacher/Principal, Grade 6 Homeroom, K-6 Technology, 2008 PMA Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

"Most of the qualities that make an effective ECE will transfer over to teaching." — John Harris, Teacher, Grade 2-9 Science, Social Studies, Technology, Music, 2008 PMA Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

"Grade 12 students still like to receive stickers." — Cheryl Carr, Teacher, Grade 9-12 Geography, 2008 PMA Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

"We all have the same goal. We all want to facilitate the children we teach in becoming global citizens and lifelong learners." — Devon Ross, Teacher, Science 9, Chemistry 12, Geology 12, 2008 PMA Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

"You are probably the most important step in the teaching process." — Melanie Gertley, Grade 10-12, Science, Chemistry Biology, 2008 PMA Award Winner for Teaching Excellence

How Can We Meet the Needs of 21st Century Teaching and Learning?

"We need to recognize that children are complex and unique individuals. Our job is to create an environment that is safe, relevant, and meaningful. We need to collaborate with the children to create places and projects that reflect their interest, their lives, their curiosity. We need to allow for many styles of creativity, many intelligences, many ways of being. Children learn when they are engaged, when they feel curious. They do not learn when they are bored, when the learning is repetitive and rote. My job is to engage every child." — Kim Atkinson

"Higher staff to child ratio to meet the learning style of the individual child. Children should be educated in thoughtfully designed environments." — Glenda Treffry-Goatley

"Children are expected to know more and more at younger ages - reading early in Kindergarten. The challenge for Early Childhood Educators is to ensure children have the necessary academic skills they will require for Kindergarten without sacrificing play, imagination, self-discovery and fun!! For an ECE teacher - creativity is essential." — Terri Calder

Top Ten Helpful Tips From PMA Winners

  1. Have fun (if the activities you plan interest and excite you - your enthusiasm will be infectious).
  2. Be flexible (the direction of a lesson can change with one comment or question from a student).
  3. Seek out colleagues (in this profession we often teach in isolation - we need to tap into the wisdom of others).
  4. Teach the same lesson to a number of different classes (repetition of a lesson leads to fine tuning and perfecting of ideas/implementation).
  5. Involve parents (The link between home and school is very important and must be fostered. Apart from showing children they value them and school activities, parent volunteers provide necessary support to classroom teachers.).
  6. Familiarize yourself with community resources (speech therapists, parenting resources, etc. Parents often ask for assistance with behavioural and developmental concerns. Having references on hand is always helpful.).
  7. Tour other Preschools — a lot can be learned through observation.
  8. Display children's work as much as possible (parents love seeing it and children feel of sense of pride knowing you value their efforts).
  9. Make yourself accessible (use email — a quick way to contact all parents keeping them apprised of classroom activities — also saves paper!! Parents have my email address so they can contact me directly with any concerns and questions.).
  10. Play!!

Tools and Resources as Suggested by ECE Winners

"A good play dough recipe. I think play dough should be mandatory for all schools and boardrooms, a blob at every desk! A little tactile sensory stimulation is good for the soul, good for the creative spirit, smoothes the rough edges of the day.....for all ages." — Kim Atkinson

Sample Recipe

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tarter
2 cups of water
1 tablespoons mineral oil
food colouring

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until stiff. Allow to cool, then knead.

"I could not survive without the "Board Maker" program and a camera. "Seeds of Empathy", an awesome tool — curriculum to teach children about empathy and early literacy. Your local supported child development. Your local resources such as speech and language Occupational Therapists, Psychology professionals. Resource and referral programs offering workshops. Private Speech and Language Pathologists. The Internet and the wealth of information that is made available to the ECE world." — Brenda Rempel

"The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education." — Bobbi-Lynn Keating

Mentoring Others — How would the ECE winners guide new teachers? What advice would they give?

"Look at the positive in a child. Don't be afraid of their behaviours because all of them are means of communication, some just communicate more intensely. Listen to children, they will teach you what you need to know." — Brenda Rempel

"I would remind them that working with children is most important since they are our future. It is hard work but unbelievably fulfilling. I would tell them that there are no bad children, just bad behaviour. I would show them that each child is unique and to be valued for their individuality. I would show them how much I love the work that I do and encourage them to make a difference in the lives of the children they come in contact with." — Jennifer Durkin

"I would share all the things that have worked for me over the years — themes children loved, activities that were fun, educational and well-received. I would tell them to constantly self-evaluate. At the end of the day, record what happened, what would you change, what would you do the same, etc. These notes are always valuable in future planning. I would tell them that dedication to professional development is rewarding and appreciated by students and parents alike." — Terri Calder

Choosing One Special Area of Interest and How It Is Approached

The ECE winners chose one important topic that reflects on the work they do in their classrooms. The choices included Child Development, Innovation, Family/Community Involvement, Commitment and Leadership.

"Community Leadership. I conduct workshops for parents on a variety of topics directly related to issues parents have expressed concern or interest in, such as emergent literacy and conflict resolution. I write monthly articles on parenting issues such as sensory integration, taking risks, and preschool communication in our school newsletter, and I write articles for a local parenting magazine. I also mentor new ECE's and students." — Kim Atkinson

"Child development. Every month we post a newsletter for parents covering an aspect of child development. (We provide) Photo Documentation in the classroom and a newsletter regarding the children's activities and learning. Informal discussions with parents at the end of the day. Monthly parent meetings and topics for discussion." — Glenda Treffry-Goatley

Family Involvement — "I work closely with parents in the preschool. I feel that by modelling the appropriate language and guidance techniques, the parents will learn that these work. Parents are an integral part of Kiddies Korner preschool and I try to encourage them to enjoy their times at the preschool with their children. It is a privilege to work so closely with each of them." — Jennifer Durkin

Family Involvement — "Parents are a child's first teacher, and it is essential that they take an active role in their child's education. Families at my school are encouraged to be involved in their child's education as much as possible. To assist with this endeavour, parents are scheduled to volunteer in their child's class once every month. Communication lines are open — parents are encouraged to contact me directly with comments, concerns, suggestions, questions. Information pages are posted around the room outlining the learning that occurs at each play centre (i.e. At the sand table we are developing sensory awareness and mathematical skills such as measuring and estimating.) Parents are provided with newsletters that outline classroom events, but also provide parenting suggestions (i.e. how to foster math skills in the home, how to help your child sit through a fancy family dinner at Thanksgiving, etc.)." — Terri Calder