Positive Relationships: Transitions - On the other side

Phoebe Doyle
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Becoming a mother after becoming a teacher can bring new insights into the work of early years practitioners, as Phoebe Doyle found out.

When I qualified as an early years teacher in 2003, I felt reasonably confident that I knew what I was doing. I was full of knowledge of the Foundation Stage and its objectives and full of ideas for creative activities for each area of learning.

As a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT), I planned in detail and rigorously ensured that each objective was covered. My list of priorities most certainly included targets and evidence, activities and resources.

I left full-time teaching when my daughter Rosie was born in December 2005. Now, as a parent to a child starting nursery, I am seeing the early years experience from the other side. I am gaining an understanding of child and parent anxieties, and am certainly writing a new list of priorities.

Luckily, we are in a great catchment area and the nursery is attached to an excellent (my words as well as Ofsted's!) primary school. In the July before the September when Rosie was due to start, we were invited in to see the nursery environment and were given a talk on how it is run.

We were told that we could stay with our children whenever we wanted and that we were able to decide whether to make the process of them starting relatively gradual. The underlying message was certainly that you, as parents, are your child's expert, and so you are ultimately in control of managing this transitional time.

STAY AND PLAY

At the beginning of term we were invited to attend two stay-and-play sessions. This was such a relief - a chance to meet the teachers and for the child to experience this new and unfamiliar environment with the safety of Mummy at their side.

The activities themselves were cleverly planned, so that some required parental involvement whereas others were designed for the children to begin interacting with each other. There was a relaxed atmosphere and the children were given freedom to explore and begin to feel at home. The teachers were caring and warm, and I felt reassured that Rosie would be well looked after. It struck me that this was what mattered most.

And so the first 'proper' session arrived, and after the stay-and-play sessions and a summer of talking about 'how much fun it will be when Mummy takes you to nursery', Rosie knew exactly what was going to happen, knew that she would be left for a while, and most importantly, knew that she was in a safe, fun environment with people that will care for her.

In fact, so prepared was she that as we began our walk down to school she shouted joyfully to a friend ahead of us 'Mummy's leaving me today!' I chose to laugh instead of cry!

GROWING CONFIDENCE

As each day went by in those first few weeks, I felt increasingly confident in the nursery, not least because of the constant communication the staff were having with the parents. Letters were sent explaining forthcoming activities and lots of creative work came home so we could see what they were up to.

The staff clearly have an overriding child-centred ethos, as the activities are engaging and creative. I will certainly be stealing a few of their ideas when I'm teaching again! A questionnaire was given out, asking for feedback on the nursery in general and for comments on an individual level about our child settling in.

Now, more than a half term in, I find myself reflecting on what I will take back to the classroom when I return to teaching. I remember that when working in a primary school I used to get slightly annoyed that some Key Stage 2 staff would jokingly refer to Foundation and Key Stage 1 as childcare! However, I feel now that caring is the most important part of our role and that as early years practitioners, we should be proud of this and understand its significance and complexity.

If we can help the children in our class to feel confident and happy, we are ensuring that their first, and arguably most important, step along the educational road is a positive one.

I hope, too, that I will see engaging and communicating with parents as one of the most important steps in connecting with, and so teaching, the child. Parents are the child's chief expert, educator, and in some ways their voice. So, I will ask and listen more intently to their concerns and opinions.

These new priorities will not undermine the importance of targets and objectives, but will help me develop ones that are more relevant and considered to the needs of the child and will perhaps, dare I say, make me a better teacher.

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