This blog post is the first of two, and focuses on Kath’s perspectives as an Educator and Lecturer. Stay tuned for the second post next week.
Kia ora koutou, nga mihi maioha ki a koutou katoa.
Ko Kath Cooper ahau, No Pirongia me Kent ahau. Hello, warm greetings to everyone, my name is Kath Cooper and my family come from Pirongia, and Kent in England.
I opened this blog in one of the National languages of Aotearoa New Zealand because I feel strongly about my own commitment to ensure that the Maori language is maintained, protected, and most importantly used. As an early childhood lecturer I find I have many things that I am passionate about, Maori language, sustainability, and quality interactions between whānau and kaiako (teachers) to name a few.
Over the years I have engaged with a range of roles, and in all my jobs I have been expected to communicate with a wide range of families on a personal level and in a professional manner. At the beginning of my teaching career, this was done via notice boards, newsletters and profile books. These methods were intended to convey information to parents, the kaiako were the informants, we held the knowledge about the child, and it was our duty to pass this information onto parents.
As my roles changed, so did my understanding of the way a truly respectful interaction with parents worked, one example of this reflection was a positively focused newsletter to parents.
As a teaching team, we decided that it was our desire to have parents read and enjoy the newsletter, so our focus was on the achievements of the centre, children’s achievements and upcoming events.
We removed the messages about sunblock and head lice (who really reads those anyway) and conveyed those messages through other means, usually verbally. Engagement with the newsletter rose, and we started to receive positive affirmation that parents were reading it.
The teaching team and I also conducted parent-teacher interviews, and it was here that we started to reflect and consider the value of the parent voice in a deeper way than we had previously. Historically in our profile books we had asked for comments, however, parent’s comments were few and far between.
What we found at the parent-teacher interview was that many parents were eager to engage in conversations with us about their child’s achievements. This allowed the teachers to reflect upon the child’s interests and knowledge, and allowing us to make more thoughtful decisions in our everyday teaching. We noticed children were more engaged in sustained play experiences when we had clear and open lines of communication with parents. Once parents had seen that the kaiako were genuinely interested in their child and their learning, the information pathways opened up, and parents were more willing to seek out a kaiako and share with them their child’s achievements. Kaiako embraced this change and started to form a more meaningful relationship with the child’s family.
Now, in my role as a lecturer I am not involved with the need to engage parents and to share children’s learning, however, I am now in a position where I teach this to early childhood student-teachers. I talk to students about the progress I made as a teacher on my journey to connecting with parents, and I point out the limitations. For example, although kaiako had warm connected conversations with parents, we still didn’t have these recorded somewhere. We still lacked a way of easily sharing information between ourselves.
This limitation meant that not all kaiako knew about that child’s learning, which meant the teaching team was not all connected in their aspirations for each child. Due to time restraints, kaiako weren’t able to write down a summary of the conversation to share with others in the team.
What I suggest to student-teachers is to reflect upon the ways their centre communicates with parents, and whānau and each other. In what ways are the voices relevant to your service being heard and shared? How can you record this, what proof do you have?
Enter Storypark. Storypark’s platform offers a variety of methods to record, analyse and communicate about both children’s learning and the individual progression of teachers.
Teachers can use the private notes area for each child to record private conversation or share information directly with parents. They can engage with invited family members in learning stories, and respond the guidance and ideas of parents.
Storypark has created new possibilities in education and new opportunities for teachers, parents and families to nurture children’s development in a way that’s meaningful and relevant for each child’s unique interests and abilities.
Kath Cooper, Lecturer, Early Childhood New Zealand