Reimagining Practicum Seminar

By Antje Bitterberg, Patricia McClelland, Rupinder Rajwan, and Charlene Roulston 

We are a team of four instructors – Antje, Charlene, Patricia, and Rupi – and have found much joy and meaning in working collaboratively as instructors. In preparing for the Spring 2021 semester, we noticed that each of us was assigned a group of practicum students enrolled in either an infant/toddler or diverse abilities practicum. We connected and wondered, ‘What might happen if we combined our 2nd year students in one collective practicum seminar?’  

We each bring curiosity and courage to the process of reimagining practicum seminar. It would have been easy to continue our work in isolation. Each of us would have worked with our own group of students, and students would have completed their practicum. However, by embracing the Early Learning Framework [ELF] and the image of teachers as “researchers and collaborators” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 15) we were called to move beyond the walls of our own classes to create opportunities for collaboration and inquiry, for students and instructors alike! The ELF states, “Learning is not an individual act but happens in relationship with people, materials, and place” (p. 65). This statement is foundational to our teaching and our shared vision for our team-taught seminar.  

Over the course of the semester, we found a rhythm that allowed us to create both a collaborative space for students and  their four practicum instructors, and an intimate space for each group of students and their respective practicum instructor. Each week we alternated between gathering as one large group, and then gathering with our small groups. Throughout the semester, the four of us also met frequently to discuss emerging questions and which threads to make visible in our next team-taught collective seminar. 

Students in these 2nd year practicum courses are learning how to generate curriculum. They are asked to listen closely to the interests of children in their practicum settings and to begin creating and sustaining a curriculum inquiry with the children and colleagues within their unique contexts. Similarly, in our seminar, we have taken on an inquiry nourished by emerging interests of the group. We started by exploring a pedagogy of listening as described in the ELF, then moved into, and stayed with, the complexities of working with pedagogical narration. As our course comes to an end, we have unearthed more questions than answers about the process working with pedagogical narrations, who they are for, and what they set in motion.  

We invite you to linger with the following question that emerged for us in and through conversations provoked by the ELF. “Engaging with complexity means accommodating many ways of thinking, seeing, doing, and knowing as well as being a condition of professionalism in early learning” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 2). What does this ask of us? 

References:

Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework (2nd ed.). Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework 

Meal Time Journey

By RoseMary Antony

Setting the mood
Little feet tap with excitement,
Little eyes wait with longing,
Few little minds forget its coming,
‘Its time for snack’ as the teacher remarks.
The gates open to meal prepped tables,
number of little feet scramble to spot their seats,
oh , the joy to see the familiar(their snack boxes),
‘Its time for snack’ as the teacher hums.
The mood is calm, the mood is focus,
munching into their snack with a sense of purpose,
a spill or two is cleaned with care,
‘Its time for snack’ as the teacher smiles 🙂

The choices
From cottage cheese to applesauce,
to crackers and sandwiches.
The choices are one too many,
For little minds to fathom hastily.
A spoon, a bib, ”I’ll open it” an excited friend speaks,
the cold strawberry yogurt is savored with every spoon.
Across the table a little friend perplexed,
pushes away all the choices with a sudden reflex.
A patient educator with a calm and softness in her tone,
offers time to process the choices that lay forth
a momentary pause later a decision is made,
‘I want this’ the little finger points to the quinoa salad that awaits.

The closing
” I want something else”,
“I’m done”,
Few little fingers play with an empty container in sight,
Snack time is coming to an end
Let’s get you cleaned up,
Here’s a wet cloth and a wipe,
Little hands wipe and clean themselves
I want water, I want milk,
Little faces and tummies flooded with joy,
“I want to go play again”
As tables and chairs creak across the floor,
Little friends are excited to return to play,
A teacher stays back, humming a rhyme,
as she wipes and cleans every little crumb.

Respect

By Lacey Holmes

I am thankful for being introduced to the infant toddler curriculum from such dedicated educators as Magda Gerber (Gonzales-Mena & Widmeyer Eyer, 2018) and Ward Nakata (Child Care Human Resources Sector Council, n.d). While watching their individual interviews related to infant and toddler child care, I can really tell how dedicated and knowledgeable they are in this field. Both talk so highly about respecting the infants in their care, and following the children’s rhythms of the day. I am very interested in exploring how we might follow children’s rhythms in early years programs and will be engaging with the following critically reflective question posed in the ELF (Government of BC, 2019): “What role does the clock play in my day? Do routines follow the clock or the people in my program” (p. 78)?

I recently watched the video ‘Thinking big: Extending emergent curriculum projects’ (Felstiner, Pelo, & Carter, 1999). 

The children in the centre were really interested in the block building activity.
The teachers sustained this interest in building for weeks by letting the children use wooden cubes to stack and climb on to make tall towers. 

The educators supported the children in building even taller towers, by taking them to the hardware store to buy a step ladder.

Finally, the educators further sustained curiosity and inquiry by going on a field trip to a local park to have a tour of a large stone tower.

I am curious to find out how children and educators can generate curriculum like this together. As a practicum student, I also wonder how I might become engaged in co-creating curriculum with children and educators. How might we accommodate and respond to children’s interests? What might happen when children’s rhythms, rather than the schedule, lead the day? What might it feel like for children, educators, and families to be in a setting with fewer limits around, or structure on, activities and schedules? I have noticed from my experience in a preschool setting that each child goes through the day at a pace. Some children really enjoy painting and take their time, while others are finished in minutes. Some children eat very quickly while others like to socialize while they eat. Some children enjoy an afternoon nap, while others do not need the extra sleep. How can we be accommodating to each child’s unique needs? What is fair?

The First Peoples Principles of Learning remind us: “Learning involves patience and time” (Government of BC, 2019, p. 14). To notice the children’s rhythms we must be attentive and in the moment. If our attention is divided, then we are not able to pick up on the cues the child is trying to communicate with us. Danielle Alphonse (personal communication, Jan 29, 2021) reminds us what matters in our relationships with children: “An educator is being really present. Identifying your gift as an educator is honouring what you have in your mind, heart, spirit and recognizing your internal thoughts regarding guidance to support children’s development/behaviour for their future, or are you basing your decisions by thinking about the past interactions? Asking these appreciative inquiry questions helps an educator to situate oneself in the present. Children know when you are not being present with them, and they know right off the bat and will decide not to give you time and engage in relationship. If children don’t feel like you are giving them your full presence (attention) like they do, they will engage with another educator who is giving them full acknowledgement of their being.”

While we continue to learn and grow with our little explorers, I would like to challenge you. Be fully present, get engaged with the materials, and build on the interests to take the learning experience to the next level! Whether that’s with a trip to the hardware store or simply your time and attention. Take a page from the book of everyone’s favourite teacher:
“Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” – Miss Frizzle

References:

Child Care Human Resources Sector Council (n.d.). Working in early childhood education – Early childhood educator profile: Ward Nakata. Child Care Human Resources Sector Council. https://vimeo.com/38643168

Gonzales-Mena, J. & Widmeyer Eyer., D. (2018). Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers: A curriculum of respectful, responsive, relationship-based care and education (11th Ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

Government of British Columbia. (2019). British Columbia early learning framework (2nd ed.). Victoria: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, & British Columbia Early Learning Advisory Group. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework 

Felstiner, S., Pelo, A., Carter, M. (1999). Thinking big: Extending emergent curriculum projects. Hilltop Children’s Center. Harvest Resources.