Reflecting, Connecting and Practising

I began 2020 with the aim ‘to connect’ as part of my list of “20 for 2020” in my first blog post for 2020 (which can be read in my first blog for the year To connect and disconnect.) My ‘word’ for 2020 was connection.

Like always, life doesn’t go as planned and with the arrival of COVID and its implications, it became more of a challenge to follow my list and to be able to connect. How could I connect when social distancing was required?

As an early learning service, St Luke’s Catholic Early Learning Centre (CELC) remained open throughout the COVID lockdown period. From 23 March to June, the number of children attending St Luke’s CELC decreased significantly. Teachers and educators adapted their practises, planning and sharing home based learning experiences for the children and families to engage in at home. We also continued to provide a safe, nurturing connection for the children and families who maintained their attendance at St Luke’s CELC. A ‘silver lining’ benefit at this time was the recognition of the value and essential requirement that early years education has for society (as discussed in my blog post Early Learning Matters)

We used this time as a team to reflect on our practises, closely examining the Early Childhood Australia Code of Ethics to formulate our own Mission statement (more detail in A new Day Rising.)

As a team, we continued to maintain our connection as together we were guided by our shared values, vision and sense of purpose.

Since we opened in February 2018, the children and teachers from St Luke’s CELC have been connected through visits to Early Stage One to support the children’s sense of belonging to the wider school community. A key element to our experience at St Luke’s CELC is our connection to the school community. Whilst we were able to visit Early Stage one in term 3, unfortunately these visits were unable to continue due to COVID protocols. This meant an adaptation of our practises.

As we were unable to bring the children to Early Stage one for visits, during term 4, Early Stage one (ES1) teachers visited our environment to meet the children instead. This was a wonderful opportunity for the ES1 teachers to meet and get to know the children in their own environment where the children are familiar and most comfortable.

On day one of these visits, I discussed these with Jennifer (one of the ES1 teachers.) She agreed that there was a noticeable increased level of comfort in the children as they were in a familiar environment of the CELC (as compared to their school visits and first meeting at school interview.) We agreed that ES1 teachers visiting the CELC environment supported the children to form connections and relationships with their new teachers which will provide a continuity of experience for the new year. The children were encouraged to ask questions, expressing their thoughts about starting school. This is further supported through the sharing of information across both settings (the CELC and the school) to support children’s continuity of learning.

Providing opportunities for the children to connect and form relationships in an environment where they feel they belong provides a solid foundation, supporting them holistically in their growth and development.

The quality of ground in which a tree is established significantly affects its future growth.

Unearthing Why, 2015 , Britt & McLachlan.

As we get closer to the end of term, I am preparing for a change of direction in my journey with St Luke’s. I am moving into the role of Senior Manager Early Years Education for Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Services Limited (CDPSL.) Moving into a new role was an enormously challenging decision to make as I have absolutely loved working within a professional learning community which is supportive and caring of all of its members.

My experiences at St Luke’s Catholic College have positively influenced my professional growth and learning. I have learnt the value of the need to have a growth mindset, to engage in critical reflection of ones self to continue to grow and develop, to build partnerships and connections across all schools of learning ( preschool to high school) as well as the importance of continual professional development.

Thank you Greg Miller for your strong leadership and authentic demonstration of valuing the preschool years for children’s growth and learning, providing a solid foundation for their participation in the St Luke’s School learning community. Your guidance and support is greatly appreciated. It has been a privilege to work with you.

I would also like to say thank you to my colleagues on the St Luke’s Leadership team. Julie Atkins, Kelly Bauer, Anne Clark and Michelle O’Leary. It was a pleasure to work alongside you all. I will miss our weekly leadership meetings.

Thank you to my wonderful team at St Luke’s CELC, who continue to demonstrate professionalism whilst striving to implement high quality teaching and care for the children and families of the community by engaging in professional development and self reflection.

In my new role, I will ‘not be a stranger’ to St Luke’s CELC as I will continue to work with the CELC, albeit not on a daily basis. Why am I leaving you may ask? In my new role I am seeking to continue to continue to advocate for the value of early years education in providing a solid foundation for children, building supportive learning communities. Early childhood experiences shapes children’s trajectories for their futures. Advocacy in early childhood is essential to ensure quality outcomes for the children, shaping their future and society as a whole.

And so I leave St Luke’s learning community with an increased understanding of the positive outcomes and wonderful benefits of a preschool to post school learning community, where children and families are supported in their learning and growth. Where a thriving learning community of teachers across all school settings from preschool to primary school to high school is united with a shared vision to ‘nurture faith-filled, curious children to become creative contributors and innovative problem solvers for a changing world.’

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end

Michelle Obama, Becoming

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