This term has seen me working with many many settings across the UK and having many, many, conversations about "preparing for school", "preparing for SATs" or "preparing for tests" . Each one raising the issue of what we percieve as expectations of children in Early Years and beyond,
I have thought long and hard this month about why we do what we do as educators and keep coming back to my core belief that our role is to help prepare children for suvival in the world beyond our walls, now and in their future. In thinking this through I began to unpick the things I believe we need to keep a focus on as Early Years people and to look at the skills we need to instill in our children.
As adults we may or may not choose to embrace this changing technological world that we increasingly find ourselves in, but we must accept that this fast paced, evolving world is one that children will find themselves at the centre of as they grow up. The jobs they will find themselves applying for will not ask for box ticking, carbon copies but individuals who are creative, able to think a little differnetly, are confident in expressing their own ideas and are self starters will an ability to change and adapt their way of working. Please dont think I write this with a eutopian teacher head on, but be assured it is with a realistic business woman head on!
I personally have spent some years away from teaching, working in recruitment and business and know first hand the skills employers are already looking for. With the job sector in the UK (and the rest of the world) changing daily towards technology and engineering based sectors we have to face the fact that what we need to prepapre our children for, is NOT to sit behind a desk writing grammatically correct papers and documents but to embrace the "blue sky thinking", "out of the box" creativity that will see them find good, well paid and most importantly fulfilling and enjoyable careers in the future.
Their journey can start in our early years environments, right here, today! Things we do now can help children to build life long learning skills and give them a real head start.
Encourage your children to be creative - not to reproduce something you or everyone else has created. Let them make choices themselves, even if you can see it won't work - children need to find this out themselves, learning from their mistakes and revisting with new ideas and ways of working.
Give the children in your care "their voice" let them know that what they say, what they ask, what they want to try is valued, is shared and is celebrated.
Look at your setting and ask yourself are there enough opportunities for children to make their own decisions about what and how to do things? Are their suffiiently open ended resources to encourage creative thinking and individuality? Is there space and more importantly time for children to explore their ideas fully and see them through to a conculsion?
And reflect on your interactions with children - do you give them a voice? Do you truly listen to their ideas and help them to make them a reality? Do staff take time to sit and discuss ideas with children? Do they use open ended questions to draw out and extend their thinking? Do they help children to build resilience as they revisit ideas and skills?
Do we let the children lead us through their world of creativity and imagniation or do we try to drag them into this box we call our world and try to shape them the same as us ( and all the other children)?
I know which I prefer and I am now, more than ever, passionate about my reasons for doing so - I want to give the children I work with life long learning skills - NOT just skills for school!