The start of a new year is a beautiful time. Why not use the new year to introduce a new way of thinking and a new focus? James Boddey, director of Busy Bodies explains.
Why? This question should be the beginning, the start and the centre.
As a staff team our aim for this year is to develop our reflective practice. We want to critically evaluate why we do everything with the hope of finding the best way to do everything. Simple as that. But it is not that simple. Looking at the very core, stripping back the layers to discover the why is a time consuming and intensive process. The tangible outcomes can be as simple as turning a table around, moving the quiet corner, making a minor change to the daily routine, etc but the developmental and wellbeing outcomes can be enormous.
No two settings are the same and each of us have our own ethos / philosophy – our “why?”. In our setting we believe in ‘Teaching in the Moment’, uninterrupted play but we do also believe that group times and group snack times are important. Some pre-schools will not have this same approach. The key is that we know our ethos and philosophy inside and out and have 100% confidence in it. We know the what and the how but more importantly we know why we do it. When you have a strong foundation like this and an exceptional staff team you can develop a good level of critical thinking.
It is a great feeling when you have confidence in what you are doing. You feel at ease and you feel ready to accept new things, challenges and move forward. If you look at professional Football players, singers, dancers, and the people at the top of their chosen profession you see they are confident in their own ability and in the right set of mind to achieve.
We began by looking at each section in detail. Each member of staff was given an area of our practice to critically reflect. That area might be a physical area such as the sand corner, the bike area, the quiet corner or they could be tasked with reflecting on a time of day such as group time, lunch time, etc. They then observed the children at the time of day or in the area over a number of days to get an understanding of how the children used the time or space. The staff were also encouraged to also spend time amongst the children in these areas to get a “real feel” for the space and how it looks and feels. We also asked the children what they thought about the space and any ideas they might have. With all of this information collected we then took it in turns to present the information to the rest of the team. We discussed what we had found worked and what possible ways we could make improvements. Once we had done this process a few times we found that we could remove the paperwork aspect of it and instead just use it framework for our thinking.
Since developing this “why” perspective we have noticed a change in the staff team on an individual and collective level. Critical thinking is most effective when everyone in your setting is involved. What this has led to is staff critically evaluating what they are doing, what others are doing and the setting as a whole.
Staff that feel at ease, comfortable and confident will be in the best position to teach and care for the children. Staff who are actively involved in reflection and the improvement process at our setting seemed to have grown in confidence and have a better understanding of how the setting works. Confident, reflective staff will lead to the children feeling able to explore and develop their own thinking. When you have an approach that really puts the children’s best interests and the centre of everything in this way you are providing an environment for them to reach their own unique full potential.
The other benefit from having a strong why factor and putting why first is that it has a massive benefit for parents/carers. It is easy to see as a visitor or a parent / carer what we do. That is clear from the moment you walk in the door as you can actually see with your own eyes what we are doing. We would also hope that all of our parents/carers know how we do things and how we support their child. We do this through conversations, the induction process and sharing what we have been doing through various ways. Explaining to parents and carers the why and ensuring that they understand why we do what we do is the hardest but also the most beneficial. We want parents/carers to feel comfortable and confident leaving their children with us. We want them to know all the information they need in order for them to feel happy that their child is being cared for and having all of their needs met.
In conclusion I would recommend you have a think about why you do what you do. It is the beginning and the starting point for all that you do. A strong understanding of why you do things will have benefits across the setting and including benefits for the children, parents/ carers and staff team.