Good afternoon everybody and welcome to the second in the 'Guiding Children's Behaviour, regulation respect and relationships webinar series' brought to you by the Department of Education and Training in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. Before we start it's important that we pause for a moment and acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we're all on. I acknowledge that we're here on the lands of the Kulin nation across Victoria and I want to particularly pay respects to elders past, present and the elders who are emerging in our early childhood education and care settings and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and educators that you work with. I particularly want to draw our attention to the words of Auntie Geraldine Atkinson, in the introduction to the Marrung Education Plan, that encourages us all, to embed reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into our daily work and make sure that the doors are held wide open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. My name is Catharine Hydon and I would particularly like to welcome you to this second event. Thank you for those people who joined us last time and welcome back for you who've joined us the second time around and also welcome to people who haven't been here the first time. Remember the recordings are available, so you'd be able to go and check out what we talked about last week. I want to also particularly shout out to all of the educators across Victoria, who are really working very hard to support the wellbeing of children and families as we navigate these really fluid times. So thank you very much for the work that you do and thank you for taking the time to join us. We know that it's a busy time, it's a busy time any time of the day but thank you for making the time to be with us and great if you are joining with your colleagues and hopefully some of these ideas will spark further conversations and discussions in your own settings. As I said, my name is Catharine and I'll be your host today, we're going to be joined by an amazing panel of people who are going to share some very practical examples. And this is the opportunity for us to build on the why of the conversation we heard last time with Cathrine and think a little bit more about some of the practical applications as we navigate this space of supporting children's behaviour and thinking about their self-regulation. We know that there's a great need for this conversation, so hopefully there you're getting ideas that you can share with your colleagues. There's also going to be a series of online events that you can participate in. So as I said this is number two of a series of four, so there'll be other opportunities, we'll be joined next time by Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett again and some other practitioners as we navigate all these four events. So today's session is a panel discussion and soon we'll be joined by a panel of early childhood professionals, experienced professionals so we can dive further into guiding children's behaviour and as I said get some very practical suggestions. So the focus here is about guiding behaviour and regulation and respect and relationships for all children. So we're thinking very broadly about the ways in which we support all children in our program. We do know that you are working with children who have specific diagnoses, and you might be working with early intervention professionals. But our focus today is thinking very broadly about all the children who are in your services and that you work with on a regular basis to support their behaviour and support their regulation and the way they interact with other children in the program and indeed other adults. And this is the second as we said of the four sessions and last time you remember that Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett explored some of the underlying influences and factors in us understanding children's behaviour. And we're going to build on that with our panel conversation because that's going to be focusing on everyday practice, so some of the questions that you raised last time we're going to see if we can weave into the panel conversations as we go. We'll certainly do our best to incorporate some of the questions you have but if not, if we don't get a chance to do that today we're going to weave them into our conversations as we keep going. We'll make sure that we reference the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework because that's an essential part of the thinking that we're doing in terms of practical applications. And I note I'm sure that many of you are thinking about how these connects to your practice experiences. So make sure you keep a few notes and you can share those with your colleagues as you're making different decisions as you move forward. And of course we are wanting to make sure that this is a space that we as early childhood professionals can think about strength based approaches and how we can honour the rights and best interests of the children that we work with. And now we want to just recap a few of the ideas that we talked about last time. So just to refresh your memory I know lots of you are online, so you know about these but just for those of you who weren't here or for those of you who had a very busy week, and you want to refocus. You remember that we talked about three big ideas and Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett shaped that around for us in connection to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Thinking particularly about regulation, the role of self regulation is a key component of children's behaviour and engagement with the learning environment. And we'll hear more about the learning environment from Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett next time. And we also talked about respect, so again really strongly connecting to practice principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework about respectful relationships and the way we build partnerships with families. The important notion of respect for children, respect for children's culture and their family context, thinking about the amazing image that's in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework that focuses really strongly on the context for children and thinking about their relationships that they have, thinking about the ways in which we draw on what children already know can do and understand the context of our decisions. And of course the relationships that we have respectful relationships again a very prominent feature of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and a need for a strong connection and strong relationships that help us understand where children are at and then build the decisions that we will craft the decisions that we're going to make into an order to support children's self-regulation and to guide their behaviour. So some of these ideas will be picked up further from our panelists, who'll talk about the practical application of some of these in their everyday work with children. There's also an opportunity here and the next slide takes us to the way we built on those ideas. So we added a couple of really strong concepts that again connect with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework that help us to expand our understanding of the why around behaviour and the why around self-regulation. And again we'll come back to some of those ideas in more detail when we speak to Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett next time. So one of those extra ones that we talked about was roots the idea again of common pathways to challenging behaviour, context of influence, the ways in which we can connect with the neighbourhood, the broader social context, families and help those big behaviours find a way to be navigated by the children that we work with. And the last one responses, so really thinking about the ways that we use assessment for learning and development and integrated teaching and learning approaches, good practices within the practice principles within the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework to create responsive environments, responsive pedagogical practices that really support children's needs and their behaviour and help children to be able to make some really strong decisions in their learning, in the context that they're working in. And again we're going to hear from our panelists who will help us understand what that might look like and I'm sure they're going to give some very practical ideas and advice about some of the things that have worked for them. And hopefully some of these will resonate with you and some of the ideas will be very new, so we'll look forward to hearing from them in just a moment. And the next slide is a particular image that resonated with lots of people. I've had lots of chats with educators in all sorts of different parts of Victoria, who, for whom this boat image really worked for them, that there was quite a number of educators who were really could connect with the idea of children being in that bottom downstairs brain and then wanting to support children through that ladder that scaffolding support to get to the upper deck, their upper upstairs brain. So lots of great conversations I'm sure that it had in your setting that gave you a sense of where children were up to and what your role was in terms of that scaffolding ladder of supporting children to be on their own deck, so to speak. So great analogy there that I'm sure would have worked with lots of you. So we're really keen to continue to hear from you about your ideas. So I also want to share with you a couple of things that came out of the conversations we had last time. So we've done a really good thing here of like drawing together some of your ideas. So thank you very much for those who shared them and continue to do so if you would like to share those again, if you find the chat distracting, please turn it off. But in the next slide we can show you a collection of really strong ideas that have helped us formulate what you think. So in that previous question we invited you once again to share your thoughts but in this word cloud you gave us a whole range of different challenges and thinking that you were doing around the work of supporting children's behaviour and also helping to support their self regulation. So those stories and ideas are really powerful and we thank you for that. I guess we want to just draw those together and get a sense of what we might take from that. I think we recognise that for some of you this is at times a bit of a stressful space and we know that you drawing on your professionalism to understand how you might shape the program to best meet the needs and interests of the children and that we're thinking about strength based approaches in our responses to children and their families. We also know that it's actually a really, a lot of the work that you're doing does work, it supports children, they change over time and some children make really big gains in the work that they do with you. And I also understand so I think it's worth noting that we hold a particular professional responsibility to do some of the heavy lifting in the thinking here so that we can start to share those ideas with families as we make decisions about how to shape programs that best meet children's needs. So some of the conversations we'll have with the panelists today might provide us with a bit more insight around that. We also know that educators make a range of decisions that make sometimes make it easier or more difficult for children to regulate. And some of you raise the group time conversation and we could probably talk for a week about group time but it's interesting to think about group time as an example. I mean how long are we asking children to sit together in a large group? Perhaps we might replace those with smaller group opportunities or go outside for example or indeed really rethink how group times can work effectively for the children that you work with. You all of you raise the issue of consistency, as you can say that's the biggest word in our word cloud and making sure that you're having conversations with educators, educator colleagues to make sure that the ideas you're thinking about align with the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, practise principles that they're focused on outcomes for children, they referenced children's contexts and that you have a plan about what you're going to do on a daily basis. Some of you raise the issue of inconsistency and how that really challenged the ways you were approaching your strategy. So again if that's something that you need to talk about with your colleagues I'd definitely put it on the agenda for your reflective practice meetings. And of course you talked to lots of, about different strategies in your pedagogical practice. And I think they're going to be lots more ideas that come from our panelists. So speaking of which we should get on to our panelist conversations. So we're going to bring up our panelists now and they're going to join us. And let me just introduce who we've got an our panel today. I'm going to ask them a couple of questions and we're going to have a bit of a conversation. I'd really like you to feel like you're joining us at the staff room table and that you can be part of the conversation by either putting things in the chat questions that you would like to share with us or indeed strategies that have worked for you and perhaps connections to some of the ideas that Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett talked about last time. So it's my absolute pleasure to welcome three panelists to our panel discussion today, Leanne Mits who's at Pope Road Kindergarten in Blackburn. She was the early childhood teacher of the year in 2019 and she's got about 30 plus years experience, she hasn't told us what the plus means in early childhood education and care. And she's taught in rural Victoria in Melbourne in a range of different settings. And she works in a community run standalone kindergarten and she's got multiple roles as many of you do nominated supervisor educational leader and the teacher of the three to five-year-old program. So thank you very much Leanne for joining us, we do have Sally. And Sally Quantrelle is from Central Kindergarten in Warrnambool roll all the way down in Warrnambool, so great that you can join us from Warrnambool Sally. Sally is also a very experienced early childhood teacher and the director and she leads a team of people at Central Kindergarten in Warrnambool. And she's very passionate about early childhood education and she's again 35 plus years working in Australia and internationally, so thank you very much for joining us Sally. And Teigan Leonard is a clinical psychologist, so we're broadening our horizons here and having people from different, with different disciplines and it's great and really reflective of what the Victorian Early Learning and Development Framework talks about in terms of our partnerships with other professionals, so fantastic to have you here Teigan. Teigan has a passion about helping people be the very best they can be and that's led you to become a psychologist and you're now someone who helps that work on a daily basis and you love seeing the work that happens with children and families to achieve things that they didn't think were possible, so you're a graduate of Monash University with a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Psychology and a Master's of Developmental Psychology, so thank you very much for being part of our conversation today. So maybe I will just start right off and say I'm interested in all three of your perspectives on why self-regulation and guiding children's behaviour is an important part of the work we do every day in early childhood education and care. So maybe Leanne I can start with you, why does this matter for us? Why is it important for children?
Thank you Catharine, I'm really thrilled to be here so thanks for the opportunity. I think there's a whole host of responses I could offer that and could I just start by saying that I think we have an amazing privileged role, you know, in early childhood education that has so much potential and we can bring so much creativity and so much of ourself to that work. And so to answer your question in relation to that first response it's because I think who we are as humans and who we are as citizens makes a difference to who we bring to the classroom and to the groups of children that we work with. And I think one of the opportunities but also the responsibilities that we have as professionals in the early childhood space is as we all know through our studies at university and or diplomas or whatever it is that we're doing, that we're looking at the child holistically. This is not, the Early Years Learning and Development Framework isn't a curriculum that has a content that needs to be delivered. And so as early childhood educators, we, I believe are looking at children holistically so that we're supporting children for lifelong learning and life trajectories. And that's amazingly exciting but also full of a huge responsibility.
So in thinking about what to chat with us with the group today I looked up another analogy, I love your boat one, but another analogy is like a car and the work of Dr. Stewart Shanker talks about if you're trying to stick to 25 kilometers an hour on a car to drive a car at that same speed, you need to regulate your gears, you need to regulate your driving according to the wind and the road and all the other drivers on the road. And some of us can do that better than others and that takes a long time to learn the knack of that to achieve that outcome if that's the goal. And I think self-regulation, if I think of it like the boat or I think of it like the car analogy, it takes time and it's really complex. And, you know, I think if we're really honest I think there's a lot of primary school children, secondary school children, adolescents and let's face it adults that maybe don't always have the self-regulation that we wish we had. And I'll be really honest in this space, I was on my lower deck today at work, me as the adult. When I looked at your screen just then I had a moment this afternoon with 25 four to five year olds. And I was the only person with the majority of the group we were outside because my other two colleagues were inside doing other things that needed their absolute attention in one in the bathroom and one somewhere else. And I actually had to put a few things into place that I've actually never before today done before to make sure I got myself on the top deck so that I could support children to be on the top deck. And I think I'm just giving you this sharing because the reality is, I think from the time children are born they're learning how the child, the world works and how they work within it. And so this space of early childhood that we have the privilege and the pleasure and the responsibility of working in is the space where so much from a neurological perspective that learning and growing and sorting out and understanding it happens. And I feel like I just want to touch quickly on that word self-regulation in terms of it's not in my view it's not managing children's behaviour it's guiding children's behaviour and I know you haven't said managing in this space but I think it's just worth pointing out that when I went to uni a long time ago, I don't feel like that was pointed out to me well enough and that's something that I've had to grow to come to understand. Well I guess just in finishing this little part for me is that I tell you this scenario about today that was really tricky. I put a strategy into place that I pulled out of my back pocket, I've never done before I had to get myself onto the top deck of the boat 'cause I wasn't doing well today in this little moment of time. And I had to say, that's okay, I'm a human being and that's what happens to children too. And so it's a great thing and an important thing for us to aim for but always remember the complexity of it. It's not linear, it goes up and down and go backwards like a dance all the time. I think it's an interesting space.
Yeah thank you Leanne and thank you for sharing that because I think there's probably a lot of people online who think oh, actually self-regulation doesn't just, we don't get to a point and we go we're all done, it's something that we work on over time and we also know that for some of you, you're seeing children for one year. One year in the time that they are learning in these really substantial things. So I'd love to come back and talk a little bit more about the ideas you had in your back pocket, so hold that thought. Sally what about you? Why is self-regulation and guiding children's behaviour an important part of the work you've done over many, many years and important for children?
Look I think Leanne touched on a few of those points, what I was thinking when I reflected on this was the point that when children are in their preschool year, the four to five-year-old year, this might be the first time they've really had to consider in any great extent the impact of their behaviour on anyone else around them. They might be in a small group, might be in the large group, it might just be on their one person they're hoping to develop a friendship with. So they're actually really starting to think about what I'm doing and how I'm behaving and how I'm looking and how I'm sounding impacts on the person that's near them or a large group. It could be the adults, it could be the children but they're often making their first real friends. So it really has quite an impact on how they feel about themselves, how they look to other children. So that starting to understand how you affect other people in a group setting then builds into how you develop relationships, developing relationships with the educators, with the children around you and I feel in the way we learn together in a group setting like this, a lot of it's based on relationships. And so you have to have those understandings about each other and that ability to monitor the way you affect other people to then be able to establish that which in turn leads to that engagement with learning. And that safe engagement, in a safe space that we can all be comfortable and engaged in learning together.
And I love the way you're connecting it with relationships because that's such an important part of navigating the rest of your life, really trying to figure out how to be connected to other people how to drive that car, how to get to the upper deck, how to figure out, you know, who that person is in relation to me, it's quite a sophisticated process. And I guess that's one of the reasons why Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett took us into that why space, you know, why is this important? And I think you've reminded us of some of those things. Teigan, what about you? What would you say about the importance of self regulation and guidance for children's behaviour? All children not just children who might be diagnosed with something, etc but you know the whole of the group that we're working with.
Yeah and I think Leanne and Sally covered it so beautifully that it's not just about self-regulation itself, but it allows so much more learning to occur when, whether it's a child or an adult is feeling regulated. I guess extending on some of the things Leanne in particular was talking about one of my passions in supporting children to regulate and that guidance and support is that it allows us as the adults in the room to also feel more regulated ourselves which means we can provide better quality programs and learning opportunities and relationship development with the children that we're supporting. So by supporting different levels of regulation within the classroom we're allowing not just children to be in a space where they can learn and engage but we're allowing ourselves to be in a space where we can get a lot of satisfaction from the role and support children to learn and engage in other things as well.
It's a deeply satisfying space, I guess you know, we're going to hear from our practitioners here to say, what ideas actually work. And when you see children figuring out some of those things, as you say that they're quite complex, there is a deep satisfaction as a professional, you think actually really supported children to be able to learn new things and indeed their families to learn new things about children. And indeed when we learn new strategies like Leanne reflecting on then we get the opportunity to add that to our repertoire. And I guess you're hearing today from experienced professionals who have had lots of practice which is one of the reason why they asked them to be here. And I guess we want to be kind on ourselves too and know that there's a learning process over time that we're acquiring new skills over time. And we also want to have these conversations back and forth with other professionals so we can build our repertoire, so I know many people are undertaking that work as we speak. So let me go back around and see whether we can identify some particular practice principles, I think we're going to draw from the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework here particularly that might really resonate with you about, that help you identify strategies. So as of course, you all know we have a suite of practice principles in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework partnerships with professionals partnerships with families, assessment for learning. We have integrated approaches, we have reflective practice a whole suite of different ideas here. But I'm wondering whether we can hear, maybe start with you Sally, is there a particular, one of those practice principles that you think is really important as you start to make practical decisions around supporting children's behaviour and supporting their self-regulation? Do you have a reference point that you'd go to in that conversation?
Oh that's an interesting point when you asked me to think about that because I looked through all the principles and I found things that I could hang a hook on and nearly all of them and I said, okay go back and really think about which one covers what you want most. I almost went with integrated approaches, I almost went with partnership with parents but then I actually went back and looked at reflective practice and how that actually is part of the whole learning cycle. And in fact, all of those other things that came up to me fell into that because it's about gathering that information. You might be making a set of observations or a chart to find out when certain behaviours are happening, what the trigger is, who's there, what time of day it is. And then you gather that information from what you observed as a child, you gather information from the families. You might gather observations from the other staff, have a chat to them about whether they've been seeing, any specialists, any PDs, you draw in strategies that you might have used before with another child that might've worked who had similar behaviours. So you then look at your pedagogy, you look at what's happening in the room. How have you run the schedule? What experience have you got out? Are you doing enough indoor outdoor time? So you're really pulling all of those things together and reflecting on how they fit together in the context of this child's behaviour or self-regulation that you're working with. So for me, I think the reflective practice seemed to be the one that resonated most to me when I was thinking about it because it draws all of those things together. Then you okay, let's have a go let's try that new strategy. Let's pull out of the back pocket and have a go and see with all of those things in place that we know, is this going to be the thing that works? Yeah it worked, oh no it didn't. Let's go back through the cycle again and look back again and see whether we've got something else that we might've gone to, oh that PD we had the other day, oh that webinar we went to with Catharine. Remember she mentioned that works. So I think reflective practice for me as the one that resonated most, it draws everything together.
And you've helped us out no end there Sally, we didn't even prepare this in advance is that actually Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett at the in our first webinar invited all of the people who were present to go and do some observations and getting more information. And I think there's a real important message there as sometimes that we're trying to, we quickly go to want to fix something, but maybe we need to step back and engage really strongly with the planning cycle. And I know of course there are situations that you need to immediately respond to, I absolutely understand that. But maybe we can go and find out more information and use that planning cycle, use that reflective practice process to try to.
Really important if it's, a particular challenging behaviour and I've had a recent conversation with a parent and I said, let's just pick one, let's just work on that one thing 'cause there were several things and yeah we worked hand in hand with just the one thing and that little boy has actually moved on really quite quickly from that behaviour because we're working together with a similar strategy and supporting each other. The other thing that I came across accidentally, a piece of spare paper that I sort of quickly moved was a chart that I made up about some challenging behaviour a couple of years ago. And it was basically a chart and it was the different behaviours, it was hitting, it was biting, it was kicking and it was, had dates, had times. And I did that for a couple of weeks to actually really hone down to what was going on.
What was going on.
and then we worked with it, yeah.
Knowledge is power, isn't it Sally? So if we actually have data, our own data created by us, sometimes the situation, sometimes it's going to warrant some further conversations and perhaps Teigan you can help us to know when would we need to get further information and when we would need to ask some other professionals. But sometimes when we collect our own data we realise, oh hold on a second, the situation is not as bad as I thought or it doesn't happen as much as I've thought. And I love the idea Sally that you're engaging your other colleagues in that process. So a bit more about that, why do you get your colleagues to be part of that thinking process?
Because probably part of one of the most powerful things and I'm very fortunate in the centre in that I'm at at the moment I have two very experienced colleagues two educators who work with me and they will see things that I don't see, I can't be there 100% of the time for 100% of the children. So I really value their input and we talk as I'm sure everyone does, we talk every single day about the children in particular things we've noted, today we had a bit of a chat and noted a few things at the end of the day, but I encouraged them to also make those notes, it's not just to me to do, they have a lot of important information. They will have chats to the children or parents that I don't hear, that they fill me in on things that I would have missed out, so we put the puzzle together.
Yeah great, thank you so much for that really thinking about the way you use reflective practice. And so again, some of you might be sitting here thinking actually I really do need to generate a bit more of an engagement around that process so that we've got a bit of a rigorous process around gathering information. So Teigan, do you want to take us through a practice principle that particularly resonates for you as we navigate this space?
I think the main one that's obvious to me as the educator on the panel is the partnership with professionals. I have, whilst I am not an educator, I have experience working in the early education space both working alongside and building partnerships with early educators, but also as an early education and care manager for a short stint across some long day care centres. So I have seen it from both sides, and I think one of my big passions and learning within that is looking at how that partnership is established and what the goals of it are and defining clear roles within it. And the, I think our comfort zone when we're looking at a challenging situation is what we know really well and what we would try in. And so as a psychologist I will often come at it from quite a clinical way of thinking and we'll have the education approach and the language between the two doesn't always align even if we're meaning the same things. And the way that I might say something might really be triggering for someone else and very much not how we talk in this space and vice versa. So the way that I've seen some beautiful partnerships and the most effective partnerships be built is in what we call the transdisciplinary model. So we've got multidisciplinary with these different disciplines who do their own thing. So you've got a psychologist who looks at it from a psychology perspective. Speech pathologist who looks from the speech pathology perspective the educator from the educational perspective. And you bring all that to the table and that's great. I think that's our comfort zone. But what the research shows us is most effective is that transdisciplinary approach where we start to get some role release. So we genuinely work together to, as the psychologist I release some of my role and provide the appropriate training and support, for you to be able to be competent to do that as an educator or as another therapist. But it also has to happen the other way, I needed to educator that I'm working in partnership with to release some of their roles into me so I can build up that shared language. I can understand what their goals are and where they're at in their planning cycle. And so bringing I guess that transdisciplinary model to be a true partnership. So when you walk into a room if there's a professional in the room, my ideal scenario and I've seen it work beautifully is that you don't know who the psych, you don't know who the teacher is because everyone's on the same page.
And you want to be generating that sense in your service to on a daily basis. Because for example some children might find arrival to the early childhood program a little bit stressful, some of us all find coming into a new space a little bit stressful, some children, you know don't mind it at all. But you can imagine if say you're a person at the front desk at an early childhood service and you have an administrative role. Your role in welcoming the children and saying, hello and you know giving that really fantastic welcome right at the front door, I know some of you don't have services that have that sort of shape to them, but some of you do. That there's a way that we can involve people in administration, the cook. You know, all these different people who are part of it, people who might regularly visit you from your approved provider or from your early years manager, a whole range of different people, as well as clinicians as you say, maternal and child health nurses, we're all working together. And I think that's the, we know that happens for children who have particular diagnoses, but we want to make sure that partnership works also for all children. So that helps to build your capacity to understand children in more detail.
Yeah and I think having the, there's always that risk for that role release that we go too far and we assume we can do everything, I will never be a great educator. I know some of the principals, I can talk the talk but I'm never going to be as good as someone who specialises in that. And so knowing those boundaries and knowing when to refer on and bring in that additional support. So you mentioned before when to refer on children when things are getting too much.
Tricky yeah and maybe we'll come back to that Teigan in terms of practical strategies because I think that is helpful to say when is it that I need to do that? Because of course, for many children as both Sally and Leanne had suggested that this is just the normal part of navigating your day, but there might be a time when you might need to go, okay what do I need to do next? So we might come back to that in terms of practical strategies. Leanne how about you? What of the practice principles in the Victorian Early Years and Development Framework particularly stands out to you? I'm sure you will be fierce agreement with some of the things that we've said already but what's your thoughts?
Do you mind if I just respond to something that Teigan said?
Before I respond to that Catharine please. Teigan when you were talking then I was thinking about being an 18 year old at uni which was some time ago and what my image of an educator or teacher was at that point of my training. And then when I'd finished uni and I was one year, two year, five years, 10 years, 15, 20 years out of uni, my image of the teacher kept shifting and changing because I began, I feel like I began to come to know myself in a different way in this space and I was re-defining and re-imagining what my image of a teacher is of an educator. And I feel like what you've just described is exactly what happens in our practice and probably everyone that's here today all have connections with all of those other professionals the way we need to work together. I can tell you with my hand on my heart, when I went to uni I had no idea that that would probably be the work that I was doing. And so I think I, Catharine I just wanted to take a moment to say that, I know I transgress a bit but I think our image of children is really important and if we see children as capable and competent, it will and we go into moments with children and moments of learning and living with children. I always say to families that we live at kindergarten together.
Yeah we do.
We don't just learn at kindergarten together we live here all day, all week, all year. And so we enter this space with children with an image of a strong, capable, competent, curious child. But I think we have to also say, well what is my image of myself, ourselves? Then I asked myself what is my image of the environment and the impact that that has, what is my image of education, what is education for? And then to get to your point, what is image of families? And so I am fiercely agreeing with what Sally said, And I think reflective practice just covers all things, It's like this umbrella for all things, but in relation to families, I think the thing that I've learned and it took some time to learn this is that I think listening just, it just cannot be emphasised enough. And you know, in the space of reconciliation if we go there for a quick moment, it really is predominantly about listening, it's about relationships, it's about respect. And so if we're talking about children and self-regulation is that not about listening? Is that not about relationships and respect? And so I think I've come to understand Carla Rinaldi form Reggio Emilia talks a lot about the pedagogy of listening and I would really encourage people to look into that more deeply, if that is something you'd like to do. And she talks about listening for information and understanding rather than listening to have a reply.
This is good advice, isn't it?
Yeah that practice principle about engaging with families and the participation in families, just those words, engagement with families, participating with families, I see them to be much deeper than families being involved. And I think we need to maybe unpack some of the words that we use sometimes maybe without just thinking about them with intent. And so some of our reflective practice could be about well is participation of families the same as families being involved? Is the engagement of families the same? I don't think they are, but I think we all need to work out what that is for ourselves.
So for us they're different. And so for me, the practice principle about the engagement with families is really critical and could I just tell a quick story, maybe that gives an example of that.
We're currently meeting with families about whether children moving on to school next year or having a second funded year of kinder might be in the best interest for their children. So we're having some really challenging conversations with some families and the responses that we're getting back from families couldn't be more different. So some families nearly wrapped their arms around you. One father had his hands like this and he wasn't being religious but he was being very spiritual in saying thank you for bringing this to our attention. And because of my and our relationship with his family, we could have that hard conversation. But then other families, some were very rude in fact and some were very hurtful and I left in tears to be honest at one meeting last week. And it doesn't get easier sometimes, but I have to keep telling myself I need the family as much as they need me, we are a partner, we are, we have to be.
A partnership yes.
Exactly and so I had to find another way to be with that family that they left upset and I left upset because yeah there would be many reasons for it.
And I guess Leanne what you're reminding us of there is the importance of ethical relationships with families, those partnerships that we create to give the context around who children are and how they navigate that space. Because you know, for some families a conversation around children's self-regulation and their behaviour is going to be something that, you know that sounds okay, that's something that I might've been talking about at home with my family, etc, but for potentially for other families it's a difficult conversation. So we can just talk practically for a second, do you talk about children's behaviour and self regulation with all families? Do you talk about that?
We do it in different ways at different times of the year and through different examples.
But the bottom line is yes. And we do it in different ways that that looks different, there's a small bit of it in our philosophy, there's a small bit of it on our website, there's a bit of a parent handbook. We unpack it at the parent night in February when families are first being welcomed in some of the exchanges that go home with families with documentation of children's learning, we link it into some of the learning that's going on, very much especially in those early days where we're talking about children developing a sense of identity, place and belonging at kindergarten and why this is part of all of that. Look, another quick story is that this week we just got some most beautiful knitted little dolls, they're called identity dolls of each of the children. So each of the children were interviewed to see what they would like their doll to look like, a friend has knitted them all. And so this was an opportunity to talk to the families about why we've got the dolls, what it means in relation to identity, but what it means in relation to children learning more about themselves to learn more about their identity.
And their self-regulation and who they are in relation to other children. You can see that sort of strategy being really practical.
Yeah and not assuming that just because I use the word as an educator identity, that I know that every family is going to know what I mean by that. So I need to unpack that through storytelling and through narrative with our families. And we have a lot of families with English as a second or third language. And so photographs work really, very helpful for that space and making sure every day we go out and talk to three, four, five people each.
So we can unpack something with them.
Well and I think you're helping us hit in the direction of practicalities. Because I know that there are people here who want to hear from you about your tips, you know, what actually works in terms of supporting children to understand their own selves, to move to their top deck. So if you like it with thinking about that car analogy, as you said or the boat analogy it's what's on that ladder, you know, like what are the rungs on that ladder? So Sally do you want to share some of the strategies that have worked for you in terms of supporting, we've heard from Leanne in terms of multiple conversations with families over many, many ways. But what some of things that have worked for you in terms of supporting children's behaviour and self-regulation?
Look there's a variety of things that of course it, it depends where the self-regulation issues are coming from, but I sort of, I brainstorm a whole heap of things and I thought, well we're going to look at a few good ones.
Yeah good ones are the top ones .
Well something that I always have in my program all the time is a retreat space. And it's, so that children have a place where they can go, at the moment the last two terms we've got a box for one which is a large box.
For one and it's got a number one, and the one person on the front so it shows it's the one. And some years I need to put a line on the floor, this year I had the line on floor that you can't go past that line because there's one person having some time in there to themselves. And it's got cushions, it's got a little, it's got a mesh curtain on the front so you can, we can see that someone's in there. Some years it becomes black, the children the last two weeks have been grabbing the blanket from inside and putting it on the outside, so it's really dark in there. So we always have that, I also have another sort of a retreat space. It's I don't know if anyone's heard of sand tray therapy. We have a, it's a constant and it's a sand tray, it's in a blue, painted blue wooden box. It has a variety of characters and materials that you can use in it. And I add to this across the year, I start with some basics then you never take anything away you only add. And it's surrounded by, again, a sort of a sparkly blue curtain that you can see through, it's a space. Sometimes for one this year, it's been for two from the start of the year again it's got a two picture on it and it's positioned so the children have their back to the room and they go in there and they can play in any way they want.
So really a safe space.
A space that you can see, you know, you can take them safe but a space where they can retreat away from other children and presumably you've set that up and taught children quite clearly, an adult led way about what it's for and why go in there.
That's right. So some children go there are suggested to go there, some children go here on their own. So it's an open way to use that resource but it's a constant, it's always there. And another thing that's constant in my room is I always have some sensory material of some sort, I try and have a tub of something that flows. At the moment it's just become either large gigantos red tub filled with rice, it's got glitter, it's got little stars in it, lots of pouring filling containers, it's actually positioned below the front window, so they can actually watch their parents coming and going from the window. So if they are having a separation problem, it's a really nice place for them just to be in that way with that flowing material while they're watching their mum or dad.
Why the flowing material Sally? What's the thing about the flowingness, the water, the?
It's a soothing relaxing sensory material. So we've had rice, we've had wet sand, we've had dry sand, we've had slime, but I always have something that flows in the room always have available water outside too. But seasonally sometimes it's a bit cold to have water inside.
So that. Would you still have those sensory experiences out for children even if it's a cold day?
Oh yeah, all the time.
Yeah and usually we have clay or Play-Doh available at some point during the day. Most times I have that occasionally I don't, but mostly I have one or the other.
Of course you do. Okay and one more for us?
One other thing really important is catch them being good, that's my catch phrase. And reminding the staff all the time and when I have these parent conversations too, don't forget to tell them what they are doing well, we are very good at the things that they're not doing well and you can do this. And it's great to see that, I've got a couple of little girls who've been having some really difficult friendship times that was like, love, hate relationships. And we've been reminding ourselves to say, hey so-and-so, I can see that you're playing really well with so-and-so that's great to see, I'm going to make sure your mum knows about that too, because that was great to see that it makes us feel good, it makes you feel good.
Yeah and it takes that consistency idea really strongly into the space too to say let's be consistent with that and let's everybody work in that space to ensure that we're giving those consistent messages. Thank you very much Sally, I'm conscious of time. So let's go to you Teigan, Teigan some practical strategies. And I've got a question in here about an inclusion plan and a behaviour plan. And maybe you can help us just out with, you know, when things, some practical things about developing plans, can you give us a sense of some of those practical strategies?
Yeah I think the, in terms of developing any type of plan there, looking at the why things are occurring is really important because I find one of the things that's often missing from plans, whether it's written by an educator or a therapist, kind of a universal missing thing is what is the replacement behaviour or skills that a child would benefit from. So if it's rushing to the front of the line, we want, might want to teach them to wait. And so we often think around what do we want them to, scaffold them to calm? But that replacement behaviour is often missing.
So what else needs to happen? Not just where were to stop, what we want to help children to learn.
I might take that proactive approach and I love Sally when you were talking around proactively teaching children to use those spaces because that's teaching them how to regulate their body and calm their body and all those physiological things. And then once the body's calm, that behaviour was occurring for a reason, whether it was to escape something or to gain something, so what can they do instead? What's that missing link for them. So I think inclusion and behaviour plans, the terms are often used interchangeably. I think a good behaviour plan will have that, what else to do. A good inclusion plan is going to look at how to support the child to meaningfully participate in daily life. And that's what the behaviour plan is going to help them do as well.
And I guess also we're going to, we want to point people in the direction of some of the other resources that are available on the Department of Education and Training's Website. So we've got, there's KIS funding. People know about some of those things already and we'll put some of those links into the chat function too. So and there's some suggestions on the screen here, preschool field officers, we want to encourage our colleagues to connect with that. And of course, a whole range of modules that are online as well that are freely available for people to have a look at in more detail. So could gives some guidance in that space. So thank you for reminding us about those sorts of things Teigan. Teigan if you've got any other just another quick tip for people to practically implement.
Yeah, look one of my pet hates is teaching children to take big breaths because we often do it, not great.
So it can be done really, really, really well. And I've seen it come up in the chat a few times, so kind of to want to put my hat on and say often when we ask children to take big breaths we say, let me show you there you go So that actually mimics the physiological reaction of hyperventilating and that anxious kind of yellow zone, heart beating fast promotes that heart rate to actually increase rather than decrease. So when we're teaching children proactively to take deep breaths when they're calm, so they can do it when they're feeling fine and calm
Okay good tip there.
Down low and whether it's putting stuff down and putting something on their belly and having a belly up and down or even putting their hands on their stomach and pulling forward and feeling it fall into their stomach. But also keeping in mind with that, that children who have experienced a lot of trauma in particular or quite a challenging upbringing, will naturally have a higher heart rate because they live in that fight or flight zone. So something like deep breathing might actually be more dis-regulating for them because it's not their comfort zone.
And again you're reminding us I think there to, make sure you access the resources and materials that are there in specialist spaces like trauma informed practice. We know that there's lots of options for people to do that have conversations with your preschool field officer, have conversations with your inclusion support professionals that you might be engaging with using school readiness funding etc, that that will help you to navigate some of that space. But I guess if, when in doubt, we want to have conversations with people like you Teigan to say what do we need to do, is this the right strategy? And I love the idea of maybe teaching children, some of that deep breathing when everything is fine and calm so that they can use it in some of those other circumstances. I'm really conscious of time and I know we want to keep people just at the exactly the right hour that we've got. So Leanne can you take us quickly into a couple of key suggestions from you, very practical before we conclude?
We use puppets a lot.
I think that's really important to have them available, it's works really well for us. A range of different types, finger puppets, hand puppets, marionettes etc for children in their own play, but we as educators use puppets a lot at group time. So if there has been some things that have been challenging let's say in the block space, it could be anywhere. And we want to have a conversation with that, with the group we bring the problem back to the group and we don't talk about people's names, we obviously don't identify people, but we do have two resident puppets, a dog and a crow another story for another day about why that is. But the dog and the crow have names, they've got personalities, they're part of the group. So we named them when we're talking about who's here today like, they really belong. And so the problem in the blocks becomes a problem between the two puppets and then we say to the children this happened with this one, this happened with this, what could they do tomorrow? What else could Squeaky have said to Claude? You know and so it depersonalises it. And if you glance to the children that we know did actually have the problem in the blocks. They are so in tune, they are watching closely and there's no need to say who it is, we would never ethically nor respectfully ever do that. But we, they know.
They know. So puppets are really helpful for us and I guess sometimes we find another tip for us is that why sometimes, I guess we call it we loan children language until we feel that they've got an ability to develop that and use that in their own way. And so for some children saying to somebody else, I was really disappointed that you didn't mind my scooter, you said you were going to. That's hard, that's a really a hard thing.
It's a hard thing.
Even though that is what happened and that probably is what they're feeling. So we feel it's okay for us, we talk about loaning children words or loaning children phrases or.
Rather than expecting them to say it.
Some can and then, but for those that either emotionally in that moment they can't, or they just developmentally for their language skills yet haven't reached that space. And then at some point you think hmm, that's a long time since I loaned that child language like they're onto it.
I think they've got the ladder is being formed for them, they are doing some of that climbing themselves because you've scaffolded and supported children to be able to get to that top deck. I'm really conscious of time, Sally are you going to add one thing before we finish?
What would you like me to add?
Well no it's all right, I just thought you might have a, you were thinking of saying something extra thing but we really right on the end of our session today and I'm really conscious of people needing to get away and do other things in their lives, so can I thank you all for your participation today. I think our colleagues online here really have valued hearing the practical ways that you think about this. I really recognise the deep thinking that all of you have brought to this. You know, it really reminds us how important that thinking process is as we start to make the curriculum decisions that we make on a daily basis, how are we going to use the puppets? What are we going to do when we set up a space for children to retreat to? So I really appreciate your sharing with us those ideas. I know that there's many educators online who've got their ideas and tips themselves and some of them have shared those already, so thank you very much for doing that. We will weave some of those into the conversations we'll have with Cathrine Nielsen-Hewett next time and we'll also pick that up again on our next panel. So thank you very much everybody for being a part of it, thank you very much for our panelists for being a part of our conversation. Thank you very much everyone and good evening.