Sunrise Preschool of WWD Melbourne, Australia

By Didi Ananda Tapomaya, September 2007

It has been a busy year with a new Kinder teacher settling in and us reviewing all the paperwork (policies and procedures) and making sure everything is in order for an inspection due early October. The inspector or a validator, as s/he is called here in Australia, is a part of the Accreditation system, which is designed to ensure the quality of care for children in childcare centres and preschools. It is an on-going and multileveled process, which at first looks like a bureaucrat’s dream, but later becomes an effective tool for evaluating one’s level of work. All the staff and families are involved in the process. Areas covered are:

  • 1) Staff interactions with children
  • 2) Families’ participation
  • 3) Programming and evaluation
  • 4) Children’s experiences and learning
  • 5) Protective care and safety
  • 6) Health, nutrition and wellbeing
  • 7) Management

As the spring is slowly coming to this part of the world, we asked the children how they would like to celebrate this season. A series of fascinating meetings started where it was the children who brainstormed ideas and then looked at how they could be materialised. They discussed different solutions to problems and then decided who would do what, etc. When asked how they could let others know about the proposed spring celebration, children suggested cards, little notes and a poster. One girl (4 yrs) suggested putting fairy-lights (electric Xmas lights) around the poster, and when I said we could look if the cables could reach, she responded with a new idea: instead of fairy-lights we could use coloured paper on a dark background! What surprised me most was

that the children remembered what they had suggested in the earlier ‘meeting’ the week before. Like a boy (4 yrs) who in the following meeting took his own idea further, first telling us shyly that it was his idea in the first place! The three year olds didn’t seem to participate as much as the older children, but they observed very keenly the discussion and contributed mainly when the different cakes were discussed. The five year olds seemed very interested in the fact that all their ideas and everyone’s input were recorded on our home-made white board. One of the purposes of this activity was to give children experience in problem solving. Another purpose which one could observe happening immediately was to ‘empower’ children, giving them a say in the planning of activities. One could see so many happy, contented expressions around as children continued their day with an increased degree of self-esteem.
Two of our staff have enrolled in the Introductory course of Neohumanism. Enza, the kinder Teacher, says she is enjoying it, although at times it is hard to find time to study. She sees a difference when comparing the NH course to her university studies. At the university you are only expected to follow the text-book, whereas the NH course asks one to be more personally involved; to meditate and to keep a diary of one’s personal growth. She feels she is allowed to figure out things first and then to put them in practice in her work with children. Joanna, the Childcare Worker, has taken the
determination to complete the NH course by end of the year. She finds it hard to be regular in her meditation, while living in a house with lively house-mates. Wish we had a magic formula that would create great neohumanist minds instantly! But maybe the secret lies in the process, on the journey of discovery- not only in children’s but in the educators’ minds and hearts too.