The Children’s Village at Bridlewood is one of four licensed school age programs operated by the long standing and respected Children’s Village of Ottawa-Carleton. I am the program supervisor and I get to experience the best of both worlds by splitting my time in both the office and on the floor as a team teacher. Our agency takes pride in its programs, the fostering of connectedness between staff, parents, colleagues and most importantly the children. We also value the overall impact of connectedness on learning and behaviour.
A colleague of mine recently brought to my attention a discussion she had with one of our children, a seven year old boy. He had counted the hours he was at school in a day and compared it to how many hours he spent at home with his family. “Miss, did you know I’m at school for ten hours? That is more time than I am with my family and more time than I am asleep”. Educators and operators of before and after-school programs know this realization all too well. For me, working under the motto “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” means we aren’t just educators, we are a family away from home to these children.
A good first step is for educators to connect with their families, their children and take charge of the important role they play in each child’s social and emotional wellbeing. You can start by obtaining and familiarizing oneself with information concerning exceptionalities, allergies, family dynamics, medical conditions, etc… This information can be reviewed in a timely manner when a child enrolls in your centre.
Meet the teacher is not simply a time for parents to meet and greet their child’s educator but a wonderful opportunity and possibly the sole time for educators to showcase their safe and healthy learning environments.
Classroom connectedness starts with educators caring about the children as individuals and recognizing the many learning possibilities amongst the various temperaments and classroom dynamics. Educators who care about learning as well as each individual child create a positive, healthy and well balanced learning environment. Furthermore, it enables children to feel connected to their educators by building trusting relationships, respecting each other and in turn benefiting from a number of positive experiences.
The foundation for classroom connectedness begins with ambience and is followed by a strong commitment to the children. A learning environment should be dynamic and engaging for children. What would you think about a cluttered classroom or one with nothing on the walls? Keep decor related to both the children’s interests and lessons/projects on the go. An inviting room that is clutter free with space for movement and a variety of learning opportunities is essential.
Children deserve commitment and should expect consistency from the educators. Build a rapport with each child. Remember to look them in the eye when you speak, not over your shoulder as you wash the last paint brush or scrub the sand table clean, pay attention to what they have to say, mean what you say and follow through with expectations.
Our agency emphasizes the positives, rather than the negatives and believes that by having consistent reinforcement in place leads to less classroom management and behavioural challenges. Our Kindergarten program recently started the “Gotcha” wall which features Post-it notes written by educators and children to showcase acts of kindness.
Other key components in fostering connectedness include children’s individual successes, collaborating with community partners and educator core ideals. An idea is to involve children in taking attendance or create helper jobs. We work closely in partnership with parents, teachers, and outside agencies such as CISS to meet the needs of all of our children. We believe that we can learn from children, just as children know they learn from us. When children are in an inclusive, respectful, community oriented environment, they know your role as an educator can go both ways.
I can only hope these ideas will help you create an environment where children will thrive. Connectedness fosters the way!
Leevie Hart, RECE
The Children’s Village at Bridlewood