Service Spotlight: Imagine Childcare and Kindergarten
Imagine Childcare & Kindergarten is an 84-place childcare centre located in Blakeview, South Australia. The centre has been operating for two years. We currently have 174 children enrolled and employ thirty-seven staff.
Whilst the Connect.Ed Training was a centre wide initiative, I will be discussing the effects of the training from the perspective of the Kindergarten Classroom. Our Kindergarten Team consists of two Educators who have recently completed their Certificate 3 qualifications, and myself, an Early Childhood Teacher with over 35 years of experience.
When I arrived at the centre in September 2021, the Kindergarten Classroom was experiencing challenges with some of the children’s behaviour. This had begun to leave team members feeling downhearted and frustrated. Some of the behaviours displayed, included aggression toward peers and staff and a lack of resilience.
After implementing more structure by incorporating a routine and some non-negotiable guidelines, we did see some improvement. However, we still felt that we could be better meeting the needs of the children. When we heard that we would be undertaking Connect.Ed Training, staff were apprehensive at first, unsure if another behaviour management program was the answer that was needed.
Chloe was the Child Development Practitioner allocated to our service. Chloe has a background in childcare, so immediately many of the staff felt a connection with her, feeling that she understood what we were all experiencing. Chloe always showed empathy and encouragement. She would point out the positive rather than the negative. Chloe’s passion and enthusiasm helped staff to embrace the support from Connect.Ed.
The Kindergarten Classroom Educators then consciously set out to form solid connections between themselves and the children. We got down on the children’s level and listened intently to them. We gave more hugs or a gentle reassuring hand on a shoulder or back. We started to observe interactions more closely. We started to notice patterns in behaviour leading up to the disruptive behaviour. And, as the Educators fostered relationships with the children, they in turn began to seek connection with the Educators in productive and positive, rather than disruptive, ways.
We designed a Calm Corner consisting of cushions, throws, cuddly toys, sensory toys, and books. We draped a large piece of material from the ceiling and softened the fabric with netting and fairy lights. We added a diffuser to add calming aromas to the space. We also placed pastel inspirational posters, including deep breathing techniques, which we implemented with the children using their fingers to trace while breathing in and out.
After reducing ‘visual noise’, we discovered that we were able to hear and observe the needs of the children. For some children it was obvious what was needed. However, some children took a little longer, and some children we are still discovering the strategies needed.
I would never wish to imply it was as easy as setting up a calm corner and spending some more time talking with each child. It was the time taken examining our own beliefs regarding behaviour, trauma, and connection, which promoted us to question, reflect, and address our own belief system. This is challenging, as we all have a wide and diverse series of events which has embedded these beliefs in us. The Connect.Ed Project challenged our belief systems and asked us to open ourselves to look a little deeper. We discovered it was well worth the effort to undertake the Connect.Ed Training, for the children in our Kindergarten Classroom and our Kindergarten Team, too.
The Innovative Solutions Support (ISS) funding is available through the Inclusion Support Program (ISP) to assist eligible early childhood education and care services to fund innovative, flexible and responsive solutions to barriers to inclusion and embed inclusive practices.
Innovative Solutions Support provides flexible funding to empower services to carefully consider their inclusion challenges and take on an active role in finding solutions and build their capacity and capability to include children with additional needs.
For more information about the funding, please contact the South Australia Inclusion Agency email@example.com
Connect.Ed can support early childhood education and care services to implement trauma-informed practice, using a regulatory and relationship-based approach. This approach is different to a ‘traditional’ behaviour-management approach and, instead, focuses on supporting children to regulate their emotional experiences using their emotional connection with Educators.
For more information about accessing support from Connect.Ed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Words: Sue Mellier
Sue is an Early Childhood Teacher at Imagine Childcare and Kindergarten
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Summer 2023