Tag Archives: Early Years

What I’ve learnt as a teacher … so far.

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Okay, so I haven’t been a teacher for very long, this is my second year and it’s safe I haven’t gone the traditional route, heading straight overseas after graduating to an International school in the Philippines ( and quickly resigning after realising it didn’t count as a well maintained building, never mind a school) However I was fortunate enough to land in a great job here in Indonesia and I feel like I’ve traveled a long way as a teacher already ..

So here are some of my insights ..

1.  I can make mistakes and it’s okay! It’s not the end of the world, and providing I learn from them, they enrich the teaching experience both for the students and myself. What a realisation after the numerous stressful observations in my placements at uni. I can say to my students, ‘You know what, that didn’t work but let’s try it this way’ or ‘Oh dear, Ms. Kielly totally forgot about that, oops’ and they just giggle! It helps them in their understanding that everybody is a learner, and all I expect from them is that they try their best. No more. And they do! They think ‘If Miss Kielly can make mistakes, so can I! ‘Or at least that’s what I imagine they tell themselves. If I think about it, it’s probably more like ‘giggle … ‘Miss Kielly is soooooo silly!’

2. Encouragement is key, my 4 year olds want to please their teacher more than anything. I give the the positive praise they need to try even in things they find difficult like learning letter formation, or blending sounds, or even writing their name. I’ve learnt that creating a positive, encouraging environment where my students feel safe and happy, one in which they love coming to everyday is more important than anything because if they don’t feel this, their experiences at school are altered totally. I think I’ve been successful this year. My students are happy, confident learners who tell me how much they love school everyday. They give me hugs and blow me kisses from the playground. They shower me with flowers they’ve ripped off a bush. ( I have tried telling them I prefer to see the flowers on the bush, living, but when I see how excited they are to give me such a gift, I just shrug and think, let them have their little pleasures.) Bless them and their sweet nature. When they’ve been off sick, their parents tell me how desperate they were to come back to school. When I helped them mark on the calendar our 3 day holiday for Chinese New Year, most of them moaned with drawn out sighs at the thought of no school. LOL! Those who didn’t were so genuinely excited, I was excited for them. Especially when I know how valuable holidays are to a teacher and how much we love them and look forward to them too!

3. Early years teaching is so much fun and something I love to do. When I first began, I wasn’t sure. I thought it wasn’t totally for me. Then I was lucky enough to be able to attend a great PD in Bali all about play based inquiry learning in the Early Years. Boy did that change my perspective. I remember feeling so conflicted in myself at the course initially. Then it just seemed to change, about the end of the second day. I came back inspired, motivated, excited. And that’s continued in my practice ever since. I love the early years and genuinely appreciate the students total intrinsic enthusiasm, curiosity and love for learning.

4 The hard work is totally worth it. Seeing my students excitement in their success, their joy in grasping a new concept, a new skill. Seeing them proudly dragging their parents over to the writing table at the end of the day to show their mum that they can now write their name is priceless. Seeing their amazed faces watching an Imovie of themselves I’ve slaved over for hours at home makes it worth it. Seeing them accomplish something new and knowing how far they’ve come in their journey over the year is just the best feeling ever. I am so proud of each of them. They’ve all achieved so much.

5. Getting parents on board is vital. Having their support is amazing. It’s totally worth all the effort. I’m not a parent, but I can appreciate the worry in getting a new teacher, wanting their child to be happy and successful and as a teacher to 4 year olds, I can only imagine how hard it is to leave your child at school at that age. I feel an overwhelming responsibility to look after and nurture these tiny human beings as much as I can. I want to share with their parents, as much as possible, the successes and achievements of their child, of the whole class so they can be as involved as possible. The long road to getting them on board is also valuable say when I need their support, say for example in sending in photos of their family from home … this year I got photos from every child, without fail within a week and only one reminder email! 😀 One parent told me she and tons of the other mum’s and dad’s  want me to be their child’s teacher next year. What an awesome feeling knowing they trust and support me so much! I’ve also helped some parents in their journey in understanding of an inquiry play based curriculum and why it’s so appropriate and right for early childhood students through workshops I’ve helped plan and deliver, articles and links I’ve sent them and conversations with them. We are all learners.

6. I’ve learnt what does work and what doesn’t in my learning space. Having a table half hidden around a corner does not work and not only encourages children to get up to naughtiness but is actually a blatant symbol for doing so to a 4 year old! Replacing it with the computers which are independent and fuss free (except for the odd complaint of someone not sharing) was a much better idea. Leaving all the resources on shelves does not work if I expect students to be able to select resources themselves as well as tidy them all up. A selection is better. Having a Box House as a ‘dark room ‘ to explore night and day for our UOI was ridiculously fun for the children but descended into chaos and every possible resource being dragged into it and left in a mess which often meant 10 whole minutes of tidying up from the children.

7. Creating Essential agreements with my class was not as hard as I imagined. 4 year children are totally capable of understanding this concept, if approached in the right way and have fantastic ideas. They know what is expected of them, and thinking of them themselves gave them ownership of the classroom and was much, much more effective than ‘Teacher Rules.’ Revising them with the children after two months made them even better, asking the children to think about what we had agreed and what we might want to change now we were 2 months into class. Laboriously talking about them everyday and referring to them …. all the time in the first few months was essential and continuing to refer to them to help remind children of them has helped keep them fresh and important in their minds. My students work together in a very collaborative fashion and I can see they follow common agreements and shared understandings, evident in the way they interact with each other and their teachers. They have a social gel which is wonderful to see. Putting in the hard work and effort (including waiting … forever to print out coloured photos, and walking back to the printer numerous times to see if they had arrived virtually) to create a large display of the essential agreements, displayed prominently on our board right in front of our carpet area, with photos of the children helped enormously. These students can’t read yet, so visual cues are vital and they just LOVE to see themselves in photos, anytime, anywhere. Total excitement.

8. Offering and giving responsibility to my students works remarkably well in helping them to be responsible students and makes my job a thousand times easier as a result. Tidying up time is blissful (well that might be an exaggeration but it is a thousand times easier than last year, I don’t even need a tidy up song anymore! Success!) . I virtually do nothing other than help direct children to an area which needs cleaning .. and they run to do it! They almost fight over who gets a sponge to help clean tables or mess from the floor. They get excited when I show them new cleaning equipment such as a dustpan and brush and can’t wait for an opportunity to use it. Today, walking my class to the library was the best feeling of accomplishment! Bear in mind, our classroom is FAR from the library. At the beginning of the year, I used to dread the walk to the library. 14 small children running along the path, or off the path. Loudly screaming in excitement. Running straight into people who might also be trying to use the path, heaven forbid at the same time. Often these people stopped, unsure what to do with the sight of 14 tiny children running towards them on a race to the library, wildly swinging yellow bags with sharp cornered books in the air. Through months and months of constant reminders, praise and reinforcement, my children walk to the library as the smartest children in school (Well, I am biased!) … I have talked them through the whole practice of walking together and waiting at certain spots, such as doors, the pond, the maps which dot our route every time we walk out of our classroom to go anywhere. That we need to stick together, as a group, meaning we don’t race to be there first, before I’ve even got past Topeng building. That we need to move to one side when we see other people on the path. That we won’t swing our bags wildly all over the place. Well, yesterday, I practically strolled in leisure, chatting to excited children who wanted to share their stories with me, as I watched the children walking ahead, stopping at every ‘waiting spot’. They patiently waited, excitedly finding where they were on the map or stood searching for fish or frogs in the pond whilst we all caught up. They stood at the door, blocking it, like Policemen, waving their arms or folding them like a bouncer saying to the other children approaching  “Stop! Wait! Teachers open the door’. They did not run up the stairs, nor did they run across the all too exciting bridge to the elementary library. They were amazing! Of course, we totally had a praise overload, in the hope that our next visit and walk next week will be as peaceful and successful. What little superstars!

9. Working with colleagues is harder than the students. No need to elaborate. Students are easy. Adults are much, much harder.

10. Becoming more organised in approaching mega tasks or deadlines such as reports. Start as early as possible. Think ahead. Work smart. Recognizing my weaknesses such as keeping a classroom tidy. I swear, it’s part of working in the early years. Well, I would say that but … having 28 tiny hands moving things, having to multi task managing the classroom as I am being given letters/ forms/ things  means I invariably put them down on any surface. Covering my desk with all manner of things, most of which I don’t need there. ( I can actually think of a bottle of Balsamic Vinegar sitting my my desk, right at this minute that I brought in once for a salad I made for lunch in like October, yes… really… ) I make an attempt to tidy when I walk into my classroom and look at it in disgust, when I can’t find something I need because it could literally be anywhere. At the end of last year, we had to empty our classrooms. This was my first emptying of a classroom I had inhabited ever. That’s when I realised what a total pig I was. Keisha and Mel will tell you exactly how messy it was because I bet ( actually, I KNOW) they remember it vividly. Behind every corner, every piece of furniture, on every shelf was something … it could have been anything …  something I was sure I would use again, would need, but obviously could never ever find when I remembered I had it. Finding pieces of jigsaws or games in dusty, never seen before spaces. Being ridiculously frustrated at the whole task. That’s when I realised I could never again let my classroom be that disorganised. And I have made a conscientious effort this year to try harder. I’ve come to accept nobody else will ever clean my cupboard .. or my desk, or the empty (initially) tantalizing flat tops of shelves which invite me to place things on them …  no matter how much I wish somebody would! If I want to be able to find something, I need to actually be able to walk in my cupboard. I need to take resources back to the library regularly instead of the library being empty because I have them all! I say this, and I know I am better this year. To be fair. anything would be an improvement. I have a box in my cupboard for random things I find, which I know are part of something, so at the end of the year, I can put them all back in the right boxes/ games. (Hmm, reading that sentence, I’m not sure how tidy that sounds really!) But I do know how busy I am and how little time I have to do these things. I tidied my cupboard yesterday after feeling sick of not being able to walk in it without tripping over something (often a random bag of junk collected for junk modelling or large resources such as a basketball hoop (which thinking of, I should just return to wherever it came from, I’ll remember where if I think hard enough about it) ) .. I emptied my desk a little. I can only try. And at least, by about May, I’ll know about the end of year clean out and make a huge effort to clean and organise in preparation. Never again will I repeat last year. Ever.

11. Realizing that my ideas are as valid as other peoples and I have a lot to contribute to discussions and planning/ ideas. Realizing we are all learning, no matter where we are on our journey as a teacher and learner.

12. Choosing which battles to fight, when to bite my tongue, which if you know me, you will know this has taken a long time to learn and which I am still learning to do. Accepting to let things go, knowing which ones I should fight for. Not going into meetings like a raging bull in a China shop. Learning patience. Learning how to work with people and how to come across as reasonable, even if I feel furious. Knowing when not to reply to emails, if I know it will be laced with sarcasm or bitterness. Giving myself time to calm down and come back to something. Know if I can’t be loving, to be kind. If I can’t be kind, be polite. Never less.

13. Realizing I am actually good at this. Seeing the progress my students make and knowing how I have helped in that respect. Seeing how far I have come in my journey. Accepting there are lots of things to learn, being excited about this and appreciating the successes so far. Allowing myself to give myself credit for what I have done instead of being too hard on myself in moments of worry or stress. Enjoying the moment, the experience. Excited for the future 😀

Early Years Teaching is Fun !

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Here’s a video I made of my students showing how they develop the 10 attributes of the IB Learner Profile in our Early Years Classroom. Enjoy!

Oh my goodness, the fun I have teaching 4-5 year olds totally makes up for the hard work I put in every day. They literally make me giggle everyday. Thought I’d share some of my thoughts on why I love teaching the teeny children!

1. They are hilariously funny. Once, I asked one of my boys if he had made a gun with the construction toys … knowing this was disapproved of, he looked at me and said … ‘No.’ I said, ‘Oh wow that’s funny because it really looks like a gun! What is it then?’ He replies ‘ I can’t tell you, it’s a secret!’ . Ha, quick thinking there! I let him continue with his game. Another time, two of my boys were being ‘Pirates’ and searching for treasure around the classroom using tubes for telescopes. Peering through his telescope, one of the boys said ‘I see Treasure! Come’ motioning to his friend. To which his friend stared at him with disdain and said ‘No, don’t be silly – that’s the rubbish bin!’. Absolutely classic. Today, singing our ‘continent song’, one of my funniest boys looked at me and said ‘I don’t like this song, we live in Indonesia and it doesn’t say Indonesia in the song! He was somewhat placated when I told him Indonesia was in Asia but only just. LOL. I showed them a video once of my scuba diving (I’m big on sharing with them the enormity and beauty of our earth and helping them know there’s a whole wide world out there for them to explore) and ever since then, everytime I put a video of underwater scenes (We live in Indonesia, one of the most amazing areas of diverse aquatic life in the world) they tell each other excitedly ‘There’s Miss Kielly!’ whenever they see a scuba diver. I’ve tried telling them it’s not me, but they are completely convinced! Okay, yes that is me guys, I am the only scuba diver in the whole world!

2. They are so easily amused. It’s mind boggling. One of my children brought in her ‘favourite book from home’ to share. It was in Dutch. I said to the class, ‘Oh wow, I don’t know Dutch but I’ll try to read it for you!’ I proceeded to make a fairly decent attempt at speaking Dutch ( I can speak German) and the whole class were literally in hysterics to the point where I’m looking at my Teaching Assistant as if to say, ‘Is this really that funny?!’ Every word I spoke, they were quite literally rolling about on the carpet giggling beyond explanation! Yesterday I started a ‘secret password’ on the classroom door which they have to read when they come in and ‘whisper in my ear (remember it’s a secret!)  to help develop our beginning ‘reading skills. The first ever word was ‘box’ … you would not even believe how exciting they find this ‘secret password’! The first day I started it, the first little girl who came in was so hugely excited to find we had a secret password that every time a classmate walked in with their bags, she ran over to them literally as they walked in, almost tripping over her own feet in her haste to whisper loudly to them about it and drag them to the door to show them! Bless, one of my little girls got a little bit confused and asked me all day ‘But when will we open the mystery box?’ LOL.Today my kids thought the most hilarious thing ever was to run off the roofed path into the rain giggling with excitement at the prospect of raindrops falling on their head. It reminds me of the simple pleasures in life and not to take life so seriously. They keep me young in my mind, even in the stress of the busy working day.

3. They literally spend all day trying to please me. (mainly my adorable girls) Oh it’s the cutest. One of most adorable girls tells me all the time ‘It’s okay Miss Kielly, we can do whatever you want, don’t worry about it, I don’t mind what we do now because I just want you to be happy!’ Ahhhhhh. One of my parents of the most gorgeous girl told me that she had been talking to her daughter the day before and the little girl had announced .. ‘Next year, in K2 I’m going to have Miss Kielly as my teacher you know’ to which Mummy said ‘Oh that’s lovely but I think you might have a new teacher’. The girl replied saying ‘Oh but it would be so nice to have Miss Kielly again. Do you think I could just repeat K1 next year so she can be my teacher again?!’ Ahhhhh, hearing these things makes me so happy!! The girls LOVE to give me hugs all day and tell me ‘I love you Miss Kielly!” How wonderful. I love it!

4. They are so naturally curious. Despite being asked questions all day long, I never tire of it … I mean they just love exploring and finding about the world around them. If I can help them love school, my job is done. Seriously, that’s my biggest goal. Enjoy school. If you don’t enjoy school at 4, there’s something seriously wrong.

I might need to start a page on here called ‘The hilarious things my kids say’. Yes, I think I will!

Tons of people say to me, ‘Oh I could never work with tiny children’. You are seriously missing out!

Hello world!

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Hello World! It’s definitely time for me to begin a blog about my experiences as I live and teach overseas! Several years almost out of date but I’m sure I can play catch up now. I’m actually just beginning my journey into teaching overseas since graduating from my teaching degree in July 2010. I currently work at a beautiful International School in BSD City, Jakarta, Indonesia.

I teach K1, students aged 4 turning 5 … which I just love. What a simply wonderful age to teach! Curious, intrigued and highly motivated students. My biggest goal as a teacher is that my students enjoy school and I love to see just how excited they are at school and how engaged they are in their learning! I see such confident and successful students and I really feel confident in saying that they do love school! So I feel extremely fortunate to be blessed with such a wonderful class and my amazing, colourful life out here in the hectic life of Jakarta. Even though we are only 5 months into the year, I see such amazing progress in all of my students and I’m so happy for them! Some have progressed hugely in their spoken English language skills having come into the class in August only speaking Chinese and now they are putting together some great sentences and are confident doing so! Some have made such progress in their confidence I almost don’t remember them anymore as the shy boy who rarely spoke at the beginning of the year! Some simply shone during letters and sounds work, ready for the next bit as they discovered their new and exciting ability to read! Wow, what an awesome inspiring event to be involved in!

One of my gorgeous boys always says to me ‘Miss Kielly, I can do it!’. I love to hear him say that! Yes you can! There’s no such word as can’t. My kickboxing instructor at home, a really great guy always said that and I love that ideology. Positivity. Don’t give up. What an inspiring attitude.

I just came home from Indonesia at Christmas and I simply love being here, sharing this family time at Christmas with my loving family and friends (an experience which never makes up for the time I spend away from them … and I wish could). But I also can’t deny that the gray skies and bitter, icy winds aren’t a little miserable. I’ve moved into slow mo at home recently and not done an awful lot since I got back and I’m certain the fact it’s so dark outside both morning and evening depresses my overall mood quite a bit. Yesterday I woke up at 6am and waited almost 3 hours for the skies to lighten so I was sure it was morning and my watch hadn’t just stopped. It was a long time to wait. Finally the gray sky lightened and another gray day began. Then there’s the icy cold. My feet have never warmed up since getting off the flight in Newcastle one chilled morning. When I stepped off the plane, I actually gasped with cold and shock. It’s almost indulgent to say it but I simply love being in a hot sunny climate.There’s something to be said for sunny, hot days every day! I can’t deny that looking up at the sky everyday whilst I live in Asia gives me a thrill that I am here, in life, right now enjoying such wonderful, colourful skies with their heavy drenching monsoon rains which soak in seconds and turn roads into muddy and puddled messes. A sunny life indeed.

I love my job and I love Indonesia. What a fabulous country, full of culture and wonderful, welcoming people and communities. I feel a strong connection, almost an affinity with Indonesia and Indonesian culture shaped by the experiences I have had in my time here, both professional and personal and the journey over the last few years which took me here. One tradition I love the most is the Wayang shadow puppetry. I simply love the Wayang shadow puppets and have spent numerous hours (!) scouting out wonderful traditional Indonesian household things or gifts at Pasar Raya in Blok M. I am also fortunate enough to have kind friends who give wonderful gifts of Wayang to decorate my sparsely furnished house! Minimalistic chic at its best.

Wayang Shadow Puppets - Image from Web

Balinese Wayang – Image from Web

I really hope this site will allow me to share my life overseas with family and friends back home. Despite photos and emails, without visiting, it’s hard to imagine what it’s really like. Until my family come, which I’m really hoping they do (!) then I’ll try to share more of my current life with them via this blog. I really hope I make this blogging a regular thing. There’s a huge IT initiative in my school which means everybody will be producing class / subject blog pages in order for our school to fufill its ambition of creating a ‘digital community’. I’m really happy about making my own blog for K1, it’ll be so exciting to share what’s going on in our classroom. I hope I’ll learn enough with this blog to hit the ground running when I start my blog for class. Different departments have different dates to start their blogs, a phased introduction. At first I was a little annoyed that I couldn’t do my blog earlier but actually perhaps it’s been a blessing. Last term was a very long and tiring term.  Already just a few days into the Christmas Holidays, I feel relaxed and revived, if a little cold back home in Newcastle, UK. Now I feel excited and motivated to do this whole ‘blogging’ thing as well as my other goals for 2012! Feeling excited about the adventures ahead 😀