The Summit began with a welcome to all and then a direct link to Scotland where Kenny Spence from men in Childcare spoke about their initiatives in not only recruiting but also training men to work with young children. He was joined by Jerry Parr and both talked about issues facing the recruitment of Men as Early Childhood Teachers and also of the World Forum working group.
The next session was led by Matt Te Maro focussing on Takaro Tinana in which he referenced literature by Frances Carlson on Big Body Play and Essential Touch.
Matt is a trained Early Childhood Teacher and is now working at a local school in the Northland area where he is working with young children. His focus in particular is to bring a bicultural approach to physicality and link it to key concepts and understandings that help keep physical children balanced in their development. One of the key aims in helping children to develop is to help them learn to self regulate and to do this they need to move regularly. He discussed the concept of Te Whare Tapa Whā in which if all is in balance the children will thrive – but if one or more dimension of development is out of balance it will impact on their total well being.
He stated that the need for physicality should be catered for in our daily education environments. Just as a childhood interest in the arts and literacy are built upon- so should their physical skills and we need teachers who are able to do this. He talked about how important it is to teach the correct skills in engaging physically with others and you do this by slowing down the movements and then allow them to practice. Matt believes that teaching children to engage physically with others helps them develop confidence in themself and their movements, develop empathy of others, and helps guide social behaviours in recognising that others can be different in their abilities and tolerance.
He believes that the burning of energy helps centre the child's wairua and it also connects children to papatuanuku and their whenua.
Matt showed us how he taught children to tackle( on their knees) as in rugby using the mat to give children soft landing and going through it slowly. By doing so children didn’t get hurt and had time to perfect the movements. He also talked about knee wrestling so children didn’t fly about and hurt others – this keeps it controlled and allows all to participate. He also talked about the noodle fights in which children can engage (with rules) each other without getting hurt.
A discussion was also held on barriers and most were due to adults fearing children were going to get hurt or that by promoting such physicality you were encouraging violence. In terms of fear Matt’s perspective is that by teaching skills you are reducing the risk and he believes that you cant get a child to assess risk if they haven't experienced risk. The more you train the child the fear will lessen and he stated “fear is just challenging our brain to the next step”. He also used the term “learning injuries” (which will also feature in the next presentation) which rightly suggests that endeavour will sometimes not go to plan but that experience will help reinforce correct technique and become part of learning.
After morning tea Robin Christie presented “Playful Aggression”
He stated the difference between real aggression and playful aggression is intent. Playful aggression is part of Fantasy Play /Social Play and it is through this play that children make sense of their real world. Playful aggression allows them to explore their sense of agency in complex moral concepts such as Fairness and Social Justice. Robin talked about how Superheroes have a strong moral compass and he shared many wise words from our array of Superheroes that indeed displayed this.
Playful Aggression is also about social connectedness and it helps children inoculate themselves as they explore their fears and emotions. It is through play that children can safely experience fear and anger which also helps emotional regulation as opposed to banning playful aggression which can create danger, frustration and drives the play underground or teaches children to lie to preserve their play choices/interests. Robin also demonstrated how to make Balloon launchers
To encourage playful aggression you can use competitiveness as an encourager – you can set goals to achieve, you can encourage a challenge between others or set individual(self) goals. Ideas also raised were to encourage children to shake hands before a competition or a challenge (such as targets for balls) and focusing on being a good winner and gracious loser, create group rules before engagements, Roleplay situations using storytelling, sock wrestling on the mat (child has to pull other child's sock off ), Zombie outbreaks, challenging colleagues to identify learning in such play so they unpack the value and encourage risk within the play.
Robin reiterated the need to stay connected to the children’s play so you can understand what is happening. Engage with the children using positive language and open-ended questions. Allow their ideas to carry over time and set rules to protect the participants. It is really important that we acknowledge there are high energy learners in our curriculum and that their needs also need to be met
Robin finished the session with a reminder that No research shows real aggression is linked to playful aggression and that real aggression in children’s play is strongly associated with aggression experienced in their real world.
The Final session of the day was a presentation by Dr Cara Swit from Canterbury University on Relational Aggression.
Her perspective is that as teachers we are very focused on physical aggression and often rate this as much more damaging than relational aggression. What we do know is that relational aggression has a significant impact on a child's well being but is less often focused on by teachers. She gave some examples of behaviours and asked us to rate the severity of them in terms of consequences for the child. We were then asked to compare our responses and certainly, there was much more importance placed on the physical hurt rather than the emotional.
Cara argues that stand downs for child behaviour have been increasing and that she believed it is much better to teach and support children with challenging behaviour than separate them. She believes we need to be doing more in early intervention as challenging behaviours significantly impact the quality of caregiver/child relationships. Parents with children with behaviour issues go on a journey – it is like a grieving process where they are often scared to say something as it might be seen as a reflection on them but often will say thank goodness when a teacher says they are struggling with the child as they have most often been too.
When working with these families whakawhanaungatanga is critical and we need to reflect on the child’s behaviour as well as the parents. Cara stated that she believes no child wakes up thinking they are going to ruin your day and that behaviour is influenced by a wide host of influences. She states behaviour is communication and it is our job as teachers to be the investigator of what is going on. Do we do this by examining their behaviours and what is the action telling us about the child? What is the payoff- in other words, what reward is the child receiving from their actions?
She believes every behaviour has a function and if we investigate the behaviour we need to ask what are they getting by doing this? She used the iceberg analogy – if we see a child lash out we see the behaviour but we don’t see what is happening below the waterline. Our immediate response is that we need to respond to the top of the iceberg – if we deal with what is under we don’t then need then to respond to the top as the behaviour will not occur.
She believes ECE is mostly reactive – responses are automatic, impulsive and often hostile behaviour is used in response to a perceived threat and being proactive can often equal heavy control in some places. She suggests we need to look at our belief systems to see if we need to change these as it is much easier to change the behaviour of children if we change ours. Cara likes the ‘Kind words’ rule where we model the words we want to hear and suggests team meetings to encourage some critical reflections to help promote consistent behaviours.
Using time to talk to children each time they have displayed a challenging behaviour and be as proactive as possible to prevent behaviours that are not wanted. We do this using empathy, problem-solving and coaching where we help children to use kind words to help de-escalate negative events. We can also help support children's learning by modelling appropriate behaviour and using at least 4 positive reinforcements to 1 Negative one.
There was much discussion at the end of the session over effective strategies to us and she ended again by encouraging us to google and read up on Functional Behaviour Assessment
She also recommended the book “Whole Brain Child” by Daniel Sebel as a good read.
Between the presentations, the Adam Buckingham Award was presented to ECE Equality Group from Victoria University who have been a very active and progressive networking Group that have supported men in their training and were very worthy winners of this trophy over 2020-21 year.
Our annual presentation of the Inukshuk presented to us by Ron Blatz from Canada in 2010 was presented to Mark White who for the second time was a worthy winner for investing his time and mahi in making this successful Summit hum…..Thanks again Mark for your time, advice and leg work for making this work in the most unusual times.
Ngā mihi nui