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Any advice on how to broach this with TA?

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by adora, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. Hello there, I just wondered if any of you had any ideas on how to broach a subject with the TA I work with?
    It's to do with observations/ post its etc and what needs recording in the Learning Journeys (I do know that there's arguments for and against the use of LJs, and have as much issue with clipboard culture as anyone else - but the fact is that we are required to keep LJs by SMT, I *do* see a value in them for my teaching, and we have moderation looming, so I'm trying to make sure they are being used in a purposeful way that can actually show progress and help to identify next steps).

    Anyway, I'm just finding that any observations/ post its I get from my TA is really inappropriate or unhelpful, and nine times out of ten I can't use them. They will say things like "M is a really shy child" or "I doesn't understand the difference between letters and numbers" - both of which may be true but they're not actually telling me what the child did/ did not do to come to that conclusion. Or one I've come across just now whilst updating LJs "R would make a good ballet dancer!". They're all subjective rather than objective if you see what I mean?
    I appreciate it's a training issue, and I did suggest a course for her which she attended. I've shown her what I write and how I use the observations, and explained that we need evidence for things, and that what is needed is to write down what the child actually does/ says and not necessarily to make a judgement on it. Also that we should be recording new things/ wow moments, rather than things we already know about the child. I tried to do it tactfully in a 'oh by the way, I was talking to L (our manager) about observations, and how I sometimes find them difficult, and she said that what we should be doing is ....." , and then I tried again more directly "thanks for those, I wouldn't be able to put that one in the learning journey though because ......" . Each time she has said oh yes, she sees, and after the course as well, things did improve but it seems after a couple of weeks it goes back to the 'would make a good ballet dancer' type notes.
    She's a brilliant TA, absolutely great with the children, has a good relationship with the parents, and makes my life easier in hundreds of little ways that go above and beyond the call of duty, and I really really value the work she does. It's just issues of understanding I think around the EYFS, what constitutes CI, what constitutes 'evidence' and so on that she seems to be struggling with.
    Part of me thinks I should maybe just not ask her to do observations, and do them all myself, which is absolutely fine although it would be better if we could both do them so as not to miss things. I wondered about just asking her to tell me orally what she's noticed/ spotted and I'll record it, which would make much more sense I suppose, but sometimes things get forgotten, or there isn't time because something unexpected comes up and so on, also I'm worried about upsetting her by implying 'oh you're so rubbish at this don't even bother any more'. I accept that some of it is my doing, I've maybe not been clear enough, and sometimes I do let all the post its etc pile up a bit, whereas if I filed them straight away I could ask her to 'can you just tell me what you meant by this ...", so I will try to do that more in future.

    Anyway, sorry for waffling on and probably boring you all half to death. Any suggestions for me for another way to try to improve this?
     
  2. Hello there, I just wondered if any of you had any ideas on how to broach a subject with the TA I work with?
    It's to do with observations/ post its etc and what needs recording in the Learning Journeys (I do know that there's arguments for and against the use of LJs, and have as much issue with clipboard culture as anyone else - but the fact is that we are required to keep LJs by SMT, I *do* see a value in them for my teaching, and we have moderation looming, so I'm trying to make sure they are being used in a purposeful way that can actually show progress and help to identify next steps).

    Anyway, I'm just finding that any observations/ post its I get from my TA is really inappropriate or unhelpful, and nine times out of ten I can't use them. They will say things like "M is a really shy child" or "I doesn't understand the difference between letters and numbers" - both of which may be true but they're not actually telling me what the child did/ did not do to come to that conclusion. Or one I've come across just now whilst updating LJs "R would make a good ballet dancer!". They're all subjective rather than objective if you see what I mean?
    I appreciate it's a training issue, and I did suggest a course for her which she attended. I've shown her what I write and how I use the observations, and explained that we need evidence for things, and that what is needed is to write down what the child actually does/ says and not necessarily to make a judgement on it. Also that we should be recording new things/ wow moments, rather than things we already know about the child. I tried to do it tactfully in a 'oh by the way, I was talking to L (our manager) about observations, and how I sometimes find them difficult, and she said that what we should be doing is ....." , and then I tried again more directly "thanks for those, I wouldn't be able to put that one in the learning journey though because ......" . Each time she has said oh yes, she sees, and after the course as well, things did improve but it seems after a couple of weeks it goes back to the 'would make a good ballet dancer' type notes.
    She's a brilliant TA, absolutely great with the children, has a good relationship with the parents, and makes my life easier in hundreds of little ways that go above and beyond the call of duty, and I really really value the work she does. It's just issues of understanding I think around the EYFS, what constitutes CI, what constitutes 'evidence' and so on that she seems to be struggling with.
    Part of me thinks I should maybe just not ask her to do observations, and do them all myself, which is absolutely fine although it would be better if we could both do them so as not to miss things. I wondered about just asking her to tell me orally what she's noticed/ spotted and I'll record it, which would make much more sense I suppose, but sometimes things get forgotten, or there isn't time because something unexpected comes up and so on, also I'm worried about upsetting her by implying 'oh you're so rubbish at this don't even bother any more'. I accept that some of it is my doing, I've maybe not been clear enough, and sometimes I do let all the post its etc pile up a bit, whereas if I filed them straight away I could ask her to 'can you just tell me what you meant by this ...", so I will try to do that more in future.

    Anyway, sorry for waffling on and probably boring you all half to death. Any suggestions for me for another way to try to improve this?
     
  3. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    but they do inform your teaching for both these children
     
  4. Yes, you're right. I think in those cases the issue was more that they were things we knew already, definitely the 'shy' one, the letters and numbers one was more helpful, I suppose I was hoping it would say which letters/ numbers he'd confused, or what he'd said so that I could start to unpick it, but the note itself is a good prompt for me to go on and look more closely at that, so I was being unfair when I said it wasn't useful.
    Bleurgh, I'm probably so indoctrinated with EYFS 'speak' now that I expect to see it everywhere [​IMG]

    It's just frustrating I suppose to have to not use things she's written, or to re-write them, it seems like a waste of her time and mine.
     
  5. It is tricky one. One NN refuses to write obs and the other one's obs to me seem unreliable and don't match up with my own obs of the same children. There is another NN who writes really good obs, often better than mine.
    We have focus children and everybody contributes obs on those children for an entire session. We stick these to the same piece of paper. This helps to get a better overall picture. It also encourages all staff to write obs and read what others have written and seems to improve the quality of observation recording , I think filing the obs together and dsicussing the next steps if at all possible might be a good way forward

    I have to say sometimes I write Johnny confuses letters and numbers tyoe things too but then these comments are just an aide memoire for me and they jog my memory rather than have to make sense to others.
    The ones I find unhelpful from other staff are the blanket type ones that say Johnny knows his sounds based on one observation of about four letters.
    Could you use that as an illustration. How it would be more nformative if she wrote. Johnny pulled out 4 alpha cards s a t p. He sounded out each letter as he took them from the pack.
    I also find sometimes we are all writing the same old stuff in psed for quite a long period of time until the child moves on. We seem to write tons of unecessaary evidence that backs up that Sharon is shy and after a while what we are really looking for is evidence that Sharon is moving on and being bolder. Sometimes TAs need a nudge to look for that.


     
  6. Have you tried being more specific in your requests?
    ie. do you think you could observe M to find out what he can achieve with regard to ........... then we can discuss what work we need to do to fill in his 'blanks'.

    good luck!
     
  7. Nothing wrong with being shy! Some children are and will never be bold.
     
  8. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    How true.
    All the same, I've seen loads of childrenevercome initial shyness [which, I suppose, si a bit different] and become as bold as you like!
     
  9. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    whoops: children overcome
     
  10. I was thinking exactly what msz wrote in the second posting before I read msz's comment!
    We have arguably become somewhat pompous regarding observations and their value and how they should be written.
    I remember thinking after the advisors had been heavily attacked on the early years forum about the obsessive clipboard and evidencing culture, that there was a definite move to defensiveness by those in authority - trying to protest that they had not insisted on tons of over-the-top evidencing (when they definitely had - remember the 'three post-it pieces of evidence' per point per child era?).
    Anyway, the next buzz thing in training was the quality of the observational comments for evidence - implying that various casual comments were grossly inferior and a waste of time - quality took precedence over quality.
    Well, of course it's good to know about being precise and identifying the detail of an event, but in many cases we can get a thumb-nail picture about children in much more ordinary ways - such as 'should be a ballet dancer'!!!
    In fact, perhaps we have neglected a good old 'thumb nail' picture in recent years?
    I think there's no harm in reminding TA colleagues to include some details in when possible - but even then it's still only part of the picture. Compare, 'Johny pulled out the s, a, t, p cards from the pack and recognised them' with the thumb- nail addition, 'Johny reluctantly pulled out the s, a, t, p cards from the pack and struggled to recognise them but eventually he worked them out'.
    So, I suggest that you do give reminders about the relevance of 'detail' but that you yourself recognise that observations are often unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, that thumb-nail pictures have a value of their own, and that you are the teacher when all said and done so perhaps you can pull all the different types of observations together for a clear-enough picture of the children in your care.
     
  11. Sorry - I meant to say: quality took precedence over quantity
     
  12. One of my TA's is quite reluctant to write observations and I think it might be to do with her own literacy difficulties. She writes as she speaks so sometimes it can be difficult to understand what she means - plus I'm wary of how it looks to whoever else reads them. We haven't discussed it but have evolved a system where I have the post-its and pen and she will say 'oh Bob has just done/said this' and I write it down. It seems to work for us.
     
  13. Thanks for all the comments everyone.
    Last night (after several hours of my Sunday spent filing and annotating learning journeys) I think I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and "why can't she just write what I want her to?" grumpy- overtired and frustrated in general I think. It is good to get other's views and maybe rethink if I'm being unfair/ not valuing the right things.

    I do want to bring up again the idea that we don't necessarily need to record things we already know, for example if a chilId is 'shy', if only because it cuts down on workload for everyone, but we also have a student in at the moment, just started, so it was a good opportunity to bring it up and talk through what we're recording and how.
     
  14. I can empathise with your frustration, adora. We are so often told that TAs are the answer to all our problems that it is deflating when they show their lack of experience and understanding of certain aspects of the job. But TAs, many of whom are wonderful, warm, intelligent people, usually do not know the EYFS as well as the teacher and do not always understand what an observation needs to be about. Mostly, this is because they haven't had the role of using observations to assess children against the DM or the profile. It's also difficult if there are no opportunities to have a good sit down reflection time to discuss stuff like this. I find TAs working schedules really do not allow for this reflection time.
    One thing you could do is ask that her obs are about things the children show they can do rather than about what they cannot do. This info is usually more useful and is more tactful too if parents are going to see the post it notes in the learning journey. At the same time you could emphasise that the obs should be about things that children have done and not what they are like, so that instead of saying x would make a ballerina she might describe what x has done to make her think that. And maybe you could ask that she writes about new things, things she hasn't seen a child do before. Someone suggested giving her specific things to look out for - That's a good idea. Perhaps she could have a copy of the profile points for one aspect - say counting - to take round with her to give her a better feel of what info is useful.
    Just some thoughts. Good luck.
     
  15. As a TA who's recently returned to Reception, I agree with a lot of what thumbie says. I feel much more confident filling in obs now I know my way around the DM statements. One thing that really helped when I first came back to this age group was the teacher and I both did an obs on the same child, and then compared notes on what we had recorded. This gave me a really good idea of what would be useful to her.
    Our recording sheets have different sections to record what the child does and what the adult thinks it shows about the child. It also has a space for recording which DM statement is the 'best fit' description for that observation.
    It makes me cross that like most TAs I'm only paid for the times that the children are in school. I think that we should have some paid time to do this sort of work with the teacher. Not only would it make us more skilled, it would show that we are valued as part of the team.
     
  16. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    We sent them on courses. We also did joint observations. We also started off focussing on one area at a time with the appropriate DM and look listen and note statements laminated to hand. This helped to familiarise them with some of the things we were looking at. The joint obs were the most efferctive as my NN tended to write absolutely everything down and would write 2 sides of A4 when 5 sentences would have done. It helped her see the key learning points out of all thet was happening. She is much better now. That said I still have to rewrite loads due to poor spelling, grammar and totally unreadable writing. If anyone has any idea how to tackle this tactfully, let me know! One answer on my wish list is an electronic gadget that my local school uses, like a mini computer, so that obs can be typed straight into it on the child's file and any photos etc. At least then things can be spell checked and altered easily. However my budget doesn't run to them yet.
    I have a running record/ class overview sheet of how many and what areas each child has for an obs. You can see at a glance who hasnt got many and who for example has 101 obs on counting(the area my NN tends to overdo.) I share this with my NN to point her in the right direction. Towards the end of half term I label post its with childrens names and long obs sheets for those that need more, and dish these out to the NNs and myself to catch up with any gaps.
     
  17. Thanks again everyone. I will suggest we do some joint observations, that's a good idea.
    Mary, I also tried to keep a running record but it got a bit unworkable, I'll try again with a more simple format, it will be helpful for me apart from anything else, I seem to have a bit of a thing about repeating patterns as that's one I've duplicated evidence for a lot recently.



     
  18. I continue to wonder whether there is too much emphasis on recorded observations. I still find it worryingly over the top and sometimes a little perverse even.
    What seems to have happened, however, is early years professionals have succumbed and become used to the notion that these written observations are necessary and even desirable.
    I'm not suggesting not observing children and not recording progress, I'm talking about 'degree of'.
     
  19. Yes that is a good point.
    Planned recordedObs to me are useful when you don't know a child at all and need to get to know them or when you want to find out something specific. Spontaneous short obs are useful when you see children have light bulb moments or struggle with things that you had imagined that they could do. They should help all staff prepare for future planning for the child or to repsond spontaneously to the need of the child.
    If as teacher in Yr R you are the only one writing the obs and the only one responding to them then there does not seem much point in recording either unless you have a lousy memory.
    Now if recorded observations are just for a shiny learning journey for parents to coo over then this is waste of time, I agree.
     
  20. Adora, like a lot of us, is stuck with moderators and SMT.
    One can produce all the bumpf which says that recorded obs are not necessary, but they will argue back that some are necessary, 80% of which should be ci.
    I have argued the toss over this with SMT and LEA bods quite a few time over the years.
    The trick is to do just enough written obs to keep them happy and to do it so recorded obs are meaningful for planning for teaching and learning.
    If you have 52 place day nursery then all staff at all levels have got to be involved.
    Now if you are working with staff with literacy problems should we cover that up and scribe or re write for them ? Shouldn't moderators and SMT be made aware of that problem, perhaps? Wouldn't that make them realise the pitfall os the system?.
     

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