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Feel like I am failing these kids

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by foggy98, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. Sorry but I need to vent. I don't feel cut out for the Foundation Stage any more. The new "choose what you want to do and don't make them do anything" philosophy to me is not beneficial to every child. If x wants to play on bikes all day then we just let them? I'm ashamed to say it's made me lazy in my teaching. We used to group the children, they would have a certain amount of free choice but there would also be certain activities each group would have to do each day, every child covered the objectives in a week and you knew where every child was up to. Now I write reports and may aswell leave certain sections bank as x has never picked up a paintbrush all year and would never choose to do so. But instead I write some arbitrary comment because I feel I should but it means nothing. I agree with learning through play but I also agree with directed activities as well. A balance. I find it very hard on parents evening when asked about writing development not to say "well actually he's done no writing all year because it's not something he choses to do, when I shoved a clipboard in his face in the construction area he did a quick scribble to shut me up then carried on building his ship, that's the extent of his writing experience". Some children are fine with this style but most are not. I hate parents evenings because I know they're thinking "well what the hell do you do with them all day?" and I'm trying to pretend that it's all really beneficial to be working in this style and they're really coming on, I feel like they're thinking I'm a dreadful teacher and I'm starting to feel that way too. I'm sorry to go on, have not posted on here for years but I am just feeling really down about this. I used to be a good teacher, now I just watch children play all day. And I actually feel I know less about them despite thousands of photos and post it notes than I used to do when I had groups whom I taught and assessed on my terms not theirs.
    Right, rant over. Apologies once again.
  2. NellyFUF

    NellyFUF Lead commenter

    nay foggy rant on
    I was fumbling about trying to think up a similar thread...... after a day which I felt was so dangerous and a fortnight of watching reception children do Nothing.
    I would always have been happy to think that my chidlren had had a nice time in nursery and reception but I would be very shocked and unhappy at what is going on someplaces.
    Water fights! (Took me ages to fill that water tray). Kids (incuding nursery) going home soaked with wet socks and shoes and filthy dirty! What kind of education is this?
    We were going to play pirates but since they have wrecked the role play area and scattered the props to the four winds then trampled on them, no, I am not about to go out and sort it out again. I have put it all in the bin.
    Working from children's interests is deadly when children don't know how to play. Playing football all day every day (trampling down the garden areas in the process) is not going to compensate for environmental and social deprivation.
    That is before I get going on the inappropriate activities proper. Never seen it before so rife. It is very marked.
    I am thinking Lord of the Flies. Not play based learning.
    I can hardly make myself heard over the noise coming from our reception class. Stuff all over the floor, aprons scattered everywhere, water, pens with no lids on, chaos. Knocking children over, pushing, shoving. What a nightmare. Chewing toys.
    How can you keep a quality learning environment in any sort of condition in these circumstances?
  3. cheekychops

    cheekychops New commenter

    Sorry to hear about how your'e feeling but i think alot of us are having similar feelings about the changes in the Early Years. Only the other day one of our advisors admitted a lot of teachers were feeling under pressure with the new government initiatives taking place. We try to have a balance of child initiated activities in our setting which was difficult for me as i was trained to set up each table ready for the children to access. Now they can choose to some extent what thy want but with limited space only so many resources are available. However my children are made to come to the table and mark make or trace or do stencils or draw around shapes. They always have a focused activity whether it is relating to numeracy, literacy or K&U etc.We are professionals who have usually been in this job for quite a while and know what we are doing It's sometimes just a simple statement made by someone that undermines our confidence and abilty to do the job. just go with your instincts and do what you know you do best. We owe it to the children in our care to give them the best education and as dedicated professionals we know deep down what they need. Have a happy & restful holiday
  4. Have the confidence to teach your children in your setting in the way that will best ensure they make progress! Stand up to the advisers. Ours make us feel like we are committing child abuse because the pupils attend whole (infant) school 15 minute assemblies from the first day. Also we refuse to teach letter names because it doesn't help them to read, and that is reflected in boxes we can't tick, but so what! I have a balance of child initiated learing "activity time" and directed tasks, and gradually switch the proportions of these as the year progresses, so then there is no big "Year 1" adjusting to do.
    Like you I work in a deprived area and the pupils need support to develop quality play and language skills. And remember - it is just a job!
  5. Foggy 98 you may find this interesting. I went on a setting visit this week to a specialist autisic unit for early years children. I really learned a thing or two! The first session is a free choice play. However they limit the choice to just a few things as they said that otherwise the children become overwhelmed, unable to choose and just trash everything. By having a few, well chosen toys they found that the children maintained an interest and got more from the session. I am sure that many children without autisim in main stream schools also find the amount of choice both inside and outside overwhelming.
    Then on a signal all is cleared away and all the children come to sit on stools for an adult led activity. Some are very reluctant to do so and just want to run around all the time. But one way or another all other choice is removed and the children are encouraged to stay for longer and longer periods at the adult led activity. This lack of choice was justified as the fact that the children needed to learn from an early age to engage with an adult agenda. If they failed to do so they would remain trapped inside their own world which often consisted of low level repetitive play. By learning to engage, even against their will initially, they were opening themselves up to new learning opportunities and expanding their world. I am sure that may also apply to some children in your setting.
    The children are encouraged to listen to and focus on the adult by the use of attention activities. It may be that the adult will pour dry rice down a corrugated tube into a clear plastic container until all children are focused. Or pour coloured water slowly from one bottle to another where the two bottles are fixed together at the spout. Or they may use a singing toy. Once all the children are paying attention the adult then demonstrates the activity before all the children engage in it. They use a lot of sensory play which would be good for all children. They all sit at the table and try the activity There is no other choice. The are encouraged to take a more active role each day and given loads of praise.
    The room has very little in the way of display or toys. Only the things they want the children to focus on are out to minimze distraction. How many main stream children are 'dazzled' by our multi-dimensional and colourful environments.
    All the long term planning is done by the team of adults and based on themes such as water, food, transport..... all the usual things. As the adults are in control of the long term planning they are able to prepare resources well in advance and set up relevant areas, ie jungle play. I asked how the childrens interests impacted on the planning. The staff said that the weekly/daily plan was tweaked this way or that depending on how the children reacted to it. This seemed like a sensible approach to me. It could even be abandoned if necessary like on snow days!
    The day continued in a predictable way with alternating sessions of restricted free play with totally adult led activities. The children at this setting (all of them autistic and some severely so) were happy, -played constructively, helped to tidy away and did not fight with each other. I think they benefitted from the security of this predictable and controlled routine.
    Food for thought eh?
  6. NellyFUF

    NellyFUF Lead commenter

    that really is food for thought Oscar's mum..............

  7. This is what worries me about foundation stage units. How do the F2 or YR children get the level of challenge they need when they are all muddled up in the same environment for two years?
  8. Oscar's Mum, thanks for that really useful description of the unit you visited.
    It supports what I have learned the hard way this year. With one boy on the autistic spectrum and many from homes with only a television for entertainment, my children were completey overwhelmed and dazzled by all the resources available (even though we keep many things to put out later in the year to enhance and extend). Many simply didn't know how to play with the resources available and just experimented! Things were destroyed, so after the initial irritation (that's putting it mildly as I was tearing my hair out ) we simply put, or threw, things away, restricting choice, and spent time demonstrating things they could do with the resources and spent time getting them used to tidying away and sitting down for adult led activities.
    We also found that adult led activities just didn't work unless everyone was directed to an activity as those involved in the adult led one just could not remain focussed when some else was playing with the construction or in the role play area. If we left them to chose to join the adult led activities some just never did.
    So I know what to do this September - except that It will be a completely different group of children and we will probably have tolearn all over again!

    And a message for OP - As professionals I think we have to try to do what we feel is the best thing for the children and if challenged about our practice justify it in a professional manner. Advisors are only that. Take heart.
  9. Well - it's looking like this is going to be our next very important thread for people to truly express their views!
    What is wrong is the jargon in the first place:
    <u>Child-initiated learning</u>
    That phrase makes me want to throw up. It's the equivalent (for me) of someone scraping their nails down a blackboard.
    Provide for your children sensibly with structure, some themes, purpose and direction.
    Alternate direct teaching and direct rehearsal slots with some genuinely 'free play' and some 'directed free play'.
    Drop the constant formal observations and paperwork - and spend the time that saves relating directly to the children themselves.
    Stop complying with everything - and if necessary - challenge it and say you are not complying.
  10. I watched some interviews on the 'On the Edge' channel yesterday and this reminded me of the Early Years scenario.
    Much of the stuff on this TV channel is about control from the top - and basically how we are enslaved to it.
    The solution suggested was pretty much what I have been saying for a while on the TES threads - basically - just don't comply.
    I have always said that people should maintain their own simple professionalism - and I definitely believe in being accountable (but to what and to whom?) - but the simplest way to tackle the ridiculous impositions and policing in the early years is to be SO professional that YOU do what YOU know is best according to YOUR experience - and stand your ground.
    Quietly, just go about doing your own thing.
    Let them make an issue if they think you are 'incapable'.
    BE PREPARED for them to use their ridiculous local authority criteria sheets to tick you off as NOT 'outstanding' - really because you did not show them the evidence that THEY require - not that you AREN'T outstanding (let satisfactory be good enough because YOU know better).
    If we all stopped worrying about 'fitting in' with THEIR measure of the world, then we could get on with our lives properly.
    Ignore Big Brother sitting on your shoulder. Flick him off like dandruff.
  11. Further - if you can put your hand on your heart and say that you feel like you're failing the kids - then you probably are.
    So change.
    Do what YOU know is best and don't think twice about it.
    We also, surely, have a duty to model to new students and teachers and providers what WE think IS best practice.
    Oscars mum - your description in the autism setting was so sensible and should really give many people food for thought who work in a variety of settings.
    The bottom line SHOULD be that local adults need to provide for local children - and communities' children themselves have different needs.
  12. "We also, surely, have a duty to model to new students and teachers and providers what WE think IS best practice."
    ...I mean....not from the perspective that 'we're right' - but from the perspective that we have different views from those who laud over us.
    It is right that people should be able to think for themselves.
    EVERY time I have ever asked a question or commented about something during local authority training, it has not been received well, or answered properly.
    I have EVEN had bollo--ings from advisors - they have usually approached me in pairs!
    I have EVEN been TOTALLY IGNORED when I had my hand up and kept it up to raise a point - so much so that everyone in the room knew - and eventually another advisor had to nudge the one deliberately ignoring me to respond. It was UNBELIEVABLE.
    So, I have nothing but horror at such a system.
    The most fundamental aspect that is wrong in our profession is that in many instances advice from 'the top' has led to fellow professionals being unable to have discussion about practice.
    Have we reached in some instances a form of dictatorship which is supported by Ofsted inspection and local authority moderating and policing? All underpinned by paperwork?
    Who, when inspected, thinks, "What will 'they' want to see?"
    If you can put your hand up to this, then that indicates something very, very wrong.
  13. pjmteach

    pjmteach New commenter

    On my knees, exhausted like everyone else! The pressure to conform is overwhelming.
    So many of us are "Good Girls" we enjoyed school, behaved ourselves and pursued teaching as a vocation cos we love working with kids, rather than a career. As a result we have let ourselves be pushed around by people who are just bullies.
    Yes we needed more freedom for children in the curriculum but by imposing it upon us the powers that be have straight jacketed - the so called professionals,,,,,,,,,,,and we have let it happen!
    I really have had enough. I came back to work in Reception this year after teaching yr 1 ,2,3 for the last few yrs.
    Now at the end of this year of observations, stickers, CI learning etc., I dont know these kiddies as well as I should. Looking forward to doing it my way next year
    Keep doing the right thing! Common sense will prevail.
  14. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    I agree that the EYFS isnt perfect but where does it say that we do only CI activities. It doesnt. There should be a 50:50 split. I still have focus activities as does my reception collegue and we are a FS unit. Dont get me wrong we have had a lot of problems this year, but this has been mainly due to our 2 NNs being out of the habit of playing with children and poorly trained. One prefers doing focus activities and the other was previously used to hear readers. I cant emphasise enough, that a consultant on a course told everyone that the EYFS was a political tool to make PVI settings raise their standards to the good and outstanding provision in state settings. He actually told us that the EYFS would mean no change to the vast majority of schools. Therefore, surly we carry on as before the EYFS. I know there are some of us getting very mixed messages from advisors in particular. However although I may initially allow a nursery child not to do a focus activity, as the year went on I would make them do it. I would certainly expect a reception child to do all focus activities. If any advisor queried this, and so far they havent, then I would have no problem justifying it. It is an important life skill to realise that we all have to do things we dont want to sometimes.
  15. me again

    me again New commenter

    I have been sitting here trying to put an answer like that together- thank you for beating me to it mary. I don't know about being a political tool, but you are right to underline that good early years practice should not have changed.
    The messages that come through this forum from time to time about not being allowed to teach, being deskilled etc are very concerning.
  16. I LOVE Debbiehep's posts - they always give me a boost!
  17. grumbleweed

    grumbleweed Star commenter

    Good to see marymoocow and meagain balancing the debate here. The EYFS doesnt suggest anywhere in it any of the following:
    • free for all
    • children running riot
    • biting kicking, throwing or damaging equipment, etc
    • no direct teaching
    • children spending all day doing only one thing
    • sitting around wathcing children all day long
    • allowing children to do whatever they want whenever they want to
    The EYFS is very clear about balance. But balance does mean that playing with children is just as important as direct teaching. Engaging with them in their chosen activity is where they often learn or practice the skills you have directly 'taught'. I have always worked with 100% EAL chidlren, and feel that being able to actually talk and play with them absolutely vital for their development of language. I have also found its how Ive got to know them best, and how Ive sen them enthuse over something when its of their choice. And in my view, to do this well, actually requires greater skill than directly 'teaching' all the time.
    I find it really sad that there are so many members here who seem to be only able to see in black or white.. either.. or, one or the other. (in terms of teaching v CI/play) To me it isnt, its all shades of grey, and the shade of grey you choose may well differ from the shade of grey I choose and that may differ from year to year and from child to child and from time during the year. I actually find this more refreshing, I hated being TOLD I had to do this much literacy this much numeray and oh, 'maybe you can squeeze in half an hour at the end of the week of play, but only if they've finished their work' . It never mattered that my children just werent ready for that. It would be a sad time to return to those days in my view!

  18. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    I agree grumble weed. I work in a very deprived area. Last years children were particularly poor even for us and we had 75% boys. That year we all went out straight away as they needed a very physical environment to burn off steam. Despite attempting focus activities such as number and language games after settling in, they were just not ready for it and did more CI activities, moving to a balance after Christmas. This years children have been much more ready and we have had a balance straight away and complete free flow. You adapt to the needs of the children. Last years children now in YR are still a challenge and we have had to adapt to a more boy orientated environment, but all now "write" by choice and most can write simple words or more. This had to be taught, it doesnt happen by osmosis. I think there are a lot of urban myths regarding EYFS, some unfortunately started by misinformed advisors and others by teachers confusion over the assessing balance of 80%:20%. Even though some teachers seem misinformed over CI, they all know that the way they are working doesnt work and why. It is upto us proffessionals to stand up and be counted and not be afraid to justify what works for our children at that point in time. Sadly it seems to be reception teachers that are having the most misunderstandings, after being told that they are the same as nursery, which often highlights ignorance of what we do in Nursery. In F1, there is structure, there is teacher directed time, there are focus activities, there are high expectations of behaviour, children are expected to look after toys, they are encouraged to expand their interests from one obsession, observations and assessments are only done when useful and certainly dont involve sitting in a corner with a clipboard for hours on end, teachers engage with the children's play. Our F2 NN finds all this difficult and tends to stand outside on playground duty and certainly doesnt engage in the children's play. She has by her own admission prefered the adult directed tasks and as FS is not for everyone she may be better in KS1. I believe that most reception teachers taught a balance before EYFS, I think very few made the children sit all day at desks doing work and if they did they are better off in a different KS anyway. Just because the structure may be the same in reception and nursery, it doesnt mean that they all do the same focus and adult directed activities. Also different enhanced provisions may have different outcomes for each age range.
  19. NellyFUF

    NellyFUF Lead commenter

    I have made quite a learning journey these last few years.
    I am beginning to think that YR belong with Yr 1, not with nursery. There is more difference between a child just three and a rising six than any other age gap. Enhancements and provision are vastly different for these age groups. Lumping them together is not fun. It is very hard to find focus activities that meet the needs of this age range. Their outside play is very different, meeting different developmental needs.
    I am beginning to believe that delayed children need more intensive adult interaction than others and benefit more from adult directed time than others. And need careful teacher play based activities which cannot be accomodated in a free for all.
  20. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I have to say that I think England should have followed the Welsh lead and combined FS & KS1 rather than combining Birth to 3 matters and FS.

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