Friday, December 31, 2021

Building relationships in the Early Years

When I've met with Early Years teachers over the past 18 months or so, a common theme has emerged:  whereas once it was usual for parents to bring their children to school and to collect them, the pandemic has meant that many parents are no longer allowed onto the school grounds and therefore daily conversations with teachers have become more difficult.  At the same time, I've also heard that virtual learning has had the opposite effect - parents are now "in" the classrooms with their children and have come to a better understanding of what is involved in Early Years education.  

Relationships between home and school are vital for building a basis for learning, health and well-being of young children, and these relationships need to be encouraged and nurtured in order to provide a shared vision for learning.  We also know that students who develop strong relationships with their teachers at school are more excited to go to school, have more self-confidence and achieve more in their learning.

In PYP schools the IB learner profile and the Approaches to Learning skills can help these supportive relationships to develop.  When I meet with parents, it's always great to hear that the learner profile attributes are a regular part of their daily conversations with their children.  One interesting comment I've heard again and again during the time of remote learning is that agency has been promoted, as children at home do different things and use different materials.  This has led to an increase in how diversity has been valued as well as enhancing multiple perspectives.

However, what I'm also hearing from teachers is that once schools reopen, there are some observable differences between the Early Years children, some of whom may not have experienced "regular" school at all over the past couple of years.  They have reported some challenges with communication skills, social skills and self-management skills.  How can we move forward from this point?  The recent publication The Early Years in the PYP lists a number of things educators can do to facilitate supportive relationships:

  • valuing the student’s participation and contributions to the group

  • being responsive to the student’s interests and needs by listening to, and documenting, their evolving questions, interests, ideas and theories

  • showing sensitivity, discretion and respect in the building of the relationship

  • offering regular time for uninterrupted play in responsive learning spaces

  • seeking students’ perspectives about decisions that affect them

  • acknowledging and respecting each student’s individuality

  • recognising opportunities for students to learn to self-regulate during play, and offering support and feedback when needed

  • building strong relationships with parents or legal guardians.

Parents value being part of supportive learning communities and there are many ways they can get involved.  For example, through parent evenings, parent-led events, working groups, student-led conferences, learning celebrations, presentations and displays, portfolios and so on.  I know some Early Years teachers are involved in home visits, others communicate through learning journals that are sent home regularly.  It's all about building those partnerships!

Photo Credit:  Surprising Shots on Pixabay

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