Educare Chicago teacher sees early learning in action in New Zealand

Educare Chicago preschool teacher Kisha Floyd pursued a valuable professional development opportunity—halfway across the world. Floyd visited Auckland, NZ, February 23-March 6, 2017, as part of the Inspire Professional Learning for Teachers – Early Childhood Tour.

The tour was a focused professional learning opportunity to visit early childhood centers in and around Auckland, sponsored by Harvest Resources Associates in California. The program’s goal is for participants to engage in valuable self-reflection, critical thinking and dialogue—and gain unique insight by seeing early education programs in a different context and culture.

“One of the things that I took away was that the teachers had a way of working with children in intimate, relational ways,” Floyd said. “They were doing things unrushed, which let them be engaged with the overall child.”

Floyd was one of an interdisciplinary group of 30 early learning teachers, coaches, university faculty and program directors from across the US and Canada—and only one of two representatives from Illinois on the trip.

Experiencing early learning in a different culture

The week-long tour was an intense experience with two to three site visits a day, which allowed Floyd to see the work from a different perspective.

“This professional development experience differs from most because of the level of immersion participants experience with both the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings informing the curriculum, and then how that directly translates into practice,” said Barbara Abel, Educare Chicago curriculum manager, who recommended Floyd for the opportunity and helped her through the application and scholarship process.

One difference Floyd saw was that a lot of the teaching and learning was done outside. “The children do a lot of exploring of the outdoors,” she said. “And lot of the children were self-learning—interacting and engaging with activities alone.”

She explained that one of the competencies that programs want children to develop is self-regulation. She saw children climbing and being encouraged to explore, take risks and challenge themselves. Some programs even had both preschoolers and younger children in the same classroom.

Floyd also noticed similarities.

“Children are children,” she said. “Many of the kids were doing the same things that our kids do. Kids are going to be kids.”

Sharing takeaways to inform practice

One of her favorite parts of the trip was meeting the other professionals and building lasting relationships.

“We’re still to this day unpacking all of the knowledge that we gained,” Floyd said.

For one, she says that she plans to be more cognizant as a teacher to take time and “allow things to just flow.”

“We have the children for two years, so it’s important to remember that we don’t have to cram everything in,” she said. “And [we can] do things in an unrushed, peaceful, tranquil way, and focus on interacting and keeping children engaged in their overall learning.”

Floyd and Abel are working on sharing takeaways from the trip with the other teachers at the school so they can all benefit from Floyd’s experience.

“This is not so much focused on what to do as a teacher or how to train teachers, as much as it helps teachers and teacher leaders think about ‘the what’ and ‘the why’ of their own teaching practices, so that they can guide and coach others in doing the same,” Abel said. “It’s in this kind of thinking that teachers come to understand their own practice, and really the more creative aspects of teaching and learning that help them to support the growth and development of other teachers.”