by Kim Bone, Gaia Education & Development

You have probably been asked this question at an interview “So, how do you keep up to date with what is happening in your sector?”  As with other professions, teachers need to find time to practice ‘life-long learning’ to ensure that they are current with new pedagogical methods and best practice in their field.

We are very fortunate to be in the digital age of technology so finding out information is easy and at the end of your fingertips.  There are numerous social media pages dedicated to teachers, allowing a network of like-minded professionals to ask questions and give multiple perspectives in their postings, comments and replies.

Sometimes like fashion, old theories become popular again.  These generally will develop from recent research into topics or through legislation such as the review of our early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki.  With more research available for teachers to tap into, it enables them to make educated conclusions of what will work best for their teaching practice and for the children that they teach.

How do top Teachers, Leaders and Centre Managers keep current and stay ahead?

Low cost / Low budget ($FREE – $50+)

  • Surf the internet on ECE sites
  • Subscribe to ECE / parenting forums
  • Join Membership into ECE organisations
  • Read books and magazines written by ECE authors
  • Read Educational Blogs
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Join a chat group on social media (some care required in assessing opinions/information presented)
  • Attend free PLD offered by Ministry of Education
  • Write an article on social media, or childcare centre blog, or NZ Education Gazette, or other ECE forum and create a network from the feedback.

Mid budget ($50-$200+)

  • 30 minute webinars (e.g. as provided by Early Childhood Council)
  • 1 -3 hour seminars
  • Half day / Full Day Workshops
  • Professional 1-1 mentoring.

High budget ($500-$2000+)

  • Conferences (NZ)
  • Conferences (International)
  • Study Tours (e.g. Reggio Emilia, Montessori, Gaia Earth)
  • Enrol in a Bachelor’s degree or Masters degree in ECE or Educational Leadership.

There is a vast amount of information online to help with professional and communication skills.   It’s a good idea to do your homework prior to booking onto any courses and workshops to ensure that the facilitator is up to date with current working theories and that the content is right for you.  Courses do have a fee involved, so it is wise to shop around the get the best value for you and your centre’s budget.  Study tours are gaining popularity now and offer teachers/leaders an opportunity to visit centres during hours of operation to view different philosophies in action. The main reason for the popularity is having the unique opportunity to experience real life and practical teaching and learning in the actual context of the learning environments, as opposed to sitting in a lecture room and watching images and listening to a powerpoint presentation. Study tours may look expensive, but it is useful to divide the total cost into an hourly or activity based investment which happens over 3 or 5 days. Often this can present a sound investment and offer excellent value for money in terms of access to world class ECE environments, achieving learning outcomes, high retention of learning, successful buy-in and implementation of new ideas and reaching high levels of inspiration and aspirations for teaching.

Joining a professional organisation gives you the ability to surround yourself with like-minded people that enjoy professional discussions and keep you motivated.  If online, you can create a personal learning network (PLN) to help you with your needs.  There are organisations that cater for both teachers and leaders within the sector.  Depending on what your focus is on, a quick search of the internet will give you a list of organisations that will suit your needs.

Photos: Kim Bone presenting her research about “Engaging preschool children into Earth Sciences” at the 100th AGU Earth and Space Science Conference in USA (December 2019)

Taking advantage of the induction and mentoring programme within your centre will help to develop your teaching practice and is a requirement of the Teaching Council of New Zealand.  If you centre has this option in house, ensure that you meet with your mentor or leaders regularly.  It is essential that you lead your journey in professional development.  Your leadership team is there to support and guide you through the process.

You may even look at enrolling in further studies.  Even though you may have a degree, taking additional classes in a topic that will help develop your skills is an advantage.  Many teachers aspiring to take up leadership roles may look to enrol in an advanced Diploma in Educational Leadership to compliment the mentoring that they are receiving from the leaders within their centre.  Many papers require you to complete assignments that have an element of necessary research.  This allows you access to online portals through universities that are now available to the general public.

With the recent release of the strategic plan, the government has given us guidelines for the upcoming few years.  There is a move to a more inclusive practice across the education sector enabling all children to be involved and make progress in education.  This gives teachers scope to build on their capacity of learning new strategies to support children with additional needs.  Educational leadership is also another area of focus with a need to develop teachers’ skills and knowledge to help them into leadership roles in the future.  Along with this is developing teachers into more mentoring or coaching roles within teams, an area which has not had a focus on in the past.

Whether you are an experienced teacher or a newly graduated teacher, it is crucial that you keep up to date.  The education sector is a vibrant and ever-changing landscape.  New children with more and more diverse needs attend our ECE services so it is important that you know how to be able to provide the best for them.  In essence, teachers need to ensure that they are up to date with subject knowledge, pedagogical skills and communication skills on an ongoing basis. This forms the basis of an ancient Japanese philosophy called Kaizen or ‘Continuous Improvement’.

Next steps?

At Gaia Education & Development,  we are able to help you put together a plan that will help you reach your goals and help you to be the best teacher or leader you can be.  Please feel free to contact us for a obligation free chat or sign up for our newsletter so that you can keep up to date with our upcoming events.

For more information on how Gaia Education & Development can support you:

  • Our Study Tours take you to centres around the world, where you can see, be inspired by and learn from teachers and children being OK with risky play.
  • Our 1-1 Mentoring is a supportive and reflective space for you to explore, test and develop your own sense of facilitating, guiding, scaffolding and planning risks in play.
  • Our Centre Quality Audits provide a good balance between ‘risky play’ and ‘risky business’.