I know from personal experience that getting the work/life balance is very tricky when our workplace is our home. It can be extremely difficult to switch off, especially when we imagine we have a mountain of paperwork yet to do. So, want to clock off when the last little one has gone home? Here’s some tips.
- Stop ‘writing up’ observation notes. You’ve written them once – why write them again?
- Stop printing out photos. Email them to parents and they will print them off if they really want hard copies. Trust me, they will only print off the essential ones that peak the cuteness scale. The rest will remain on their hard drives.
- Stop filling out baby diaries unless you have a parent who really, really wants one and loves nothing more than curling up on the sofa and reading about how many spoons of porridge baby ate, how many wet and soiled nappies their little treasure went through and what face she pulled when she tried kiwi fruit. Very few actually read them. You know this because yesterday you mentioned that Jade needed wellies and spare clothes for an outing to the farm tomorrow and they brought her in sandals and a white broderie anglaise dress with matching socks instead. Those that do read them though do genuinely seem to love them so ask parents first to save yourself a load of unnecessary work.
- Stop doing written planning. Instead, towards the end of each day make sure that your continuous provision has resources and activities that will meet the needs of all of the children who will be attending tomorrow. You will know what they need tomorrow based upon what you observed them doing today. This way, you cannot fail to follow the current interests of each and every child in your care and that is how children make rapid progress towards the early learning goals and that is how you are on your way to achieving outstanding – if that is what you really want. All you need to do throughout the working day is continue to meet children’s interests by interacting with the children, supporting their learning and planning in the moment. And, to put the icing on the cake, while you’re setting it all out you will also be mentally risk assessing as you go because that’s what we do – making all the baby resources accessible for baby and all the resources that you definitely don’t want baby getting her hands on out of harms way. Way to go, you’re safeguarding too. You may even have scribbled a brief observation on a post-it note and took a photo or short video too. Whoa, you’re amazing!
- Stop doing learning journals. Instead, try these tried and trusted methods of working in partnership with parents by sharing developmental information about their child/ren in a way that means something to them – not by throwing EYFS jargon at them:
- Take a photo or video of the child/children playing and exploring, actively learning. creating and thinking critically, then share it via the parents’ preferred method. (OBSERVE) You might also want to take photos of any work they’ve done: towers they’ve built, camp fires they’ve made (real or pretend), pictures they’ve painted. When children have done a drawing, take the time to write down (on the back) anything the child said (in their own words) about what the picture represents. Date it too. Their mark may look like a squiggle to us but to them it’s a number 6, or their first attempt at writing their name, or the route to the shop. Also, make a note of anything else you feel is significant about the picture itself or about the process eg is Luke beginning to use his right hand more than his left? Is he holding his pencil in his fist or using the tripod method? Was he really concentrating? How could parents support his learning at home? It only takes moments but remember to look for characteristics of effective learning and not just the 7 areas of learning and development.
- When sharing your evidence, let parents know (briefly) what is significant about the learning experience. (ASSESS). For instance, Philippa was holding a crayon with a fisted grasp last month but last week she had been practising picking up glass beads with ice tongs. Today she held a marker pen and made marks using a palmar grasp. Moving through the different stages of pencil grasp development is an important part of early childhood development and her progress is quite a milestone – go on, brag about her success.
- Let parents know how you plan to extend on this learning. (PLAN) This is the child’s next step. Now, it could just be more practice or you might want to try a new activity to develop her fine motor skills, say manipulating clay or dough. You might even make an extra dough ball and wrap it in cling film to send home with Philippa to enjoy the activity with her family. That’d be nice.
All of this can be done during the working day. Not after the working day. During the working day. And it doesn’t have to be done for every single child every single day. Do what is manageable for you. At the end of the day, no parent would ever expect you to spend all evening – unpaid – doing this kind of work. They’d probably actually feel rather bad about it.
So, be kind to yourself, make a few changes and congratulations, your working day really is over when you want it to be over. Hurrah!