Interview: Common reflection helps professionals under EDUCAS Project
EDUCAS aims to create ECEC environments that support children’s development in a holistic way, taking into account the diverse needs of children and families, with special attention to the ones at risk of social exclusion. The project envisages three trainings.
These trainings bring together researchers, directors and teachers/practitioners from ECEC centers involved in the project to meet, exchange and learn together. Two trainings have already taken place (one in Italy and one in Belgium). A third will take place in Lithuania. The following is part of a series of interviews with those who are taking part in the training and professional development activities within the project.
Roberta Plekavičienė is a preschool teacher from Lithuania. Roberta works as a kindergarten teacher at the local school of Aukštelkė, a small town in Lithuania. For the past two years, she has been working as a practitioner in a classroom with 20 children aged 4 to 6 years, together with another teacher, an assistant, and a volunteer. One day per week she leaves the kids to work as a speech therapist at the school. Roberta has attended last year's EDUCAS trainings, having the chance to visit the facilities of her training colleagues in Italy and Belgium. In the coming months, a field visit will take place in Lithuania, the last phase of this training she will certainly not miss!
Did the training activities help you in reflecting on your practice? If yes, how?
Yes, the training activities did help me to reflect on my practice. At first, I thought that we were collaborating and communicating well with parents. But after the focus group results were revealed, I was surprised to realize that what we do is not enough. Parents want to be part of the educational process, they want to be more involved in it and make influential decisions. We all know that collaboration is the key to success. So it is our priority to change that.
Also, I had underestimated the importance of space, especially emotional. I should know it because my personal goal is to improve and support positive behavior and atmosphere in the kindergarten class. I realized we have to implement changes to better meet the needs of the children.
Did the training activities help you in changing (or planning to change) your practice, in relation to 'spaces' and 'educare'? If yes, in which way?
Yes, it did. Thanks to the focus groups we were encouraged to listen to the ideas shared by the children, the parents, and other members of the staff about issues such as space, the learning tools, and even the food. I also realized that parents feel more appreciated. So in order to put this into practice, to work together with parents, shoulder to shoulder, we have created an outdoor space that meets the needs of the youngest children. Although we are improving many other spaces I would like to emphasize that our kindergarten group is located in a very cozy and bright classroom on the ground floor of the school. We also have two extra areas, a small playroom, and a sleeping room. So the space we have now is already very nice. Everyone is eager to get involved in all these news activities and changes. Our work continues.
When it comes to our work environment, after a fruitful debate during one of the trainings, we decided to improve the relations amongst us, teachers and care workers. We hold now weekly kindergarten staff meetings and we are sharing ideas, tools, and even the methods to reach the goals we aim for. And we are getting better results.
Through common reflection, we try to be better professionals and adapt these learning to the needs of our own institution.
Is there an added value in sharing training activities at the same time with colleagues from your own country and colleagues from different countries? If yes, which one(s)?
To be honest, I think it does not matter if you are sharing a training activity with colleagues from your own country or from different countries. Because we all aim at the same goal. By following the training activities both in Italy and Belgium, we all had the chance to share our experiences and ideas, which allowed me to understand that although they might differ from each other, they are all very valuable. Through common reflection, we try to be better professionals and adapt these learning to the needs of our own institution.
Is there anything you 'discovered' about your practice thanks to these trainings?
These tranings reminded me that two heads think better than one: a team, working hard to pursue the same goal, can make a true difference in any field. The change is possible.
Which main challenge did you experience in these trainings (if any)?
During the trainings, I cannot say I encountered any challenge. When passing this knowledge on to my colleagues at the school, yes. In my opinion, it is hard to transmit every single detail from the training activities or to convey an emotion you have felt or shared. Overall, it has been a remarkable experience.