Placements are a wonderful opportunity for students to gain knowledge and experience. Students often consider placements to be the time when they really learn the most valuable skills for their career, but sometimes learning comes from challenging experiences. Placements can present new situations that some students may find difficult to navigate. Although colleges work hard to ensure students are placed in settings that are ready to support their learning, some experiences may be less positive than others. Here are a few issues students may encounter during their placements.
Relationship with Placement Supervisor
When students are placed in a room they are under the guidance and leadership of one specific early childhood educator or staff person, often referred to as your placement supervisor. The role of the placement supervisor is to guide and assess the student’s learning, provide constructive feedback and engage in dialogue and evaluation for students to improve. On occasion, students may find that their placement supervisor does not provide the support they need and this can present a challenge for students. It is important to remember that your placement supervisor may be experiencing their own stress and challenges, so if you feel you have not made a connection with your placement supervisor do not always take it personally. Professionals working with children and families have a lot of responsibilities that they need to prioritize. The central focus of ECEC is to ensure that the needs and safety of the children in the room are being met. As a student one of the best ways you can take ownership of your learning and contributions is also by focusing your attention on the needs and safety of the children.
If you find that you are having difficulty receiving feedback from your placement supervisor it may be a matter of approach. Try to set-up a time in advance with your placement supervisor when you know they will not be as busy. If you are a student who needs a lot of support you may want to have a conversation at the beginning of the placement and clearly communicate your needs to your placement supervisor. Let them know how they can help you learn and also ask them how you can be the best asset to the room. Having an awareness of each other's expectations from the beginning is important to a successful placement. Finally, if you do not feel that you can resolve a particular challenge with your placement supervisor make sure to seek guidance from your college faculty, you should not have to deal with this challenge on your own. Make sure to be prepared for this support by documenting your specific challenges with examples and potential solutions.
First Time Experiences
Placements are often perceived to be challenging for students because of the novelty of the experience. Placements might be a student’s first real experience working with children and working within the dynamic of a child care centre. The first placement experience presents a lot of new situations and challenges and there is a huge learning curve. It is hard to prepare for something that you are unfamiliar with but there are some ways to reduce the stress of the unknown. Before beginning your placement try to do some research about the centre. Centres often have their own website which outlines their program philosophy and can give you a feel for the type of environment it is. Professors are also a great resource of information and support and may have some useful tips or advice that will help you prepare.
Stress and Feeling Overwhelmed
During placements students may experience extra amounts of stress. Placements often feel like a full time job in addition to other school and home-life responsibilities. Students may begin to feel overwhelmed or as if they have no down-time. It is all a balancing act, and after a few placements you will get the hang of how to prioritize your time to manage all aspects of your life. It is important to keep yourself organized. Plan out your weeks to give you an idea of how you need to spend your time. Set time aside for school requirements to ensure you are meeting all your deadlines and share this information with your placement supervisor. As difficult as it may feel to make time for yourself, it is very important that you give yourself some time to decompress from a hectic schedule.
It is extremely common for students to get sick during placements as they are exposed to a whole new set of germs. Illness usually does not go beyond the common cold, but even a cold can feel like a lot to handle when you are already dealing with new responsibilities. To help boost your immune system make sure you are getting as much sleep as possible and are eating healthy balanced meals. If you need to, take a day off to help you recuperate from illness. Do not push your body! You will not be able to accomplish anything if you do not take care of yourself and your health
Connecting with families
Forming strong relationships with parents and families is an important aspect of ECEC. In order to form partnerships with families, communication is key. Yet, the hustle and bustle of a parent’s day may not allow them to spend too much time in the centre. How do students capitalize on the short window of time that they do have to talk with parents? To begin with, make your presence known! Although you may feel shy or reserved, it is extremely important that you make an effort to introduce yourself at the first chance you have and establish yourself as part of the room. Secondly, make sure you are around during drop off and pick-up times so that you can familiarize yourself with families. Make note of each child’s day so that you have a specific comment or anecdote to tell parents about. Parents want to know how children have spent their time and love hearing about the experiences their children enjoyed. If you find face to face communication with families is limited, try writing a newsletter for parents that they can read at their leisure. The important thing is that you leave your placements with families having an awareness of the work you did and the connection you made with their children.
Implementing Curriculum Activities
Part of your placement experience will include creating and implementing curriculum activities for children. Depending on your program you will have a certain quota of activities to complete. If you are having difficulty finding the time to implement your activities, talk to your placement supervisor about strategies you can use to make sure your activities become a part of each day. If you can include your activities into the classroom’s weekly curriculum program it will ensure all the staff in the room know it will be taking place. Choose your activity time wisely. For example, after snack time may be a better time for an elaborate activity as the children will be re-energized to participate. And remember that organizing activity implementation should not take your attention away from the children for too long. Taking care of and nurturing the children also contributes to their learning and is the most important part of your job.
After spending time and effort creating an activity it is natural that you will want for all the children to participate in it. One way to ensure participation is to plan activities based on the interests of the children. There may be instances where children do not want participate and they should not be forced to. It is up to them to decide what they will do each day. If you are not pleased with the participation in your activity, leave it out for a few days, it might get more attention the second or third day than it did the first. If an activity is not initially successful, seek feedback as to why the children were not drawn to it. Or try a few alterations to its design. If you are looking for some support check out our page on Curriculum Resources.
Observing Malpractice or Abuse
Individuals who work with children are in a position of power and are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of those children. ECEs have a legal responsibility to report any situations in which they believe a child’s wellbeing is compromised or at-risk. Witnessing or suspecting an incident of malpractice or abuse towards a child can be alarming and frightening but it is important to follow professional protocol for these situations. Always make an accurate written record of what you witnessed as you may need to share that information with the proper authorities. If you are not sure what to do talk to the centre supervisor or your supporting faculty immediately. For further information on the specific process of reporting an incident please read the Professional Advisory: Duty to Report document from the College of Early Childhood Educators.