I am back from the Early Childhood Education Wellness Conference, where I was speaking about the importance of learning environments.
First, let me tell you about the conference. It was organized by Jodi Mackinnon-LeBlanc, the owner of Lil Jems Child Care Centre and Home Agency in Yarmouth, and her dedicated team (Natasha, I am looking at you).
The conference was tailored to the home daycare providers but there were also teachers from child care centres in HRM and Lil Jems.
I arrived at Atlantica Oak Island Resort on Friday afternoon to set up the tables for my presentation with the focus on using loose parts and natural toys in our learning spaces. I would love to tell you that I set up the most amazing table top activities that you have even seen… but it was not the case.
Instead, I went for simple arrangements to demonstrate how a few materials could allow a child to tease out multiple relationships between those and to test various theories of what can and can’t be done with these objects.
I was hoping to give a short talk and then walk around the tables and invite teachers to discuss the multiple possibilities of open-ended play based on loose parts but it didn’t quite happened. The schedule had to be re-worked to accommodate arriving guests, so we spent more time reflecting on our own classrooms and how engaging “the third teacher” could shape our daily practices. (When I said “third”, I heard some sarcastic snorts so I had to quickly acknowledge that it will be the “second” teacher for home daycare providers who usually run their programs by themselves).
I was very happy to receive a few orders for wooden toys and slightly disappointed that loose parts were not very popular.
Saturday morning was gorgeous…
the venue had the right vibe…
and after a great breakfast, we went outside to take group photos.
Here is Jodi working while Liz Hicks is setting up thought-inviting trinkets for her presentation on behaviour management.
Liz delivered a great presentation with her signature reflective object-creating part. This time we made magic wands to see if we can wish away challenging behaviours. As you guessed it, the wands don’t work but knowing your children, seeing all behaviour as communication, consistency, and hard work does.
We had delicious lunch, continued working with Liz, and then we had about 3 hours to wind down and just take it all in. Some teachers stayed for yoga with Sarah, some went to the pool or for a walk, and I had a lovely chat with Dea who signed up for an individual consultation about her home daycare in Alberta. I hope my experience in setting up classrooms would work for her teaching space, too. I also did a draw for the home daycare providers who signed up for the newsletter and Ashley Toole from the Valley won a free makeover! I am so excited to work with her, stay tuned for photos!
Then we had really, really good dinner (all food was amazing by the way), and got ready for Pam Mood. When Jodi introduced Pam, she set the bar pretty high and boy, was she right! Pam Mood, a motivational speaker, who is currently serving as a mayor of Yarmouth, was indeed engaging, entertaining, animated, honest, inspiring, and hilarious! She subtly packed her funny slides with relevant reflections of today’s trends in workplace and society as a whole, solid leadership concepts, and memorable strategies for recognizing and reducing stress; doing your part while looking (and more importantly acting) like a professional.
I will leave you with two quotes from Pam. My favourite one from her presentation was “Professionalism: it’s NOT the job you DO, it’s HOW you DO the job”. Pretty applicable to our field that is re-defining itself, isn’t it?
And later in the evening, when I had a chat with Pam about leadership concepts, she said that she sees leadership as giving people permission to do what they know they should be doing in the first place. I like it. I like it a lot.
I also have to tell you that I met very interesting, sophisticated women who run their home-based businesses caring for children. I loved our conversations in the lounge late at night, and even though I was a stranger to most of them, in my heart I felt at home.
So I drove home on Saturday night, fell into bed and in the morning I got this beauty for Mother’s Day.
And this is what wellness is all about — being grateful, living in the present, surrounding yourself with people you like, enjoying beautiful moments, being humble, open-minded, and always learning new things about the world around us and ourselves.