1. Introduction

Studying this foundation degree has helped my professionalism grow in my workplace and made me a more competent worker in many ways. There are many theories that I have learnt throughout the different modules in this course that has helped me to improve my practice. In this report I will look back and reflect on which models and theories have helped my professionalism grow. Khilawala (2012) describes professionalism as the knowledge that we carry about our field of work and completing our duty with sincerity whilst maintaining professional etiquette and ethics in the workplace.

I currently work in a day care nursery that offers care for children aged between 3 months and 8 years. The nursery operates 50 weeks of the year, from 7.30am to 6pm providing a range of care services including before and after school clubs, full day care and pre-school sessions. There is a diverse mix of children from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, the majority of +children live close by. Some children have English as a second language. The setting is available to all members of the community and holds strong links with local primary schools. to assist children’s transition from the pre-school to primary school we have a visit to the local primary school every fortnight allowing the children to form a relationship with the teacher. My setting is recognised by Ofsted and has been rated as a good setting by the Ofsted team. I currently work as a room leader in the pre-school room working with children aged 3-5. There are 4 other practitioners that work alongside me and as a team we work well together to meet the needs of the children.

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The preschool acts as a gateway to primary school and we work very closely with staff from the local primary school to support transition when moving settings. We have a number of children from different ethnic origins and cultures attending the nursery, however the area the nursery is situated in is predominantly an area where white British people live. At the preschool we promote an atmosphere of care and enthusiasm, where all families are welcomed and parents are involved fully in all our events and activities. I have been working at the nursery for the past 3 years.

My primary role at my setting is to ensure that the children’s well-being and safety is in mind at all times by providing various different types of indoor and outdoor activities in a stimulating environment which help children develop holistically in all their different areas. As we work with very young children there are many set policies and procedures in place regarding important issues such as safeguarding, child protection, confidentiality which all staff have to comply to. All the staff are qualified to a minimum of NVQ level 2 and any students within the setting who are still under training are supervised while with the children at all times. The statutory framework the nursery follows is the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) (DCSF, 2008) and all activities we provide are suited to the guidelines of this framework. I have introduced and analysed the nursery using the Normann Model (2000).

1. Taking a genuine interest

In the childcare profession we meet and work with many different people of different cultures and backgrounds. In order to work in a professional manner it is important to have good people skills. Cottrell (2003) suggests that commonly we seem to appreciate people with similar beliefs and values to our own; however, any kind of variation can sometimes be disturbing because in some way it suggests that the other person is right and we are wrong. These types of situations can cause uncomfortable feelings.

As my workplace is situated in a predominantly white area most of the workers at the nursery are white British women. Before I started working at the nursery I didn’t personally know many different people of other backgrounds and cultures as majority of my friends were Asians, and so if anyone other than Asians looked at me for more than a few seconds I would instantly feel paranoid that they are staring at my hijaab (headscarf). I was very judgemental and judge them to be racist. When I first began working at the nursery I felt the same way if colleagues would look at me. However over time as I got to know my colleagues better a few of them asked me questions such as why I wore the hijaab? Was it my choice? I soon realised they were not judging me or being racist towards me it was just their curiosity and they wanted to increase their knowledge about our culture.

In the work based practice module of my foundation degree we studied people skills and I learnt that Cottrell (2003) puts forwards a concept that in order to have good people skills it is important to take a genuine interest. She further goes on to say that as our people skills develop it becomes easier for us to accept a wide range of differences in people, and rather than feeling disturbed we soon learn to find a point of interest in all the differences and diversity. This concept has helped me improve my understanding as now if someone looks at me or asks me questions about my hijaab I don’t feel threatened and I think differently of them as I understand that they may just be curious. Not only in this situation but any conversations in my professional practice I now ensure that I am not judgmental and I take a genuine interest in the person I’m talking to.

1. Language Development

One major aspect of my role as a nursery nurse is to help children develop their communication skills by motivating them and planning activities for them at their level of development which will help them move forward in their development. One of the modules studied within this course was the communication and language module. This module played a great part in helping me to become a more professional practitioner. There were many aspects of knowledge I gained from this module which I was unaware of previously. Through the teaching of this module I learnt that Communication is not just about words, there is a lot more involved in such as listening, attention, and understanding. During our lessons we were shown The London borough of Hounslow website regarding speech and language. The professionals of this borough stated that the processes involved in language development are best described in the model of the pyramid.

(The pyramid of speech and language development, London Borough of Hounslow 2012)

Through this model of communication processes I now clearly understand that before teaching children words and phrases I must concentrate on the bottom two blocks of the pyramid first and help children gradually develop their way up to good communication. Before studying this model I would always expect children to listen carefully to what I told them regardless of what environment I was speaking to them in quiet or noisy, however during this module I discovered how difficult the skill of listening actually is. Page (2008) says listening is in fact a complicated neurological skill which begins to develop from birth. Listening involves a process where children learn how to concentrate on just one auditory signal as they concentrate on the one person’s voice who is talking to them and block out the other sounds. This informed my practice and now when I speak to a child I ensure that I am at the child’s level, that I give enough time for the child to process the information and most importantly that the background noise level is not so high so that listening to what I am saying becomes easier for the child.

1. Reflection

Working with children is very different from any other job as there is no set pattern. Every day is a different adventure and you never know what each day will bring. This is why whilst working with children it is important to be a reflective practitioner. Many modules across the course required us to do reflections such as the safeguarding module, working with families’ module but work based practice module and the study skills module enabled me to understand reflection more deeply, helping me understand that reflection must be done with an aim of improvement. Cottrell (2003) states reflection allows us to gain an in depth and honest picture of ourselves she further says that by stepping back and looking into a situation gives us an opportunity to recognize how others view us as well as giving us a deeper understanding of the things which have an effect on our performance and progress.

A reflective practitioner is able to gain control over their own thoughts, emotions and behaviours through the process of reflection and then they are in a better position to achieve their goal. By studying the subject of reflection I realised there are many different ways of looking at reflection Bolton (2010) describes reflection as a state of mind, an ongoing element of practice rather than seeing it as a technique or curriculum activity. Bolton further identifies that the key to successful reflection is to think about our actions in an evaluative way and the results found from there, use them to further improve our practice. By doing so reflection will serve the purpose of enabling us to continually improve our practice. Paris (2012) stated that Donald Schon (1987) identified two types of reflections 1. Reflection in action which is reflecting on an experience whilst still in the situation and taking quick decision and 2. Reflection on action which means looking back on a situation and learning from it. After studying all the different ways of thinking about reflection I found that the model of reflection that worked best for me was Kolb’s (1984) cycle of reflection. His cycle of reflection is best represented in four stages

1. Concrete Experience: this is when an individual experiences a situation

2. Reflective observation: the individual thinks about the situation afterwards an evaluative way

3. Abstract Conceptualization: the individual thinks further about their role in the situation and a new idea arises in mind

4. Active experimentation: the idea is put into practice when situation is repeated

Then after the experience is repeated it is reflected upon again and in this manner the cycle of reflection is continued. As result of writing the different reflections for each module I have now improved in my writing and at my workplace instead of just writing description and my feelings I am now able to gain insights of what new knowledge I have discovered that day and effectively plan how I will bring that knowledge in use for next time

1. Multi Agency working

The concept of Multi agency working has been around from nearly the 70’s but it was made formal in the Children’s Act 2004 which introduced ‘Every Child Matters’ and the ‘Common Assessment Framework’. Multi-agency working brings together practitioners from different professions to offer an integrated way of providing support for children, young people and families. As a nursery nurse it is part of the roles and responsibilities of the job to take part in multi agency working when required. This knowledge I was already aware of as it was discussed during my induction, however at that time I was unaware of the importance of multi agency working. The module of safeguarding made me realise just how important multi agency working actually is and how wrong thing can go if it is not given importance. As part of the safeguarding module we studied the case of Victoria Climbie. In 2000, a young girl called Victoria Climbie was murdered by her aunt and aunt’s partner after an extensive period of awful mistreatment. What made Victoria’s death mostly distressing was that she was acknowledged to a range of local authority and children’s agencies such as housing departments, social services departments, the police, hospitals who between them failed to arrive at co-ordinated effective action that could save her. After her death Lord Laming investigated her case and published a report: The Victoria Climbie inquiry report in which he stated that the death of Victoria represented a gross failure of the system.

‘Effective support for children and families cannot be achieved by a single agency acting alone. It depends on a number of agencies working well together. It is a multi-disciplinary task.’ (Laming, 2003: par. 1.30)

After studying this case in full detail I was in a more informed position regarding multi agency working. The very next academic year I was a key worker for a child with a speech and language impairment and after a few months of him attending the nursery I was contacted by his speech and language therapist who wanted to arrange a meeting with me to discuss the child’s progress and make a plan to work together. Now that I knew and understood the importance of my role in this meeting I made notes of all the information I had gathered about this child. I attended the meeting with a positive approach and took in all the information from the speech and language therapist very carefully. I feel that the safeguarding module taught me the importance and benefits of multi agency working and this enabled me to successfully and effectively share all the needed information with the speech and language therapist.

1. Children’s Play

As an early years worker I recognise that play is very important for young children as we are taught in our training. The Department for Children, Schools and Families (2008) emphasise that play is vital for children and in line with that as part of my role I plan a variety of different play activities for children. However through various modules of the course such as child development, communication and language development I gained in depth knowledge of the benefits of play for children and just how closely play is linked to the development of children. Sylva and Lunt (1982) notice that Piaget’s cognitive theory has a great connection with children’s play. They state that Piaget believes that children learn through the different stages of sensory motor, pre-operational, operational and formal learning, and these stages are mirrored in the different types of play. Mastery play, symbolic play, and play with rules. Which characterise children of different ages. Mastery play consists mainly of repetitive movements and exploration linking in with sensory motor as babies repeat movements to see what effects they can make. Symbolic play links with pre-operational stage as play involves using symbols and make believe imagination. Play with rules link in with formal as children start thinking logically.

Almon (2003) identifies that Play allows children to bring together all the elements of life as they experience it allowing them to make life their own. Sheridan (1977) identifies the vital link between children’s play and development by describing that young children’s play is stimulating and rewarding for them as they gain emotional satisfaction from it.

After gaining the benefits and insights of children’s play my professional has improved a great deal as now when I am planning the activities for the next week I consider all the activities with my colleagues and actually take time to consider if the children will be able to express themselves openly with this play. As well as this I also think about the learning outcome from this play and what is our role as key workers in it to help the children achieve the outcome.

1. Planning for children

At the nursery Every day numerous observations about each child are made as the EYFS curriculum identifies it is important to recognise children’s existing achievements and establish strategies for their future learning. The module on child development allowed me to gain a deeper awareness of how to manage observations, planning for them, ensuring they have a purpose rather than just to tick a box off from my to do list. In many modules across the foundation degree course I came across cognitive theories, however Vygotsky’s Sociocultural theory and his concept of the Zone of Proximal development has helped p[lay a great role in improving my observations and planning next steps for children.

Vygotsky claimed

“What a child can do with assistance today, she will be able to do by herself tomorrow” (Vygotsky, 1978, pg 87)

This is the thought behind the concept of the zone of proximal development.

This concept made me realise just how important a nursery nurse’s role is in the development of the children in their care. It made me realise how all aspects should be considered in the activities and goals we plan for the children to achieve and so

I now focus much more highly whilst planning ‘next steps’ for my key children after observing them.

1. Conclusion

Throughout this report it can be seen that over the past years I have developed greatly. I feel the course material has helped me in gaining a wide range of knowledge and has taught me to improve my ability to identify an opportunity when it arises. The teachings from this course have taught me to utilise every chance to assist a child’s development. I have without doubt grown into a more effective practitioner. Through undertaking this course I feel that I have drastically gained more confidence and improved teamwork

Beyond boosting my enthusiasm of play and I have extended my knowledge of play, child development and other subjects relating to my profession and as a result of this I have been inspired to develop some of my previous methods of working. By gaining in depth knowledge of how children grow, mentally and creatively, I can now adapt techniques for each child in my care .I now feel in a stronger position to plan ways to assist each child to develop positively and confidently. In Every activity I plan I put my full effort into carrying out my personal belief that children learn better whilst having fun.

This course has helped me understand the importance of professionalism and motivated me to develop my professionalism each day.

Studying this course has improved my knowledge of theorists and theories enormously, as I continue my studies I expect this to continue to expand.

Over the next few years my main goal, academically, is to complete a Bachelors degree in working with children and then go on to gain a qualifies teacher status so that I can become a competent worker and fulfil my dream of making a difference to children’s lives.

References

Almon, J. (2003). The Vital Role of Play in Early Childhood Education. http://www.waldorfresearchinstitute.org/p+df/BAPlayAlmon.pdf. Last accessed 7th March 2013.

Bolton, G (2010). Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development. 3rd ed. London: Paul Chapman Publishing. 1.

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES (2008) Practice Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.

Khilawala, R. (2012). Conducting Professionalism at Workplace. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/professionalism-in-the-workplace.html. Last accessed 11th March 2013.

Kolb D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning experience as a source of learning and development, New Jersey: Prentice Hall

Page, K. (2008). Listening and Attention. Available: www.storyphones.co.uk/listeningandattention.html. Last accessed 6th March 2013.

Sheridan, M (1977). Play in Early Childhood From birth to six years.. London: NFER Publishing Company.

Sylva, K. and Lunt, I (1982) Child Development: A Fist Course. Oxford: Blackwell

The pyramid of speech and language development (2011) online video. Available from:http://www.hounslow.gov.uk/index/education_and_learning/schools_and_colleges/speech_and_language/speech_language_videos/pyramid_of_speech_language.html last accessed: 6th March 2013

Vygotsky,L.S, (1978), Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

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