Tuesday, 2 March 2021

My first published article - getting love-led practice out there

 Very happy to have got my work published in the SERA REB in December 2020. It is really good to be able to offer support to lead professionals during the pandemic, as children really do need love at this time as they will have experienced a lot in the last year of their lives.

Please read my article here: SERA REB

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

6 months on - Covid-19, love and the amazing ELC sector.


Six months ago I wrote a blog about love in the times of Covid. Sadly we are still in the grip of the pandemic and where science will undoubtedly be the thing that gets us out the other side of this, love will be the thing that mends our fractured relationships.

I have been struggling to fit in finding time to make my corrections to my phd thesis because work has been incredibly tough and busy. While I don't mind working from home, 9 months on I am really feeling the effects of missing relationships. I have contact with colleagues on zoom but nothing replaces those passing conversations about people's lives, shared family stories, physical touch.

I am almost there with my revisions and will hopefully be able to send them off in January. My hassle and stress will be short lived. But I am working with nurseries who are struggling to run services under financial and emotional strain. The settings I work with have shown an amazing resilience and without doubt their focus has been on the wellbeing and support for the children and families who use their services. I am in awe of how they have adapted and managed to keep going despite huge sums of money being spent on making nurseries covid-safe not to mention a drop in attendance of children, and issues around self isolation. The ELC sector never ceases to amaze me, under very difficult circumstances staff have turned up at their work, been there for children and families and shown love and protection for them. 

It could be argued that it is their job to be there, it is what they are paid to do, but I believe ELC staff have demonstrated love-led practice throughout this pandemic. During the first lockdown where we knew very little about the virus and were often scared by the rising numbers of deaths and infection rate, ELC staff went in to provide emergency childcare. Initially there was little guidance around keeping themselves and the children safe other than traditional infection control guidance (that came later as we began to know more).

The remarkable thing for me was how they put aside their own, very real, fears and went into provide childcare for the children of key workers. I recently heard of a study which among other things asked early years staff what they had been scared of https://famly.co/blog/management/covid-19-child-care-study-yale/. There were a number of issues such as bringing the virus into the setting, taking it home, not being vigilant enough but most said no one had asked them what they had been scared of. This finding really fascinated me. Practitioners in ELC have just gotten on with the job, and have we really considered how all of this has impacted upon them? It is a real testimony to their resilience and dedication that the children will have received the best, loving care that they could provide despite their own fears.

In my research I suggest that love can be found in all aspects of practice, not just the ones which might be associated with emotions and I think this example demonstrates that perfectly. Practitioners were willing to put aside very real fears about covid-19 to step up and provide early learning and childcare for the families they care about. Many stories can be found on social media daily about the extraordinary lengths practitioners have gone to support children and families through this pandemic to make them feel safe and loved. That isn't just done because you get paid a wage, that is something else. 

I say it is love.

The politicians tell us there is light at the end of the tunnel, with a number of vaccines on the way but at the moment, it doesn't feel like that. We are still a long way off returning to life pre-covid. We might never get to that point, but one thing is for sure we need to celebrate the lengths that ELC staff have gone to in order for children to feel loved and safe when they come into nursery.

The children and families who experience those relationships with practitioners in ELC will remember that love forever. 

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Love in the times of Coronavirus Covid-19

We find ourselves in very strange times at present. A deadly virus is spreading through the world almost faster than we can deal with it. In December 2019 news reports of a virus in China made their way onto our television screens, but at that point we could not have imagined where the world would have ended up by April 2020. The number of those infected rises daily and sadly deaths are reported daily also. We are all "staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives". This is truly a troublesome, scary, terrifying time for people.

What is interesting is the shift that has happened in the last few weeks in the media and society. When Covid-19  first made it's presence known in our lives in the UK, in early March, panic set in and we had panic buying and hand washing till we had sore hands.

(Please note washing your hands is still one of the best ways to prevent cross infection).

Then the news and social media platforms became swamped with awful stories of panic and fear. I know myself I had to stop looking at the television, Twitter, Facebook, reading the news as I was giving myself a sore head worrying and reading about it all. I am not generally an anxious person but I could feel a real sense of doom setting in.

I also changed jobs just as the health crisis hit Scotland, and suddenly I was in the middle of supporting nurseries deal with the crisis that was facing them both personally and economically. It was nothing short of horrible, an unbelievable situation to find ourselves in. I was learning new terms such as 'furloughing' - who knew that was even a word never mind a thing! But what was incredible was how all of a sudden everyone started to pull together. Even our politicians put at end to their sparring and pulled together in amazing cross party cooperation to deal with this unprecedented world health crisis.

We were all first asked to stay at home, then came the order that the country was going into lock down and we should all stay at home and only leave home for essential shopping and one trip outside the home for exercise. Rainbows began appearing at the windows of houses, what started as a way of entertaining children no longer at school (rainbow hunting on a walk) became a symbol of hope and more and more rainbows appeared.

We then were asked to join in a nationwide round of applause for the NHS. I know so many people who are putting their own health on line to be the people who care for those who become ill with Covid-19. I joined in with that applause to thank them, I also felt I wanted to thank those others who are supporting the NHS frontline workers like the nurseries I work with, many of them are staying open to provide emergency childcare.

So, where does love come into this?

 I listened to a man, being interviewed on BBC Breakfast, who was the owner of a care home. He said his life and work had become all about keeping his residents safe. He explained the extraordinary measures he and his staff were taking to ensure residents were kept safe and well and he finished by saying "we do it because we love our residents".

The phrase, "tender loving care" (TLC), traditionally used in the western world when describing characteristics of nursing, could not be more appropriate now when people throughout society are very much in need of tender loving care. Kendrick and Robinson (2002:292) suggest TLC "has little to do with soppiness and everything to do with commitment" with complete professional focus being on the needs of the individual patient. Haring (1974) sums up the love nurses show to the dying as "one of the supreme expressions of respect for the human person...". We would hope that when we are at the end of our lives we were nursed with dignity and love.

For me this is summed up in words from my friend and mentor, John, who experienced a horrendous life threatening illness but was given tender loving care by nurses in America:

"Lots of nurses and physios (both male and female) also cared for me with an ethics of love. What I realised, during this time, was that you can have all the health procedures, systems and funding structure you like but an ethics of love in your healthcare system heals most....

When I use the term Love, I am not talking about something sexual or something trivial, I am talking about our appreciation of each other that comes from the heart.  A belief in self and other."

My research showed that reconciling love and professionalism was difficult for a number of reasons, however, love has become, in these difficult times, an emotion that is being spoken about in the same breath as professional caring services. In times like this it seems that we return to the basic human needs of being safe, secure and loved. The relevance of attachments has become ever more important, particularly when we are separated from those we love.

My own family have been getting to grips with family video chats, with great hilarity. I would rather be able to see my parents, children, family and touch them but for now I am content to see them and speak with them through video chats. I would rather be apart than us risk infecting each other. This is through love for my children and family. I will do anything to protect them.

For childcare workers who are caring for children of key workers, maintaining a social distance of 2 metres with a baby who needs their nappy changed is just not possible, yet those key workers out of love, put their own health and their families on the line. I have spoken to owners of nurseries who have told me they are remaining open, despite the financial struggle because they feel a moral obligation to be there for the children and families they love.

I have watched countless numbers of video clips on social media where key workers in nurseries are recording stories, recording special messages and songs for their key children to maintain those special relationships. The responses from children show real love for their key workers with kisses being blown and delight showing on the faces of babies. The power of love and relationships is not being underestimated now.

Loving attachments maintained (click for examples)

I have argued, in various blogs and in my doctoral thesis that love has many meanings and that perhaps linking love to professionalism has been problematic because of inappropriate connections to sexual overtones. But now in this time where we see communities coming together, people finding innovative ways to connect and ways to maintain loving attachments and relationships, love has maybe pushed its way back to the front of the crowd.

We are all longing for life to return to 'normal' whatever that is, however I am not sure I want to return to the normal we had before Covid-19. I would like to return to a new normal where we remember how good it felt to be loved by our family, friends and neighbours. A world where we don't return to our own insular lives but one where we love everyone around us and we care about people we don't really even know.

Is that wishful thinking?

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Keynote - Australia May 2019


ACEL have kindly shared with me the Vimeo link to my keynote presentation at the Early Years Conference in May this year.

Don't feel you have to watch the whole 54 mins, skip to the good bits or just put it on and go make a cup of tea! That's what I would do.

Thanks as always for your interest.

Monday, 10 June 2019

The ACEL Conference and Bats....

May 2019
Sydney, Australia
Australian Council for Educational Leaders Early Years Conference.
You don't get much more iconic than the Sydney Opera House or the long expanse that is Bondi Beach. I was in Sydney, Australia!

After five years of being holed up in my wee home office, my hard work had paid off and here I was on the cusp of being the key note speaker at the Australian Council for Educational Leaders Early Years Conference.

I still find it all a little bemusing or indeed amusing that wee Jane Robertson who was middle of the road at school has achieved this amazing thing and has been invited half way around the world to talk about it. But there you have it, I have and I was.

So after a fabulous week visiting all the sights that Sydney has to offer and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge (another amazing thing - I have never been a fan of heights my whole life and I did this amazing climb which involved climbing up a very high bridge with a very big drop below!

But this is the new me! The one who is fearless and does things that she could never have contemplated before. The one who says Yes to things once thought impossible. I have to say that often gets me into situations that I question afterwards but life is for living and I am living it to the full right now!

We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art and there was a fantastic exhibition on by Tracey Whiskey a young aboriginal artist. She used the medium of dot painting and many of her paintings had love as a theme throughout.

There was also an exhibition of paintings from very young artists depicting relationships that were special to them. These two really drew me in.

Andy and I had an amazing week of visiting gorgeous beaches, stunning views and saw tons of Aussie wildlife. Including the bats -

All too soon it was time to get to work and do what I came here for! Give my key note at the ACEL early years conference.

The first thing I did was spend time with staff and practitioners from the New South Wales Dept of Education. Tracy Mackey, Executive Director of Early Childhood Education took me to visit Wanibiri Pre-School Nursery which provided childcare for children primarily from indigenous families in Redfern, Sydney. It was a wonderful experience. The children, as children are the world over, were curious about their visitor and came over and chatted to me. The staff were lovely and I learned a little about the cultural activities and experiences the children had as part of their nursery day.

I shared my research with around 20 delegates at the Dept of Education, NSW Govt and challenged them to think about love-led practice. The questions came thick and fast, and a great discussion was had by all. As always the phrase "but some children are too hard to love" came up. As this was the title of my key note presentation, I was happy to challenge delegates to reflect upon why they felt that there might be a child who they felt unable to love. As always delegates rose to the challenge of thinking deeply about the implications of this.

The following day was day one of the ACEL conference. I wasn't due to speak until the second day so I had the pleasure of listening to other speakers. The speakers were all inspiring and motivational, no pressure on me to perform on day two then! We also had a visit from B1 and B2, a spectacle that only an early years conference could provide!

I also met some amazing people. The two in the middle of this picture had specifically sought me out as they were really interested in my research! The lady on the end was called Suzanne Gervey and is a really famous children's author in Australia, she was fab!

The following day was my turn to speak. I got there really early as I was first up at 8.30am. I had expected the room to be half empty because it was so early but no, it was a full house! Yikes, there were a lot of people. 

My presentation went well and I was awarded a huge round of applause when I said I had submitted my thesis the day before flying out to Australia. As always there were a lot of questions about love. I often find there are not so much critiques of my research but real soul searching challenges, often people challenging their own thoughts rather than mine. Which is brilliant, that is what research is all about! To  make you think and challenge your own frames of reference. Afterwards at the coffee break I had a lot of people come up to me wanting to chat about my research and relate it to their work. Love really is something which gets people talking.

I then sat back and listened to the rest of the presentations.

These toys were the cast from Play School. I had a bit of a discussion with one of the program staff about whether we had Play School first or Australia. She laughed saying it had to be them as it was 40 years old this year, I then replied saying well I watched it when I was little and I am 50 this year. Me thinks we had it first! 

Tim Maddren was the host for the conference, he was really nice and hugely professional.

The conference was brilliant, I had a great time, I learned a lot and met a lot of really nice people. So lovely to be invited to share the love in Sydney!

Thank you Australia, you were amazing.

I am hoping to get a recording of my key note, which would be fabby so that I can share it with everyone. Watch this space!

PDA/BA Childhood Practice Development Day presentation

I often think I give these presentations and there is no real record of me doing them so here is the power point from the presentation I gave to the PDA/BA Childhood Practice Providers Group:

My first published article - getting love-led practice out there

 Very happy to have got my work published in the SERA REB in December 2020. It is really good to be able to offer support to lead profession...