Monday's report ("Putting a price on childcare") set me thinking about what quality interaction in a childcare centre looks like.
Quality interaction takes place when a teacher listens with the intention of understanding a child's thinking and feelings beyond the words expressed.
The teacher then responds by building on the child's comments and thinking, to extend the child's learning.
There are several factors at play:
- A teacher's temperament and personality can determine the quality of interaction. Generally, a cheerful and energetic teacher will be more responsive to children's observations, comments and demands.
- The quality of leadership affects teachers' morale and motivation, impacting the quality and frequency of interaction with children.
A centre with a high teacher turnover impacts children's behaviour because of the lack of consistency in teaching practices, with children having to constantly adapt to different teaching styles and expectations.
This can trigger a power struggle between teacher and children in classroom management, resulting in little time and energy for even casual conversations.
- A smaller class size allows teachers to engage in more meaningful conversations with the children.
- The teacher-parent relationship indirectly impacts the quality of teacher-child interaction.
A teacher who enjoys an amicable and respectful relationship with a child's parents is more at ease and open to having conversations with the child.
If not, there will be a psychological barrier that will cause the teacher to be more cautious in interacting with the child, to prevent any misunderstanding.
- A curriculum that incorporates a lot more hands-on activities creates more opportunities for teacher-child interaction.
- Teachers and children are calmer and more in tune with each other when the environment is less stressful.
- A healthy sense of camaraderie and a spirit of teamwork and cooperation generate optimism and motivation. This encourages teachers to provide quality care and listen attentively to children's views.
- A highly packed schedule, rushing teachers and children from one activity to the next, can leave teachers too breathless to even engage in small talk with the little ones.
Therefore, a centre needs to prioritise learning needs and differentiate between "must-have" and "good-to-have" activities.
Finally, the quality of training should equip teachers with effective observational and questioning techniques to generate meaningful conversations with children.
To conclude, quality interaction is two-way communication grounded in trust and respect.
Rebecca Chan (Dr)