Stephanie Porteous, Depute Manager at Cherry Blossom Nursery in Dundee, talked to Lisa McCabe from the Children and Families Team about the impact on her since joining Glow Early Learn in January.
Lisa: How long have you been a member of Glow Early Learn and how did you find out about the community?
Stephanie: I have only recently become a member of Glow Early Learn. In fact it was at the beginning of the year, following a CPD event run by Dundee City Council, my local authority, and the Children and Families Team of Education Scotland.
I found the whole evening to be extremely informative. You were there, Lisa and so was Con Morris. It was really great having you explain and demonstrate how the Early Learn Glow Community can be used as a positive resource for educators across Scotland.
I particularly liked when the community was described as a place for people to share their practice and not be judged on their lack of knowledge on a certain aspect but to be encouraged to ask questions and connected with other professionals. I think that is a really important message to get ‘out there’.
Lisa: What is the best thing about being a member of the community?
Stephanie: For me I often find that just having another colleague agree with what you are providing and what you are doing. I find that encouraging. I think we all need that from time to time. It sort of reinforces what you know.
Being able to connect with other professionals and sharing ideas is a huge positive for me and the way that the Early Learn Community looks makes it feel like a social platform as well as professional one. It’s easy to navigate your way around and nice and simple to upload your resources. The resources section is being used really well by colleagues, which is a great.
I also think that it’s great to see the different approaches to ELCC from across Scotland. Since joining, I have felt extremely supported by everyone. The colleagues I have been networking with so far have been honest and open about their flaws as well as their strengths. I find this really refreshing. They have been very happy to share practice, ideas, resources and photos; and, that has encouraged me to do so too. As an educator, it has encouraged me to look closely at my own practice and in some cases has highlighted areas where I’ve thought ‘How do we do that?, How can we do that better?’.
Lisa: Since you joined, what connections have you made?
Stephanie: I have made a wonderful connection with Allie Rankin through the community. Ailie works in Inverclyde. We have found that we approach things in a similar way. Recently there has been a thread around ‘Sciences’ and I could see during the conversation that Allie and I shared the same challenges within this curriculum area. By the end of this thread both of us came out with a vastly improved knowledge and a fantastic resource that we are currently using, to help improve our practice.
Lisa: For those who don’t know, can you give us a flavour of what have you been discussing inside Glow Early Learn?
Stephanie: For me the main subject that inspired a lot of chat, comments and resources, was the use of ‘I Can’ statements. This really, for me, was the point where Glow Early Learn started having an impact on my setting. Everyone who joined the thread had an opinion on the proper and improper use of I can statements, and it was very obvious that these were being used in a huge variety of ways across different settings. Colleagues were happy to share resources, and the resources shared were nothing less than amazing. It really made clear to me the potential of Glow Early Learn and how it could support anyone from support workers to teachers in providing the highest quality ELCC across Scotland. It also shows that we all have the same challenges in common and that we all need a little support and encouragement from time to time.
Lisa: So, what have you learned by being a member of the community that you may not otherwise have learned?
Stephanie: I have realised that we are not all perfect and that everyday we face broadly similar challenges. I have also learned that there is a huge amount of fantastic resources out there to support the people who work in ELCC, and that people have a genuine love for their job and go, and want to go, the extra mile, daily.
Lisa: And what has been the most significant learning to date?
Stephanie: The support, advice and resources I received through the community with the development of the use of ‘I CAN’ statements across the setting has had an extremely positive impact on my setting. The entire team have felt the effects of the community as I have been able to provide staff training, staff development, etc. through my links with Early Learn community.
Lisa: You have gotten a great deal out of being a member of the community, Stephanie. What have you put in?
Stephanie: I do remember you saying at the evening we had in Dundee that we would ‘get out what we put in’. That is so true. You have to be active as a member. You have to be prepared to give of your opinion and to justify the reasons for your views. I try to be a supportive colleague by responding to questions. I shared our approach to planning and welcomed the feedback from others.
Lisa: Sometimes people worry about time, Stephanie. How do you manage your time on Glow Early Learn?
Stephanie: I would agree about ‘time’ for everything we need to do, not just glow. But by using glow and seeking advice, etc. from other professionals it has saved me time in the long run, I suppose.
So I suppose it’s all about managing your time and using your time for what benefits you and your setting the most. Glow is definitely a HUGE benefit/resource for me as an educator, very positive impact so far.
Lisa: What do you think is better about making connections with colleagues in this way?
Stephanie: I feel supported and more confident in myself as an educator and it’s interesting to see, as I have mentioned before that we all face the same challenges and we ALL need to feel supported
It’s also good to have a support system/community where we are not judged, we are supported and you can ask for advice, help and suggestions.
Also, feedback is quite immediate. You don’t have to wait very long at all for someone to offer up a ‘pearl of wisdom’.
Lisa: How has your practice improved / changed as a result of the being a member of the community, Stephanie?
Stephanie: I would say that I feel more confident in myself and more confident in asking for help/advice and sharing my challenges. It is so reassuring to know that we don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. It is also good to be able to explain why you do things in the way you do. I think I have become even more of a reflective educator as a result.
Lisa: What would you say to encourage others to join the community?
Stephanie: The community has encouraged me to share, ask questions, answer questions, communicate, research, and further development myself professionally. Since using the community I feel more confident in myself and my abilities. I recruited my mum to the community as she too is an ELCC practitioner. You’ve just got to do it!
Lisa: Stephanie, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your experience as a Glow Early Learn member and ambassador.
Stephanie: It’s a pleasure. Thanks, Lisa.