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early years professional
Profile of an Early Years Professional 390 240 Chevron College

Profile of an Early Years Professional

Profile of an Early Years Professional

The day begins peacefully, the word “Zen” springs to mind. This is the part of the day when the adults get to converse about important adult work related topics. We appreciate these precious moments of calm, as this is indeed the calm before the storm. These golden minutes are an opportunity to organise the materials needed for the coming day’s activities which you have usually prepped from the night before. Ironically not so long ago I spent the evening cutting out 150 red paper hearts, all whilst watching Grey’s Anatomy!! The activities and prep covers a wide spectrum depending on the month, season or time of year. You could be digging compost into pots, to plant some seeds to grow some “Enormous turnips” or organising paints and coloured card for the imminent glitter and glue eruption.

At 9.00 a.m. the storm arrives (AKA energy laden children), all be it a soft shower first, with morning greetings and help with school bags and jackets. Then as more children arrive the pressure increases to tsunami proportions all adult conversation is abandoned, instead you turn your “multi-ear listening super power” (develops only with time) which gives you the capability to listen to and answer at least six anecdotes and questions simultaneously, whilst still on your knees helping take off coats. (Most mothers have already developed this skill!!)

Early Years Professional

Early Years Professional

Preschool teachers have to have a multitude of skills. We also become avid weather watchers. The ideal day is one which begins outside. The children enter the yard and begin their day by running, climbing and cycling away all of that pent up excess energy. The teachers all the while very mindful as to how wonderful it is that the children are getting the opportunity to build up their gross motor skills!!

The day continues with the large group of 22 being broken up into 2 groups of 11. One group will head off to do their Montessori work, which develops their fine motor and cognitive skills. The second group stay together for some preschool play. We have many activities to choose from the toy room, sand and water room, play dough or music and movement to name but a few.

Allowing the children time for unstructured free play gives the children the opportunity to interact with each other and so developing their social and emotional skills. The adult gets to develop their own negotiation skills to such an extent that we become convinced we will eventually attain a central role in the UN!! The war torn toy room also must be tidied after each session and that takes some in-depth discussions and compromise.

Another alternative is the sand and water room. This is a wonderful quiet time when the children get immersed in play. This is a perfect opportunity for the children to hone the 5 areas of child development i.e. Physical, Intellectual, Linguistic, Emotional and Social skills.

As teachers we are very aware that this is not just play but the start of exploration and a taste of science. Pouring, sculpting, rough, smooth, sticky, soft, wet, dry, this is some of the beautiful language we get to use with the children when explaining the different properties and uses of sand and water. However we refrain from using any language at tidy up time as at this point there is usually sand in every eye, pocket and shoe and of course a light dusting on every child’s head. No matter how water proof the aprons claim to be, short of gluing them to the children inevitably some of them end up wet. So now along with nappy checking and changing, there are sweaters and even vests to be changed too. (Again mothers are way ahead with this particular expertise)

Early Years ProfessionalExamples of some other activities are, movement and music, where you get to call on your inner child by marching, dancing and singing away to your hearts content. The beauty is that your adoring fans don’t care if you can or cannot sing, you are Beyoncé in their eyes, you are centre stage and your fans reach up high, down low, turn around and head, shoulders knees and toes it, as for those 20 minutes you are their rock star.

Play dough is another super rainy day option. This does involve eating a lot of imaginary birthday cakes and admiring googly eyed monsters and making endless snakes but all the time working on the children’s colours and fine motor skills i.e. building the muscles in their hands. Doing arts and crafts with 11 children has all the intensity of preforming open heart surgery, as you must keep everybody calm, safe and entertained whilst trying to help and guide them in making their precious valentines cards (remember the 150 hearts) all in less than 20 minutes. Close your eyes think, paint, glue, glitter, card, scissors, 3 and 4 year olds all together in a room with just you…. I bet your heart is beating quite fast.

Lunch time soon arrives. “Ah!” you might think some repose perhaps. This is a specific type of lunch remember, a lunch that needs help getting out, getting eaten, getting back in again. A “cleaning spills, using bin, sweeping floor and wiping tables” lunch. If you are really lucky you may get to bite your own apple but beware whatever you take out of your bag will be scrutinised, colour coded and asked to be shared. I am also going to take this opportunity to tell you that all teachers hate yogurts with a passion. After lunch we swap groups and get to do it all over again with another group.

This leads us up to home time, if we are blessed with a fine day we get coats on, again with the madness, because now they know we are going outside and the excitement and expectation exceeds even my earlier rock star concert. We can do some planting or structured play, obstacle courses etc. or we can just allow them to be children and enjoy free play. If rain stops play, we sit and have story time, again I must call on my puppet and story telling skills for these last few minutes and watch the delighted faces as the big bad wolf falls yet again into the little pigs pot of boiling water.

As the children begin to head home it is nice to have a little chat with parents at the door to give them a reassuring chat about how their child’s day went. “Zen” time soon returns and the adults get to take a breath and too tired to chat begin the tidy up and cleaning process. The bins are emptied, tables, toilets, floors are all cleaned and sterilised so in the event of a H.S.C inspection in the morning everything is ship shape.

Let me end by saying that this is a fast moving, quite stressful and emotional job. It is not one for the faint hearted. It helps to be active, fit and of course to really like children. You can ace all of your Early Learning Childhood exams but if children annoy you or you struggle with your inner child then maybe this is not the job for you.

On a lighter note, it is so very rewarding to watch the little scared tearful faces from September turn into confident, happy, school ready children who will always hold a little space in your heart. Children who you will meet maybe in a few years time and some might remember you and some may not but you know that you taught that child to make a sand castle or roll a snake or plant some flowers and had a hand in the very early stages of that child’s development.

multimodal learning
Multimodal Learning 525 350 Chevron College

Multimodal Learning

Multimodal Learning: Cultivating an Inclusive Learning Environment

By Myriam O’Farrell

Module Leader; Multi-modal Learning in Early Childhood


multimodal learning


Multimodality is a concept of communication which suggests that becoming literate in the modern world involves more than the use of words and written texts. It involves a myriad of different modes, each communicating its own unique meaning, for example, music, movement, gestures, sounds, visuals, art, textures and so on. A mode can be described as anything which communicates meaning and as such there are several potential modes which can be utilised to support early learning experiences. In the words of Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, ‘Children need the freedom to appreciate the infinite resources of their hands, their eyes, and their ears, the resources of forms, materials, sounds, and colors’. Opportunities for authentic expression should be plentiful in quality Early Childhood Care and Education programmes. By supporting learning experiences which involve various modes of expression children can engage based on their preferences and in turn drive their own learning journeys.


Consider the diverse abilities of the group

How children experience and engage with different modes will vary depending on a range of factors, such as, development, cultural background and preferences. The level of engagement with the available modes has a direct impact on what children gain or learn from an experience. For this reason it is important that a range of different modes are provided in early years practice to ensure concepts can be processed and meanings constructed by ALL children in the setting. Consider a child who speaks English as a second language, this child may not understand the aural aspects of a read aloud activity. However, if other modes are included, such as, gestures, visuals and sounds the child can construct their own understanding based on the modes which are accessible to them. Likewise, consider a child who has difficulties with verbal communication, the incorporation of additional modes can promote an inclusive environment for this child. For example, the incorporation of a music or dance element during activities which involve verbal communication.


Reflect on the individual interests and preferences of the group

The interests and individual personalities of the children will guide the curriculum design in practice. This is very important particularly when striving to create an inclusive learning environment which caters for all children. As Early Childhood Professionals it is vital to be flexible in order to work with the interests of the group and recognise that children (like adults) process information and learn in a variety of different ways. For example, if you are working with a child who primarily engages during times when movement modalities are utilised, it would be vital to ensure the learning environment provides sufficient opportunities for expression through movement.


multimodal learning



Integrating multimodal experiences in early years practice means there is an approach in place that considers the diverse learning styles, interests, abilities and backgrounds of each child. Cultivating an inclusive learning environment is a multifaceted process which should be continuously reviewed within individual services. Adopting a multimodal approach supports this process and is a great way to start developing the inclusiveness and accessibility of the learning opportunities facilitated within the early years environment.


Are you interested in reading more around this topic? I recommend the following resources:

Marsh, J. and Hallet, E. (2008). Desirable Literacies: Approaches to Language and Literacy in the Early Years. London: SAGE Publications.

Yelland, N., Lee, L., O’Rourke, M. and Harrison, C. (2008). Rethinking learning in Early Childhood Education. England: Open University Press.

learning to lead
Learning to Lead: Emerging Leaders in ECCE 1024 683 Chevron College

Learning to Lead: Emerging Leaders in ECCE

Learning to Lead: Emerging Leaders in ECCE

By Myriam O’Farrell

Module Leader; Leading and Managing Partnerships in the Early Years

Encouragement is to give heart to someone’ – Huang 2007.

Considering the caring disposition and positive outlook required to be an effective early years practitioner the value of giving your colleagues ‘heart’ and cultivating a positive environment in the workplace cannot be underestimated. Being an effective leader involves providing encouragement, reassurance and support to allow ECCE practitioners to flourish and achieve their full potential. Supporting your team members to develop and maintain professional practices involves many roles, such as, collaborating with your team by having a shared vision for your service, managing change effectively (communication is key!) and being a role model for best practice.

Have a vision … be a visionary

Having a vision means you know the goals and values of your service i.e. what you are striving to achieve – it’s your philosophy! A leader with a clear vision and philosophy for the early years setting is a source of inspiration for their colleagues. The value of adopting a visionary style of leadership is in the ability of the leader to positively influence staff towards sharing the vision and values of the setting. It creates a team ethos where it is possible to intervene promptly and decisively when standards are below the expected quality levels. Equally it affords practitioners the opportunity to improve practice and have best practice acknowledged and expanded. Failing to cultivate a shared vision can contribute to a lack of ambition within the service and lead to difficulties when it comes to decision making.

Managing change

Sometimes changes are required – sometimes on a local level or sometimes at a national scale. ECCE in Ireland has experienced many significant changes over the past two decades, the sector has evolved from a predominately unrecognised sector which lacked government funding to a professional early care and education sector which is constantly evolving. Some of the changes this sector has experienced include; the introduction and development of child protection measures and EYS regulations; introduction of ECCE scheme; the move from primarily care to a focus on care and education; an increase in cultural diversity; the development of Siolta and Aistear and a major increase in the volume of research being carried out about the value of quality ECCE in young children’s formative years.
In order to effectively implement change open, honest communication is required. If team members do not fully understand the benefits of the change it can cause resistance. Resistance to change can take the form of resistant feelings, thoughts or behaviour. Managing change is a complex process which requires ongoing commitment from ECCE leaders. Once all team members fully understand the benefits/ need for the change the leader still needs to encourage open communication and recognise the commitment to the change in order to sustain the motivation levels and create a new shared vision. As leadership happens in a social context the relationships between the leader and the followers are pivotal. A key role for the leader in ECCE is to communicate clearly to team members what is expected from them and always lead by example. Where possible team members should be included in the change management process i.e. help with goal setting, share ideas and develop short term plans.

Be a good role model!

The common idiom ‘a bad apple spoils the barrel’ has been used numerous times to describe the impact a negative team member can have on the culture within a service. To combat such situations, it so important to model professional standards each and every day. Many common idioms also spring to mind when I think about what it means to be a good role model, in simple terms as an effective role model for your service you should strive to ‘practice what you preach!’. This involves living the change or the standards you want to see in your service or room. As a role model for best practice in ECCE you should inspire confidence in your team members – participate in regular CPD, be interested in the best approach, make resources available for your team, share best practice knowledge, encourage and recognise skilled practices. Along with this the truly professional leader should have the capacity to recognise strengths and weaknesses of their service and their team. Both current and potential strengths need to be assessed in order to identify possible areas for growth and development.


The power of enthusiastically leading contributes to success in facilitating and developing professional practices. The powerful yet simple strategy of utilising encouragement in practice is invaluable, yet is not without its complexities. It involves being a visionary, being a skilled communicator and a professional role model for practitioners. Success comes from aiming high with a clear vision.



Interested on more on this topic? I recommend the following resources:

Cook, J. (2013). Leadership and management in the early years: a practical guide to developing confident leadership skills. London: Practical Pre-School Books.

Moyles J. (2006). Effective leadership and management in the early years. Maidenhead: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education.

Siraj-Blatchford, I. and Manni, L. (2006). Effective Leadership in the Early Years Sector (ELEYS) Study. London: Institute of Education. [online], available: Google Scholar [accessed 26 July 2018].

Healthcare Assistant
A Day in the Life of a Healthcare Assistant 350 233 Chevron College

A Day in the Life of a Healthcare Assistant

A Day in the Life of a Healthcare Assistant


I work as a health care assistant in a residential care of the elderly facility. A typical day starts at 7.50 am with a handover from the night staff. We then go from room to room assisting the residents out of bed for breakfast. Some sit out in chairs while others prefer to stay in bed for breakfast. We serve breakfast to each resident in their room, assisting some to eat.

Once breakfast is finished we assist the residents to get ready for the day. Some require very little assistance whilst others require full assistance with all aspects of their personal care. The morning routine varies from person to person. Some enjoy time in the day rooms, others go to the hairdresser, mass, art.

Healthcare AssistantWe fill in our care plans before lunch begins. Any changes in the residents condition is reported to the nurse at the earliest possible time. Most residents have lunch in the dining room. Having ensured everyone is in the dining room we begin serving lunch. Some days you serve and some you assist with feeds. After lunch the residents are assisted with toileting. Many of them require incontinence care. Most days there are activities organised for the residents. Tea is much the same as lunch. The evening passes assisting residents to bed. Some like to watch television or sit in the day room whilst others like to go to bed early.

Normal tasks that are performed by health care assistants are personal care, washing and turning patients, assisting with dressing, toileting, incontinence care, mobilising, feeding. It also includes observation and reporting any possible problems.

There are many rewards to working as a health care assistant. Although the day follows a routine it does vary. Healthcare assistants play a very hands on role with the people they care for. Over time they build a relationship of trust and respect with the individuals and their families. As a health care assistant you get to know the likes and dislikes, abilities and limitations of those you care for. You learn to be very aware of their needs and what assistance is necessary. There is a great sense of achievement to see a person retain their independence through encouragement and care.

Working as a healthcare assistant can also be quite stressful at times. Some tasks are unpleasant but necessary. It can be both physically and emotionally demanding. Some clients require a great deal of assistance and you inevitable need to deal with death at times. The position is 24 hours and involves shift work.

For me the rewards are far greater than the negatives. I feel a real sense of achievement knowing that I have made a difference in someone’s life.


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