One of our Education Coaches, Sharon Pauwels, had the opportunity to take part in the Talent Exchange Program (TEP) with Busy Bees Australia, our sister company. Read about Sharon’s experience working with the team at Busy Bees Australia and what she gained from her trip to Australia:
Throughout the past year, I have been on an incredible professional learning journey with the support of BrightPath Kids. For the bulk of my tenure to date with BrightPath, I have been in a privileged position of being a Centre Director, managing different sites within the region of British Columbia. Each experience provided me with a unique set of skills to add to my educator toolbox. Every educator I have met and partnered with has given me confidence to become an even better, more qualified Early Childhood Educator (ECE).
In the fall of 2018, the position of Education Coach for the BC region was calling for me. Wanting to return to a more frontline teaching position, I applied and jumped full force into my new role. I felt this would be a great opportunity for me to continue my learning, but also to provide the bigger team around me insight into some of the best practices that I had been able to pick up over the years from the amazing teams I had the pleasure to be a part of. My professional experience came full circle in the fall of 2019 when I was chosen to become 1 of 5 candidates in Canada to be part of the Australian Talent Exchange Program.
On October 10, 2019, I began my Australian adventure. I was nervous throughout the flight, wondering what to expect and what my time there would look like. Upon my arrival at the Brisbane Airport, I met 2 of my Canadian delegates, and the three of us, exhausted, were quickly taken under the wing of Fiona Alston, the Busy Bees Australia Chief Operating Officer. Immediately, I realized that there was nothing to be nervous about. We were all educators, eager to learn about best practices from each other. There was a clear, unwritten understanding that we all had great ideas to bring to the table in terms of quality education and care, and we were all here in Australia to learn from each other. Within the next few hours, we were able to meet up with the first Canadian delegate that had already arrived and only had to wait a few more for the last delegate to arrive to complete our Canadian team. Like Fiona had taken us under her wing, each of the Canadian delegates immediately bonded and looked out for each other in this new space we found ourselves in. We ventured to the Australian Zoo together on Day 2 of our arrival as if we had known each other for years.
While we had a solidified our Canadian team by Day 2, Day 3 provided us with even more amazing connections. The entire global Busy Bees team met at the National Service Centre in Brisbane, Australia. I met amazing educators from England, Scotland, Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, and, of course, Australia. We spent two days together within the board room, being trained on the best practice policies Busy Bees Australia has to offer. This experience was incredible. There was so much detailed, personalized attention paid to each of us, providing us with the comfort of knowing we were valued guests. I had the confidence and security to openly express my thoughts and we were all eager to share the best of our unique home experiences working in the childcare field.
Within a few days, it was time to say goodbye to my Canadian team. Although I was somewhat sad, I was excited to be venturing beyond Brisbane to make connections with a new global team. I linked forces with wonderful educators from England, Singapore, and of course, Australia to form our new united global front, playfully termed “Team Toowoomba”. Together we travelled two hours west of Brisbane to an amazing town called Toowoomba. It was at a centre called ‘Busy Bees Toowoomba Central’ that I spent the next two weeks of my time in Australia. Here, the notion of building connections and solidifying relationships became paramount to me.
We were warmly welcomed by the team of educators at Toowoomba Central immediately. The Centre Director excitedly picked us up on our first day and proudly showed us some of the main attractions Toowoomba had to offer. Upon arrival at the centre, we were greeted with flag displays of our home countries and were each provided with a national day of celebration. The Chef made the entire centre a lunch of split pea soup and pancakes with maple syrup in honour of Canada. Again, connections were being formed and we all felt immediately welcome and supported.
Having been able to form relationships so quickly with the new peers I had around me, I was able to reflect on the importance of relationships. One of my goals was to form relationships with the children I now gleefully found myself to be around. It felt so amazing to just enjoy the time I had with these amazing little people. I did not think about paperwork, projects, emails, or anything beyond the moment. I cannot speak enough about what an amazing feeling this was to have and wish I could convey the true magic of it. I was able to simply enjoy the fleeting back and forth style of child play, marvelling at the momentous learning that occurs with each turn. In fact, one moment of interaction between myself and a young learner within a preschool-aged classroom became an emergent curriculum topic that fostered multiple learning stories and became an ongoing dramatic play area to this day, over a week after my departure.
I noted several amazing observations. I just smiled at a young boy dumping multiple blocks, toys, and bits and pieces of ‘stuff’ from around him into the middle of a tire. I appreciated how he then grabbed a broom and stirred his ever-growing cauldron of soup. I marvelled at a young girl overjoyed with being able to participate in water play after months of drought. She brought her own small bucket of water to a quiet place and repeatedly gave her baby doll a bath. She did not have to share the water with anyone and was so lost in meaningful imaginative play. I also watched another child over and over explore the magic of just building things. He would seek random odds and ends to explore how they could fit together to build something amazing. These observations may seem uneventful at first glance, but upon a closer investigation, they provide an immense learning platform under the eyes of an intentional observer.
The observations, connections and relationships I have formed will continue to pivot me and frame my own interactions with the educators around me now that I am back home. I want to ensure I translate the importance of these magical play experiences and the robust learning that can stem from them, especially under the embrace of a responsive educator. Children are children, and around the world, they seek joy and inspiration. Our job as educators, from anywhere in the world, is to appreciate this role of offering inspiration and providing opportunities to ensure it happens. The foundation of these learning experiences must first be a shared strong relationship.
Every child that comes into our care must first feel the safety and security of being around people who care. I experienced firsthand the value of this so far from home and can validate the importance of this security in order to allow learning to flourish.
Author: Sharon Pauwels