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Learning from you, learning from me

“The real system of education is one where the children of rich and poor, of king and subject, receive education through crafts.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

It was a pleasure to be invited to Mumbai, India, by my friend Swati Popat Vats Director of Jumbo Kids, Podar Education Trust.

I have known Swati for many years from working together in our roles as National  representatives for the World Forum for Early Care and Education.

One of the values of Jumbo Kids is ‘the heart, hands and the head’ which I love; it links into the three characteristics of effective teaching and learning. The curriculum is also influenced by Reggio, Montessori and Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences.

I was also excited to hear that one of the first trustees of Podar Education was Mahatma Gandhi! He had signed the minutes of the first meeting and his teaching is reflected throughout the school.

When delivering training overseas I like to visit the setting first. This gives me an indication of how to link the course content to local knowledge and pedagogy practice.

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My role is to ask reflective questions (sensitively and respectfully) to the teachers and observe how they interact with children and how they teach to their curriculum. I then build on this, sharing my passion for Early Years education.

The children at Jumbo Kids attend for three hours a day; in some schools there are three shifts. This ensures that as many children as possible are able to access the Early Years curriculum.

As with any Early Years setting that I visit, some children want to have a chat while others stand back to observe their friends interacting with a stranger. One child made me a cup of tea (if a child makes you a cup of tea, you drink it!) from the role play area, which gave me the green light to join the children in the role play area, scaffolding learning around types of drinks: too much, too little, no sugar, one sugar.

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Some of the children made and presented me with gifts of their art work, which I will treasure.

A few children giggled at my name and said: ‘Laura, sounds like Dora from the television!’ They were certainly making connections with their critical thinking and communication skills!

The teachers offered me a chair to sit on. I said no as I am always happy to sit on the floor with the children, connecting with them at their emotional and physical level.

On one of the trips to a school, we drove past a park and a teacher reflected on her childhood, sharing the spontaneous fun times that she had with her friends and parents creating make-believe games and playing with balls. She then added that many parents are now taking their children to organised activities and there tends to be less playing in parks. Sounds familiar?

Over the three days I trained the senior team on aspects of child development, EYFS, observation, assessment and planning, coaching and leadership.

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I also fitted in a few tourist bits to a Temple, Bandra and the Gateway of India, including dinner at the famous Leopoldo café. I visited many markets and shops. My colleagues taught me that there is a fine art to bartering which I quickly picked up!

I was also presented with a selection of books from Podar’s in-house publishing team. All proceeds from the books go towards community pre-schools for children who may not otherwise be given the opportunity to attend an Early Years setting.

I thank my colleagues in India from the bottom of my heart for an inspirational and thought provoking visit.

I look forward to visiting again in November and drinking tea with the children and laughing at what my name rhymes with.

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