Some of the themes that emerged from the analysis of the staff interviews are:
Program staff at Lord Selkirk Park Child Care Centre found implementing the Abecedarian Approach challenging in the beginning but fulfilling on both a personal and professional level. Learning about and implementing the Abecedarian strategies took time, effort and commitment and changed the way program staff approached providing care for children.
“At first it was really hard because, it’s the learning curve, any trained ECE goes through it when they learn Abecedarian after they’ve already been trained as an ECE.”
“I’m still learning every day. Up until now, I feel like I’m still a freshy. I feel, just practicing it every day is making it, like ongoing training, the mentor, attending classes, even the parenting classes, makes a difference.”
“There is a lot of rewards because of that extra work that you have to put in. We have individual care, that's my absolute favourite part about the whole program, is being able to plan for children as individuals based on what they need and their ways of learning. That's been the most valuable.”
"I’m more aware of what I’m saying, more detailed when I’m speaking to the children.”
“I think just being better prepared. I strive to always be prepared and to just think ahead. When I had first started here, I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know coming here what I was going to learn or what I was going to implement. Then once I had started it was slow going and so I think just being prepared with materials, reading ahead, or asking a lot of questions.”
The Abecedearian Approach is about intentional planning and programming. Using the LearningGames kept the focus on development with staff keeping detailed records of their individual primary children’s progress. Staff reported increased understanding of individual children and their development because of their careful planning.
“You have to take a little bit of extra time to sit and think about each child and their individual goals...We really do have to work on the whole child…And then because you are doing all that, you get such a strong bond with those children. So, you really have such an investment in their wellbeing.”
“I just feel like everything is much more intentional, we really want to help each child hit their milestones. We know, we can pretty much pinpoint when it happens and tell you exactly what details when they accomplish. From the smallest to the biggest stuff. Everything just became a lot more personal and intentional.”
“There was a lot, the child interaction – the child/adult interaction, I liked that. The enhanced ratio, which meant that the children got more of your time, so you spent a lot more time with specific children, your primaries, just working with them.”
“So really getting involved with my primary children. Now, I only have six primary kids so I could really invest myself in their lives and my bonds are a lot stronger now and deeper and long-term. A lot of our kids that I have had from age two aged out through age five, they are now seven and eight and they still come to me with all their successes, all their little things they accomplish in school, and tell me all those things.”
[Implementing LearningGames is a]..."learning experience each time, because every child interprets it differently or masters it in a kind of different ways.”
“I think the individuality of the children, seeing the child and meeting their needs individually as opposed to a whole, what you’re going to do with the whole group, has been very effective.”
"It’s unrealistic to expect 24 two-year-olds to all figure things out in the same way at the same time on the same schedule. It’s, that’s unrealistic. So having the opportunity to, uh, teach each child individually and plan activities for them as individuals, that was super helpful."
In the next video, listen to one of the early childhood educators describe how her intentional planning and use of the LearningGames for one child fostered his development in an area where support was needed.
Supportive leadership and mentoring reinforced implementation of the Approach and increased cooperation and collaboration among staff members. The staff have all had Abecedarian training and worked as a team in putting the intervention into action in the Centre. Mentoring provided timely feedback and eventually the staff, in collaboration with Red River College, developed their own in-house mentoring process, further strengthening relationships as trusted colleagues.
“We had a huge support team which was Melanie from Red River, Sandy who was our Abecedarian Coordinator, and Carolyn [Executive Director, Manidoo]. They were very, very supportive. I know I asked a lot of questions because I was unsure. “How is this going to work? We work with one child as opposed to groups? How is this going to go?” We would bounce ideas back like “How are you doing this, how are you doing that”? We would bounce ideas of each other, we were supporting each other on the floor, which was helpful.”
“I think its super important to be constantly mentored, staying up-to-date, and getting information. As an individual being mentored, it keeps you on top of yourself because every week you go and you plan, you sit by yourself in the staff room and plan for your kids If you did that every day for a year, you get stuck in your box of thinking and your way of doing things. It’s nice if you’re struggling with a game with a child, you can bounce your ideas of a peer. A co-worker is, in a sense, a mentor. You’re sharing ideas and you need that. I really think you need that.”
“If I’m having difficulty I’ll go to another staff that has done the [Learning] game and ask them how they’ve done it, tell them the different ways I’ve done it, ask them if maybe they could help me tweak what I’m doing. Then I’ll also explain to the other staff what my struggles are. I think we are pretty good with that.”
“I think we have it pretty good. I think support is a huge thing and we have that and I think Carolyn also runs a very strong team and everybody’s in it for the right reasons. Everybody feels supported. We have a group of leaders and we’re all trying to pump up everybody, keep the morale really positive.”
"It really helped a lot if there’s a mentor on sight. Especially for new staff, because I really felt that it helped me when I was still learning Abecedarian."
Staff felt that sharing children’s successes and developmental progress with parents helped strengthen their relationships with families.
“I just found when I started doing the Abecedarian, I just found that everything was intentional and everything was much more personal and while getting to know the families. At my other centre, we didn’t have primaries…Here, we just work solely with those children, like we work with everyone, but you really get to know the families and build this strong relationship with a single child and their family.”
“I feel my relationships are a lot stronger with families here, just because of our relationship with the children, it’s so much stronger. You just interact with the parents a lot more, getting to know their needs and you want to get to know, “how do they deal with problems at home, would you like any of my feedback”. You just become much more, kind of like a close family.”
“I think some of them are just shy or keep to themselves but now I have a parent that wouldn’t even talk; now she always says hi and chats for a while. In the beginning she would just drop her baby off and go.”
“I have parents constantly coming up and they’re excited when they see their child like complete a milestone or complete a skill that they’re working on and they’re excited and thrilled and they can’t wait to come and tell me because they’ve been working on that.”
“I see some of them when they come in here and they’ll talk about it and they'll be like “Oh my God, my child is doing this” and they feel more happier, they feel more accomplished that their child is developing at a better rate. Or stronger rate I should say actually.”
"We don't only take care of the kids, we also take care of the family as well."
We just welcome the children and accepted the parents and had no judgment whether you were working, on welfare, in school, whatever."
"My insight in what I've gained is it's not just the child - it's the family - it's the whole family together as a unit. You're not only working with the child but you're working - you're working with the family."
Listen as a previous staff member describes the close relationships that develop with parents through the connection with their children.
Having a home visitor as part of the Centre staff provided increased opportunities to get to know the families, build relationships and provide support. The Home Visitor worked hard to develop relationships with the parents which in turn supported the parent's connection to the Centre and program staff.
"But when a child’s gone for more than one or two days, we have the home visitor go and make sure everything’s okay."
There’s been parents who explain how the family home visitor has helped them with things that aren’t directly related to child care."
“I would say I have trust with all my families. Different levels. Sometimes I meet with families more than others and that’s up to them… Sometimes a lot of our families don’t have family and they come to us and I’ve been to funerals of family. I’ve been to family funerals, I’ve visited them in the hospital when they’ve had their baby and that’s just how much they trust me. They’ve opened up their life and their home to me too.”
In the next clip, listen to the home visitor describe a program she developed at the request of the parents who wanted to know more about the Abecedarian Approach. Parents were excited about their children's development and wanted to be able to implement the same strategies to ensure continuity between home and child care. The Abecedarian course allowed parents to meet and learn together, enhancing relationships between parents in the community.
LSPCCC is in the heart of the community and staff described the positive feedback they have heard about the Centre which enhanced their sense of pride about their role in supporting children and families in the community.
"The one thing that I hear all the time is community members, Elders in the community, coming and they’re just watching the kids play in the backyard and they’re like, “Oh we’re just watching.” By all means. Watch all day if you want and they said, “It is so nice to hear laughter and it’s so nice to see kids play because there was no daycare right in the middle."
"I have community members coming up and saying, “Oh I just love that new daycare. You do such great things with those children,” and all that and I think that’s good, hearing that feedback."
"I love this area, I love the people that I work with in the area, I love the community members in the area. Um, even like I’ve built relationships with community members who don’t even have any children in the centre, they access the resource centre and I’ve built great relationships and I love it. It’s like a little bit of a family feel in the area and I love it."
Training in the Abecedarian Approach and working as a team to implement the strategies in LSPCCC enhanced the professional identify and practice of the child care staff. The commitment to the Abecedarian Approach and their profession was evident by their intentional, individualized planning and care for their primary children. Some staff described developing deeper and long-lasting relationships with children and families. Working closely as a team, with supportive leadership and a focus on mentoring, allowed the staff to effectively implement the Abecedarian Approach and create trusting relationships among colleagues. Staff also expressed pride in the fact that they hear positive comments about the centre and that it is valued as a part of the positive changes happening for children and families in the community.