Early childhood education is a care and relationship-based practice. To support the well-being and holistic development of children, RECEs need theoretical knowledge about child development, curriculum and pedagogy, for example, and the skills to apply that knowledge in practice. That’s why practicum placements are a key component of all post-secondary ECE programs – it allows students to gain experience applying their knowledge and developing their professional judgement in the dynamic and complex realities of actual practice.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique challenge to those in post-secondary ECE programs in that opportunities for in-person practicum placements may have been limited. Post-secondary institutions worked creatively to implement alternative strategies, which included changing the timing, nature or duration of practicum placements and supplementing with videos, case studies, reflection assignments or research projects.
Strengths of New RECEs
Post-secondary institutions identified key strengths of their newest graduates, including:
- Knowledge and understanding of health and safety protocols;
- Adapting their practice to suit the needs of the learning environment, such as moving from in-person to virtual environments and engaging with others in new ways. Students have demonstrated their ability to be flexible and resilient; and
- Use of technology (strong digital literacy) and communication skills.
They’re also skilled in observing children, pedagogical documentation and critical reflection on practice approaches.
How can you help?
Start by welcoming new RECEs to the profession. Their perseverance and resilience allowed them to enter the profession at a time when the need for qualified educators is higher than ever. As professionals and leaders, you have an important opportunity to support and encourage your new colleagues in their transition into practice.
- Find out about their unique strengths as well as areas of practice they’d like to develop further.
- Be a practice companion that is open to their new knowledge and skills, celebrates their accomplishments and supports them through challenging practice situations.
- Invite your colleagues who are new to the profession to ask questions: your knowledge and experiences are valuable and can help inform new educators’ practice.
- Consider this an opportunity to learn more about mentorship, coaching or effective collaboration – this is a superb opportunity to make supporting your colleagues a part of your Continuous Professional Learning.
- Support or lead a community of practice aimed at sharing the unique knowledge and experiences of everyone in the community.
- Share some of the resources that have helped you improve your ethical practice decisions and approaches, and involve them in ethical decision-making processes.
- If you are in a supervisory role, offer guidance and direction that is respectful and fair, and provides an appropriate level of supervision based on their skills, experience, level of confidence and activities being performed (Standard IV: C.8).
- Read this helpful Practice Note on Professional Supervision of Supervisees.
What the College is doing to support entry to practice for new RECEs
In March 2021, we reached out to ECE students and provided tips on successfully transitioning to practice as a professional. We shared the following steps with students, many of which can be encouraged or supported by their experienced colleagues:
- Review the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
- Engage in self-reflection: What are your strengths and skills in practice?
- Identify areas of further development: Which areas of practice have you had less experience? What areas of practice do you want to develop further?
- Be open with employers about your strengths and experiences during your post-secondary studies: This information will help you and your employer determine which supports may be helpful in your practice.
- Review resources: The College regularly develops resources to support RECEs in their practice.
- Find an RECE practice companion or mentor.
- Participate in a community of practice, such as those offered by professional associations in Ontario (AECEO / AFÉSEO), with colleagues or other RECE communities.
- Research, seek out and engage in professional learning opportunities such as webinars, podcasts or readings (for example, the College’s blog, College Talk).
We’re encouraging employers and supervisors to support new RECEs in furthering their strengths and developing in the areas they’d like to improve. As well, we’ll continue to develop resources that support RECEs in their practice. If you have questions about how to best support your colleagues, or ideas for resources that can support practice excellence for new educators, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.