Educator and coach, Leanne Grogan, on valuing teachers

Posted: 01/08/2023

Every day, we gather more evidence about the impact high-quality early years education has on outcomes for children. Educator and coach, Leanne Grogan, agreed to have a chat to us about how recognising and supporting teachers is a fundamental part of this.

She also talks about her work, her ideas about education and her long-standing relationship with Innovative Resources, including when she used to visit us in our shop in Bendigo, Victoria!

We asked Leanne to share a bit about who she is and what she does.

If you are reading this, we have a lot in common, I have been using resources from Innovative Resources since 1998. Whenever I felt the need for inspiration, I would wander across the road from my work and browse the many wonderful provocations in their shop!

I am an educator and have been teaching for the past 40 years, I am always learning and always striving to engage people in the extraordinary opportunity that teaching in early childhood education is. I am now a coach to educators across the state and often use the cards to provoke conversation and encourage people to think differently.

What trends or changes have you noticed in the early years sector over the years?

We are striving to fully equip our profession with the number of teachers we need to fulfil the extraordinary expansion the Victorian government is making in this important area of work.

We know fundamentally that the earlier children engage with excellent quality teaching, the greater their learning capacities throughout life will be. We therefore need to continue to strengthen our existing teachers and attract more teachers to our profession.

I have never before seen the commitment to early childhood that I am seeing now, our challenge is to be able to meet this growth with inspired and inspiring teachers!

You mentioned that you are working as a coach and mentor for early years educators – what are the biggest challenges facing early years educators at the moment?

Coaching is a way of meeting teachers’ professional development needs at an individual level, it provides teachers with agency in their own growth as educators. The coach facilitates learning conversations with existing teachers to build future growth based on past experiences and future goals.

As with many professions we need to attract more teachers and we need to ensure their professional conditions can sustain them throughout their careers in order to build a sustainable workforce.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change in this sector?

If I could change anything in our sector it would be recognition – recognition of the extraordinary importance of having excellent, high-quality teachers working with children from birth to 5 years. This recognition would help ensure that teachers can provide and enhance children’s learning capacities and help them begin a life long love of learning.

Recognition also helps ensure that we are providing good quality courses and that students are well prepared to teach in diverse settings. It is also more likely to lead to greater financial benefits, support for early career teachers in their initial stages of teaching, more time to plan for learning and more time to engage with families and communities.

How did you learn about Innovative Resources’ cards and what do you like about them? Are there particular sets you use/have used in your work?

I went to a professional development event decades ago where Innovative Resources’ cards were used so I sought them out. Innovative Resources’ cards provide incredibly flexible provocations to engage students to talk, ponder, wonder, explore and expand. I have found they allow students to articulate their thinking more readily and in more inclusive ways than any attempt at brainstorming on a whiteboard will do!  I have also found that the statements, colours and relatable content on the different cards allow individuals to focus more readily and feel more inspired.

What tips could you give people about when, and how, to introduce the cards into a conversation?

I would recommend that you provide many options for students when using the cards. Adult learners need to understand the benefits for them and the intention for the cards as provocations for thinking and learning.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

As educators we need to bravely try new ways of engaging and supporting students to help them articulate their thinking, their growth, their curiosities and their learnings.

Pictures speak a thousand words. When pictures are combined with key words, they can support people to explore their thoughts and help build well-structured conversations, which can lead to even deeper conversations!

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