Transforming Everyday Moments into Intentional Teaching Opportunities

Tiny Nation educator, Angela Tiffen, has been working as a home-based educator in the Wellington region for 10 years. Angela’s passion for planning, her dedication to delivering Te Whāriki – the early childhood education curriculum, and her focus on her own professional development, has brought Angela’s impressive work to the attention of Tiny Nation’s leadership team.

Angela explains what drives her passion for planning and education, “I love taking everyday moments and turning them into intentional teaching moments.”

It’s incredibly rewarding to take something that’s of interest to a child and open up a world of possibility around it. Interests are entirely child-led, I see my role as identifying what I can bring to the partnership; I love to scaffold learning through teaching and providing opportunities.”

Inspired to Teach and to Learn

An interest in teaching was originally inspired by Angela’s interest in science; whilst her career in home-based education was to establish a work-life balance that was compatible with raising her daughter. Angela has a thirst for knowledge, she loves to know how things work and research theories. She applies this passion to her work and aims to understand not only what the children in her care are interested in, but why, and how she can develop that further. It is also why she is inclined to further her education and learn as much as possible. Angela is naturally intuitive and analytical; she opts to attend professional development courses and webinars at every opportunity and enjoys considering how practice and theory align.

Tiny Nation home-based educator Angela Tiffen, transforming everyday moments into intentional teaching opportunities at her Wellington home

Paving the Way for Exploration and Discovery

Angela’s approach with children is to observe them, she watches and listens to see what they are curious about. As children begin on a path of exploration and discovery, she provides resources, plans outings, and creates opportunities to extend their understanding of the world around them. Using her experience and her education, Angela has a wealth of knowledge that she adapts and applies to each unique journey.

Angela enthusiastically uses Storypark to create interesting learning stories, share pictures, document planning, and link her programme to the curriculum. She invites and incorporates family feedback to gain a holistic understanding of each child and to share knowledge. “Drop off and pick up times with parents are naturally a busy time,” Angela explains, “I want to update parents as much as possible, not just give them highlights of their child’s education and experiences. The detail ensures that we provide consistency between home and care. Besides, it’s not only the parents that have an interest in a child, it’s invaluable that everyone invested in a child’s journey shares and learns from one another.”

Creating Connections

I love my job today as much as I did on my first day, 10 years ago,” Angela says. “It comes down to relationships and connections. Everything is entwined and connected. When a child takes an interest in a concept, a connection is made. There is their connection with me, with their family and the relationship between us all. Plus, they have a connection with the other children in the group and within our community. My stories and development plans are a part of that connection, they an integral part of the process.”

Of course, the strength of those connections is helped greatly by the low home-based ratios – with one adult to just four children. This allows Angela to get to know the children on a personal level, and their families. Angela can identify interests quickly, act flexibly and plan concurrently. She understands the group dynamic, can leverage opportunities for learning between children and at a group level.

Lately, Angela has been focusing on the Te Whāriki Communication strand. “I’m supporting children to increase their vocabulary,” she explains. “We have been exploring this interest through music, books and using outings to talk about everything we see. I have widened their exposure to new opportunities within our community and we’re increasingly incorporating te reo as well. As part of my professional development plan, I made a commitment to expand my own knowledge of te reo and I am using it more now, I give instructions and the children respond. A favourite game we play is ‘Oma, oma’ – when one of the children shouts ‘Oma, oma!’ and we all have to run!”

Having expressed the significance of making connections, Angela has enjoyed the supportive culture of Tiny Nation since she joined.

I’ve found Tiny Nation to be absolutely amazing!” she says. “It’s been a great experience. Communication is a big part of my job and when it’s done well it helps you to feel connected and part of something greater. I feel valued, I know what’s going on and I feel that I’m listened to. Everyone encourages one another and information flows effectively. I’ve felt welcomed by Erin, by my Visiting Teacher – Shayna, other Wellington educators on outings and I’ve enjoyed the positive, supportive, community-feel across the regions.”

Tiny Nation’s Founding Director, Erin Maloney, who is also the President of the New Zealand Homebase Childcare Association, says “When we established Tiny Nation, we made the conscious decision that we wanted to take the right people along for the journey. It has been our objective from the start to raise the profile of home-based education as a quality ECE option for both children and teaching professionals. For that reason, we partner with qualified educators, who are trained and experienced. Angela is a stellar example of a Tiny Nation educator, she is qualified, inspired, passionate and she delivers the best possible outcomes for the children in her care. We are fortunate to have educators like Angela along on our journey.”

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