Home' The Tribune : May 23rd 2012 Contents Little footsteps matter
By JUDITH LACY
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR FAMILIES
Black pants are ubiquitous among working women. But Sue
Hunter has to make sure hers are not ones that pick up fluff.
As a footsteps teacher she spends a lot of time kneeling on
carpet showing caregivers ways to interact with children.
''We do a lot of crawling about on the floor.''
Mrs Hunter knows first-hand the challenges of juggling work
and motherhood. She was in food technology and loved her
After the birth of her first son she wanted to work again, but
also spend time with him. However, her employer would not
offer flexible hours or childcare.
She got involved with Playcentre and found she really enjoyed
working with children.
The mother-of-four went on to gain a Bachelor of Education in
early childhood teaching.
She loves her job.
''I often come away and I go 'someone paid me for doing that'.
That's so cool, especially when you make a difference.''
On the go: Footsteps is funded by the Government to provide learning journeys at home for children and caregivers.
You're a new mum and have
decided to go back to work.
You've got a reliable neighbour
sorted to care for Sam at home,
but something is nagging you.
Will Sam miss out on the edu-
cation components provided by
early childhood centres?
The Ministry of Education
funds footsteps to provide
home-based early childhood
education programmes to chil-
dren and their caregivers
nationwide. Footsteps works
with children from birth to
Footsteps Manawatu teacher
Sue Hunter sees her job as pro-
viding the scaffolding so the
caregiver and child can reach a
She is working with 21 chil-
dren, but has the capacity for
She visits each caregiver and
child monthly for an hour and
in between rings the caregiver.
She also calls the parents
Mrs Hunter lends learning
resources to each family, which
are chosen to match the inter-
ests of the child and where the
caregiver wants to extent the
Parents and caregivers are
provided with detailed reports''
on how their child is doing,
what the caregiver is doing with
the child and the next steps for
When Mrs Hunter tells famil-
ies they can have one-on-one
visits from an early childhood
teacher, they go wow, we
didn't know you existed'.''
A lot of people are coming
along saying where have you
been all these years?' ''
Footsteps has been operating
since 2001 and Mrs Hunter has
worked for the company for six
Before a caregiver is enrolled
with footsteps a police check is
done to ensure they have no
convictions for offences against
children, the home is checked to
make sure it is safe for children,
and the caregiver's aptitude for
We need to make sure chil-
dren are safe and that they will
be cared for because it's a high
Footsteps teachers formulate
a learning plan for the month
based on a child's strengths,
interests and needs.
Realistic expectations of what
a child should be able to do at
different ages is a big com-
ponent of what the teachers
This information can make a
huge difference to a caregiver's
relationship with a child as they
stop thinking, Sam should be
doing this'', and start enjoying
Sam, Mrs Hunter said.
Rather than being able to do
what his sister could do at the
same age, the emphasis should
be on whether Sam is disposed
to learning. Does he have
strategies he can use when he
comes unstuck or can he just do
that particular puzzle because
you have shown him?
If a child is disposed to learn-
ing they will jam themselves
with knowledge, she said.
Caregivers are taught to
notice, recognise and respond:
What do they notice is
happening for the child, how
can they recognise that as
learning, and how do they
respond to it.
Mrs Hunter shares ways chil-
dren can learn counting, classi-
fying and matching through
everyday tasks such as setting
the table and sorting washing.
Caregivers are taught to
unpack the learning involved in
Play is a child's learning,
that's how they learn and it's
about recognising that.''
2 THE TRIBUNE, MAY 23, 2012
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