Being familiar with a place usually stems from what you hear in the news, people’s conversations about their travels, people you meet at work, as well as tourism advertisement. By far, Estonia is a country that does not seem to be commonly mentioned within the range of news that I hear and read about as well as the stories from travellers with whom I come across. Having the opportunity to work with families from different places, I have not met one from this place. Thus, I choose Estonia to feature in this blog as a family to know and work with.
Estonia is located in Northern Europe. It is South of Finland, facing the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland. It is composed of 1,500 islands and populated by 1.325 million residents as of 2013. The country gained independence from Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Russia in 1918 and again regained its impendence from Russia in 1991. Reading more about the country’s GDP, fertility rate and government system still would not enable me to uncover the surface of who the family I am working with. To know an individual or a family requires a depth of knowledge about the family culture – their beliefs, practices, attitudes and experiences they come with. As well, the family culture is not a whole representation of the child’s identity. Thus, the child’s unique personal identity must also be learned. To effectively work with the child and the family, there are certain factors that need to be considered and looked into.
- Get to know the child and his/her family not only through a piece of paper.
Although it is a good start to find pertinent information about the new family through a questionnaire to gain surface insight about them, I have to conscientiously be aware of my conversations and other forms of interaction to build upon my knowledge about them. I have to see, feel, and hear the child.
- Establish an effective means of communication.
From the start, I will consult the family how best we can exchange communication. Through this approach, there will be bilateral means of exchanging information in order to avoid assumptions and judgments. Having a platform to express themselves also assures that they have a voice in the program.
- Establish trust and respect through transparency.
By inviting the family to be a part of the program, allowing them to participate in ways that would empower them as collaborators in the education of their child, the family learns more about the program and the new environment with which their child is a part. This provides opportunities to become aware of their similarities and differences with all the other families. Recognizing these is a start to build trust and respect for others who may be different from them.
- Create an environment where the child and the family would feel that they belong.
Displaying the work of the child, as well as other symbols that represent the child and the family’s personal and social identities make them feel that they are part of the group. It affirms and validates the culture that they bring with them.
- Establish and maintain a relationship.
Welcoming a new family does not end with provisions of materials and handouts that would acquaint the family about the program. Neither it is limited to scheduled parent and child conferences only. As Diffily and Morrison (1996) write, “a strong home-school connection is essential when building a good environment for young children.”
Through the approaches mentioned earlier, I am hoping that I am able to scratch the surface to know and understand the new child and the family that I work with. The symbiotic relationships between the child, his or her family and the program staff would help in recognising the differences between the two environments – home and school, so that differences can be tolerated, and have the flexibility to compromise when necessary in order to serve the best interest of the child.
Diffily D. & Morrison, K. eds. (1996). Family-Friendly Communications for Early Childhood Programs. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Washington, D.C.
“Estonia.” Cities of the World. 2002. Retrieved December 11, 2015 from Encyclopedia.com:http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3410700124.html