Angela Conley (Director) and Jade Eringaard (Educator) from Cygnet Community Child Care Centre presented in Hobart at the 2019 ECA National Conference – From Vision to Action. Their presentation titled From Conference to Quality: what does it take for a keynote presentation to change practice? reflected on their professional learning path with Marte Meo over the past couple of years

Angela describes where it all began. “I saw the line-up of speakers for the Darwin ECA conference including Professor Carla Rinaldi, Claire Warden and this line up motivated me. At the time we (the Centre) were exploring how we could include elements of the Reggio Emilia approach and Nature Play into our curriculum.”

Cygnet Community Child Care Centre is a small community-based Centre run by a volunteer committee. As a small rural Centre, there are workforce and viability challenges on a regular basis. Angela knew that they needed a point of difference, something marketable and exceptional that they provided. She attended the ECA Darwin Conference in 2016 with the hope to be inspired and gather new ideas to take back to the Centre team. At the Darwin conference, Angela attended the keynote by Maria Aarts who introduced Marte Meo. Angela recalled, “not only was Maria a lively and entertaining speaker but her description of Marte Meo and how it is used to effect change for children was a lightbulb moment for me.”

Angela went back to Cygnet and provided the educator team with the opportunity to watch Maria Aarts presentation. This is where Jade’s Marte Meo professional learning trajectory began. “I don’t think I finished watching her whole speech during my lunch break, but the webinar changed my life. Marte Meo means ‘On one’s own strength’ so it’s a strength-based method.” The key messages that Jade took from watching Maria were to start naming children’s initiatives; he does, you say, and to avoid asking too many questions; rather to make statements about the child’s actions. Jade was a champion for the Centre and instrumental in instigating the Marte Meo concept in more depth.

Angela and Jade met with Licensed Marte Meo Supervisor from South Australia, Joy Elford. They knew that they needed to expand their professional development network and engaged with Gowrie Training & Consultancy to support the notion of bringing Marte Meo training to Tasmania and in so doing, creating a community of practice.

The founder Maria Aarts has also presented a day in Hobart, her first-ever visit to the State with possibilities of a future visit in years to come. Gowrie Training & Consultancy in 2017 hosted the first Marte Meo Level One Practitioner Training cohort facilitated by Joy Elford. Since this first group of participants, there have been two successful six-day Practitioner Training cohorts and currently another in progress.

Jade describes how Marte Meo is being utilised in the Centre and how it is supporting her practice. “As Marte Meo is largely film-based, the training consisted of filming ourselves interacting with children. It was a little daunting at first, and we had a few ‘hit and misses’ both in the filming process and our planned interactions with the children. I use Marte Meo daily and find that it is incredibly successful with new children. I now practice a ‘good face’ always ensuring I am welcoming and with positive body language. I wait attentively, following the child’s initiatives and naming what they are doing. I also try and be predictable by naming what I am doing and about to do.”

The Cygnet Centre through the commitment and persistence of Angela and Jade has enabled five other team members to complete the training (two currently in progress). This remarkable dedication to creating a culture of learning and quality practice in their small Centre demonstrates strong vision and leadership. It hasn’t been an easy feat, as Angela explains, “I was so convinced that the whole team needed to do this. It was a skill set that would support better professional discussions about children, enable educators to work in a range of settings with increasing ease and provide that point of difference that we were looking for. I knew I had to make a good argument to the management committee to approve a direction forward for Marte Meo training.”

Angela and Jade reflect on this professional learning pathway so far and identify clear points:

  • Our quality of interactions and relationships has improved – we have a shared language now, we are inspired and excited together as a team, we are able to resolve issues using common understanding and strategies.
  • Professional development is important – and development that pushes us to be more critically reflective and challenge the status quo. It also confirms the value system of the Centre and opens up networking opportunities with like-minded people.
  • A champion is going to make a difference – you never know who in a service that champion will be, but you will know when you have one and they are the key to driving change, keeping momentum and staying persistent.
  • Build a connection with other professionals – services, educators and managers need to be open to working together and with other sectors. Alone we may not have the numbers or economy of scale to make something affordable but combined our options and possibilities could be amazing.
  • It is a journey – not everything happens overnight; it requires planning, commitment, vision and determination. Fast change rarely allows for realistic results and can end in stress and burn out.
  • It never hurts to ask – this could be funding possibilities, advice or help. Link into those networks.

Gowrie Training & Consultancy is committed to Marte Meo in Tasmania. Find out more about Marte Meo and training opportunities through the following links:

(photos: top right, Maria Aarts with the team from Cygnet Community Child Care Centre and mid-left, the first Marte Meo introduction session with Joy Elford at the Cygnet Community Child Care Centre)