Lecture held at the 4 th IHVO-Symposium on May 7 th , 2007
by Kerstin Biedebach
How it all began
In January 2002 we had an inspection of the facility I was managing at the time, which was conducted by the state’s youth social services. One subject we discussed on this occasion was our pedagogic concept and the way it reflected our attitude towards the children. This concept also comprises our pedagogic routines which adhere to the individual situation and needs of the children. The concept also states our methodology. In the course of this professional discourse I was confronted with the question whether I could imagine accepting a gifted child to our kindergarten.
As far as my own attitude is concerned – I respect and have regard for every child and its right to receive education and care. The pedagogic framework of the kindergarten is to make possible the development and advancement of the child’s potentials. Therefore I could well imagine accepting a gifted child to our kindergarten and I was rather curious and anxious to see what this would mean for us.
Craving for information I started my research and gathered as much as I could on the topic of “giftedness”.
In March 2002, with perfect timing, a conference on the topic “Advancement of Gifted Children” took place in Bensberg. So the team leaders of the “Sedanstraße” and I went to Bensberg. We met experts on the matter and were astonished by their accounts of all the specific characteristics of gifted children. Our heads were spinning and since our school days we hadn’t been taking so many notes in one day.
There we also met Hanna Vock who introduced her concept of the pilot scheme “Focus Kindergarten for the Advancement of Gifted Children”, which was about to be launched for the first time.
I discussed this one-time opportunity with the management.
For one thing we were rather struck by the many lectures pointing out that these children hardly ever found any educational programs which would cater to their specific needs and talents and which downturns their development may take if they do not receive adequate support. Another thing was the opportunity and challenge for our facility to develop an out-of-the-ordinary profile.
The team and the administration equally profit
Our next deliberations pertained to the question of how to convince our team and successively our administration.
Together we decided to first sort all the information and become more knowledgeable about the matter and carefully introduce the topic to the team.
In April 2002 we accepted the first (tested) gifted child (Lena 3;2 years – name changed) to our facility and carefully got on our way together with the family. We conferred a lot with the family and had a joint learning experience.
At the end of 2002 we invited Hanna Vock to hold a lecture for all members of staff of the kindergartens in Remscheid who were interested to listen. Certainly it was also our aim to have the colleagues belonging to our Kindergarten inspired by a competent professional speaker.
In January 2003 we then invited Hanna Vock to attend a team conference at our kindergarten. We had a highly concentrated session discussing the possibilities of further training on the topic of focus kindergartens. Concerns and fears were brought up. How much more work is it going to be? What are the costs for the training? How are we going to manage in terms of personnel and time spent?
Some colleagues had minor concerns, still the scheme was not inconceivable. To give our facility a special profile was an aim everybody could subscribe to, even though there were still inhibitions towards the subject-matter of giftedness.
We contacted the head of the social services department and our superintendent in order to discuss our plans, make them transparent and consider possibilities to realise them.
Both superiors said they welcomed our initiative and would support us any which way they could. I wrote an application for funding.
In March 2003 there was another workshop on the topic of “Gifted Problem Children” which our managing team attended. After this seminar we were just the more convinced to specialise in the advancement of gifted pre-school children.
Meanwhile our operating department was able to solve some mathematical puzzles, conferred with Hanna and finally we were able to register for the further training.
We are launching the project
In October 2003 we got started with the further training for our team. All team leaders and I myself as the facility manager attended.
In December 2003 we had to submit our first assignment in writing. I have to say, we were a little nervous and never before had we been entertaining such intense communication over an issue. We discussed our observations, supported each other in questions of adequate phrasing and everybody proofread everybody else’s work.
In March and April 2004 a great number of public media approached us. Radio, newspapers and TV-stations wanted to know about our kindergarten with its focus on the advancement of gifted children.
We decided to talk to the local media. That was how we were visited by journalists from Remscheid as well as by the WDR [Westdeutscher Rundfunk = West German Broadcasting Company]. Hanna, too, was quite surprised and supported us as much as she could as we just weren’t prepared for such media attention, yet we did manage this, too.
In May 2004 we went to Hannover to sit in at a kindergarten already specialising on the diagnosis and advancement of gifted children. We came back with a lot of impressions yet couldn’t identify with their approach and work. Self-confidently we followed our own path and created info leaflets and a concept for the integration of gifted children.
In September 2004 the IHVO staged its first expert conference in Cologne. We participated exhibiting the projects we had conducted so far.
In October 2004 my assignment for the course was to draft an article for a newspaper. At the same time the editorial department of the monthly “Kita Aktuell” approached me and asked for a contribution for their upcoming issue.
Great – that assignment was thereby taken care of.
We also created a flyer focussing on giftedness to be handed out to the public.
In January 2005 we gave a press conference together with Hanna. We invited the WDR, the local radio station “Radio RSG” [Radio Remscheid-Solingen] and the local representatives of the print media. We also hosted an evening reception for parents and anybody else who was interested and introduced our work. There were over 100 visitors.
In April 2005 we were invited to an expert conference hosted by the Landschaftsverband Rheinland [Regional Authority Rhineland] to report on our work and present some of our projects by a photo exhibition.
In September 2005 we received our personal certificates and were now entitled to call ourselves “Expert on the Advancement of Gifted Children in Kindergarten”.
In October 2005 I was invited to the board of the youth welfare service to introduce our pedagogic work with gifted pre-school children. Our facility received excellent feed-back.
In November 2005 the VHS [Volkshochschule = Adult Education Centre] in Wiehl invited me to speak at their symposium titled “Is early enrolment [at school] the only solution?”. The event drew 120 visitors and they were mainly pedagogues, then some parents and also some school teachers.
The year is 2006, the year of our certification!
January 2006, the management changes, the advancement of the gifted remains.
A manager of a day care centre of long standing I moved on to the position of advisor for the youth welfare service and my very treasured assistant manager took over at the kindergarten.
Certification of our facility
In March 2006 the certification of our facility, the “Municipal Kindergarten Sedanstraße” was conducted in a public ceremony and in the presence of the mayor.
At this time we assessed for ourselves that we did not only respond more adequately to the gifted children in our kindergarten but that our pedagogic work as a whole had been enhanced.
Looking back I would like to say that we were rather successful in pursuing our goal, and this was made possible only with the active support by all our devoted personnel, by the operating department and, needless to say, by Hanna and Barbara.
What has happened since
What’s more, the Municipal Kindergarten Sedanstraße has been radiating way beyond its own premises. Much has happened in the meantime the issue has been brought to public awareness, to the effect that surely the gifted children and their parents experience more appreciation – and hopefully more support.
Some of what happened in the year 2006 is worth mentioning:
- Increased enrolment of gifted children (word of mouth).
- Numerous consultations and sit-in visitations by other kindergartens at our facility.
- Visitations and consultations for interested parents.
- Increased communication with the adjacent primary school.
- Report on our advancement agenda at the first district conference of the newly founded District 06, which was attended by all facilities of the youth welfare service planning the future development.
- Visitation by a Member of the Bundestag [German Parliament] at our facility.
- Visitation of a delegate of our state parliament at our facility.
- Lecture held by our management at the VHS Wiehl.
- Further qualification of another one of our staff members to attain the personal IHVO-Certificate.
Why did we decide in favour of the focus kindergarten?
|Upper left:2,2 % of an age group show developmental deficits or are disabled||Upper right:2,2 % of an age group show advanced development or are diagnosed gifted|
|Lower left: Available aid and advancement measures: Early aid facilities, various therapies, integrative facilities||Lower right: Available aid and advancement measures: Hardly any courses/activities within reach, hardly any aid or consultation available, hardly any integrative facilities existing, few qualified schools|
The diagram shows the original situation in 2002 when we first confronted the topic and we soon realised that we wanted to help the respective families.
By the same token we intended to give our day care centre an exceptional profile and specialise by setting a focus.
The GTK-NW [Gesetz über Kindertagesstätten in Nordrhein-Westfalen = Day Care Legislation of the Federal State of Northrhine-Westphalia] as well as the prospective legislation on children’s education lay down a principal mandate to educate and advance all children individually, this includes among others the gifted. Another regulatory requirement is the integration of children with unusual biographies.
The domestic situation of families with gifted children is by no means any less difficult than that of families with disabled children, even children with severe, multiple disabilities.
Pedagogues must be willing to constantly deal with ever changing life situations of children. This requires further education and training as every child and every family have their own individual story.
How did we manage the further training for the team?
An indispensable prerequisite is the approval of all team members and sufficient funding. These two were secured in our case.
Great support and not to be underestimated was the contribution by substitute nurses who would take over the groups on training days. They in turn were supplemented by “runners” (full-time pedagogues who work for several facilities substituting in cases of illness).
The trainings took place on site in Remscheid over a period of 2 ½ years on 7 Friday-Saturday sessions with the substitute nurses attending two half-days for pedagogic guidance. In addition there were two days of sit-in sessions at other facilities.
The required reading and the theoretical as well as practical assignments were completed predominantly outside of working hours. On some occasions we were able to allow for the exception to work on a more comprehensive assignment within working hours.
The practical assignments were individually set with regard to the present situation of each course participant at the seminars. For me, the manager, being released from working directly with the children, the assignments took on a different shape as I was more apt to work on public relations.
Together we planned and conducted events to present our facility.
Not everything went smoothly and unobstructed since life at the kindergarten daily presents many problems and challenges which have to be met. Every so often we were under extreme time pressure – be it that the child we were working with for the assignment left our kindergarten to go to another one or the project we had planned for the present assignment didn’t fit the situation any more. Festivities and events planned throughout the year had to be organised and carried through, too.
Our trainer, who herself had working experience in day care, was so understanding as to work out flexible solutions with us.
In conclusion I would like to say that this further training was not only great fun for me but also strengthened the (already great) team as a whole.
I thank everybody who was involved for their support and companionship and I would like to encourage others to pursue this inspiring path.
You can read a lecture by the present manager of the Municipal Kindergarten Sedanstraße, Silvia Hempler, here: Reading and Writing in Kindergarten.
Kerstin Biedebach is a kindergarten teacher and has managed the Municipal Kindergarten Sedanstraße in Remscheid for 14 years. Since January 2006 she has been an advisor for the youth welfare service in Remscheid.
Date of publication in German: May 5 th, 2007
Translated by Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Kerstin Biedebach, see Imprint.