The right direction
Sometimes – you don’t always know what you want to do until you do it. That’s the conclusion James Lochead-MacMillan has come to about early childhood education, anyway. In 2007 the former health and safety advisor moved from South England to South Auckland, and was in need of full-time work - fast. “Not once had I thought about teaching,” he says frankly, “but my son’s centre thought I had what it took and persuaded me to give it a go.”
Gadgets and gizmos
That centre was First Steps Waiuku, where he remains six years and a Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) degree later. In that time James has built up a reputation for himself as the creator of gadgets, gizmos and rides for the children, so much so that parents eagerly await his next undertaking. His most prized inventions to date include a flying fox, a zipline (with a teddy as cargo), a rope bridge, a pulley which brings a cardboard cut-out of Spiderman over a fence, and a side swing.
It all started with a messy cupboard. “One day I was staring at these overflowing shelves and saw some fishing line, a hook and some string, and thought ‘what can I do with this?’ It grew from there and got more complex.”
Although he is a regular customer at the local Mitre 10 Mega, James gathers materials from a range of creative sources. The flying fox, for instance, was made out of a push bike and some broken crutches. “And number 8 wire mentality.”
James personally and rigorously tests all his inventions before handing over the reins to the children – often to the humour of the other teachers. Despite this the children can be quite weary at first, and explore gradually, until they’re having competitions to see how many children can fit on one ride.
James says it was his time NZTC that nurtured his ability to create memorable experiences for the children. “It was an interesting journey,” he says, “I learnt that children calculate risks differently from adults. They learn through exploring. It’s amazing to see them develop their motor skills, strength, reasoning and creativity as they find different ways to use the inventions, often in ways you never intended them to. Whatever they decide, I let them cautiously explore.”
In March he presented on “Science in ECE: A hands on approach with ropes and pulleys” at the national EC-Menz Summit in Wellington. For the last year he was the only male early childhood teacher in the Franklin district, so he felt a welcome sense of camaraderie at the event, focussed on supporting men in ECE and hosted by fellow NZTC graduate Albert Samuel. James repeated the presentation for a block course in Auckland last month.
James has a few other ideas in the pipeline of how he can share his enthusiasm for science with the children in the future. “I was into pyrotechnics in England, so I love gunpowder and fireworks,” he grins – without hinting if he’s being serious or not - “although I haven’t quite worked out how to do it safely with the children yet!”
He says his teaching philosophy is simple. “I just support children in what they want to do. If they want to build a tower, and I’ve got the wood, hey, I let them build the tower! You’ll always learn better if it’s something you want to do. ECE’s not just about learning to write your name before you go to school.”
When asked if he’s satisfied in the profession he never thought of joining, James replies: “Without a doubt.” When asked to sum himself up as a teacher, he answers resolutely: “Very. Slightly. Mad.”
Use your passion and share your skills with the next generation like James. Make the first step to becoming an early childhood teacher today by calling (09) 520 4000 or by emailing Enrolments.