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Faculty spotlight: Lori Harris

Lori Harris, a US-based early childhood education consultant and trainer whose teaching in Singapore goes back to the early 2000s, is currently teaching the juniors class at Wheelock College-Singapore.

One course, Mentoring and Coaching, focuses on effective observation, communication and supervising skills.

“Mentoring seems to be defined in Singapore as quite centered-focused. For example, you begin teaching in a center and you get mentored to learn about that center’s operation. This module looks at the bigger picture of mentoring.”

Lori Harris

Lori Harris

Among the issues covered are what kind of qualifications go to into being a mentor, and the differences between being a mentor and a coach.

“The word coaching feels more collaborative as opposed to top-down. Thinking about HOW to coach, how you ask questions so they can tell you what they need, it becomes a more iterative process as opposed to, ‘I’m going to figure out what you need and I’m going to tell you how you do it.’ “

The course has a strong tie-in with her second one, Communication and Collaboration with Families.

“The combining of the mentoring and the communication class feels like a perfect match, because part of their struggles as mentors and mentees is how do you talk about this stuff.

“If I have to give feedback to someone and I feel awkward talking about this, what are some of the words I can use, and what are some of the messages? How do you use whole messaging? How do you avoid some of the pitfalls that come into place whenever you’re talking to other people, particularly if you’re in a culture that is very thoughtful about what the older generation has to offer. How do I respect my elders and get the message across and be an advocate. We spend a lot of time talking about that.”

Early educators in Singapore, like elsewhere, face the challenge of communicating with parents of children in a way that is respectful and meaningful. They must also explain the methodologies behind classroom learning – what preschool teachers do and why — as well as the importance of a stimulating learning environment in a child’s earliest years.

“What does a great environment do for kids? It seems a pretty universal problem, communicating that to parents. It’s just a lack of understanding, and how do we bridge the gap.”

A Wheelock alumnae, Lori is a longtime child care administrator, teacher and trainer, and has her own outdoor training program to encourage learning in outdoor settings.

She also teaches financial management to help early childhood program administrators advocate for early education policies based on a sound understanding of budget issues.

An article Lori wrote on financial management for early educators can be found here http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/financial-management-in-early-childhood-programs/5022741/ and she is developing a book on the same subject.

As the Wheelock program with the Singapore Institute of Technology winds down, Lori credits Wheelock with helping Singapore to develop a broader and deeper approach to early learning.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to join Wheelock in contributing to Singapore’s early childhood sector growth and development over the past sixteen years. I have met some Singapore friends-for-life and honestly, I often think that I learned more than I taught.”

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