The OSCARS Recognition of Excellence: Susan Harris
We are delighted to introduce Susan Harris, from Indigo North Health Rutherglen OSHC and winner of The OSCARS Recognition of Excellence award program. OSCAR Care Group recognises Sue for her exceptional care over the years.
In her 18th years as lead educator, Sue’s incredible heart to care for the little ones between Kinder to Grade 6 at outside school hours care is nothing more than inspirational. Never short of pencils, amazing science projects and with the power of her mother voice, Sue ensures there’s a creative, secure and exciting environment to enhance each’s child development in her care.
Welcome to our family
All the children, parents and staffed within Indigo North Health Rutherglen OSHC are one big extended family within this community. “We class ourselves as one big family. I’ve never classed this as a centre or a childcare place. I always say ‘Welcome to our family’”.
Sue has built the program over the years by encouraging the children and parents to tell her what they want and need. As Sue sees it as the children are stuck with her, not Sue stuck with them. It is this mindset that has proven the biggest difference over the years.
“If the children are not happy being with you, then you’re fighting that brick wall. You know you’re not going to be able to climb over it. So, I always make sure the kids are happy working with us.”
More than a job
When asked about what inspires Sue, she simply replies, “I don’t class it as a job. It’s part of my life. Seeing the smiles on their faces is probably what inspires me to keep going and knowing that they’re all happy, they’re all learning and seeing them when they graduate from us in primary school. Just a little kid who was shy and now they’re so outgoing, they get involved in a lot of things, they help, they’re always got opinions. Because we make sure that they all have their voice heard alright.”
Never a dull day
Sue makes it her mission to ensure each child gets something out of the day while attending their school holidays program. And to give the children an opportunity to try something new. Making things out of Lego, bolts, screws, cardboard boxes and providing guidance, yet allowing the children to be inspired for themselves to create something amazing.
“Science is so easy because there are so many different things that you can do with science. The kids love to make snow, yes it makes a mess, but it doesn’t matter. We can clean it up.”
“We (the staff) don’t get too involved in the children’s creativity cause it’s theirs – it’s not ours!”
There’s been a few science experiments that have been a total failure. Sue enjoys those moments, as it shows the children that some things work, and some don’t. “The first time we made crystals the kids followed all the instructions, and nothing happened. I said, what do you think could of have gone wrong. We put it down to temperature. But it was good that it was a flop. The kids learned that not everything works, and this is how you discover something new.”
There’s a no screen-time rule in place, unless there’s a movie day or the kids want to do dancing and put on a performance. The children don’t ask for screens, and instead prefer to play a card game, get a ball and do skipping. “I don’t know how many songs I’ve sung while spinning the skipping rope around. Watching the kids get so far with their skipping has been amazing!” Sue says proudly “We’ve had some kids that couldn’t even jump and now they can jump right up to the letter M, as they say the alphabet while jumping.”
The best part of the job
In the 18 years with Sue, they have gone from being a single staffed centre to now six and from having 15 children to now being licensed for 35 children. The smile on the kids’ and parents’ faces is without a doubt the best part of Sue’s job. “If the parents aren’t happy, kids aren’t happy, then we’re not happy.”
It is very important to Sue to know that her staff are enjoying their work at Indigo North Health Rutherglen OSHC too. “My staff are just so fantastic! I treat them all with respect and ask them what they want to get out of their position. Without happy staff, you can’t run a nice service.”
Sue enjoys making up a little bag full of goodies to surprise her staff on random days as well as big events such as Educators week and birthdays. “I’ll make up a bag with lollies, chocolates, a bottle of wine, hand soaps, hand creams or anything to make them (her staff) feel good. There was one time I gave them all heat packs that they could put over their shoulders. I try to make them all feel special.”
The biggest challenge with Sue’s role is the paperwork. Being torn between wanting to be with the kids and getting the necessary administration done is a regular battle. Seeing how her office is in the same room as the kids, it makes it even more challenging. “I have one child who loves to come and sit on my knee while I’m doing the paperwork. My thinking is, ‘you can do this at the moment because you can’t read!’. There’s going to become a time when he won’t want to sit with me but because he’s only four-year-old, I can let you get away with this’.
Raising our next generation
Sue enjoys seeing the progress of each child’s learning throughout the years in the program and loves having the children come back and tell her what they’ve been up too since.
So far, two children who have grown up and become teachers. Both, who credit Sue for their inspiration when they were young. Sue also has another child who has grown up to become a social worker. They first met in the school yard when he was going through a bad time. Sue simply was herself, sat next to him and listened to him in a very stressful moment. Years later, Sue remembers running into this student when he was in high school “He came racing up to me and he gave me this humongous cuddle. He explained if it wasn’t for you (Sue), I would probably be dead or in prison. Because you stopped to listen to me, other people made out like they were listening, but they weren’t. You did!” He saw the power of truly listening to kids when they’re in crisis and now helps others in the same situation, just like Sue helped him.
If everything else that Sue does daily wasn’t cause enough, during the lockdown period and when families had COVID-19, Sue went more than above and beyond to care for her families and deliver care packages. Not only did Sue provide nappies, milk, Panadol or anything else they needed, Sue created little craft kits to bring a smile to their faces.
“The kids look forwarded to this. It was like opening a birthday present. I always made sure there was either sticky tape or a glue stick, definitely pom pom balls and sparkly stuff that has glitter to go everywhere. Because I thought you’ve got nothing else to do for seven days while you’re in lockdown – you can clean glitter!”
The crafty kits weren’t only for the children. Sue noticed that there were times when the parents weren’t coping too. In these cases, Sue would make an extra phone call within a few hours to check in.
“I’d make that extra phone call, made sure they had had another cuppa and would encourage their child to go find something else, asking ‘if they have done this out of the box yet?’ Get them to do that activity and encourage the parent to sit with them too. I said’ it’s not only for them, it’s for you too, now you can get a pencil and colour in.”
The community really appreciated Sue’s kindness during this time, and it was a parent who nominated Sue for The OSCARS Recognition of Excellence award.
“Not only does she care 24/7 for her own grandies but Sue always goes out of her way to make sure that not only the children that they look after are being educated in a fun and enjoyable way but she also looks after the families as she checks up on everyone if they need assistance with anything, Covid had some families struck down with little or no support but Sue made that phone call to see what they needed and I know she did a home delivery 30 minutes out of her way when the family needed food and medicines. The children aged 3 to 15 all love her and always give her a hug goodbye.” David Dobbyn
Your impeccable care and smiles you bring to the children’s and parents’ lives makes you remarkable winner of The OSCARS Recognition of Excellence award.
If you know of someone who’s doing amazing work in the Aged Care and Childcare industry, we would love to know about it.