16 March, 2021 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

Gaining confidence as a Montessori owner on a journey through Portobello

Montessori Early Years Portobello Institute

Sinead Finnerty is a Montessori setting owner in Dublin whose journey with Portobello started 15 years ago and continues today as she begins her Level 8 degree in Early Childhood Studies.

Completing her Montessori qualification in 2006 allowed Sinead to gain some experience before going for it and opening her own setting which enjoys huge success today. 

With a previous life in hairdressing, helping at her own children’s Montessori with day trips and filling in for staff on days off, she grew to love the sector.

Now, having finished her Level 7 degree in Early Childhood Education, Sinead says she is more confident in her work, has picked up new ideas and methods as well as being inspired to go on and complete her Level 8 degree to open more opportunities for herself in future.

Getting up to date with the legislation in the sector through her Level 7 degree allowed her to push the boundaries of inclusivity in her setting. Sinead was able to work to include a little boy with cerebral palsy who had tried five other settings before hers.

“I had a little boy who had cerebral palsy in the centre, we were the fifth or sixth Montessori that the lady tried for him. We were upstairs so that was a barrier already because he had his little chair then the bathroom was another barrier, but I said, ‘hang on let’s see what we can do’.

“I was learning the legislation doing the degreeI challenged Tusla about how he can come to our setting and why we couldn’t do things.

You realise that you can actually challenge things and why you do what you’re doing and back it up. I rang Tusla and I explained and raised the issue of inclusion I said that the child is being excluded, the parents can’t get him into a setting in their own area he’s being excluded from the community, so it gives you the confidence to challenge and question.  

We figured out ways to work with him and it was great then we had him with us for three years 

There’s never a year where we have less than two or three children with additional needs. It’s great for the other children they learn empathy and kindness to look after them and they become part of the group and they’re missed when they’re not there,” she said. 

Completing her Level 7 degree has added value to Sinead's role, given her confidence and recognition and allowed her to earn the higher capitation.

“Thankfully it has changed now but years ago you were seen as a glorified babysitter childminding whereas now people value what you are doing and when you have the knowledge behind it, it makes it that little bit more professional and you can stand there and explain to people rather than playing a guessing game or making a mistake by saying something that’s not correct.  

“The degree reinforces what you are doing, you’re always questioning what can I do or how can I do it better and strive to make your service better.

“I would advise people to exhaust every avenue to do it because it’s well worth doing it does give you more knowledge and it gives you more confidence to say yeah I can do it,” she said.  

Sinead had always wanted to do a degree in Early Childhood Studies but over the years life got in the way from illness to the fear of putting herself out there she had to overcome barriers to get to where she is now and encourages anyone considering it to push forward and do it too.

I always said I’d love to go back and study and have the degree in it. Unfortunately, life took a different path, life took over, the timing wasn’t right to go and do it. I decided this year let’s go let’s do it because I’ll just keep putting it off, you’ll always find an excuse. 

Really, I think the only barrier is myself, the fear of putting myself forward when you haven’t been out there for a while. You just have to try it, if you fail you fail you can always go back and sit one or two modules that you haven’t done well in. It’s the fear of the unknown, it was time consuming don’t get me wrong but when you look back it was 14 months out of my life but look what I have for it. 

It will be worthwhile, all of us in our setting have Level 6 and we’re all SNA qualified as well. It just brings us up a step and it’s nice to have it more in-depth and it refreshes you and makes you see it in a different way. Financially, getting the higher cap is going to be a bonus for us as well.  

It broadens your knowledge, even down to going around the computer, I wouldn’t have been an age of having computers in school I would have been more computer illiterate it brings you forward in that.  

Even down to going in the first day and they talked about podcasts and reports and all I knew was essays that’s all I had ever done in all the other courses and I was wondering if I would be able for it, doing the course really brings you up to speed.  

Some of the different approaches like those in Reggio Emilia you realise you’re doing that and that’s working well but maybe with this we could do a little bit better there was new ideas. You’re constantly striving for new ideas, new ways of doing things,” she said.  

Sinead is just setting out on her journey to complete her Level 8 degree which she says will give her more job opportunities if a day comes when she can no longer work with the children. 

“At this stage because it’s only one module I just think why not, wouldn't it be silly not to have it. You never know what’s around the corner, you might get tired one day where you won’t be able for the little ones and if you have the Level 8 it gives you an edge and opens other possibilities for you if you wanted to change your course in the sector. You could work for Tusla or AIM it just gives you that little bit of a step up if you ever decided that or there might come a day where you might be tired.  

“It will give me an insight; I will love to have something that I can bring back to our service. I’m planning on trying to research using the Montessori equipment in an unstructured way to try to see different ways and ideas something that will be of value to myself and the other practitioners and the children. That’s my proposal. I’d like to have something to benefit the setting.  

“I haven’t had a bad experience with Portobello. It’s great that you can pop in the drafts and when you email in fairness to the tutors, they have so many students, but they still manage to get back to you they try to support you as best they can. It’s been a difficult year in the fact that everything was online like everything else we’re not unique in that but in fairness they did extra webinars for us to help us along I would recommend Portobello personally,” she said.

If Sinead's story inspires you, secure your place on our Level 7 BA (Ord) degree this October here or on our Level 8 BA (Hons) starting in July here.

Apply online or book a consultation with Jennifer Matteazzi in admissions to secure your place. You can also call Jennifer on 01 892 0031 between 8 am and 2pm on weekdays or email jennifer.matteazzi@portobelloinstitute.com