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I believe, children are socially and emotionally capable and competent, with open and absorbent mind, curious and creative nature, playful, confident and imaginative. In my opinion, an educator values children as individuals and maintains positive interactions with parents and children. An educator is responsive, proactive, guide, facilitator and resource person. I view the learning environment as prepared environment equipped with materials suitable for children’s ages and needs, aesthetically pleasing with play-based learning.
View of a child
I view a child from various perspectives. I believe a child is socially and emotionally competent individual who absorbs information from his surroundings like a sponge and uses this information to create an image of the world around him. In my opinion, a child is unique, creative, imaginative, playful and confident who learns according to his own wish and at his own pace.
Social and Emotional Competence
Social competency includes social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral skills. These competencies are the real foundation of future interactions and relations. A child’s emotional skills refer to his ability to understand his own and others’ emotions and feelings. Socially and emotionally active child has strong communication skills among pears, learns use of words, builds vocabulary, expresses his emotions and promotes his self esteem and confidence.
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In my opinion, socially and emotionally competent child looks like a preschooler sharing his snack with his friends, a boy involving his parents in extra circular activities, a little girl asks her brother if he is ok after falling on the ground. I believe, social and emotional competencies help children to construct healthy and positive relationship and help them to control their moods and behaviors. Theorists such as Vygotsky and Malaguzzi believed that the social learning guides the cognitive development of children (Gandini, 2012). However, Vygotsky associated the cognitive development with varying social and cultural backgrounds (Vygotsky, 1993).
Children are like sponges
In my opinion, children are like sponges. They soak up a huge amount of information from their surroundings and process this information to create their own repository of knowledge. Maria Montessori, in her theory of absorbent mind also suggested that children learn differently from their surroundings as compared to adults (Montessori, 1969). They create their own schema of this world in their brains and extend their knowledge based on this schema, depicted by theorist Jean Piaget (Piaget, 1956). It helps them to acquire linguistic skills, creativity, imagination, emotions, sounds, views and experiences of others along with social, emotional and cognitive skills. The Montessori Method is also based on the concept of respecting and recognizing the individuality and independence of children in learning (Montessori, 2013).
Imaginative, Curious and open minded
A child is playful and imaginative, rich with confidence and creativity. He does not always need toys to play. He is so imaginative that he creates an image of the world of his own in which all the characters are a reflection of real world. For example, mom and dad taking care of their baby or mom cooking dinner for the whole family.
A child is curious and full of wonder, always ready to explore and learn new things. He is curious about new toys, new environment and new people around him. He uses his sensory skills to explore and identify unknown objects. Gradually he reinforces his existing knowledge with new experiences to expand his understanding of the world.
A Personal Experience
Children learn skills and knowledge from their surroundings. I experienced this when I was a housewife and mom of three children. When my third baby was born, my other two children, a toddler and a preschooler, watched me and my husband taking care of the baby all the time. They created their own imaginative play of taking care of their baby doll like parents. This play gave them lots of opportunities to learn about objects, actions, sizes, colors and feelings when talking about the baby with each other. While playing, they learnt to use words such as who, what and where. They acquire the knowledge of feeding, bathing and bedtime sequences. They got the opportunity to learn names of clothing, utensils and body parts. They also learnt to manage zip and buttons of baby’s shirts. This shows that children learn by imitating their enviornment.
View of an Educator
In my view, the role of an educator is multifaceted. An educator plays various roles, such as a guide, a facilitator and a resource person, in early childcare settings. A key attribute of an educator is to be responsive to children promptly. A competent educator is proactive, warm, responsive and acts as a guide and facilitator for children. An educator creates a positive environment rich with opportunity to learn, explore and develop an encouraging and supportive atmosphere for children.
Positive interactions with children
An educator in a childcare setting builds positive interactions and responsive care towards children by offering a warm and safe environment and by fulfilling their physical and emotional needs, as stated by Vygotsky in his sociocultural approach to cognitive learning (Vygotsky, 1978). An educator listens to children when they express their thoughts and feelings. She offers them support when they are frustrated in any situation. She positively responds to children’s queries in a warm and sensitive manner, values their individuality and uniqueness, and supports a smooth transition between home and early childcare settings. She interacts with them reciprocally, develops a secure relationship with them and provides a safe environment for their learning. A strong bonding between children and an educator helps children feel included, safe and secure, confident and individually valued. This is in accordance with Dr. Jean Clinton who stated that learning is supported by warm and responsive connection with children (Clinton, 2013).
A professional experience
Children and educator are co-learners of knowledge. Children could not learn all the skills by their own. It is the educator and the enviornment equally responsible for children’s learning. For example, when I was working in a daycare with preschoolers, I planned an activity to make playdough with children. I took help of children to collect all the ingredients for playdough. They brought all the pots from their tiny kitchen area to set up the table for this activity. They all found the spots for them around the table for taking turns to mix ingredients.
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I announced, “we are going to start the activity”. First, I told them to pour the ingredients in a big bowl. When I asked who will start the activity, one of them suggested me to start first and then they will follow. I asked them, “who will put the ingredient in the bowl after me?”. One of them said “you can start from the child sitting on your right side”, and they started taking turns. During the mixing of ingredients, they continued talking to each other and asked various questions like, “what would we mix next?”, “What would be the texture after mixing water?”, “Why did we knead the playdough at the end?”. By planning this activity, I got the opportunity to interact with them and they were able to socialize with their peers. They learnt problem solving skills by suggesting where to start from. They cross pollinated their knowledge by sharing ideas. They built their vocabulary and improved their language. They acquired the knowledge of many materials and of their use. They also worked on their fine motor skills when mixing the playdough. This example demonstrates the concept of six Cs: content communication, collaboration, creative innovation, critical thinking, and confidence (Golinkoff and Hirsh-Pasek, 2016).
In my point of view, a fundamental quality of a good educator is to treat children as competent and capable individuals. A good educator believes that all children deserve equal opportunities to learn and grow. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also emphasised on equal opportunities for every individual (WHO, 2012). These opportunities include education, nutrition, health, social inclusion and protection (Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, 2014). An educator considers the emotional, physical, social, and intellectual needs of every child individually in supporting his development and learning. She observes and listens to learn the individuality of children. An educator gains knowledge of every child through observations and discussions with parents and uses her professional judgement to improve their learning, health and well being. She shares her knowledge of every child with parents and gains their perspective to get better understanding of the personality, capabilities and needs of their child. Following the ideology of, “learning with children, about children and from children”, an educator works as co-learner of knowledge with families and children (Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, 2014).
A competent educator believes that all the children deserves equal opportunities to play, learn and grow and it is her duty to fulfill this task without any partiality. An educator is always unbiased of ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, family structure, race and religion. She believes that all children have equal rights to blossom and flourish their abilities. She practices values-based principles and methodology against any bias and unfairness.
A guide and facilitator
The main duty of an educator is to act as a guide and a facilitator for children in all areas of learning and development. In child-guided activities, the educator plays the role of resource person and provides the necessary materials suitable for children’s ages and needs. In this scenario, the educator gives children lead to play autonomously and only acts to support their learning. In adult-guided activities, she plans the activity keeping in mind the learning goals and act as a guide for children to achieve these goals. Here, the educator directs the children by initiating and extending a conversation, giving hints to stimulate their thinking and problem-solving skills, and channelizing their curiosity into effective knowledge learning actions. She sets new age-appropriate challenges for them to support their learning and make them feel comfortable and safe in the early childcare settings.
View of Learning Enviornment
I believe, a learning enviornment plays the role of a teacher in providing context for children’s learning, as suggested by Callaghan (Callaghan, 2013). An environment has a strong impact on the development, growth and learning of children. A good learning enviornment consists of indoor and outdoor spaces for supporting children to observe, interpret, communicate, explore, investigate, imagine, solve problems, and learn from their experiences.
In my opinion, a good learning enviornment is a prepared enviornment that meets the physical, emotional, social, communication and cognitive needs of children so that they feel comfortable in using their full potential and energy for improving their knowledge and skills. All learning areas should be appropriately organized and arranged in a calm and orderly manner to support children’s activities of their own choice and at their own pace (Montessori, 1969). The key learning areas should provide support for fine motor activities, reading, activities with blocks, sand and water, dramatic paly, and art and music. Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, declared the learning environment as “The Third Teacher” alongside parents and educators (Malaguzzi, 1993). A learning environment plays a critical role in the Reggio Emilia approach, where the environment is declared as a place that is welcoming and aesthetically pleasing with meaningful and manipulative materials.
A learning enviornment supports play-based activities for children according to their interests and strengths. Learning through play helps children grow their knowledge of this world. Children develop their social, emotional and cognitive skills by engaging in new experiences during play. Children also improve and extend their language and vocabulary when interacting with peers. Play involving music and rhymes, develop their listening skills and memory. Children learn skills through play such as dance party improves physical skills, dramatic plays enhance their social and emotional strengths, building blocks and joining train tracks improve their fine motor skills along with sharing, socializing and positive behaviour.
A learning environment should provide necessary resources and experiences for the aesthetic development of children. A well-prepared learning environment should be aesthetically pleasing to provide children with stimuli for learning. Aesthetics are elements of an environment related to nature and appreciation for beauty. An aesthetically good learning environment should support a range of creative activities, use of relevant materials and manipulative, and imaginative explorations to foster aesthetic development in children. Various theorists supported aesthetics in early childhood set tings. In his concept of emergent curriculum, the theorist Malaguzzi emphasized on using visual arts in aesthetically pleasing environment to make children’s learning visible (Malaguzzi, 1993). Extending the same idea, Fraser stated, “a classroom that is functioning successfully as a third teacher will be responsive to children’s interests, provides opportunities for children to make their thinking visible and then foster further learning and engagement.” (Fraser, 2012). Learning environment should be well equipped with a variety of visual art materials and media such as colors, paints, clay, fabric and fibre, drawing and construction. A learning environment with visual arts provides children with a wide range of activities for observing, exploring, inventing and developing their ideas of imagery. This enhances their sensory awareness, sensitivity and interpretation of their surroundings. A learning environment with visual arts opens additional ways of acquiring knowledge of the real and imagined feelings and concepts. This has a very positive impact on children’s sense of identity and belonging.
To conclude, my philosophy of early childhood considers educators, environment and children as co-learners of knowledge. Each play a vital role in implementing practices that support the best possible learning, development and growth of children.
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