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An effective early childhood educator has in-depth knowledge of current literature and is able to put these into practice alongside the more traditional theories and frameworks. They must be flexible enough to integrate different roles throughout their teaching day. They must be able to help their students academically, socially, emotionally and physically. One of the educational aims during early childhood is to develop independence and self-reliance.
Emphasis on nurturing and guiding young children during their early childhood gives them a positive start on their educational path. The role of scaffolding in young children is another important aspect of an effective early childhood educator. Being able to help a student who does not have the ability on their own to complete a task and guide them creates extended knowledge and skills that a student can be proud of.
An effective early childhood educator acknowledges the importance of teaching their students healthy lifestyles and how to incorporate it into their daily routines at school and at home. Creating a healthy body physically and mentally through knowledge allows the students to be better prepared to learn.
Environmental setup also plays an important role in being an effective educator. Creating a fun, enjoyable learning environment, that caters for all students' interests and abilities and providing materials that will challenge young children mentally and physically, encourages an overall positive learning experience and development.
The Queensland Education Department states: "A child's participation in quality Early Childhood Education lays the foundation for their future success in learning and life." (The State of Qld Department of Education and Training, 2008). To create quality education you need quality educators. I will state the important qualities an effective early childhood educator must possess to achieve this very foundation.
Early childhood is a time of extreme and rapid development, physical growth, intellectual growth and education. It also is a time for emotional development, therefore the importance of an effective early childhood educator is paramount. Being an Early Childhood Educator is probably one of the most important jobs in the world, as the first six years of a child's life is critical in their educational development. Most of us remember certain teachers who have made a positive lasting impact on us and our education. An effective educator provides genuine beliefs to their students that they truly want them to prosper from learning and in developing this relationship with their students it can create a higher possibility of achievement in a young child's future education and latter life.
Educators on theories and relation to development
An effective early childhood educator draws on their knowledge of different theories and can question traditional ways in how they view children, teaching and learning. Discussing and debating theories to identify their strengths and limitations. (DEEWR, 2009.)
Vygotsky's concept, 'Zone of Proximal Development' can assist the educator to acknowledge individual differences in development and identify the development level of a particular child. The zone of proximal development refers to the use of mental skills and abilities that children can achieve under adult guidance. This shows the distance between the actual developmental level that children have already achieved, and the level of potential development. The teacher should act as a 'scaffold', providing the necessary support for a child to succeed and improve in their development. Through Vygotsky's theory, play especially in early childhood can have direct influence on a child's development. "Play sets up a zone of proximal development, where interaction with peers and adults is the basis for the construction of new knowledge and understanding." (Docket & Fleer, 1999, p.68)
Theoretical stages of play as stated by Piaget and Smilansky involves functional play and constructive play. Functional play involves repetition of activities. Being incorporated in today's classroom could involve repeated songs or rhymes. Constructive play using materials to create something that exists after play has ended. Building blocks to make standing objects, creating objects out of play doh that exists after play, artwork like paper collage. (Docket & Fleer, 1999, p.59)
The most influential connection early theories have with today's early childhood educators, is Bronfenbrenners Ecological Model. Urie Bronfenbrenner argues that in order to understand human development, one must consider the entire ecological system in which growth occurs. This system is composed of five socially organized subsystems that help support and guide human growth. The systems range from relationships between immediate environment to influences and patterns of culture and bodies of knowledge. (Bronfenbrenner's Ecological model Handout)
An effective early childhood educator must take into account Bronfenbrenners model and practice it within their classroom setting. Every child is unique therefore different surrounding environmental factors for each child needs to be considered when preparing classroom activities and observing each child's development process. Environment can direct a child's course of play. Bronfenbrenner's theory suggests that surrounds, social and environment can impact or stimulate a child's play. Early childhood educators draw upon the socio-cultural theories that emphasise the roll that families and cultural groups play in a child's learning process. A child's influences can be traditional practices, heritage knowledge and experiences, values and beliefs passed down by a child's family or community. Educators need to respect and acknowledge the diversity of their students and their families to gain a better understanding of each child's strengths and abilities and to be able to respond to any issues of the child and their families' lives.
Educators that show knowledge of and respect multiple cultural ways gain a better understanding of cultural differences and can learn to communicate and interact more effectively with children and their families. An effective educator needs to possess a strong, trusting relationship with their student's parents. Open communication between teachers and parents is critical in analysing a child's interests and values. Practicing anti-bias approaches, demonstrating the value of differences and exposing children to different cultures, different languages, and different family values and lifestyles encourages children to accept differences. (Arthur, L., 2008.).
Nurturing creates nourishment in a child's social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. An effective early childhood educator listens to each child, observes their words and actions and never stops believing in their students ability to develop. Constantly encouraging children to believe in themselves and what they can achieve. The educator provides a safe learning environment that fosters creativity and learning, while guiding their students, they also allow them to choose their own playing styles to aid their personal and unique development. With adequate time to explore and interact with their peers an effective early childhood educator makes learning easy and fun for the children. Through a nurturing educator a child develops confidence and feels respected and valued. (DEEWR, pp.12)
The Framework "Belonging, Being & Becoming" has been developed to help educators guide their young students highlight their potential and aid in their future learning. It states the importance and the right a child has to play and to be exposed to an educational path that creates the base for their future. A child needs to be recognised for their own unique strengths, abilities and knowledge and an effective early childhood educator would adjust their teaching methods and materials to suit.
Another important role that creates an effective educator is their ability to scaffold their students. Assisting students to understand know or do things that they do not have the ability to do on their own. (Docket & Fleer, 1999.) Scaffolding helps children to extend their knowledge or skills and when effective can enable children to appreciate their own work and abilities.
Environments for Learning
Learning environments created by an effective early childhood educator would be designed to respond to the interests of each child, supports learning and caters for different learning capabilities. An educator acknowledges that children respond better when faced with interesting and challenging learning environments, with materials that will enhance their learning, promote increased abstract thinking and have a positive overall effect on a child's development.
Promoting a sense of identity
Educators need to provide schemes that help children to make the correct choices for their behaviours. Teaching each child to respect others rights and providing them with the correct way to engage with their peers. When an educator listens carefully to children and addresses and discusses their concerns it can highlight the issues a child might have and open a window to discussion and understanding. Teaching a child to respect others and drawing their attention to fairness creates a better connection for them in their latter lives. Supporting children's attempts at tasks or activities with encouragement and praise and assisting them with challenges.
Importance of Health
The wellbeing of a child should be paramount in an effective early childhood educator. Building a warm, trusting relationship with their children and providing a safe learning environment is important in all aspects of a child's physical, emotional, social, cognitive and social development. With sensitivity to a child's emotional status, an educator can enhance a child's confidence and wellbeing creating a better willingness to learn. There is a high importance that education on healthy lifestyles has on a child's wellbeing. A child learning about nutrition, hygiene and physical fitness leads to children having a higher and longer concentration level and a higher willingness to learn. Therefore learning about healthy lifestyles can lead to higher concentration levels in young children creating better learning outcomes. An educator can provide settings in their classroom to further develop a child's knowledge on healthy living and personal safety. Supporting children to practice hygiene an effective educator could incorporate into their classroom a discussion with children on their own personal routines at home.
Creating a Positive Learning Experience
An effective early childhood educator would continue to gain knowledge and improve development in their classrooms. Bridging the gap between families and children and valuing the local community's knowledge creates an ongoing learning process. Gathering as much information to support their decision making about children's learning gives an educator the opportunity to acknowledge what might need to be changed to enable a better learning environment, a better understanding of each child, and reflect on what they can do to make the whole early childhood educational experience positive. (DEEWR, 2009)
An effective educator would value children's participation in learning and provide classroom environments that are flexible and of interest to each child. They would continually encourage their students, allow them to participate in individual activities and group activities with their peers to encourage social development. Encourage children to go beyond their knowledge and to challenge themselves with new ideas and activities giving the child courage to explore new ideas and challenges. An educator should plan their learning environments at levels that challenge their students and encourage them to explore experiment and take risks. Encouraging children to express themselves and ideas with their peers helps develop their self confidence and understanding.
An effective early childhood educator has knowledge on how to motivate their students to improve their learning abilities and development. When a teacher establishes a trusting relationship with their students and a genuine interest in their learning, it encourages students to excel and enjoy their educational journey. If a teacher provides a fun learning environment in the classroom it can allow children to continue their learning outside the classroom giving children a broader understanding and structure. The effective teacher can explain theories in a way that their students can easily understand. In early childhood education, this is paramount, because it is the time for ingraining basic learning concepts in the child, making it easy for them to grasp. Organisation is very important in early childhood teaching. It aids the teacher to address each of their student's needs and requirements. The opportunity to instil the crucial learning tools for positive development in young children is what an effective early childhood educator values. Their commitment as an educator to young children is demonstrable as they create a learning environment that nurtures and guides young children. Focusing on their students overall development, paying particular attention to a young child's self-image, and confidence to allow them to gain better social skills and interact better with their peers. Effective early childhood education promotes better intellectual development, independence, improved concentration, creativity and resilience.
Providing a wonderful and safe learning environment for the children, an effective educator instructs the students in basic educational programs, teaches them to be creative and provides them with a safe and caring environment to learn and grow. An early childhood educator helps to contour young children into wonderful people. Early childhood educators provide young children with the skills during their early years that will help them out greatly on their future educational path. Therefore, it is important that effective early childhood educators do the best job possible, as what they do will affect the children within their care.
To be an effective early childhood educator requires overall commitment to a child's development. Reflecting on the key areas of importance, stated throughout this essay of what makes an effective childhood educator allows promotion of vital areas to search for, when identifying the making of an effective early childhood educator.