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Children Were Born to Learn! Get Out of Their Way!

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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If we look back in history, children were once taught by sitting alongside those who were skilled at something, participating in active learning. This type of pedagogy was aligned more closely with the nature of young children.

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They are, after all, born learners. They may be easily distracted and unpredictable and diverse, but they all have a natural drive to investigate, unravel mysteries, process information, and try out new ideas… the very things that move our human species ahead.

As time went on, however, an education system was created to feed the needs of the industrial age and children were taught a narrow set of skills. They were moved through the system like raw materials in a manufacturing process… pushing them towards an expected end product.

Unfortunately, much of public education still operates in the same way today. To make sure every child meets the prescribed standards, diversity in learning style, attention, or energy is separated and often medicated.

There is the continued assumption that certain things must be done by parents and teachers to cultivate children’s learning. Parents are focused on getting their kids into a good college and policy-makers who voted to fund preschool programs need proof that it’s worth what it costs. This has led to the early grades and even preschools becoming increasingly academic.

And, what about play?

Well, it gets lost. When a teacher is planning out her day and has to include all sorts of school readiness activities, there just might not be any time for play. Or, maybe the child will participate in more organized sports or take a few more lessons.

What ends up unpracticed are sharing, negotiating, flexibility, creativity, and resilience. Unfortunately, these are skills that are difficult to measure on a standardized test. But, aren’t these the very skills that are more important now than ever before?

child holding hand

The good news is, this is nothing surprising for Early Childhood educators. We know that providing a rich, interesting, loving, safe environment for children unleashes and enables them to learn the way they learn best. We let them play and discover and interact with each other. We embrace their diversity and sometimes step in to guide and scaffold and play along. But mostly, we stand back and respect their in-born drive to understand the world.

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We aren’t intimidated by so-called experts who insist that unless you do things a certain way and at a certain time, you’ll fail as a parent or a teacher. On the contrary. We know that going about things in any other way is failing children. I think there is truth to the saying that if we spend so much time getting children ready for what’s next, we aren’t paying attention to what is important today. And I don’t want to be the one who interferes with the potential of a child’s today, do you?

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Debra Pierce is professor of Early Childhood Education at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. Ivy Tech is the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college systems, serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Her professional background has always involved children, over the past 40 years, having been a primary grades teacher in the Chicago Public School system, a teacher of 3 and 4 year-olds in a NAEYC accredited preschool for 15 years, and a certified Parent Educator for the National Parents as Teachers Program.

Debra is a certified Professional Development Specialist for the Council for Professional Recognition. She has taught CDA courses to high school career/tech dual credit juniors and seniors in preparation for earning their CDA credentials. She also conducts CDA train-the-trainer events across the country and develops and teaches online CDA courses for several states, is a frequent presenter at national and state early childhood conferences, and is a Master Trainer for the states of Minnesota and Arizona. She was also awarded the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Texas.

Debra is active in her community, supporting children's literacy and is on the board of directors of First Book in Indianapolis. Debra is a contributing author for Hamilton County Family Magazine and Indy's Child in Indianapolis.
She loves spending time with her two grandsons, Indy, who is 7 and Radley, 3.

Debra has spent the last 16 years dedicated to the success of those pursuing the CDA credential and is the author of The CDA Prep Guide: The Complete Review Manual for the Child Development Associate Credential, now in its third edition (Redleaf Press), the only publication of its kind. She hosts a website providing help and support to CDA candidates and those who train them at http://www.easycda.com
The comments and views expressed are not in collaboration or affiliation with The Council for Professional Recognition or Ivy Tech Community College.
Follow me on Twitter at /easycda

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Guest Monday, 18 December 2017