What IS a philosophy? It is a set of beliefs and personal understandings about something in which a person holds a deep interest.
Because you are committed to your work with young children, the Council wants to know about your philosophy of caring for and educating them.
Based on your experience and your education, you have the elements of a philosophy in your mind already, but they are yet to be organized and written down.
For your Portfolio, you will base what you write on four questions posed by the Council. But trying to start there may be difficult. It is sort of like putting the horse before the cart, so to speak!
Instead, develop your philosophy by using the “developmentally appropriate” approach you use with children… making the process the focus, rather than the end product.
I suggest reflecting and writing down your beliefs and understandings in small steps. Then, use these to develop a well-thought out and meaningful philosophy statement that will practically write itself.
Start out by asking yourself what you believe about young children… what are their needs and how do they learn best? How do you meet these needs and provide for optimal learning? What are the elements of a good early childhood curriculum and an engaging learning environment?
Now think about the characteristics of a good teacher. What are these, in your opinion, and which ones are the most important. You will also reflect on how a teacher can build positive relationships with families. Then, jot down your thoughts about meeting the needs of children with special needs, and how to best embrace diversity in your program.
Getting your ideas out and down on paper (either typed on your computer or handwritten) helps to make sense of what you believe about early childhood education. It also channels your thinking into new directions… so you can see purpose and reasons behind the activities, materials, and environments you provide for young children and the collaborations you build with families. This, in itself, is a priceless outcome.
How you answer these questions will depend on your experience working with young children and your training. You must realize that a philosophy is not set in stone. It is a work in progress. As you gain more professional development and more experience, expect your answers to these questions to change and evolve.
That’s why I suggest answering these questions early on in your CDA process… while you are still accumulating your 120 clock hours of training. Then, plan to sit down and reflect on these questions again near the end of the process, when your training and Professional Portfolio is completed. You will be surprised at how much fuller and meaningful your answers will be, reflecting your own professional growth.
Now, you are ready to use these reflections to thoughtfully answer the Council’s questions in a one or two page Professional Philosophy Statement. The process will reveal a very nicely composed product and just what the Professional Development Specialist is expecting to see. What started out to seem a difficult and confusing task will now make sense and be almost effortless.
If you would like a more complete listing of these questions for reflection, contact me on my website and I’ll be happy to provide more information. My students always say this process is definitely worth the time and effort… not just in meeting a requirement for a CDA, but for introspection and reflection on why they do what they do every day.