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What's Your Why?

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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Why do you do what you do in the classroom? What do you believe about kids and learning and teaching and the classroom? Does it matter if you think about these things?

It matters what you believe and what you do. How you think about teaching and learning should inform the practices in your classroom. Reading Rae Pica's book <em>What If Everybody Understood Child Development?</em> has caused me to think about all kinds of issues in education. I've been pondering what I believe, why I believe it, and if those beliefs make a difference. Here's some of my thinking.

At the core of what I value are these words: Kids First. I want to be dogmatic, unrelentless, when it comes to kids' needs. In my classroom I want to avoid doing those things that don't meet the developmental needs of young kids (even if that means going against the grain). I want to try things in the classroom and then adjust or stop if it doesn't fit the group of kids I have. As teachers, we need to stop requiring all kinds to meet arbitrary milestones and let them grow and bloom in their own time. Let's think about them first.

Building on a foundation of "kids first," my oher key words for creating environments for kids: balance and intention. In thinking about balance, i need to be wise and not lean too dogmatically toward one end or the other when considering  tools and trends for my classroom. Technology can be used in valuable ways but times of no screens are important, too. I want to encourage free play but sometimes need to offer guidance and direction for kids. Sometimes lots of movement and noise is needed but quiet is needed, too. 

What guides that balance? How do I choose? Intention. In the classroom, I want to do things in a purposeful way, choosing what tools or activities or resources or methods are needed to meet the needs of the kids and encourage the best exploring and learning. That means I must think about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. And if the result isn't working, that means I intentionally choose something else. I don't add something just because the curriculum says so or another teacher has it in her classroom. I choose things intentionally, with purpose, with thought. And discard things for the same reason. I don't stop doing something because it's no longer trendy. I stop doing something because it's no longer meeting the purpose.

I'm evaluating what I do in the classroom with young kids, to make sure what I say I value is reflected in what I practice. If the two do not line up, then something's wrong. Either I don't really believe what I say and I need to adjust my thinking. Or I'm doing things that I don't really think are good for kids and the practice needs to change.

What about you? What do you value and believe? What's your philosophy? Does your practice match up? Think about these things to get you started:

--What is most important materials/resources for a classroom? What could I not teach without? Why?

--What are the ways that I think are more effective for kids to learn? Why?

--How do I like to introduce and teach new information?

--What things do I want to keep out of my classroom? Why?

Doing a little inventory and self-evaluation can help you refocus your classroom. Whenever I feel like things are out of control or just don't feel right, it's usually a time when I'm not doing things that fit my philosophy or I am doing things that go against it.

Tell me what you believe and value about kids. Tell me how those things impact your classroom. Or tell me what you need to change.

Let's make sure the WHY and the HOW agree.


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Scott has been an early childhood educator for 30 years. He has been a preschool center director and preschool ministry leader in a church. He has taught elementary school. He developed and edited curriculum for a religious publisher for 15 years. Currently, Scott is a freelance curriculum writer and editor, a workshop leader, and a school volunteer. In addition to his blog, Brick by Brick, he writes for the collaborative blog Pre-K and K Sharing (http://prekandksharing.blogspot.com) and works as editor for Pre-K Pages (pre-kpages.com).

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