Guest Blogger Eden A.S. Fried describes her teaching philosophy, which may assist those parenting children with and without special needs, especially those touched by adoption.
Learning and development is important at all stages of childhood, but I truly believe that early childhood learning establishes the critical foreground for a child’s future success. Without the building blocks there can be no tower and it is for this reason that I have dedicated myself to this area of education. My teaching philosophy is threefold and I have outlined each fold below.
LOOK AND LISTEN. Part of my approach as an early childhood educator is to emphasize the importance of teaching with wide eyes and open ears. Young children often do not have the vocabulary to express their feelings and needs. A lack of such basic communication skills often translates into misinterpreted behavioral challenges, such as biting or hitting. It is the teacher’s job to be able to understand what each child is really trying to communicate. I constantly ask myself, “What are my students asking of me? What do they need? How can I deliver?” This sort of reflection requires me to be a detail-oriented person who pays notice to the nuances of daily interaction. I make it my goal to explore the inner workings of my students and mold my teaching strategy to highlight their strengths and meet their needs.
NO JUDGMENT. I approach everything in my life knowing that my world may look very different from the world of my neighbor, best friend, or even the complete stranger. The same goes for my students. I recognize that my students each have stories that are unique to themselves as individuals. While there is no such thing as person without biases and prejudices, my “look and listen” approach allows me to better be aware of my personal biases and to work to be as nonjudgmental as possible in my interactions with, and perceptions of, my students. I strive to respect the beautiful differences that define us even if that means taking off the lens through which I look at the world in order to glance through those of my students.
CURIOUS EXPLORATION. I believe that a young child’s education is accomplished through explorative play outside of the traditional classroom setting. Grasping new concepts through play in a natural child-directed and teacher-supported environment allows every child to progress individually while also fostering the four critical area of development: social emotional, cognitive, physical, and communication. I challenge myself to foster development in these areas by creating lessons that utilize the five senses and that cater to the many different types of learning styles. I aspire to include components of each lesson that engage spatial, kinesthetic, and auditory-musical learners, among others. Ultimately, I believe that children are innately curious, and it is through curious exploration that children develop a keen sense for detail and a desire to learn more. My role as the teacher is to empower my students through their learning, satisfy their curiosities through the aforementioned methods, and gently guide them to further discoveries.
This threefold approach is one that I have developed through a multitude of different experiences with young learners but while I use this as a guideline for my success as an educator, it in no way guarantees my success as a teacher. Rather, these are merely foundational beliefs and qualities that I try to maintain through an ever-evolving education process, which transforms in accordance with new settings and circumstances. This flexibility, which I could arguably list as a 4th fold of my teaching approach, is a quality no successful teacher can be without.
I measure my success each day by reflection. Were my students smiling during class? Were they engaged? Was I engaged? Were their curiosities satisfied? Were they receiving well what I was trying to deliver? Far too often we underemphasize nontraditional methods of knowledge acquisition and overemphasize quantitative assessments. While I recognize that there are educational standards and goals that need to be met, I am a proponent for achieving those through means that keep my students smiling and feeling at ease.
My support for, and engagement with, curious exploration through play will allow me to establish relationships with my students; thus I lay the foreground for student-teacher trust and educational success. It is my goal for students to achieve at their own individual level, gain life skills through social interaction with peers and adults, and develop a profound sense of confidence as they navigate through their learning. Curious exploration through cross-curricular activities, both within and outside of the traditional classroom setting, will help facilitate such growth and development. My positive guidance, encouragement, support and respect for my students will help reinforce the lessons I strive to teach. I firmly believe that with these foundational qualities, my early learners will thrive as they pursue more traditionally focused curriculums in future years.