Squeals of laughter sneak into a hallway lined with pictures and stories of that month’s learning.
The images portray the children enthralled in
investigation; balancing blocks that test the edges of physics, creating art that is filled with colorful emotion, using magnifying glasses to discover magic that the untrained eye cannot see. It’s a beautiful collection of moments, memories and learning through play.
But it’s not the whole story.
Early childhood education is in the midst of a dramatic change.
While we bring awareness to philosophies that have long been used in other parts of the world, we now feel pressures as educators to apply these methods in our learning spaces, while meeting the needs of families and decision makers who came through a very different system; one viewed as more formal and valued learning.
These two worlds hold unique expectations.
One trusts that the learning can be found through the play; the moments between wiped noses and tied shoes, through conversations while boo-boos are healed with hugs. The value and benefit of learning through play cannot be denied when you watch a child fully engaged in the game, in the exploration and the lifelong lessons that unfold.
The other expects that the learning is constructed, created and commits to promised outcomes in small chunks of time, sitting crossed legged and quiet. In a system where the belief is still held that all children grouped by age will learn the same way, hearing and repeating what is told to them.
These two worlds pull on the heart of the educator.
Working to create wonder-filled environments (more on that here) where our youngest learners are invited to experience hands-on, real-time, supported learning, educators feel the obligation to take notes rather than take part.
The challenges of working in early childhood education are too vast to name in full.
Each child in the care of an educator comes with different needs (more on inclusion here), different stories and will take different journeys in their learning. Educators take on an amazing role of getting to know who these incredible beings will be, can be, and already are. They create spaces for safety and love while allowing risk-taking and trust in the “getting back up again” – all done moment to moment through the connection of educator and child.
Each day, while a child walks into their classroom, there is a wealth of unspoken expectation. Welcomed with a smile and open arms, children feel safe and understood, parents feel at ease knowing this person will love their child while they are away, administrators feel pride knowing the care and attention that will be paid to each little being in the room.
But something else is felt. In a space where we know, armed with research and models across the globe, that learning through play leads to meaningful discovery, social-emotional development, cognitive enrichment, and growth, we still ask that the educator prove and justify what was learned, accomplished and taught each day.
Educators are taking a lead in supporting and enriching who our future community members will become, in partnership with the families from which they come. I believe it our responsibility to give back to these educators, something they’ve long deserved. Trust.
By empowering early childhood educators with trust, we are communicating a bigger message. With trust comes space to learn as professionals, connect with other educators and share that learning with our communities. By opening up the conversation, involving all the members of a child’s world, holding educators up as leaders and experts in the field of early childhood development, we allow these wonder-filled environments to be spaces of true learning, involvement, co-creation and empowerment of everyone involved.
It’s time for another picture to join those on the wall. Empowered educators in wonder-filled environments inspire something magical in our children and the greater community.
Something we can all see for years to come.
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