For many years now, I have hidden the fact that I just don't know the right way to do certain things, such as the right time and way to potty train a child; the right way to teach a child to hold scissors; and even the right way to handle children's aggressive behaviors toward one another like hitting, biting, and refusing to share.
In my early years, I kept this pretty well to myself, reading the literature on a subject, observing what other coworkers did with their children and then deciding what fit for me, and then doing what felt right for me and my children. Sometimes this caused me a problem with my supervisors, such as when I would allow my children to use materials and toys for other uses. My wonderful friend and the assistant director where I worked for 16 years, had a strong Montessori background and would often set out learning activities with very specific expectations, and would then be appalled to find I let the children use the tiny counting cubes in their block play.We would discuss this and I would explain my view that the children learned in their own way, and they were finding creative ways to use the material, which I was comfortable with, that I made sure nothing was lost, and also that we also used them for counting. Who was right? Neither of us, I think.And we always resolved the "conflict" of expectations peacefully.
We are still friends after all these years, and although Mamta (name changed), is retired we keep in contact. Furthermore I credit Mamta with much of my learning on the job, as she was an incredible teacher of young children, who knew how to draw the interest of her children just by sitting on the floor and being with them (she still did this in her late 60's).Having learned to be a teacher of young children in India, she had wonderful ideas about reusing materials, knew countless wonderful stories and songs which had been unknown by most of us trained in Canada; and knew how to be a good steward of materials, doing arts and crafts that cost little in money, because we recycled and reused most of the time.One quality which really shines in Mamta is her openness, and ability to be flexible to change, and to admit differing ways at looking at something .She is usually the first to admit there is no one right way of doing something.
I'm so enjoying reading Teacher Tom's blog, as he reflects on the same issues, is there a right way to hold scissors, or pencils; is there one right way to teach young children - true enough there isn't.
Early childhood education is not about turning out children to be all the same, like cookie cutter people. Child care educators are not all cut of the same cloth and philosophies differ according to the culture, locale, and life experiences of the people involved.
I think the Reggio educators in Reggio Emilia recognize this as well .I've been fortunate to attend several workshops on Reggio education, and am working my way through the amazing book The Hundred Languages of Children , and my sense is that these individuals describe what they do, but are not hoping that people all over the world will unreservedly copy everything they do, with no understanding how to implement it, or reflection on the underpinning of their work.My understanding is that they offer us one way of teaching young children, which truly does celebrate and empower children, but that they would like others to use what fits, and find their own true way.
Lately I've been feeling inspired to go back the The Hundred Languages, and read and reflect again, so I am really looking forward to being renewed by this. Another book I plan to get, and read, Is Sue Fraser's Authentic Childhood. I was able to hear an address by Sue at a CAYC conference, and she is passionate about Reggio education, within the Canadian context . What works in the wonderful town of Reggio Emilia, Italy might not work in a small reserve school in Saskatchewan, Canada, although the spirit can be transposed. This is the spirit of child centeredness; enquiry; open endedness; authenic communication; peacefulness; and as well I would hope the emphasis of beauty, and nature in the child's environment.
So I plan this weekend to immerse myself in the wonderful writing of The Hundred Languages of Children, and reflect...and then signs of spring are also around the corner here in Regina, Saskatchewan. What could be better?!
I've now been enjoying being a member of the "bloggy" world of those interested in the education of young children, for about 6 weeks, and am grateful for the chance there is to learn, be inspired, receive encouraging comments, and give feedback,... to really find that one isn't alone. There is a whole world of wonderful, creative people grappling with similar issues and concerns, and presenting wonderful solutions.
Have a wonderful weekend!