If you want to see how teaching should be done, I would encourage you to step into your local preschool or early childhood center. I have been fortunate to spend a fair amount of time in my local early childhood center because both of my sons have attended and one is still there. It appears to me that all a teacher really needs to know about how to teach they could learn in a preschool classroom. For example…
· Play is learning – Kids interact with their environment and learning space as if they were playing. Learning through play is par for the course and kids actually enjoy doing it. At what point does play work its way out of our classrooms?
· Relationships trump everything else – Just watch the way a preschool teacher helps kids and you know that relationships are key. Both of my sons absolutely adored their preschool teachers. They couldn’t wait to talk to them and share every single aspect of their personal lives and some of their parents as well. J The reason for this is kids know when you care for and about them.
· Parents are part of the process – There is no other setting where you see more parental involvement than the preschool classroom. My son’s school has monthly parents in the classroom where my wife or I can go and “play” with your son. In addition, there are community nights, open houses, and numerous other activities for parents to be a part of the school community. This sends a strong message that parents are a part of the learning process and are a valued member of the school.
· Small class sizes – Anyone that has actually spent time in a school as an educator knows that the smaller the class size the better learning potential there will be. When you have a class of 12-15 kids, you can provide the individualized attention we know to be best for kids.
· Cooperation is taught and celebrated – Kids in a preschool classroom are taught how to work together to solve problems and cooperate. Competition is not a tool they use but rather they focus on working in a collaborative manner to learn and play together.
· Failure is used as a learning tool – Kids at this age fail on a regular basis and that is to be expected. These failures though are learning opportunities and kids are challenged and supported to keep trying and figure things out.
I know there is nothing profound in this post but it just strikes me how we think some of these skills or ideas go away when kids get older. There is nothing in this list that could or should not be a part of any classroom at any grade level. For some reason we think that the fundamental ideas we utilize in early childhood somehow become less important as they get older.