Reflecting on the values and principles within Early Years Education in Scotland, looking closely at play

Both curiosity and creativity are held in an extremely high regard when it comes to education in the early years. As I read and reflect upon the values and principles core to the CFE, it makes me happy to see the very strong similarities between these and those of my own. Children will do their best learning when these qualities are nurtured; the natural curiosity and creativity of children will be their greatest asset in developing socially, physically, emotionally and cognitively.

For these qualities to be developed effectively, children must be given the opportunity to investigate and explore, to respond to their natural instincts and follow their own line of enquiry: all of which being well supported by the role of play. Play supports the individual instincts of the child; they will likely follow through with whatever is interesting them in that moment. It allows them to solve problems for themselves, develop new skills, and work collectively with other children and with adults. It is an incredibly advantageous way of encouraging language development and helps to promote self-regulation, contributing to the holistic well-being of the child. The environment in which these experiences take place are also of the utmost importance: both indoor and outdoor play are essential to fully support and enhance learning and skill development. An environment which is stimulating and full of open-ended possibilities should encourage children to explore and take risks, allowing them to make and learn from mistakes, assisting the development of resilience.

The way in which play is implemented in practice is reflective of its weighted importance, the importance of what is relevant to the child at any given time and the importance of placing the child at the centre of the learning. The teacher or practitioner must be able to step back and allow the children to follow their natural curiosity and creativity, knowing when to step in to support the children and enhance their experience; the children must be able to explore a variety of environments (both indoor and outdoor); and the adults must learn from the children to inform their practice. The adult must observe, interpret and document the learning, using the child’s actions, emotions and words to inform them. This interpretation must then be used to respond appropriately and for intentional planning. It must then be decided collectively by the teachers and practitioners what needs to change and what must remain the same in order to best support the children’s skill development and learning.

My Mathematical Experiences in School

Thinking back to primary school, I have vague memories of group lessons where we would all scribble answers on individual whiteboards and hold them up for the teacher to see. This would have been one of our ‘fun’ lessons. I suppose it was fun in comparison to my other vague memories of doing silent exercise books – my mind would often wonder and I do remember (I think in upper primary school) being told off for not completing my questions in time.

When I was in high school, I was lucky to have a really great maths teacher, Mr Dunbar, who was particularly engaging as well as patient – two necessary qualities to possess when teaching maths to an easily distracted teenager.

On the whole, I wouldn’t say I have any particularly horrifying memories of learning mathematics. However it definitely wasn’t a subject that I would say I really enjoyed. I do hold a little anxiety at the thought of teaching maths, but more so because I guess I just feel that my knowledge is a little rusty – a wee dusting off and a bit more confidence and I should be ready to go!

‘Huh. I wonder where my class has gone?’

The first question everyone asks when we begin our journey to become a teacher is why?

Most student teachers would try to pin point one reason: one teacher they had or one day at school or one experience. For me, there are many reasons. I guess the simplest and yet most fundamentally important one is the kids. Simple as that. To be able to inspire and excite their imaginations; to create a safe space where they can be themselves; to give them the tools and support that they need to flourish academically, creatively and emotionally – these are the reasons why.

As we embark on the next four years, I look forward to sharing my experiences and hearing all about yours, so that we can learn together, grow together and thrive together on our exciting journey’s to becoming wonderful teachers.