As mentioned in one of my previous posts, I hope to spend this year working on developing into my own kind of teacher, rather than simply imitating my ‘host’ teacher. That is not to say that I wont use the elements of good practice that I observe, or wont follow the advice and guidance of my teacher, but it means that I will also try to approach teaching in my own way.
I also recently attended an input where we considered some of the early pioneers of education. During this input, I was encouraged to consider what my fundamental beliefs are about childhood, child development, and the role of education in this. My ideas of childhood are influenced by my own experiences as a child, and my own work and
observations of young children. These are some of my strongest beliefs about childhood:
- Children are naturally curious, inquisitive, and eager to learn,
- The Early Years have a HUGE impact on children’s personal and academic lives,
- Children flourish from spending time outdoors in nature,
- The best way that young children learn is through play (a combination of planned and spontaneous).
I am a big fan of the theorist Froebel (1782-1852), who believed that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child’s soul.” This statement echoes my feelings that play is essential and children MUST be given time to play, but unlike Froebel’s structured play approach, I feel that they should be able to play it in their own way. Here is more information about Froebel and his approach.
*EDIT* Following today’s input, where we continued to look at the early pioneers of education, I discovered that my previous experience and ideas of the Montessori approach are misguided, and that I actually agree with many of her ideas. Previously, I had seen an example of ‘montessori’ as children picking pre-designed and adult created drawers, with resources that were designed to develop a skill (for example opening and closing buckles, poppers, zips, etc). I found this to be very limiting and extremely structured. What I now understand is that the Montessori approach emphasises the importance of a well designed environment and that children should be able to play and explore without too much adult intervention. These are elements that I wholeheartedly agree with.
In my opinion, school does not currently tap into the most effective ways for children to learn and develop. I feel that children are too quickly pushed into the ‘sit down and get on with your work’ model, particularly when they begin school in p1! Of course, some schools/ classes may have different approaches, perhaps allowing a little more time for play, but ultimately they are bound by the overall system (traditional and results driven). I feel that the lower end of primary school should be arranged more like nursery, where children’s interests are sensitively followed and their learning is self-directed through play, while being skillfully scaffolded by qualified adults.
The idea of children beginning ‘formal school’ too soon in the UK is one that has been discussed in the news, and is the focus of the Upstart Scotland Campaign.
So, on the back of all of this, I’ve been thinking about what kind of teacher I want to be. This list is influenced by my experiences in Early Years, my reflections on my first year, and learning from life placements, my personality, and my overall beliefs about what makes an effective educator:
- One who gets excited about lessons,
- One who attempts to get children actively involved in their learning,
- One that does not rely on worksheets and textbooks,
- One that tries new things,
- One that gets outdoors,
- One that embraces technology but isn’t dependent on it,
- One that sings!,
- One that has a sense of humour and is fun (as much as is appropriate),
- One that uses children’s interests and passions in their learning,
- One that takes the time to build meaningful relationships with all of my children.
While I know that this list may grow/change during the rest of my course, and as I get into my teaching career, I feel it is a helpful starting point for my professional identity.