In this paper, the significance of good quality early childhood education has been discussed, along with the teaching strategies which encourage multicultural education. The relationship and interaction between the teacher and parents is shown to be of vital importance, in order to make a child’s learning successful and meaningful in every aspect. Some light is thrown on how a teacher can motivate children in the classroom and ignite their interest in various activities. Various assessment methods have now been developed and implemented which mainly focus on recognizing and nurturing a child’s strengths and strengthening the weaknesses or areas which need more attention. How a curriculum should be designed with an aim to facilitate an over-all development of the child and progress in learning has been briefly explained. What all activities and important points have to be kept in mind to create an appropriate curriculum, have also been suggested in this paper. I have also expressed and explained my philosophy of teaching, my desire to teach and what led me to the teaching profession.
I. Quality in Early Childhood Education:
Early childhood education is vital for the success of children's learning in school as well as in future. The quality of early childhood education combines the physical, psychomotor, cognitive, and social and emotional development of children, including their acquisition of language and early literacy. The two approaches to measure the quality of early childhood education focus on the indicators called process and structure, which are fundamental elements of high quality early childhood education. Process quality lays stress on learning experiences which occur in educational settings such as type of activities in which children are involved, teacher-student relationship, available materials, provisions for health and safety, and relationship with parents. Structure quality is the review of structural characteristics of early childhood education such as class size, ratio of adult-child, qualification of teachers and benefits given to them, etc. Therefore the quality of early childhood education has an impact on children's educational success. In other words, if children get a high quality early education, they will have a head start in life and long-lasting impact, so that even at the age of sixteen, their problem solving abilities will show as beneficial learning from early childhood. (“Quality Early Childhood,” 2012, p.1)
Furthermore, I believe that when teachers receive high quality and valuable information in early childhood education program, they will have professional development and know how to create a suitable learning environment. It requires knowledge of how children develop and grow, as well as how to communicate effectively with children and their families. After having received this kind of training, the positive outcomes will show on children’s development, in areas such as vocabulary, mathematics, print awareness and concept, which are all critical for success in school and life.
II. Program Philosophy and Curriculum:
Obtaining a master degree in early childhood education will provide me with the opportunities to accomplish my goals, which are to assist all of my students to achieve their potential in every way, be it physically, emotionally, academically, or socially; also, to enhance their future by providing with the best of knowledge.
Also, one of the most important goals is promoting parent involvement in the learning process for children. I believe that equal involvement of both the teacher and parent is vital for a successful educational growth of a child. This will provide children with the same learning environment both at home and school. Therefore, it is important that schools and teachers take active measures to promote parent involvement in children’s learning at home and school.
Children acquire information which is processed through physiological and psychological action, and learn through their five senses. Because children's brain grasps information and processes it so efficiently children need to be exposed to a variety of experiences, to help enhance their learning (R. McDaniel, 2009). Therefore, I will use different ways of teaching and provide productive experiences to children to help them achieve their full potential. In my opinion, children have to learn how to explore and discover the world around them, and be creative learners throughout their life. There are seven factors by which this goal can be achieved:
Play: allowing children to be creative with skills they have acquired and having fun in indoor and outdoor activities.
Hands-on activities: providing children direct and physical interaction with materials in the classroom. Peer interactions: supporting children to interact with others in a positive and productive manner in order to be successful in life later. Children with poor social interaction skills are more likely to demonstrate aggressive or violent behavior which creates conflict. They are also less likely to exercise self- regulation and control.
One-on-one activities: allowing children to interact with teacher without any involvement of other students or staff.
Small group activities: providing children with activities which are carried out by multiple children and often are teacher-directed, such as working at an activity table.
Guided exploration: allow children to experiment and explore the use of blocks or other classroom materials.
Child-guided activities: providing children with activities initiated and directed by the children themselves, during center time where they have access to blocks, books, and other classroom manipulatives. (“A Qualitative Study,” 2009)
Moreover adults – children interaction plays a very important role in children's learning and development. Therefore, interaction strategies should be used which promote active learning. For instance, adults must give children opportunities for conversation and discussion about the activities that children are engaged in. Adults should also encourage and motivate children through positive reinforcement and good compliments when they do well. Also, interactions between children and adults provide opportunities to build a positive relationship. For instance, student-teacher relationship is strengthened through teacher’s actions of listening to children, making eye contact with them, talking with them using a pleasant, calm voice, simple language, and using one-to-one and face to face interaction.
However, in my opinion, teachers must take into consideration the different needs of each child, interests, styles, and abilities to use strategies. For example, teachers have to interact with infant and toddlers, through warm, responsive, physical contact such as hugging and holding them in their laps. For preschool children, teachers have to develop mutual respect with children, by patiently waiting until children finish asking questions, before answering so that children are encouraged to listen to others when they speak. Therefore, using positive guidance techniques helps children to develop trusting relationships with their teachers. (“Building Positive,” n.d.)
Guidelines are standards that can be addressed and set by teachers to determine a course of action for progress. Therefore the appropriate guidelines for my curriculum content are as follows: The curriculum has an articulated description of its theoretical base, that is consistent with the prevailing professional opinion and research on how children learn.
Curriculum content is designed to achieve long- term goals for children in all domains, social, emotional, cognitive, and physical.
It addresses a broad range of content that is relevant, engaging and meaningful to children.
It respects and supports individual, cultural, and linguistic diversity.
Supports and facilitates positive relationships with parents.
Curriculum provides a variety of skills that enable children to acquire skills of thinking, reasoning, decision- making, and problem solving abilities.
Moreover, I believe that a learning environment for children should be physically, emotionally, and socially safe, enhancing, and intellectually stimulating. It must also include both classroom and outdoor sitting facility so that children have more opportunities to explore and learn. The indoor class environment should be created by judiciously dividing a large classroom into different sections and areas of learning. The classroom should have an arrangement of proper shelves; provide a sitting area for a large group; furniture should be sturdy, comfortable and in accordance with the physical size of the children. All classrooms should provide learning materials such as puzzles and manipulatives that is appropriate for children’s age. It’s a great need to have access to a sink, bathroom and area for medical aid in the classroom. Also, the most important aspect of a conducive learning environment in class is ‘teacher resourcefulness’.
It is defined as making use of a naturally occurring phenomenon to illustrate a specific lesson, as well as making use of other resources in the classroom such as various colors that surround the children to demonstrate what each color looks like, rather than simply using teacher- made materials. Besides this the teacher must make the classroom rules and expectations regularly clear to the children while providing some boundaries within which children can learn and grow. In addition to these, the daily schedule should be consistent and appropriate for children's age, but I believe that small and large group activities, outdoor activities, meal and snack time are some of the most important parts of a daily schedule.
III. Individualizing to Promote Competencies of All Children:
A teacher has to be mindful of the needs of each student in order to make learning successful for each child. The teacher should be able to teach and help all the children equally. Moreover, when children know that their teacher is aware and considerate about their needs, they will be motivated to participate actively in learning activities. Therefore a teacher must create a positive relationship with students by knowing their name to make them feel comfortable in class and participate in class discussions. The teacher must explain everything to children with an expectation that it’s the first day of class to avoid creating anxiety in them, answer all their questions to encourage them to ask more, give positive reinforcement when they do well in activities so that they feel happy while learning, and provide a safe environment to help them feel relaxed, rather than frightened, worried, or stressed.
Inclusion can be an arguable subject, but a classroom should accommodate all kinds of children including disabled children to help them feel like a member of the society. Hence, inclusion requires collaborative, team effort, with everyone involved in working together to make the school community a universal setting for all learners. Inclusion is not one teacher, or two teachers, it is the whole school. The whole school needs to have an inclusive environment. So I believe that inclusion is more than just being in the general education classroom, it is being included in life. I believe that an inclusion classroom should have another teacher or assistant teacher to work together, because not all students can do the same task with the same ability. Therefore some extra assistance will be valuable. It is important for teachers to know about their students’ academic ability and be aware of their individual strengths and weaknesses (DiMola & Conterelli, 2008, para. 4). I also believe that inclusion:
Teaches children tolerance and understanding.
Individualized instruction is the foundation of early childhood education program. Therefore, teachers have to realize that children have individual rates of development. However, teachers must promote individual instruction by observing each child’s interest, temperament, language, cultural background, and learning style. Hence, I believe that one of the best ways to support individualized instruction is by providing appropriate activities, materials, and instructions every day to the children. Teachers should support strategies of individualized instruction for each child by seven types of modification:
Environmental support - by altering the physical environment and the timing of activities to support a child’s participation. This can be done by limiting the number of manipulatives on the shelves, having very few numbers to encourage children to use them purposefully and independently, and teachers must be aware of noises which distract and interfere with hearing and language learning.
Materials modification – modify the materials, so that children can participate as independently as possible. Use tape or contact paper backing rather than glue or paste for children who resist sticky substance, and use musical instruments to practice listening skills and sounds awareness.
Modified activities - simplify a complicated task by breaking it to smaller parts or reduce the number of steps by using verbal and visual cuing. Giving initial sounds to help students remember a word, picture, color coding, pointing, and using step- by-step presentation of required tasks, facilitates a deeper understanding of the tasks.
Use of child preferences - identify and integrate the child’s preferences for materials or activities so that the child takes advantages of available opportunities. This can be done by using favorite toys, materials, or books to maintain attention and interest.
Peer support - Involving peers to increase child’s participation. Using language to bring peers together or cue peers to invite a child into play.
Invisible support - purposefully arrange naturally occurring events within an activity, such as building time for practice and repetition into ongoing activities and center activities.
Adult support – when adults intervene and join the activity to support children’s participation. Using methods that enable the child to benefit from the teacher’s close attention like a small group, one- to- one, or hand-over-hand assistance.
Assessment is a continual process of collecting information in order to measure the level of children’s performance. Both formal and informal methods can be used to collect information to assess children's performance. However, for early childhood before educators select an appropriate assessment tool, they should first identify the age group for whom the assessment tool will be used (infant, toddler, preschool, etc), the goals of the program, purpose for which the assessment will be used, and other factors such as children's culture, language, and abilities or disabilities. This will help create an appropriate assessment that will help in assessing children’s development in all aspects, physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. It will also aid in detecting developmental delays or special needs, to enhance teaching methods to improve children's learning, to inform parents of their child’s progress and express concerns. Therefore, the relationship between a teacher and parents is fundamental to ensure future success of children's learning.
There are three key elements for teachers and families so they can effectively engage in the process of sharing assessment information for children's learning and development:
Families should be given access to their children's learning and development. In other words, both teachers and parents should share information about children's learning. For instance, parent’s observation of their child is important and they should inform the teacher about their child’s development at home. Similarly, teachers should also provide a clear picture of children's progress in school. Assessment information should be understandable and meaningful, both to the families as well as teachers.
Teachers and parents should put the assessment information into action, such as suggesting activities to parents which they can do at home to support children's learning. (“Family Engagement,” 201, p.8)
Finally, ongoing assessment can provide invaluable information to parents and educators about how children grow and develop, whereas, inappropriate assessment puts children at a great risk and provides insufficient information for teachers and parents.
V. Partnership with Families/Cultural Competence:
In my opinion there are four essential characteristics for an effective family function:
Provision of resources such as money, food, clothing, and shelter, is the most important one, to ensure children survive and live well. Nurturing and supporting the child in the family. For example, a parent comforting a child after the child has had a bad school day, to give warmth, comfort and reassurance.
Life skills development - it involves physical, emotional, educational, and social development. For instance, parents help their children in every way to make it through to school.
Maintenance and management of the family system - it includes many tasks such as leadership, decision-making, and handling family finances. This also includes maintaining discipline and enforcing behavioral standards. (Peterson & Green, 2009)
Also, parents must be a role model in their children’s life to support their children in order to be successful in any field. However, according to my opinion, there are three important roles that parents have to play to achieve this:
Be a cheerleader: parents must encourage their children. For example, they may use reward system if their children do something good. This will help them to keep trying and it will teach them to access the skills they already have when faced with new or less interesting challenges.
Be a friend: parents must listen to their children and show interest in those things they care about, such as talking with them everyday about their concerns, asking questions about their idea and opinion regularly. This will increase their self-esteem and motivation.
Be a teacher: parents must stay in touch with their children especially in matters related to school. They have to connect with their teachers regularly to keep up with how things are going in the classroom. Also, if they need extra help, parents have to be active in work with their children on their assignments, preparing for tests, and help in ongoing projects. (“A Parent’s Role,” n.d.) Based on my goal, which is promoting parent involvement, I will initiate ways to communicate with parents depending on Epstein’s Framework of Six Major Frameworks of Parent Involvement ( Epstein’s 1995):
Parenting: I will provide parents with articles or materials that support student development such as parenting articles, or homework tips, etc. This will help parents improve parenting skills; understand child and adolescent development, and setting home conditions which support children as a student, at each age and grade level.
Communicating: I will communicate with parents through technology resources. For example, obtaining email addresses of parents of my students so that the parents and I can have a clear two-way communication. I will also use the school website to maintain and update important information like student assignments, lesson plans, etc. for the school to make students’ report ( grades, attendance, behavior) available to parents online. In addition to these, I will invite parents into the classroom so they can express any concerns about their child's development without hesitation. The most important feature of culturally responsive teaching is interaction with families, so I believe that visiting students’ home environment will further give me an insight into their true personalities, learning styles, interests, and strengths. I will also be able to see how a family's culture is uniquely manifested such as their values, interaction style, and parenting approaches.
Volunteering: Volunteering will provide an opportunity for parents to see their child in a different environment and increases the understanding of the teacher’s job and also implement teaching strategies at home. It also improves connections with the school community to facilitate their child’s learning and opportunities for success. Therefore, I will use many strategies to promote this. For example, I will meet with the parents to make flexible schedules and they can choose a day and the period of time that they would be available to attend and participate with their children in the classroom. However, every week, a different parent will come in with a ‘Goody Bag’ which includes snacks for each child in the classroom. I will inform the parents about a weekly theme to help them make a design for the Goody Bag accordingly and participate in the activities with children. If they have extra time left, I will discuss with them about their child’s strengths, weaknesses and behavior.
Learning at home: I will work with other teachers to organize workshops for parents, to give them opportunities to learn strategies that will help them become involved and more productive in their child’s learning at home. In this way parents will become familiar with the strategies and be able to implement them at home. Along with the strategies, the workshops should provide information about what to look for in their child’s work and progress.
Decision making: I will develop a leadership training workshop which is offered to both parents and staff. So, the parents will become more supportive of the school’s efforts and they will have an understanding of school issues and priorities. Collaborating with community: I will provide information for students or families on health, safety, mental, nutrition, programs, or services in the community.
Furthermore, an early childhood teacher must help children to understand the diversity and cultural differences. The teachers must examine their own knowledge, values, beliefs, and perspective of the cultural groups so that children can learn to live in a multicultural environment and avoid being biased about multicultural education. Therefore, multicultural education needs to be provided from an early age so that children develop a positive attitude towards people from other cultures. Therefore, I will prompt an anti-bias multicultural education by focusing on the visual aspect of the classroom environment, materials, and classroom practice. To foster this I will post images (photos, posters) which reflect various cultural backgrounds of families and children in the classroom. I will identify and use some objects which reflect cultural diversity such as cooking, tools used, clothes, and objects used for holiday and celebrations. Art material should include all kinds of skin tone (black, tan, brown). I will also teach children other languages (words, greeting, numbers, food names, months of year, and days of the week). Thus, creating a diverse environment in the classroom and implementing multicultural education will help children develop an understanding and respect for other cultures. (“Developing Effective,” 2011, p.587)
My mother was a teacher for grades 4-6, so when I was a child I grew up seeing my mother very busy with children and this made me hate the profession of teaching. But when I came to the United States, I was determined to study early childhood education. I began to study early childhood education last semester and I discovered a fact about teaching children and the importance of preparing children for the future. I gradually experienced that working with children changed my perspective about teaching children. Moreover, when I delivered my first child one year ago, I become more mindful about ensuring her future and preparing her to be an active member in the society. Therefore, the experience of working with children and having my first child, both have influenced my teaching philosophy.
After a thorough research and study for this paper, I come to the conclusion that both teachers and parents, are and should be, equally responsible and involved in a child’s learning journey. Both the school and home environment should be conducive and facilitating the learning process for children. Therefore, a teacher has to work very closely with the parents to make sure they are following the same guidelines and pattern of teaching children. It is important for a teacher to identify and recognize every child’s strengths and weaknesses, and provide opportunities for development. To make children good world citizens, a teacher must encourage multicultural education in the class so that children grow in an environment where all our considered equal and same, and they learn to respect differences. In the end I’m glad to be a teacher and to be able to play an active role in directing lives of many children.
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