So I am wondering if the education degree programs that are offered may be where our public education systems are going wrong. (hold on let me explain what I mean by this…don’t take offense if you are a teacher with an Education degree–because its more likely that the problem is public schools becoming more like institutions and teachers being pressured to produce high test scores). Most programs I researched only required one or two child development courses. Most revolved around instruction, classroom management, and assessment. Since research shows project approaches to education and relationship based approaches work so well, why are we only seeing these educational philosophies in charter schools and private schools? (where teachers have to research these philosophies on their own and opt out of working at public schools?) How can we teach children if we do not first understand their developmental stages and their psychological processes? Education degree programs only skim the surface of child development and psychology. Children are complicated little buggers. I’m sure most of you are aware.
So with all this being said, I DO like to take a relationship based approach to learning. Research has proved that healthy attachments between child and caregiver predict better academic outcomes. Educational Psychologist Kate Townshend proved with her research that “attachment-based practice in schools can have a positive impact on academic performance, reduction in behavioral incidents and improvements in pupil and staff well-being” (Townshend, 2014). A relationship-based approach, (see attachment theory), means that you develop a relationship that establishes trust and security. This makes children feel safe in the classroom and at home. Children learn best when they feel safe to ask questions, to comment, to argue, to compliment…whatever it is they feel like communicating; the point should be that the child feels like they will be fully supported regardless of their position.
This is why I have called my blog Present Teacher Present Mom. It is so important to be present with children. One of my favorites quotes that I got from one of my attachment theory textbooks was from child psychologist, Linda Lloyd Jones, “don’t just do something, stand there and pay attention” (1998). This means that we, teachers, should be spending time observing what children are doing and ask ourselves, “what could they be trying to understand right now?” “how much do they already know?” “How can I extend this process?” It was always so frustrating to me to see other teachers busily moving around the classroom setting things up, organizing for the next day, or putting out activities to just keep the kids busy. What the heck is the point of the activity if it is not related to what the kids are presently developing or mentally working on? Kids will always find a way to get engaged– just stop, listen, and watch the child direct their learning.
Some days in my preschool classroom I would just sit and take notes. It was always so amazing to me to see children in a natural uninterrupted process. We don’t need to tell children what to learn because if we have always supported their curiosity and their natural love of learning from day 1, then children will know how to gladly, (and willingly), investigate, explore, test and re-test. I’ve always used this approach in my classrooms and have never pushed academics. I know it works because I had 3 and 4 year olds asking ME (out of their own desire) how to write specific words on a sign for their block towers. I’ve had 3 and 4 year olds EXCITED to write their own lists for parties we plan or surveys they would like to send home (ie: get to know Dad survey). I supply an intriguing environment and I supply support and love. These components give children a love for learning and a love for themselves. Relationship based learning breeds confidence, confidence breeds learning.