In the 30+ years I have been actively involved with the education of young children I have come to believe that education is always changing. It often appears like a pendulum, with practices swinging from one extreme to another. I believe that change is a good thing and as educators we should always be trying to find whatever will work in support of the children we are entrusted to teach. However, I also think there needs to be good sense behind the choices we are making in the classroom. Fashion can afford fads, education cannot.
Personally, I listen with as open a mind as possible to different methods and approaches as they find their way into education. I take what I find to be beneficial for my students and incorporate those practices as best I can. Over the years I have never found one method or school of thought that was the “best”.
The “best” for me has always been a mixture of pieces that I fused together to offer my students the experiences and guidance they needed at that specific point in time. What I have found to be consistent is that if one approaches their teaching practice with “intention”, they will usually be doing the best they can by their students. I believe teachers need to not just observe, but be sensitive to the individual needs of their students. From that point they can determine the most effective teaching strategies to use for each experience.
What do I mean by “intention”?
When one teaches with intention, one:
- has a learning environment that is rich in materials to offer students a variety of experiences and chances for interactions
- continually observes students to gage interests and level of comprehension
- encourages exploration
- talks with and listens to the students
- challenges students to question, stretch their abilities, and work outside their comfort zone
- continually extends students’ existing knowledge as new lessons are introduced
- covers all areas of instruction
- understands the content to be taught
- matches content to the developmental levels and emerging skills of students
- plans, but remains flexible
- uses spontaneous or unexpected teaching opportunities
- reflects on success of strategies used and alternatives
- reflects on their own strengths and weaknesses to direct their continuing professional development
Operating a family childcare home hasn’t changed my thoughts regarding teaching with intention. It has only reinforced this point of view. It doesn’t matter if I am helping an infant developing body awareness, a toddler expanding their developing language skills, a preschooler learning the alphabet, or the school-aged with homework support, if I approach each student and situation with intention I end up providing them with the “best” I can.