“It is through others that we develop into ourselves.” ~Lev Vygotsky

Reflective Essay

I had three choices of what I wanted to be when I grew up: a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher. As an idealist who lived in a developing country, I was heartbroken to see doctors turn down ailing patients, lawyers refusing to defend the innocent, and teachers managing classes of 60+ children on their own while also selling various goods to them for extra income. All of these happened (still happen) because of socio-economic statuses that restrict quality services. I vowed to be different; I was determined to serve, not for money, but for the good of those I will be serving.

A couple of years into secondary school, I decided against being a lawyer because I knew I am not good with confrontations. I also changed my mind about wanting to be a doctor when I lost interest in studying higher level biology. Then I realized that becoming a teacher is the best way for me to make a change: I could empower children to take up a career that they are passionate about so that they could be happy no matter how much they may get paid. I thought that in taking this path, I could create positive ripple effects for future doctors, lawyers, politicians, nurses, etc. without having to actually work in all those different career fields. I saw children as the future, the solution to current societal problems.

However, having the opportunity to actually work with a group of 5- and 6-year-old children after I graduated from secondary school changed my perspective. I learned to ground myself in the present and enjoy the moment. I developed trusting relationships with my students and grew fond of them. I began to see them as tiny humans who are unique, intelligent, and fun-loving. I discovered how capable, competent, and creative each of them is. I observed how quickly they learned when they had the opportunity to work with tangible materials. I also recognized that the children’s “learning and development happens within the context of relationships among [them], [their] families, [their] educators, and their environments” (Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 6); I saw children as agents of communication and change from the moment their learning and development happen.

Through these discoveries, my vision for working with children is now a reciprocal learning experience. My initial drive for becoming an educator is still one of the many reasons I aspire to work in the classroom, but I am now driven with passion for children’s well-being and development, and I look forward to discovering new things and ideas as I spend my days with them. Working with children is a challenge; it brings up a lot of questions for both educator and students. Yet, “it is in exploring our questions that learning happens” (Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 5). I imagine that open communication, respect, and trust of one another allow us to explore these questions and provide us with an opportunity to develop and grow together within the early learning environment.

In addition, I believe that an early learning environment that fosters a sense of belonging enhances the children’s experiences. I envision it to be a positive space where they explore, investigate, and experience various learning opportunities without restrictions. This is possible when children “[are] connected to others and [contribute] to their world” (Ministry of Educaiton, 2014, p. 24). Thus, the early learning environment is warm and welcoming to the children and their families—an extension of the children’s homes where they feel they belong, are loved, and are emotionally safe.

Thus, I believe it is important to remember that children’s families are valuable resources and partners in supporting children’s development. They are an important aspect of children’s lives and identities. They are equally, if not more, significant influences in “[children’s] developing . . . sense of self, health, and well-being” (Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 29). According to Ontario’s Ministry of Education (2014), “[creating] an environment that welcomes families into the space, inviting their perspectives and providing opportunities for families to participate in meaningful ways . . . on an ongoing basis, [further] supports [children’s] sense of belonging” (p. 18). Families are the experts on their children, but they are also learners whose participation and involvement in the child care centre’s activities benefit their children as they discover more about their little ones.

Another learning partner in the child care centre are my colleagues: co-educators who are passionate about what they do, but are critical thinkers and critical partners with whom I grow as we learn different approaches and strategies in working with children and their families. We work together in “creating contexts for learning through exploration, play, and inquiry” (Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 35) so that the children in our care are engaged in their activities. My colleagues and I also communicate with each other openly as we “foster communication and expression” (Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 41) in children, which are a foundation for their learning.

In collaboration with families and colleagues, and with the children as focus, I suspect that cultural diversity will open up more opportunities for everyone to be more accepting of others. It will lead to new avenues of learning as we all discover and understand different cultures through “intentional, planned program[s] [that support] learning” (Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 10) and “respect for diversity, equity, and inclusion” (Ministry of Education, 2014, p. 10).

References

Ministry of Education. (2014). How does learning happen?: Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years. Ontario: Queen’s Printer.

Reflective Task 2: Learning Styles

Identify your top Learning Style(s) and some characteristics of the style.

Reflector

I like to take some time to observe, collect information, and reflect on this information before acting upon it. I prefer to do a thorough job rather than rushing through an activity for the sake of expediency.

Theorist

I like having the time to explore and probe through ideas and concepts to fully understand them. I prefer a systematic way of approaching situations by analysing it from different points of view.

Using the handouts provided as a guide, reflect on whether you agree with the assessment. Any new learning or insights? Surprises?

I agree with the assessment and see how I am equally a reflector and a theorist. In particular, the results explain why I take time to create activity plans for my field placement. Considering that I visit my kindergarten class only twice a week, I needed several weeks of observation and experience with the children before understanding what types of activity may or may not interest them. Additionally, I needed to thoroughly understand the Full-Day Kindergarten Curriculum, from which I base the activity’s anticipated learning, before completing my planning forms.

Although most of the characteristics of a reflector and a theorist apply to my learning style, I am surprised to see that my tendency to lead discussions and group assignments lies within an activist’s learning style (my lowest preference). At the same time, it is interesting to note that amidst leading the group, I take a step back and allow each member to put their ideas forth before sharing mine or before coming to a conclusion about the subject at hand.

Knowing your preferences is a first step to becoming an ‘all-around learner’. Identify which styles you are under-utilising and what you may do to strengthen them.

My preference to the pragmatist learning style (14 points) comes to a close second with the reflector and theorist styles (15 points). However, my preference for the activist learning style falls way behind the three with eight points. This makes sense in that the activist learning style seems to be a direct opposite of the reflector and theorist styles. For that reason, I believe that I need to be more spontaneous and open to new experiences. Moreover, acting on instinct once in a while may help me strengthen my activist learning style as I become skilled at thinking on my feet.

Joining the Girl Guides of Canada as a Unit Leader supports this practice. As a new Guider, I am thrust into unfamiliar situations that I have no background in. Thus, to practice learning as an activist, I need to speak up more in the meetings and take on the role I signed up for—a leader who generates ideas on the spot most of the time.

Reflective Task 1: The Insightful Teacher

What are my goals?

As a student, my goal is to successfully complete the Early Childhood Education diploma program in 2017. Then, I plan to get into the Bachelor of Early Childhood Leadership program by 2018 while working as a Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE). I also intend to continue my studies into a post-graduate Child Life Specialist program in the next five years.

Whether I work as an RECE or as a Child Life Specialist, I aspire to make a difference in children’s lives and ensure that they feel valued, loved, and protected. I aim to inspire them and help them develop a passion for continuous learning so that they may grow to be successful in their own ways.

What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses?

Growing up, I have always felt left out and that I do not belong anywhere. As a result, I learned to be inclusive in any way I can with almost anyone with whom I work. My sensitivity to my own and to others’ feelings also helps me be more attuned to how I interact with others in a group. I do my best to ensure that nobody feels the way I do in most situations—alone and afraid. I think that this is my strength as an educator who will work with children who vary in skills, developmental level, understanding, behaviour, personalities, and appearances.

However, I find that one of my weaknesses is dealing with people with exceptionalities. I feel that no matter how much I want inclusion in my classroom, I cannot truly implement it because I feel afraid that what I do or say may only impact those around me in a negative way. I feel that no matter how much I try to understand someone’s exceptionalities, I still will not know how to behave in the right manner. Am I excluding them somehow? Am I helping too much? Too little? Is it wrong to ask questions? Is it more wrong to simply assume things?

What behaviours are acceptable to me and which ones are not?

Any behaviour that hurts somebody is unacceptable to me. It breaks my heart to see anyone feeling hurt physically or emotionally. I always feel that I have to do something to help them so that they may feel better, even if it is just a little bit. At the same time, I do not label the person whose behaviour hurt another as “bad”. I try to figure out why they acted in such a way and I do my best to understand them so that we can both find solutions to the root cause of the problem. This is because I feel that they may be hurting in some way, too, and I do not want them to continue feeling that way. I believe that when someone hurts another, it means that there is something going on in their lives that they do not know how to deal with in appropriate manners.

How do I engage the children in the learning process?

I intend to design learning experiences in such a way that interests the children so they may be more involved in the activities. I also welcome the challenge to make dull and/or difficult topics enjoyable and amusing for children to be more engaged in any learning opportunity that is available. I plan to apply ideas and concepts to the children’s lives so that they may appreciate the learning process and its significance in their worlds. Furthermore, I intend to let go of unrealistic expectations by being flexible and by following the children’s leads. I believe that this sets up a positive learning environment where the children are free to explore and to investigate their own curiosities and be more willing to participate in the learning process.

What are my values as a teacher?

As a teacher, I value trust, respect, open communication, open-mindedness, and empathy. I like having a beginner’s mind and giving everyone the benefit-of-the-doubt. I always try to see the good in people and believe that despite any flaws, they are capable, interesting, and have good hearts. I apply these in the classroom as I interact with children, trusting that they have the ability to be great and to do great things even at a very young age. I also believe that being empathetic and having an open communication with children and families foster strong relationships, as well as support their growth and development.

What should an early childhood classroom look like?

An early childhood classroom should be a positive space where children explore, investigate, and experience various learning opportunities without restrictions. It has a good amount of developmentally-appropriate materials that are organized in such a way that supports the children’s development. It is not spotless, but it is a clean and safe environment that is warm and welcoming. I envision it as an extension of the children’s homes where they feel they belong, are loved, and are emotionally safe.

Source of Questions:

Bruski, Nancy (2013). The insightful teacher: Reflective strategies to shape your early childhood classroom. Lewisville, NC: Gryphon House.