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