The ABCs of ECE

This post is inspired by Diane Kashin's game/challenge over at Technology Rich Inquiry Based Learning.  


Lately, I have been thinking about my "teacher self".  I have been working in Early Childhood settings in some capacity for fifteen years, and my views and interests have changed and evolved over that time.  I am not able to take myself out of the teaching equation - no teacher is able to do that.  We are part of the cloth of our settings, our classrooms, our curriculum.  I was enticed by Diane's "challenge" because it forced me into a place where I had to articulate my personal priorities, beliefs, theories, and preferences.

This was somewhat difficult to do.  I created this list in the mindset of of past and present experiences, but "future me" has her say, also.  I created this list and looked back on it, changed it, edited it, until I felt that it is actually true, not how I hope others perceive me as an educator.  With each day that goes by, as I read and think and write and reach out to my Early Childhood network, I appreciate how different education looks and feels.  People are factors.  I believe in inquiry for children, and I believe in self-inquiry for teachers.  I don't expect your interests to match mine, and that should make dialogue richer and more interesting, not more defensive.

I encourage you to add your ABC's in the comments, in your own digital space, or just for yourself.  Cheers to Diane for this reflective prompt!

A is for Autonomy.

Children need the opportunity to be independent, to be free, and to be themselves.  Children should have the opportunity to function and solve problems and persevere and celebrate and learn - without shadow of an adult always ready to make things just right for them.

B is for Babies.

Those wonderful, eager, neuron producing machines!  To look at a baby who is looking at the world is to see learning and connection.  I love seeing new parents showing the world to their children; giving them the time and space to slow down and just be.

C is for Capability.

This has been at the front of my mind in the past year: every opportunity is a learning opportunity in Early Childhood.  When we step back and do not assume, we see rich thinking and learning in action.  Children are capable and ready to learn about their world in context.

D is for Dialogue.

Beyond talking and listening is dialogue: deeper than conversation, full of curiosity, wonderings, ideas, and questions.  This is can happen with different combinations of stakeholders: parent-teacher, child-teacher, teacher-teacher, and beyond.

E is for Engagement.

When children are engaged with materials and ideas and possibilities, they are engaged with thinking and learning.

F is for Found Objects.

My practice has been transformed by found objects/loose parts/intelligent materials, and I have brought this incredible concept out into my community.  In a world of right and wrong, black and white, yes and no, found materials just ARE, and there is no wrong way to engage with them.

G is for Growth.

Teachers and young children both have an opportunity to experience incredible growth in high-quality environments that are centered around care and curiosity.

H is for Heart.

To be an Early Childhood Educator is to give your heart to the theory, the environment, to little people and their families.  This looks different for each of us, but our hearts must be in it.

I is for Ice Cream.

I have pretend-eaten more pretend ice cream sundaes at the sensory table than I can count, and I hope to pretend-eat hundreds more.

J is for Joy.

We know it when we see it, and there are few things more wonderful than children’s joy and delight about the world around them.

K is for Kind.

Kindness is something that we can model and children can learn.  Kindness can be shown in stories and in conversation, but seeing adults be kind to each other, and to them as well, is powerful social and emotional learning.

L is for Listening.  

Listening to our own teacher voices and trusting them; listening to colleagues, listening to children.  Truly listening, not just hearing.

M is for Music.

Background music, exploring instruments with children, dance parties, original songs like the one below: music powers my play and learning and exploration, and I model that in the classroom.

N is for Noise.

Do Early Childhood Educators have a higher tolerance for noise?  I was trained to associate noise with chaos; now I associate noise with engagement and learning.

O is for Open-Ended.

Like found materials, the concept of “open-ended” trickled into my teaching consciousness as a young teacher, and I just can’t look back now.  I believe in open-ended materials and open-ended exploration as staples of inquiry based learning.

P is for Play Dough.

Universal, open-ended, engaging, sensory, creative - when you go beyond the cookie cutters and rolling pins, an inquiry arises, from ingredients to table to manipulation.

Q is for Questions.

Questions help power my own inquiry as a teacher-researcher, they power my reflections, and they power children’s inquiry.

R is for Reflection.

Reflective thinking and writing helps me dig deep into the questions, inquiry, frustrations, and joys of Early Childhood Education.  I think I would have given up teaching long ago if had not started listening to myself ask questions about my practice.  Reflection helps me find meaning in things that I used to dismiss as surface-level problems, or things I would have ignored.

S is for Sunday night.

Is there anything quite like that Sunday night feeling as a classroom teacher?  The final preparations for the week, the anticipation, and the constant goal of getting to bed early: I love that anticipation.

T is for Transition.

When I was studying for my B.S. in Early Childhood, I had an assignment to write a paper about something challenging for me in my student teaching placement.  My supervisor suggested "transitions".  Fifteen years later, I reflect and think, its about the flow of the hour, the day, the week; its about showing how moving from place to place and having priorities looks in the real world.  

U is for Unpacking.  

Ideas and concepts and wonderings that swim through our brains deserve attention and unpacking before we make quick decisions that affect young children.  As often as possible, I want to reflect and unpack my thoughts to find meaning and personal understanding.

V is for Voices.

Teachers, children, families, caregivers, and the community all have voices that have a place in a learning community.  

W is for Weather.

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”  A mantra that my bookworm self would not have heeded as a child, I am happy to model that all weather is just weather of a different kind when I work with children.

X is for (e)xtraordinary.

I am constantly in awe of what children can do when we step back and let them be and play and explore.  Children are absolutely extraordinary, yet most situations do not give them the opportunity to show that; or perhaps no one is watching.  To slow down and see children's thinking and learning is extraordinary.

Y is for YES.

Say it to children much more often than you already do.  

Z is for (Project) Zero.

A project that began because there was “zero” known about the impact of arts in education has expanded to include visible thinking, play, intelligences, and much more.