Ahhhh June, the ending of Spring and beginning of Summer. With this beautiful time of year comes a fresh crop of infants in all sizes, ethnic backgrounds, and species (I am referring to the adorable baby animals popping up everywhere, not anyone’s babies as another species). I have always liked kids and at this point in my life biologically I want children. Therefore, I notice each and every baby no matter where I am. My focus is gone and my mind fills with thoughts of “just how dang cute that child is”. I guess this is why I chose to work in a nursery and as a nanny while attending college to become a TEACHER. Plainly put, I love children. But how do we (future educators/parents) teach our children to be successful in this world without cramping their creativity and free thinking? This is a question I ask myself all the time, how can I do it right?
What I Think We are Doing Wrong
What I despise about the traditional educational system is the categorization. I believe that’s what inhibits the minds of our children. We should not tell children they are smarter or dumber based off their ability to retain facts that have been presented to them. Long boring lectures and “fill in the bubble” tests are NOT the answer. A brilliant child with the capability to cure cancer if given the guidance may not get a second look from The University of Washington. Just because they become petrified when the teacher places that intimidating booklet on their desk labeled SAT. Don’t get me started on the SAT too stressful, and not fair. Now don’t get me wrong ADHD/ADD are legitimate but I believe it’s over diagnosed and children are over medicated. Kids like my sister and I, with lots of energy and active minds are labeled as hyper-active, ADHD, and a disruption to the class. Some of these kids are pumped up with Adderal to “calm them down” when all they really need is someone to engage that active mind of theirs. I was fortunate enough to go to a school within a school that pushed critical thinking, and creativity (We had an iron art contest, so freaking cool). Although sometimes I did struggle with my focus, I loved it and I never felt like I was being forced to think like everyone else. We did have to meet standards like everyone but else my teachers did a great job of making sure everyone makes it their own way, and that’s what’s important.
What We Need to Do
We need to engage our children! Not on the ipad while you send emails from the blackberry, but sit down on the floor (yes the floor) get down to their level and play with them. I have had the pleasure of nannying for a bright little girl I call Izzy or Giz and her parents are very firm in not using their phones alot around the baby so my phone is always where I can access it easily in an emergency but never used while Izzy is up, except the occasional question, like what to do with a soiled cloth diaper (this has happened). And in turn Izzy is very bright and into the world around her as well as whoever is playing with her. When I set her up to practice eating I always sit with her and munch on something as well, letting her watch and imitate me, and also speaking to her and engaging with her. From my experience It all starts here, when they are little babies learning the essential functions in life. People don’t belive that they’re children are always listening or watching but belive me they are.
In the nursery I deal with a pretty solid range of ages. Sometimes I get as young as 8 months all the way up to 8 and 9 year olds who are often huge helps. I always try to encourage them to be creative, we build things out of blocks, create shapes and sculptures out of play dough and play games like restaurant, where I pretend to call them and place orders and we use fake money but real math to give change and calculate the cost of orders. And I show them how math can be creative and how it applies to real life so they can make the connection early. I also make a point of communicating. I do not yell, I raise my hand and speak (unless I’m singing loudly, and badly) and if I kid is acting up I always sit and talk and encourage them to tell me what’s going through their mind, and lastly we always have snacks and coloring to create a community feeling and the kids to be social with each other. I’ve collected these techniques from research and experience and I plan to always use them because they work and they can be adapted to fit in all types of classrooms and homes in order to keep our kids using their minds and grow up with an education they can use.
Lastly, we need to focus on exposing the children to different things. Going outside regularly, day trips, day camps, petting zoos, farms, anywhere! Take the child. Also, fun classes to take together are great and cheap, as well as after school clubs! My mother did this with me and I grew up with a pretty good idea of what the outside world is like and that causes me to think differently, in a more open way and all we did was drive for a couple hours and bunk in an affordable motel. By no means were we rich, my mom just made these kinds of experiences a priority therefore they happened. With experiences comes well-roundedness, and well rounded people tend to be more successful in life.
It’s important that we give children the rights to their education and their lives. We have to work with them and help them find their path instead of trying to dictate it for them. Be engaged, be interesting, be understanding, and be enthusiastic! Children are amazing little People.
–Be on the lookout for more on this topic, I’m just getting started.