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Tony blog post #9- 14.04.13

When I started this blog my goals were to record an important stage of my life (preparing for parenthood) and to get my ideas about early childhood and life out onto ‘paper’. I decided that I would write about things I know and that my articles would be childcare-related or health and fitness-related. I want to become fluent at writing and preparing articles and to become a leader in early childhood. I am looking for ways to connect with early childhood educators and like minded people in order to make the world a better place for children, families and communities. My real work is in childcare centres with children and staff ‘on the floor’, in the office and in my community. This article is a combination of my spiritual and physical understanding of human and child development and is a bit of a leap of faith. I have also included some of my own cartoons to help visualise my understanding. Let me know what you think.

When you start in childcare you are asked to define your philosophy towards children. This includes how you think children learn and develop and what your role as an educator and carer is. With experience and study of other people’s understandings and theories you begin to try out and develop your own. Eventually you get to a stage where you can write down and explain your theories. These theories are temporary and specific to time and place and continue to change and evolve from day to day. After ten years in childcare and 29 years on this planet (including 9 months in the womb) this is my understanding of how we learn and experience life…

First we are sensory beings.
feeling baby IMG_4534

We absorb and receive constant information and energy from our environments. This is our subconscious level. This is how we feel and experience things. This is how children start and how we receive most of our information.

Educators note: In a classroom children are often feeling the vibe of the room rather than listening to the educator. Children might hear the noises you make (pitch, tone and volume, along with your gestures) rather than your words. They are not listening, they are feeling and perceiving. Are you calm and responsive to this child, or are you frustrated, angry or overwhelmed by this child? Is the environment set up to provide safety and security along with challenge and stimulation? We only receive a small but important percentage of information through thought and language. Meditation and relaxation exercises are effective if they can get you back to this stage and away from your ‘worrying’ thoughts and first world stresses and problems.

Next we are physical beings.
moving baby IMG_4535

We start to control our physical selves. All our internal systems link together from eyesight to digestion to memory to movement. Genetic and environmental factors combine to create ‘you’. Our metabolism adjusts to the level of activity we have daily, our genetically-determined growth patterns and the quality of our nutrition. Our electro-chemical systems flourish. We learn that our actions are connected to results in the environment. We feed ourselves, we roll over and run. We develop physical skills. We learn agency. We can show others how we feel and interact through body language and gestures. When children see something that they like or feel an emotion they are in this ‘stage’.

Educators note: This is how we feel physically when we are tired, hungry, sick or having trouble digesting. It is important as educators that we manage our physical selves well. Creating a healthy lifestyle where we receive enough rest, quality food and exercise sets us up for success. Firstly to act as a model for children (with positive ways to manage your emotions) and also to extend the time when we are ‘ourselves’ (and not just cranky, snappy teachers). Remember children will ‘absorb’ information about themselves from you whether you are responsive and warm or cold and irritated. This does not mean don’t feel emotion but be a role model for how you manage your emotions in front of children.

Then we are cognitive (and meta-cognitive) beings.
thinking baby IMG_4536

This is arguably what makes us human and ‘separates’ us from the animal world. We learn to think, remember and plan. We begin to create strategies to get what we want and attitudes towards ourselves and others. We develop self esteem and interact with symbols and society. We learn ‘language’. We learn the rules of our culture and adjust our behaviours. We learn to moralise and perceive other people’s thoughts and feelings. This is where we develop ‘higher’ thought processes and abstract thought. We can reflect and imagine.

Educators note: Helping children to learn symbols and language is important so that children can interact effectively with their families and community. Educators develop philosophies about child development and their role as educators and learn how to implement them on a sensory, physical and mental level in their rooms.

In conclusion I believe that we experience the world in all of these ways daily and moment by moment. Educational psychologists indicate that our bodies receive sensory information constantly. Our working memory can only focus on so many things at once.

Sure we can focus on what we are thinking about (stage 3), or how we are ‘feeling’ (stage 2) or just be open and in tune with our environment (stage 3) but all these ways of ‘being’ interact and compete for our attention as adults. They are all operating simultaneously (once they develop) but can be skewed certain ways.

For example:

Have you ever been so focused on a game or engaged by a book that you have not realized how much time has passed or where you are? This is you ‘thinking’ at a high level.

Have you ever been so angry or racked with grief or ‘in love’ that you can’t think straight? This is you feeling at a high level.

Finally have you ever felt so in tune with your environment that you were ‘connected’ or conversely in a room where your neck hairs stand on end and you know you have to leave quickly but you don’t know why? This is you perceiving at a high level.

We need to manage these competing processes within ourselves in order to become effective educators (or bank managers, or doctors or humans). Our role as educators is to help children develop in positive ways that will allow them to adjust to their communities and culture. By understanding child development and how children learn we can set up environments and interact in ways that allow children to learn and grow in themselves and their understanding of the world.

Influences

Chin-Ning Chu. 1992. Thick face, black heart: Thriving and succeeding in everyday life and work using the ancient wisdom of the East. Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd. St Leonards. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chin_Ning_Chu

Howard Gardner. 2011. The Unschooled Mind: How children think and how schools should teach. Twentieth anniversary edition. Basic Books. New York.
http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm

Daniel Goleman. 1996. Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury Publishing. London. http://danielgoleman.info/

Jeanne Ellis Ormrod. 2006. Educational Pyschology: Developing Learners. Fifth edition. Pearson Education, Inc. New Jersey.

Caarol Sigelman & Elizabeth Rider. 2009. Lifespan Human Development. Sixth edition. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Belmont.

Note: What is metaphysics?? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

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