The Power of Play
Play vs. Work
Rather than the majority of people having a calm approach to controversial topics, there seems to be a more extreme approach that takes place. One topic that concerns early childhood educators is the power of play. Throughout the classes that I took to obtain my Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, it was overly stressed that play is an important part of childhood. Play is considered to be the main way through which children learn. But I have since read articles that portray schools as becoming far more academically based, even in regards to young children. I remember helping my younger brother with his assignment, and I became frustrated that he had to learn topics that I learned at a much older age. Furthermore, I have read that it can actually be harmful to force a child to learn things that he or she is not ready to learn at that moment. I was able to take in knowledge through experienced teachers, which served as a great resource to culminate what I believe. However, teaching young children myself enabled me to further sanction what I believed.
Since controversial topics tend to swing back and forth as to what is right and what is wrong, it is the best practice to test the topic for yourself. I began working at a daycare shortly before I turned 19. I thought that it would be the best job in the world because I would only be expected to play with kids all day? Right?! Can we agree that this type of job is one where you think to yourself often, Well that wasn't in the job description.
I quickly learned that there would be much more going on at work than playing...at least for me. Although the center was largely play-based, there was a curriculum that was to be taught during the morning session. By the time I was able to round up all of the children for circle time, the time we had for academic activities was drastically cut. It took a big change in my mind to realize that I was not just babysitting. After a while, it became easier for the children to become engaged at circle time. The curriculum was written for teachers, so it was important to read through it before teaching the children. It was difficult to relate it to their individual lives on the spot and so I learned to take every moment that I could for planning the lesson. Although I enjoyed sharing information about the world with my children specifically at circle time, I further enjoyed explaining the world to them as they were engaged in their own form of play.
At the second center I worked at, I quickly became the lead teacher of my own classroom. I was excited but nervous about having my own class. I had never taken part in planning a curriculum for the children of a classroom- my own classroom at that. Without much of an outline to look at, I went forth in creating plans that I thought the children would be interested in. My assistant teacher had more experience with teaching children than I had. We both agreed to create an atmosphere where learning was present. I enjoyed implementing the creative side of the curriculum while she enjoyed bringing forth the academic side of it. Together, we proved to be a great team. Some days ran smoothly whereas other days appeared more stressful. After a while, I decided to back away slightly from planning. It's not that I got rid of a plan, I just lessened the extent to which it was implemented every day. I found out that on the days that I gave the children more time for free play, there were less arguments between the children.
What about Academics?
In no way am I trying to lessen the power of an academically rich school. However, there does need to be a balance between play and learning different subject matter. In the same way, adults should have a balance in their own lives. If adults and parents are constantly shifting their thinking according to whatever is "new," then they are teaching children to do the same. Life isn't always a matter of either-or but sometimes it is a combination of both.
Running a successful classroom takes discipline as well as a light heart. Teachers are typically more gifted in one area than another. Practicing the execution of both areas can help create a blissful environment for you and your little ones.