A successful experience in school is not only about report cards.
- Jessica Lahey
Very young children are naturally interested in learning and exploring the world around them. They are at the very beginning of their learning journey, so everything is new and exciting! If they reach out and fall, they get up again stronger and wiser - children learn by trying, testing, and making mistakes.
According to Jessica Lahey at New York Times, when children enter kindergarten some parents and teachers begin to unbalance this learning process by devaluing and replacing it by focusing on the results of learning. This means that the children's inner motivators such as natural curiosity, competence, and self-efficacy are valued less than external motivators such as stickers, points, and grades. Unfortunately, external motivators lower children’s desire to learn over a longer period of time.
It is a New Term and a New Year of 2022!
Enter it with an open, relaxed mind, and maybe let some of your old teaching routines go. You might also want to say bye-bye to report cards, sticker prizes, and too high academic expectations. Welcome rest, long-term goals, and permit of making mistakes into your preschool environment.
Here are the Do's and Don'ts for early learning in 2022 inspired by Jessica Lahey in New York Times magazine:
- Focus on the learning process, not the result
- Encourage children to self-advocate
- Make long-term learning plans
- Support a healthy sleep and rest schedule
- Love the class you have, not the class you wish you had
- Overschedule and plan too many things around one theme
- Highlight stickers or other rewards too much
- Encourage helplessness
- Compare children to one another
- Love or note children based on their performance
Focus on the learning process as a teacher too
Be honest and open about your own mistakes and successes with the children. This shows that even teachers make mistakes and try again - the core idea of the learning process! If you are negative about your own mistakes as a teacher, the children might learn that from you. If however, they see that their teacher is brave, admits when she makes a mistake, and learns from it - the children will more likely copy this behavior from you. "I will be better next time!"
Support a healthy sleep and rest schedule
Sleep Foundation states that sleep is of paramount importance to young children. Early in life children experience tremendous learning and development that affects the brain, body, emotions, and behavior.
Preschoolers (3-5y) need 10-13 hours of sleep each day. Toddlers (1-2y) 11-14 hours (naps included).
Finnish children have naptime (or at least some time for resting) in preschool/kindergarten until the age of 6. There is a strong link between sleeping and learning.
According to also Jessica Lahey, sleep is essential to learning and memory, so it is good to prioritize sleep or rest over extra activities. If the children do not have any time to rest and rewind during the day, think about what in the preschool schedule could move to make that a priority.
Encourage children to self-advocate
"Starting as early as kindergarten, children need to be encouraged to speak up, tell adults what they need, and stand up to people who are not treating them the way they want to be treated," says Jessica Lahey.
When a child comes to you and complains about how another child treated her, ask "What did you say or do?" (or "What did you plan to say or do?") to make sure the child is heard and understood. Simply asking this question can help children reframe the situation and think about what they can do differently next time to effect the change themselves.
So as a teacher, sometimes it is ok not to run to solve the conflict right away, but to let the children involved go it through themselves first. It is anyways good to discuss problematic situations properly with an adult too.
Engage families with open communication
According to Jessica Lahey, the research is clear: "Family involvement and positive home-school communication have been associated with improved grades, positive behavior and attitudes about learning, increased participation, and increased attendance."
Also, a Finnish study by Päivi Pihlaja et al. has conducted that parental involvement plays a significant role in the academic achievement and the healthy development of young children. Gaining a better understanding of early childhood educators’ views and the reasons behind insufficient practices is important for improving communication with families.
Start by finding out what type of communication methods the families prefer. Also, make sure to give each parent clear contact details of the kindergarten manager and the child's teacher. Take time for replying to the parents' questions, wishes and worries so that the families feel they are engaged in their children's learning and life in preschool.
Hereby, I wish you a Good night, Happy learning, and a Great new year 2022!