The essence of early years is not perfect documentation, organization, meeting deadlines or physical structure; it is to understand the needs and wants of your students. It is to emotionally bond with them, to nurture them and understand that it is our responsibility to build future global leaders, who can deal with challenges and adversities.
I have listed below seven essential good practices for early years educators. I call them my seven wonders.
1. Appreciate, do not nurture praise addicts
As early years educators we must understand that appreciation must only be reserved for celebrating special moments, to make the children feel valued. It is a great way to boost their morale. It gives them confidence to try new things.
Appreciation is one of the biggest motivators for children, but we mustn’t use appreciation to make our work easier. Many times we use phrases like ‘good job’, ‘good girl/boy’, ‘well done’, etc., to make them do what we want. This makes them praise addicts, thereby making it difficult for them to do any task without appreciation. Let’s always remember – education is about doing what’s right, not what’s easy.
2. Yes small victories matter, celebrate them
On the flip side, we must not undervalue the small victories that students achieve. ‘I can kick a BIG ball’, yes that is a victory we must celebrate. I understand that this may seem contradictory to the first point, but there is a big difference and that is earned praise versus attention seeking. That moment when they want to be praised, is a precious moment; we must take their name and participate in their celebration. Love them, hug them and reassure them that we are always part of their victory.
3. Pragmatic discipline, choose your words carefully
Harsh words, pinpointing, negativity affects a child’s emotional well-being. Consider the difference between, “You nasty little child, stop doing that!” and “Let’s not do nasty things!” I am sure the difference is obvious. In the first example, we point at the child as nasty and in the second one it is the behaviour that is criticized. Children are very sensitive, using unkind words or judging them may have a long-term impact on their personality. Early years are the most crucial years when their personalities are forming and as educators we play a very important role at this stage.
4. Fun based learning, let them choose
Learning is fun when they can do what they love to do, when the environment is inspiring, when they can choose how to learn, when failing is fun, when they are appreciated for who they are and lastly when they feel safe. As educators it is our job to ensure that we provide them with the right kind of learning environment.
5. Human connection, work together and extend support
Children will learn best when they are comfortable and happy in the learning space, And for this the “human connection” is most important. We must invest our time and effort in bonding with our students. A positive student-teacher relationship is necessary for a successful learning environment. When students feel supported, they’re more likely to engage in learning and have better academic outcomes. In early years, music and stories are good ways to both bond and learn.
6. Give them a choice and respect it
Everyone likes power and control, as human beings it’s an intrinsic need. It is indeed a need for children as well. As educators we must relate to their need for self-esteem. This we can do by allowing them to choose. When we give children choice, we are giving them power and control over their decision-making and when we accept their choice and work accordingly, we are making them experience the consequences of their decision, this becomes the first building block of building future global leaders.
7. Outdoor play – yes we all know play is the utmost important part
For children to construct their own knowledge, it is important that we give them opportunities to explore areas beyond the four walls of their classroom. Nature helps children to express themesleves and there is no derth of learning either in the outdoors.
The author is an IB PYP educator, a teacher trainer and a parent coach. She propagates unleashing the true potential of children through nurturing socio-emotional skills and positive parenting. She believes children are natural explorers until conditioned. You can read more about her work at www.jessicamanglani.com