Interviewing my son’s preschool teacher, Ms. Contreras, was a wonderful experience. I learned so much about the field and I was able to connect understand her as not only an educator but as a person; as the type of person who does well in this career field. Ms. Contreras is a California state preschool teacher and has been for 20 years. She holds an AA and a BS in Early Childhood Development and loves her job very much, and has decided to stay at the preschool level until she retires. Like any educator, she believes that it is important for parents to be involved with their children’s education. She encourages parents to come and volunteer whenever they are able, and has monthly parent meeting so that the parents are up to date with what is going on in the class room. To Ms. Contreras, the most important thing about being an early childhood educator is that you are an advocate; and advocate for children and their education. That you have and need to understand that children are all different and unique and they all deserve to be in a preschool program no matter what their income or background.
Her favorite thing about being a teacher is the innocence of the children at this age; she loves how pure the minds are of her students are. She wishes she can change the fact that preschool is only three hours long, but with state funding so low, that is all she is able to do, and less assessing. She feels that is keeps her from understanding her students and attending to what they need help in. Family is very important to Ms. Contreras so when she had her children, she knew that she needed a career that will work around her children, thus leading her to pick the field in education. She loved the idea of being a break as her children were on break, home when their home at school when they’re at school is how she put it. While conducting the interview, I sensed a vibe that she truly loves what she does and care very much about her students. And as one of the parent volunteers in her class, I can see it when a student randomly give her hugs, or in their eyes as they walk in the door on a Monday morning from what seems like a long weekend without her.
One thing that I learned about the professional field of early childhood education from this interview is that you really have to love and understand children to be in the profession. Patience is a big part of this job when you have 24 to 30 preschool all needing your undivided attention. I learned that you need to understand your individual students in order to help them succeed and do your job to the best you can. Having a job in this profession may be hard at times, especially when you have so many students but at the end of the day, if it is truly made for you, the job can be very rewarding. Technology is a big trend now, in not only in the early childhood education field, but in education period. There are many pros and cons about applying technology to the early childhood classroom.
Technology today, consists of TV, computers, video games, and now smart phones and wireless tablets. “Technology’s long-term history includes everything from primitive hewn-rock weapons to wood pencils to drone aircraft and smart phones.” (Estes, 2012) It is no secret that almost every house now has a computer and probably access to the internet, so many young children might be exposed to one or more of these even before preschool starts. The question is whether impacts the education of young children, and I believe that it does. Technology impacts the education of young children in many ways and I believe that technology should be applied to the early childhood classroom. In the preschool and kindergarten ages, technology needs to be developmentally appropriate. Once these technological activities are developmentally appropriate “ technology-supported activities can be justified by a constructivist philosophy because engagement, active learning, creativity, and social interaction are all part of what goes on in the classroom” (Estes, 2012)
Activities such as using the computer and its accessories such as the keyboard and mouse can improve fine motor skills by pushing keys and moving the mouse around. “These fine-motor movements also hone eye-hand coordination, and that’ll pay off for years to come as your little one learns to catch a ball, use scissors, or put together a tricky puzzle.” (Folds, 1999) This type of technology will be used in the future of each child and will be beneficial to the early childhood classroom, not only for the future but for their development. There are many concerns about the effects of technology for the little ones and to be honest I at one point I thought the same. In our text, many parents agree that it is insane to believe that a tablet app or an iPhone app can better teach a child to read or teach them math. (Estes, 2012) An when it come to video games, many believe that it isolates and can be one of the causes of another trend, childhood obesity.
In my personal opinion, technology has come a long way and there will always be an opposing side. Video games, although may never be used in the classroom, do have some benefits to young children. Some video games can teach kids strategy and with video game consoles such as the new Nintendo Wii, force you to get up and move your body in order to play the game. By getting up and moving your body you are exercising. For different grade levels I think different teaching approaches are more appropriate. For the younger grades such as preschool and kindergarten I think the creative curriculum approach is more appropriate. This is the grade that I wish to teach. Having several interest areas or stations throughout the classroom will stimulate the minds of the students into wanting to learn, through play. This is the set up at my son’s preschool and it does seem to work very well with this age group.
His classroom is small but he has a block section, library, home living area, an area for puzzle solving, computer play, and tables where the students can make art and a table to play with clay and play dough and eat lunch and snacks. Children age four or younger lack the capacity to sit still for long periods of time so having many options for them to self learn is always great. Children at this age learn through play and I think that the creative curriculum approach is perfect for this age group. I do believe that preschool aged students will benefit from direct instruction, but a limited amount.
Maybe a little lecture time before class to discuss small topics such as counting to ten, or practicing letters but all through song, or to lay out the schedule for the day. Songs tend to catch the attention on the younger kids, plus song is easier for kids to remember, especially those who learn more through music. There are many different beliefs about how to properly teach a young child.
These beliefs go way back to before we were even a country. In my opinion, Children need hands-on experiences that are linked to more than one sense to learn. They need to feel, do, see, (Piaget’s sensorimotor stage) etc. They should be taught concepts in more than one way (multiple intelligences), and it should be fun. Children should not be made to participate in direct instruction lessons. They should have a choice on whether or not they want to participate and be rewarded for positive behavior. Learning should be play based and overall fun.
Early childhood education starts before the young child enters the classroom, it starts from the time the child is born, and many believe that it starts even in the womb. It is then that a young child begins to learn and see the world. Jean Piaget believes and I agree that cognitive development occurs in stages. The first stage is known as the sensorimotor stage and is a blend between a child’s motor skills and improvements to the understanding of their senses. (Estes, 2012) This stage takes place from birth to about age two. The second stage of Piaget’s cognitive development is the preoperational stage. During this stage, usually 18 months to two years, children begin to use symbolic gestures or movements to link to words. (Estes, 2012) In the classroom, I will encourage my students to use their five senses and motor skills to learn about the world around them.
In the early childhood classroom, play takes up a big part of the day. According to many early childhood philosophers and educators, children learn through play. Not only is play beneficial to the classroom but to the child’s overall health. Erick Erikson believed that play helped individuals cope with a traumatic or emotional past. In my classroom, there will be centers and they will all be play based. Different type of playing will take place at each center, by doing this I hope to encourage children to play freely and be themselves but also helping them as individuals.
Because each child is different, I think that concepts should be taught in many different ways. According to Howard Gardiner, there are seven different intelligences; linguistic, logical-mathematic, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. One child’s strength will be in logical-mathematical, for example, and another child’s strength in musical. As an early childhood educator I will teach concepts in many different ways to ensure my students are grasping the information provided and having fun with it.
Lastly, I think that children need to be rewarded and praised often. I feel like it encourages them to continue to do well. American psychologist, B.F. Skinner, called this operant conditioning. The idea behind this theory is basically that if one changes their behavior they are indeed learning. (Estes, 2012)The theory is simple, if you are doing something good, you will be rewarded. For example, in my classroom I will do this by rewarding with stickers or treats after lunch time.
I see myself in the near future substituting at my son’s school district. Although I cannot teach yet I will be able to sub once I finish a couple more core classes. After I do obtain my degree in Early Childhood Education, I plan on becoming a preschool teacher. I have wanted a job working with kids for as long as I can remember and being a mom I feel like being a teacher will work great around my family life, as I am able to be available to my son as much as possible. I currently live in California, where school funding is low and has been low for a while especially for education. Because of this I think that I will need to start off my career working in or for another preschool program for better financial stability.
It has been a dream for me to also become a special education teacher, so I am hoping to go back to school once I have been a preschool teacher for a couple of years and start my journey toward that field. I hear that early childhood special education is a wonderful and rewarding field as well. I think at the end of the day, I want to do something that I love and something that I am confident in. Something that I will be happy to wake up to and look forward to every day and working with kids is just that.
Estes, L. K. (2012). Pathways to teaching young children: An introduction to early childhood education. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Folds, D. V. (1999, Feb 22). Technology for Toddlers. PR Newswire , 1.