7 Essential Good Practices for Early Years Educators
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 the future global leaders, ones who can deal with challenges and adversities.
I have listed below 7 essential good practices for early years educators. I call them my 7 wonders
Appreciate, do not nurture praise addicts
As an early year educator we must understand that appreciation must only be reserved for celebrating their special moments, to make them 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 an individual 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.
Yes small victories matter, celebrate them
On the flip side, we must not under value the small victories that students achieve. ‘I can kick a BIG ball’ yes it's a victory, we must celebrate. Just imagine when ‘you’ achieved a task for the first time and it goes unnoticed . Just empathize a little. 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. Remember we are building future leaders then lets become one to open a broad horizon for them. Small joys that they want to celebrate are very crucial to them. Love them, hug them and reassure them that you are always part of their victory. Nicholas A. Ferroni once said ‘Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, and students who aren’t , come to school to be loved’.
Pragmatic Discipline, choose your words carefully.
A child is full of energy, fun and ambitions. When it comes to discipline harsh words, pinpointing, negativity affects a child's emotional well being. Consider the difference between ‘you nasty one, stop doing that!’ and ‘let’s not do nasty things!’ I am sure the difference is obvious and definitely a big concern. In the first example we quoted the child as nasty and in the latter one the behaviour is criticized. Children are very sensitive, using unkind words or judging them can make a huge long term impact on their personality. Early years are the most crucial years for developing their personality and as educators we play a very important role in it.
Fun based learning, let them choose.
We all are loaded with great responsibilities but the essence of early childhood education lies in fun which requires time, space and environment. There is a difference between free play and situational play. As educators we must understand the importance of play from a child's point of view. The child views this world with a unique freshness which makes sense and meanings in its own way for them. A child is capable of making meanings while playing. It’s important to have a choice of play to make better connections through real life situations. 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 we want them to learn but fun is an inevitable motivator for them to make connections. As rightly pointed out by Bob Basso ‘If it’s not fun,you are not doing it right’.
Human Connection, work together and extend support
We know many reasons why students are not able to learn but what we rarely talk about is the “Human Connection”. The most important factor is to bond, to build confidence to nurture the relationship with the students and move conjointly in developing their path. I had an inscrutable batch which I thought would be tough to take through the academic session but then I had an inclusive interaction with them in which we concluded that we are the best class ever and we can do amazing things TOGETHER. We are powerful and strong and deserve the education. It energized the entire class and then there was no looking back. Positive student-teacher relationship is the road to success. When students feel supported, they’re more likely to engage in learning and have better academic outcomes. Relationships are of utmost importance and are more challenging than ever in uncertain times, like during the coronavirus pandemic. In Early years music and stories can be used to enable bonding along with many other developmental skills.
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 the need for self - esteem, boosting it is a big motivator for children to scaffold learning in their own way. At times we relate to this only by giving choices and not working with them. When we give a choice to children we are giving them the power and control over their decision making and when we take their choice as the course of action we are making them experience the consequences of their decision, this becomes the first building block of building future global leaders. As rightly said by renowned author Peter Drucker‘ Making good decisions is a crucial skill at entry level’
Play - Yes! We all know play is the utmost important part.
But it is important to understand the importance of outdoor play as well. For children to construct their own knowledge it is important that we give them opportunities to explore areas beyond four walls. As educators we are often restricted to encourage outdoor play for various reasons, hence restricting them to play beyond the walls. But we must not forget that nature is one of the most crucial aspects to be explored. It enables them to express and own their learning. We must work around our limitations and give them time to observe and explore things they want to, beyond blocks, playdough and slime.