Being Thankful

I have so much to be thankful for this year that I feel that I need to take the time to properly acknowledge those things. So I am going to use this post to do that!

1. I am thankful for my family. They have been so supportive through everything that I have done, from school to my business. Even through the crazy times, when I was completely stressed and over-worked, my family stood by me and supported me through it all.

2. I am thankful for my wonderful fiancé. Even though he is an integral part of #1, I feel that he deserves his own section of this post. He has made me happier than I have ever been in my life. His love and acceptance of me astounds me every day, and because of that love and acceptance I feel that I can accomplish anything.

3. I am thankful that I teach in a school that values the voice of the teachers. I feel that I have an integral role to play in my classroom now, and the autonomy to make decisions about how the classroom can best benefit the children.

4. I am thankful that the school that I teach at feels like home. The staff feels like family, and everyone is treated with respect. There is an emphasis on collaboration rather than competition, and everyone seems to truly want success for everyone in the center.

5. I am thankful that I have had the resources available to be the best teacher that I can be.

6. Of course, I am thankful for my readers! You take time to stop by and read my posts, and for that I am grateful. I am glad that you get enjoyment out of reading what I write, and I hope that it is beneficial to you somehow.

Of course, there is much more that I am thankful for, but right now I am mostly focused on the fact that my work environment is so much more different and exciting than it was a few months ago. I am happy in my job once again, and just a few weeks ago I was worried that I was so burnt out that I would never be happy teaching again. Luckily that is not the case, and as we celebrate the holidays I am increasingly thankful that I have been able to work in a place that makes me feel the joy that I have for teaching again.

So what are you thankful for this year?

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A New Understanding, and a Better Appreciation

After this last round of research, in which I have basically brought into focus what is actually supposed to happen in a Reggio Emilia-inspired school, I have discovered a better appreciation for what it is that I, as a teacher, am supposed to be doing.

Case in point: I was taking a break from actual research to catch up on my RSS feeder reading (I don’t know the proper terminology to use here!) and I realized the absolutely stark contrast between projects done in traditional early childhood education, and those with emergent curriculum. See if you can spot the difference with me:

Thanksgiving entry at teachpreschool.org

A discovery/art project that showed up on my feed right after the preceding entry

Wow, what a difference. It has been said that I come up with some of the cutest projects for my kids, but throughout this research I have been left wondering what they actually learned through those projects. And this may seem like sacrilege to some teachers out there, but I did very little of the typical Thanksgiving activities with my kids this year. Why? What would they learn? Three year olds can’t understand the concept of a Pilgrim or a Native American. They may understand to some degree what it means to be thankful, but is it really worth the heartache of making them sit still while you are trying to explain it to them? And how in the world do you explain the concept of “being thankful” to a three-year-old, anyway? Their time and mine would be better spent working on something concrete that they can grasp, or working on something that they can create for themselves. Or working together on projects that the kids come up with. After all, what could be a better way to learn how to be thankful than to examine the emotions felt when another child or a teacher helps you with something you are having difficulty with?

This research has caused me to examine the abstract and complex, and contrast it with the concrete. From my limited knowledge of epistemology I understand that abstract principles are built upon concrete principles. If we don’t go through the process of helping children define the concrete, how in the world are they ever going to be able to build upon them? This is one of the things that I love about emergent curriculum. It involves children researching things that they are interested in, experimenting with those things, developing their knowledge about those things, and changing their perceptions based on the results of their research and experimentation. They build on their own knowledge, and through that process they develop the skills necessary to question and learn about anything that they want to throughout their life.