(From the Early Childhood mailring)
by Robert Mills
Child Care Licensing Official
State of Indiana
Respect means accepting and loving each child as they are, and not expecting them to do things before they are ready. Children are born with a built in timetable and a natural drive to achieve their own milestones just when their body tells them the time is right. Piaget taught us that when we directly teach a child something, we take away their chances of discovering it, on their own, forever. Good observers know that when a child makes a new discovery, it's like magic. You can see the twinkle in their eyes. Instead of trying to "teach," we educarers need to be finding ways to create environments where many, many discoveries are possible.
Respect means understanding and utilizing the volumes of scientific and historical data about the way our brain develops. Studies dating back as far as ancient Greece state the importance of teaching children in ways that follow the natural development of children's minds. The latest biological research confirms what the greatest educators have been saying for years. PLAY is the basic universal and essential biological need for the human body to properly develop. PLAY is the only place in a child's life where all the necessary ingredients exist for physical, psychological, social, moral and intellectual abilities to develop simultaneously. PLAY is consistent throughout all species, all evolution and all history. PLAY makes children smarter, stronger, better human beings. It is not that difficult. Children need to PLAY.
Respect means allowing children to be explorers and self learners and believing in their competence. Children are born, genetically wired, ready, willing and wanting to learn. They begin their quest for knowledge the minute they leave the womb. They are born with the competence to do this. Early childhood educarers must become cultivators of this natural instinct.
Respect means giving children uninterrupted TIME to explore, play, solve problems, and learn from their successes and their mistakes. Children need a lot of time to discover simple things and adults must refrain from expecting them to speed up the natural, normal process.
Respect means encouraging children to discover the choices that are available, permitting them to make their own choices, and honoring their choices, while knowing that they will sometimes make choices that make things more difficult. Children learn from all choices equally. Preschool age children are capable of learning that some choices are better than others. This skill becomes vitally important when the teenage years arrive and adults are not around to tell them right from wrong. When we limit choice, we limit learning.
Respect means finding a way to give children the materials that they need to do their work/play. We must develop the belief that children have a right to have the quality and quantity of materials they need to accomplish the learning goals they set for themselves. Teachers must use every means available to meet these needs and then give them the time to fully utilize the materials. Our young children deserve clean, quality, safe, learning materials. They need daily access to sand, water, blocks, music, art, science, literacy activities and dramatic play. The world will be a better place to be when the Navy has to have a "bake sale" to buy ships and our children all have quality, learning environments.
Respect means that teachers embrace and learn about cultural and physical differences and teach children to respect these differences. We must find ways to make each family culture become an integral part of the early childhood education environment.
Respect means trusting in the power of good will and reason to solve problems instead of using force or punishment to solve problems. When teachers use force to solve problems, they take away the child's power to solve the problem, thus eliminating the potential for learning. Children learn that the teacher does not trust in the power of good will and reason to solve problems. They learn to depend on adults to solve problems for them and begin to feel incompetent. We can never expect children to learn this vital skill if we have not learned it ourselves. Teachers must become proficient at solving problems without using praise, rewards, time-out or any form of punishment and model these methods. Reason can always prevail but it often takes a tremendous amount of trust and time.
Respect means that teachers always give children unconditional love, support and encouragement instead of praise and rewards. It means that teachers never punish or place children in time-out to correct undesirable behaviors. If we want children to be intrinsically motivated to learn and do the right thing because it feels good inside, we must never use rewards and praise to manipulate behavior. More than 70 studies document that when we use praise and rewards to affect behavior, there is always a decrease in the intrinsic desire to complete the task. Teachers must learn the language and methods of providing genuine encouragement and support to children.
About Robert C. Mills...
Robert C. Mills has licensed childcare centers for the state of Indiana for fourteen years. Before this, he worked in child protective services for nine years and taught sixth, seventh and eight grade mathematics for four years. Mr. Mills feels that licensing should do more than enforce minimum rules in childcare facilities. He has made it a priority to learn as much as he can about early childhood education. "The key to quality childcare is not attaining any one goal such as accreditation, but realizing that there is always more to learn." He feels that the best childcare centers are the ones that know this and are constantly striving to improve. He often says, "There is no top of the mountain when it comes to learning more about early childhood education." He is a certified trainer by the Program for Infant and Toddler Caregivers and a nationally certified playground inspector. In his effort to learn more about our field, he decided to bring his heroes of our profession to the area. He has organized annual workshops in Evansville for the past four years. Workshop presenters include Sydney Gurewitz Clemens, Bev Bos, Alfie Kohn, and Louise Boyd Cadwell. This year's presenter will be Lilian Katz. Mr. Mills has produced two videotapes and conducts numerous workshops for teachers and parents in his licensing area. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.