After studying various approaches to early childhood education and reflecting on my initial statement, I can define my views more clearly. I resonated the most with the Montessori Theory, especially regarding such aspects as the purpose and the teacher’s role, although the Reggio Emilia one also offers certain insights that compliment my philosophy. It has not changed much, but I did reconsider my position on how involved an educator should be in the entire process. I already valued some degree of autonomy for children, advocating for no incentives and prioritizing a young learner’s active role, and the mentioned approaches emphasize its importance even more. I will not necessarily agree with everything Montessori and Reggio Emilia theorists proposed while discussing my philosophy, considering their flaws and different contexts, but I will give them credit where it is due.
The first category pertaining to early childhood education I will explain is its purpose. My understanding of it does not derive much from what Montessori suggested, so I will use her approach as a reference point. I would describe the goal in the following words: to organize an environment for a child to develop relatively freely, without much intervention from adults. I will discuss each element of the purpose to highlight its importance and defining role in shaping other aspects of early childhood education.
First of all, an educator organizes a certain environment that is separate from a child’s family. While such points as what constitutes the best conditions for learning will be discussed later, it is evident that any educational organization unique surroundings. While they can be similar to a domestic environment, a clear delineation between the two worlds is necessary. One should not necessarily be superior to the other; the domains (an education organization and home) exist for different reasons. Furthermore, a child can live without the former, so it should offer something that would compel parents to consider early childhood education as an option. Thus, establishing a beneficial environment where several children are present is essential to make the process possible. Moreover, such conditions are organized to help one develop and present a separate space from home, where it might not be the primary goal.
Another point is what is meant by development in the context of early childhood education. In a broad sense, it could cover everything, from improving a child’s motor skills to teaching them how to behave. Different establishments may emphasize a particular sphere or target all of them in a holistic approach. While I would prefer the latter, my vision is that it does not matter what exactly an educator prioritizes. The most important outcome is a child improving in some way, even if a change is minor. For instance, learning a new word or exhibiting a previously unseen behavior would count as such. Conversely, causing harm or negatively contributing to an existing issue a learner may have is against the purpose. Thus, early childhood education should improve children and help them feel as if they achieved something.
Lastly, the “relatively free” aspect of the purpose statement should not be disregarded. The theorists can be radical while describing how independent children are, and I believe that such an approach borderlines neglect. While I support Montessori’s notion that development should be free, as families already restrict individuals, who deserve some autonomy, an educator is not passive; otherwise, the institution of early childhood education appears pointless. Overall, I view the purpose as improving children in a special environment while giving them the necessary freedom.
While expressing my original idea of how children learn, I imagined an environment that is closer to an elementary school than to an early childhood education organization. Thus, I envisioned a more formal approach, focused on the teacher’s personality and responsibilities, and suggested such styles that belong to a higher stage, although they are still applicable. After perusing information pertaining to the Reggio Emilia theory, my understanding of the learning process enriched, and I find the constructivist basis an appropriate explanation of how a young learner should behave. Thus, I will follow the said approach while discussing the learning category.
As mentioned, the Reggio Emilia theory shaped my understanding of how children learn. For instance, such aspects as equality and negotiation are relevant to me, as a teacher also gains something from the process and considers various perspectives offered to them. Learners are encouraged to talk because simply observing another person is insufficient. As the learning process is project-based, which will be discussed in detail in the curriculum section, children often converse with others, representing the existing knowledge and acquiring new information. Such principles as design, discourse, and documentation help facilitate the method. For instance, the first one reflects how children plan and approach projects; a vivid example would be an animal drawing that will serve as a basis for creating a costume or a sculpture. Discourse means that young learners derive certain meanings while talking and confront each other with various ideas, defending their position. Lastly, documentation refers to what teachers and parents do – making meaningful notes of children’s activities. Learners can later use them to improve project-related discussions and products. Thus, after Reggio Emilia theorists, I value negotiated learning and its principles.
While working on projects, children do not merely converse, which is an important clarification. They explore the environment using all their senses and express themselves through “the hundred languages.” The latter requires such activities as drawing, crafting, and acting, which always play a meaningful role in advancing a project. However, they are not done in silence, as the discourse still occurs while performing them. It is mostly responsible for supplying mundane pastimes with a sense, although a teacher also frames the entire process. The idea that children are autonomous enough to handle complicated undertakings is what makes the learning theory compatible with my philosophy. They can be significant creative forces with the right environment and tools, which should be organized and prepared by a teacher. Another aspect that cannot be ignored is that the community as a whole is also involved in the process, so other children are not the only source of information. Although I support their participation theoretically, I am unsure of how to implement it in a local setting, considering its peculiarities. Generally, I promote a creative approach coupled with meaningful communication to complete a project.
I find the Reggio Emilia approach comprehensive and share some of its sentiments as far as the learning environment is concerned. I also believe that early childhood education is something in which the community should invest, starting from the main building and its whereabouts. The former should be specifically designed for educational reasons and have sufficient lighting, vegetation, and other necessary facilities. Ideal classrooms are spacious, with big windows that can be opened without difficulty. Halls can be equally wide for exhibitions, meaningful breaks, and potential activities. As for the building’s whereabouts, I fully support the idea that it should not be relegated to a marginal spot but occupy a visible point in the community, which will reflect the attitude towards the establishment. The desired atmosphere is welcoming, achieved by the combination of nice aesthetics and do-it-yourself. The furniture, donated by the community in a pristine condition, should be inviting, and the walls can be covered by children’s artworks or other creative products. They will serve as a report to the community and a demonstration of personal achievements. Overall, much attention should be given to the building’s whereabouts and interior.
The classroom’s arrangement is also important as children will spend most of their time there. Following the Reggio Emilia approach, I believe that learners should form smaller groups, meaning that a room is further subdivided, although such partitions do not have to be in-built. They potentially include decorations, furniture items, and other flexible means that can serve as a border between two smaller spaces. Children from different groups should still be able to see one another and have an understanding that they belong to a bigger entity. The walls are also decorated with their creative output, which is constantly updated, and no preference is given to a particular work. Besides the gallery, a classroom may have some graphic aids, written reminders, and other useful information. The use of colors, including furniture, also plays a role in enhancing the lighting and contributing to a welcoming atmosphere. Generally, the classroom’s arrangement should facilitate group formation and communication, create a bright and positive environment, and reflect children’s activities.
I would also highlight other relevant rooms and facilities that constitute the overall environment. The building should have a library, which complies with the recent recommendations and has computers, a workshop, a place for major creative ventures, and a large dining room, where the entire school can fit for special occasions. Large spaces are essential to promote the feeling of togetherness, which should be present in everyone, including teachers and parents. Ideally, an early childhood education building is a miniature of the community that establishes it. Lastly, vegetation is necessary inside and outside of the organization. Children should have access to nature to be able to appreciate it, and health concerns are also worth considering. In conclusion, other rooms in the building are spacious and include an inner garden.
As far as the curriculum is concerned, my views reflect the Reggio Emilia approach because it prioritizes flexibility and avoids the pitfalls associated with following a certain plan. The learning process is akin to a non-linear journey. Rather than dividing everything by subjects, the minimal teaching item is a project, which can be random. What matters is that a child takes an interest in something and wishes to explore further, and the process is built around helping them achieve a personal goal. The curriculum exists in the sense that a teacher is always prepared for any situation and has the necessary materials and organizational means. For instance, a whole group can be interested in doing the same project, so it is important to transform the space for their needs. Some undertakings can be short, completed in one day, depending on how active and engaged children are. Meanwhile, it is possible to have long-term projects that are similar to traditional curricula, although they will still be different. Overall, a curriculum should be flexible, and a project-based approach could be suitable for teaching goals.
An example of a long-term project is one devoted to animals. An educator may have some ideas of what subtopics and tools are the most appropriate to study it. However, such a project will be majorly shaped by children, and the outcome is likely to be unpredictable. They have different concepts relating to animals, and each small group or even an individual will demonstrate a unique understanding of the topic. For example, it can be inspired by a child’s favorite toy, and while adults will offer guidance during some stages, most activities, such as discussions, drawings, and information-gathering, will be determined by learners. Moreover, teachers and parents may supervise the project by recording everything children do and make suggestions based on the findings; still, their involvement should be subtle to facilitate the feeling of achievement. Throughout the project period, it is possible to form new groups, split them, and reunite again, which reflects the approach’s flexible nature. The final product is unpredictable, varying from a retelling of what one learned regarding the topic to an animal sculpture. Overall, the project method can be a valid replacement for a curriculum.
Role of the Teacher
In my initial philosophy statement, I described an educator as someone who has values, organizes and manages the learning environment, ensures children’s safety, and acts as a good role model. I emphasized that a teacher should have integrity, dignity, benevolence, and respect for equality. Simultaneously, I consider intervention possible, from organizing learners in groups to chiding them for making a mistake. Although the majority of my views expressed previously remain true, I will emphasize what has changed after learning more about the Montessori approach, which made me reconsider the educator’s role and the amount of autonomy children should have.
First of all, I endorse the notion that a teacher should be adventurous and open to new ideas. Out of all professions, educators are ideally the most forward-thinking, which is reflected in many aspects of their work. What Montessori could mean is that they should adopt her approach, outdated by today’s standards, although the general idea remains relevant. Following the accustomed ways to educate children might be the surest, but each generation is different, and their uniqueness should be cultivated rather than uprooted. Consequently, I revise my original statement regarding mistakes because not everything is worth correcting. I also suggested challenging learners for misbehaving, which appeared more humane and democratic than scolding them. However, now I believe that other children should be the judges of whether someone conducted themselves inappropriately. I was already against the idea that learners’ positive motivation is connected to the teacher. Thus, the same logic should apply to its negative aspect, considering that it can be taken in a more sensitive way. Altogether, an educator is an open-minded and non-judgmental individual, letting children decide whether someone behaves inappropriately.
Following the Montessori approach, I believe that a teacher should be a good observer and facilitator. I already alluded to that while discussing the importance of being aware of appropriate learning styles and managing the environment well. Only by observation can a teacher determine whether a child improves, and facilitation ensures that the process occurs. Still, some situations require a more active role, especially if a learner’s life is threatened. I am also convinced that teacher-learner communication should occur, although both sides are required to act as equals. Generally, I believe that less intervention could be better, no longer supporting the notion that an educator is supposed to be a role model, as children are free to their idols or comfortably live without them.
As most of my philosophy is based on the Reggio Emilia theory, it is logical that the guidance category also follows the pattern, considering its close relationship with the learning category and the project method. Some techniques have been briefly mentioned, such as the use of documentation to facilitate conversations and creative activities. I will expound on them, explaining how they contribute to the learning aspect. I find the Reggio Emilia guidance relatively uninstructive and purposeful, besides its compatibility with other categories.
Within the constructivist approach, guidance is meant to facilitate autonomy in children, making them self-disciplined and self-directed. For instance, a teacher may not directly tell their learners what to do while working on a project, but they will encourage a discussion. Consequently, children will decide on something and feel a sense of personal accomplishment, even though an educator initiated the entire conversation. The same principle applies to creative ventures – a learner may know what to do with the provided materials, although one needs an outside intervention to improve their skills. Therefore, a teacher will help a child by informing them of a better way to use a tool or a particular technique. A demonstration might also be useful, as learners are supposed to possess great observational skills in a perfectly organized environment. Generally, projects should be guided in a subtle way, as teachers and other adults offer new suggestions regarding the topic because children tend to lose focus. Still, such interventions are only successful when they include certain principles that learners can follow independently. Fundamentally, all guidance consists of passing comments, although they mainly drive the learning process.
In this statement, I expressed my views on the significant educational categories following the Montessori approach and the Reggio Emilia theory. While I mostly relied on the latter, the purpose and the teacher’s role are formulated according to the former. They do not necessarily contradict each other, and I highlighted the points of disagreement to make my philosophy more or less consistent. Compared to the original statement, I reconsidered my position on children’s autonomy and the teacher’s role, and now I believe that learners deserve less supervision. In an appropriate environment and under some guidance, they are capable of significant creative endeavors without much intervention from adults. The project method, which replaces a traditional curriculum, further facilitates their autonomy, and the fact that one topic can produce unexpected results enhances engagement. Moreover, the approach is compatible with the purpose I presented, as a child is almost guaranteed to improve somehow while being involved in creative undertakings. I cannot predict whether my updated philosophy will stand the test of time, but I will attempt to implement it in a local setting while considering cultural differences.