Friday, September 2, 2011

A Bit of Educational Philosophy...

As we approach the first day of school, I like to take the time to reflect and review the purposes behind my endeavors in the classroom.  The following personal educational philosophy statement was written as part of my training in the Montessori method.  It is my hope that by sharing my educational beliefs, the parents of my students will have a greater understanding of their child's overall Montessori experience in our classroom. 
Children learn most effectively when several criteria work in conjunction to create the most advantageous learning environment.  Firstly, I believe when children’s physical needs are met, along with a feeling of safety and security, they are able to take part in optimal learning.  Of paramount importance is the child’s need to know that school is a safe place, where adults will be protective and supportive of them and their endeavors.  School is a place where children can be joyful, comfortable, and relaxed.  Research of contemporary human development theorists such as Maslow and his theory of Hierarchy of Needs, or Ericson’s Psychological Stages of Development, further support this notion.  The Montessori setting fosters these conventions through the interaction of the specially prepared environment, including the role of the teacher, and its relationship with the child. 
I also believe that children need to construct their own knowledge to achieve maximum educational benefits.  Piaget’s Constructivist Theory states that children acquire knowledge and understanding of the world through the manipulation of objects.  A child’s knowledge grows as they experiment, make discoveries, and modify earlier ways of thinking to incorporate new insights.  The sequential nature of the Montessori curriculum, coupled with the child’s ability to choose his own activities, invites the child to become the constructionist of their own learning. 
Likewise, I affirm that children learn best through social interaction with adults and other children.  Social interaction not only builds self-confidence and social competence, but is also a necessary component for intellectual development.  Vygotsky’s Social Learning Theory underscores the importance of reaching one’s highest learning potential with the support of an adult.  Montessori classrooms are not only premiere locations where conscientious adults are motivated to support each individual child, but also promote the importance of social interaction among peers.
I also acknowledge that children learn through play and therefore, a child’s work is his play.  Popular human development theorists such as Smilansky and Piaget both state the importance of the child’s spontaneous exploration, experimentation and manipulation during play.  These are all elements necessary for optimum cognitive development.  For these reasons, the Montessori setting refers to all activities by the child as work.  The lessons and materials provide meaningful opportunities through which each child is able to feel a sense of accomplishment while building critical thinking skills and knowledge.
It is my opinion, based on researched theoretical perspectives, that children’s own interests and internal motivation are vital components to learning.  Individual learning styles and multiple intelligences must therefore be represented in the classroom.  The Montessori method of education not only provides a child choice in their studies, but also incorporates the effectiveness of varying ways of learning. 
Additionally, my affirmations recognize that all learning is characterized by individual differences.  Human developmentalists agree that children progress through a patterned, sequential order of development, though not at equal times.  The Montessori setting naturally distinguishes this important factor in child development and recognizes that individual variation is not only normal, but also valuable.  It allows teachers to assure that decisions regarding progress through the curriculum need to be individualized. 
Lastly, I firmly believe parents play a vital role in children’s education through their responses to their child’s growth, development, and unique characteristics.  Parents need to take time to understand and appreciate the underpinnings of their child’s development and be an active participant in their education.
As an educator, my role is to uphold, to the highest of standards and to the best of my abilities, the above mentioned personal belief system.   My educational credo matches current research regarding child development, and it is my duty to ensure that it is celebrated as a gift for each child in my care.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

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