My teaching career began after graduating from NC Central University in 2006. I worked at a daycare center teaching two and three-year-old students. I didn’t have a passion for teaching at the time, but I did enjoy completing activities with the children and even teaching them new skills. It was rewarding seeing a student grasp a concept that I taught. It was here that I decided that this was something I could enjoy doing. I decided to go for my early childhood education certificate. Completing this encouraged my drive to pursue teaching and I transitioned to a new school serving as a pre-kindergarten teacher.
I met a variety of children from several diverse backgrounds and cultures and even some with special needs or disabilities. As a young teacher, I thought it was important to treat all of my students the same regardless of background or disability. I didn’t want their differences to define them. In my eyes, all students were created equal and I was glad to teach using the cookie-cutter model. HighReach Learning was the first curriculum I worked with as a teacher. It was a step-by-step teaching outline that forced educators to teach the same material to all children no matter what their learning level. After following this curriculum for a year, I realized that it did not benefit my students although the activities were meant to be fun and engaging, I found them to be boring and not at all age-appropriate over time. I knew I wanted something different for the children, but my hands are tied because of policies at the school. I enrolled in the graduate school program at Ashford University in 2010 to pursue a degree in early childhood education. This is where I was introduced to differentiation. It changed my perspective of teaching. I discovered that it was okay to embrace the differences of all my students. After learning that children learn at different levels, I realized it was important to discover how children learn in order for them to be successful. This meant I had to get creative and allow my students to be creative as well.
In the article, Teacher Development: What Is Your Educational Philosophy?, writer Ben Johnson lists seven strategies to help teachers identify their teaching philosophies. One of which is students needing structure and repetition to learn. He states, “ The best way to engage a student is to have a solid classroom management plan and a... lesson that is grounded in... purposeful activities designed to enhance the students knowledge and skills and leave [them] wanting to learn more” (2015). When I served as a pre-kindergarten teacher at the Goddard School, I was introduced to the FLEX curriculum. It’s objective was learning through play. Here, I was able to create fun learning experiences for my students with the ability to differentiate as needed. I was able to meet the individual needs of my students by administering my own assessment, then modifying my lesson plans to the developmental level of each child. I was able to foster my students’ creativity in subjects like art, social sciences, and language. I developed a daily routine to help the students learn how to navigate the classroom and activities so that they were able to move along throughout the day. This allowed the students to feel they were in control of the day I was there to facilitate and help when needed. I provided collaborative activities for my students. This was a better approach for both of us. It allowed students to share ideas and find solutions together. This fostered my teaching philosophy: to create a safe and engaging atmosphere for my students so they can use their own ideas to learn new things.
It is important to nurture the creativity in our students. It is my belief that teachers should consistently work to identify students' creative abilities and provide opportunities for students to use those abilities. In the TEDTalk, Do Schools Kill Creativity, speaker Sir Ken Robinson says, “identify creative capacity for its value and nourish it in our children to make them hopeful” (2006). Creative capacities are the children’s ability to self discover what makes sense to them. If students are allowed to be creative and discover what makes sense to them, it can fuel their eagerness for knowledge and learning for years to come.
Johnson, B. (2015). Teacher Development: What Is Your Educational Philosophy? Retrieved May 14, 2020 from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/what-your-educational-philosophy-ben-johnson
TedTalks: Sir Ken Robinson—do schools kill creativity? [Video file]. (2006). Retrieved April 30, 2020, from https://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=18566&xtid=