He bounced on the board, testing its resilience. I moved closer, since any time that the children begin building with the boards there is the need for a more experienced voice to head off any disasters that may lead to injury.

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After he bounced on it several times, he decided to create a diving board and began to move the board and stumps around. I moved a little closer to the action but still managed to keep far enough away to not get in the way of the serious building in progress.

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He moved the pieces around and then stood on the board, testing it out. Then he would get off and move things around again, then get back on and test it out again. A couple of other children came around and asked him what he was building, but none stuck around to help him during this part of his creating.

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One end of the board was tied to the end of another board, and the jump rope that held them both together was looped around the fence. It added a little bit of stability to the structure he was building, but as he moved the pieces around it also affected the tension on the rope. He took note of this with every adjustment and at one point moved to adjust the rope itself.

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I was impressed with his dedication to constant revision, fixing things one way or another, trying different methods to see what would work and how it would turn out. After all, isn’t that what we do throughout our lives? If things aren’t working we make adjustments and work to make it better. Sometimes we try something new just to see how it will turn out. Revision is just a part of life – of problem-solving to make things better or different. As I watched this boy make constant revisions to the placement of the board and all of the pieces, I admired his tenacity. He never stopped, and eventually he moved on to making something so completely different from what he had started with.

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At this point I was standing very close by because the potential for an accident was greater, but I was still staying out of the play. I had made a few suggestions and even told him outright at one time that he couldn’t do something, but for the most part I stayed out of his way.

And isn’t that what we all need? Space to revise and to discover for ourselves what we need in order get through life?

Building Positive Relationships: Our View of Character

Yesterday I posed the question, “Are children good or bad?” Today I want to explore how the answer shapes our teaching practice.

The way we interact with the people around us centers around this question, for the question isn’t necessarily “Are children good or bad?” but “Are people good or bad?” The way we answer this question stems from years of experiences that we have had in our past, everything from the way we were treated by our parents, our friends, and our teachers to the basic nature of our temperament. It stems from the lessons that we were taught growing up about the nature of man and how we integrated these lessons into our knowledge of the world. And as we grow and learn more about the world and the people around us, our view of people naturally changes. I know that I have a much different view of people now than I did when I was young, because I have dealt with more people in many different capacities.

Because everyone’s character is different and everyone’s experiences are different, people deal with individual people in different ways. I do not interact with my readers in the same way that I do with my boss, and I interact with my children in a completely different way than either of them. In a Brain Pickings article entitled “What is Character? Debunking the Myth of Fixed Personality”, Maria Popova quotes Philip K. Dick: “A person’s authentic nature is a series of shifting, variegated planes that establish themselves as he relates to different people; it is created by and appears within the framework of his interpersonal relationships.” I’m not sure that I agree that our authentic nature is comprised of these planes; rather, it is our shifting personality that comes out in these cases. Authentic nature is related more to our natural temperament, in my mind, because how we are with ourselves comprises our true nature.

So we come back to the question of how we view character and personality, especially in children. Anyone who has worked with children knows that no two of them are alike. I was just ruminating with a mother of two (one of them a newborn) about how different two children of the same parentage are. How we view the character of children in general will, for the most part, dictate how we handle these differences in character and personality. And how we handle these differences in character and personality will dictate how these children view and deal with people for the rest of their lives.

The importance of the question of how we view children can best be summed up this way: If we view children as “bad”, we will spend our entire teaching effort trying to make them “good,” but what is good? We have to force our own subjective view of what “good” is on the children in our class, and the children will not be able to express themselves in terms of their own unique personality and character. On top of that, we may miss out on what their unique personal experiences can bring to the classroom because we are so busy trying to make them be “good.” On the other hand, if we view children as “good,” we can allow their own personalities to shine in the classroom and become a part of the teaching process, because we recognize that every child brings their own unique personality into the classroom. When we allow all of these unique personalities to interact with each other, true learning and collaboration can take place.

*I do want to let my readers know that the subject of the nature of man is a huge, deep philosophical issue that runs deep into our beliefs about the world, and affects how we view everyone around us. It is a hard subject for me to write about because of how deep it runs into the core of our beliefs about the world we live in. Not everyone believes the same thing about the world, and not everyone believes the same thing about the nature of people. However, in this rapidly changing world we are required more and more to develop the skills necessary to network and collaborate with people around us. It is important to our teaching practice that we pass these skills on to children, and in order to do that we need to look at the issues that may keep us from doing so. This is one of those issues.

Are We Good Or Bad?

Six years ago I took my first college course on education. It is a course that is mandated for lead teachers of ECE in my state. In that class I was posed this question for the first time:

“Do you believe that children are basically good, or basically evil?”

There weren’t a lot of answers to that question the day that it was posed to us, or any other day after that. This question is philosophical at its core, and I’m not sure that a lot of people take the time to really think about the implications of the question. But having thought about it myself, I have realized that this little question shapes what we do in the classroom, our expectations of children, and how we treat them.

This is probably the most important question that teachers can ask themselves.

A few days after the question was posed, it was posed again. And I answered that children are basically good. This went against any philosophical teaching that I had, because my philosophical background taught that people are generally evil. They do evil things and think evil thoughts. However, as someone who was going into the teaching profession, I refused to say that children were basically evil. I realized on some level that this answer would shape my teaching practice in an entirely different way than the other answer.

As the years have gone by and I have shaped my teaching practices around the idea that children are basically good, I have seen mountains of evidence pointing toward that being the actual case. Children are capable. They are strong. They are resilient. They are curious.

It is our own beliefs and backgrounds that have us paint children as evil or bad. Our own beliefs about how the world is and how children should behave in it skew our viewpoint, so that when we see these traits in children we label them as bad. It is time that we come up with new labels for children, like curious, capable, and strong.

The most interesting thing about these labels is, when we begin to use them we start seeing them more frequently in more and more children around us. And we also begin to see them in ourselves, because we are looking for them all around us.

I urge my fellow teachers to think about this question and the implications of it in the classroom. Think about which answer your own teaching reflects. Think about the qualities you see in children and how you really want to see children. Ask yourself, are children good or bad?

Exploding the Myths of Progressive Education

John Dewey

Image by cliff1066™ via Flickr

While going through my Facebook wall this morning, I came across this article from Capitalism Magazine about violence in our school systems.  It is an old article, from 1999, but since I have the background of someone who has studied both the traditional view of education and the progressive view, I feel that it is important to shed some light on the beliefs that progressives hold. Especially since I know, having studied traditional educational views, that their views toward progressive education haven’t changed much in the last ten years.

I particularly like this quote from the article:

“In attempting to explain why this is happening, sociologists and educators have advanced several possible causes. Some think that the shootings are a consequence of America’s “gun-crazed” culture. Others blame Hollywood, video games and the Internet for their gratuitous glorification of violence. And yet, we seem to be missing the obvious. The shootings have one thing in common: they all took place at school. The boys didn’t kill on the weekend, they didn’t kill after school, and they didn’t shoot up the local Dairy Queen.

So what’s happening? Why are America’s adolescent boys so angry, and why are they expressing their anger through mindless acts of violence?

That they all killed at school is a fact worth pondering. The explanation for all these shootings might very well be found in the destruction of the minds and souls of America’s young people by an education establishment bent on using our children as guinea pigs for their bizarre experiments in schooling. The fact of the matter is that most of our public schools today are intellectual and moral wastelands.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the above passage from the article. Most of our public schools today are intellectual and moral wastelands, but I don’t agree with Mr. Thompson (the author of the article) about the reasons why this is. I do agree with him about one thing, though: The crisis of our schools is definitely a philosophical issue. And here we come to redefining and uncovering the myths that not only surround progressive education, but traditional education as well:

Myth #1: “Progressivism holds that children do not learn by thinking but rather by feeling and doing.”

Progressivism does hold that children learn by doing, but there is a lot of thinking that goes on as well. This goes back to the philosophy argument that Thompson alludes to but never expands upon. I will attempt to expand upon it here.

Traditional education stems from the belief that children are “tabula rasa” at birth, and it is the job of the educator to provide that child with knowledge. If you think back to your time in school, you will recall that most of your time was spent at your desk listening to the teacher talk or filling out worksheets pertaining to the subject matter. There were some projects thrown in, but the projects had very specific directions, as the teacher had specific content that he/she wanted you to know. The system of grading in traditional education stems from behavioral psychology. It is a form of operant conditioning in which good behavior (or correctly done school work) is assigned good grades, and bad behavior (poorly done school work) is assigned bad grades. The good and bad grades are supposed to motivate students to try harder and do better. In reality, however, they only motivate students to memorize the information given long enough to pass the next test. Students are not actively engaged in the material because they are sitting listening to lectures.

Progressive educational philosophy, on the other hand, holds that children should be actively engaged in their work. Usually the child or the teacher poses a question relevant to a topic that the child needs know, and the child goes through experimentation and research to find out the answer. The experimentation is facilitated by the teacher, but not totally directed by the teacher, as an important part of experimentation is making mistakes. The teacher can use questions to the child to help direct them on their path, but in Progressive education it is important that the child come to the conclusion on his own. The reason for this is because intrinsic motivation and self-worth is built up by doing for yourself; if a child has all of their knowledge handed to them by someone else, then they have accomplished nothing on their own. The answers to the posed questions only become real and relevant to a child when they are actively engaged in finding the answers. (Myth #2) Progressive education does not state that there are no wrong answers, as many traditionalists claim, but it does state that each child may have a different way of getting to the right answer, and there is nothing wrong with that. After all, as an adult, you know that you and a colleague have different ways of doing things and finding things out. The same is true of children. And the more practice they have at experimenting and finding answers to their questions, the better they become at it. And at each stage of the experimentation process, the teacher poses questions that the child has to think about as they experiment and research. The questions are geared toward helping the child on their way to the answers, but not giving them the answers.

Rather than being graded on a scale as in traditional education, progressive education usually uses documentation to trace the journey of the child while gaining knowledge. In some cases the teacher stays with the student throughout their journey through their school and documents their journey throughout the years. This allows the teacher to become very familiar with the student and their learning style, so that they are better able to guide them through their learning path. This also allows the child’s parents a much more personal view of their child’s learning process, rather than just seeing a bunch of letters or symbols on a grade sheet, which tells them nothing at all about how their child thinks or what they are learning.

Myth #3: Getting rid of the traditional grading system will decrease competition and put all children on the same level – a form of Socialization.

I have already stated that, rather than motivating students to be better learners, grades motivate students to be better at memorization. The quality of work actually goes down, as does the level of comprehension and retention.

I would argue that there are places for competition, but school is not one of them. School is a place for learning, and competition could actually hurt the learning process. Everything that I have learned in the last six months about education, I have learned from the work of other people. If I had viewed learning as a competition, it would have been harder for me to learn anything because I wouldn’t have been as willing to look at the views and knowledge from other people. Children that are in the same class together can have differing levels of knowledge simply because of what they have been taught at home or what they have learned through reading or other methods. Rather than viewing each other as competitors, children can become collaborators, working together to build their knowledge. This will help them out later in life, as employers tend to look for people with people skills.

Working in this way does not mean that children lose their individuality and become “socialized”. Children can work on projects alone and confer with another student about a problem that they are having. This communication is another part of research and building knowledge. Adults know that in order to build your own knowledge you need to refer to the knowledge that has been built by other people. The same is true of children. Instead of relying on one source for knowledge (the teacher), which won’t work because one source can’t possibly have the amount of knowledge needed to thoroughly educate yourself on any given topic, children can ask other children or use other sources to gain knowledge. Other children may even be able to give ideas about how to find information as well.

Myth #4: “Teachers should always praise children for their unique and inventive answers regardless of whether they are right or wrong. Knowledge (e.g., the rules of grammar and mathematics, and the facts of science and history) is explicitly not the goal of Progressive education.”

The idea of praising a child on method is entirely different from praising a child on their answers. In most areas of knowledge, there is a right or wrong answer (such as in grammar, mathematics, science, and history), and it makes no sense in traditional or Progressive education to praise a child for answers that are wrong. In a progressive setting, if a child gets a problem wrong they are posed a question by the teacher (who is helping to guide them to the right answer) that challenges their current thinking and will help them discover a new solution. In the cases of middle and higher education, this may lead the child through history as they do research to find out how the answer to their problem came about. The questions posed by the teacher cause what is known as “cognitive dissonance,” an uncomfortable feeling caused by the brain trying to reconcile two pieces of conflicting information. The uncomfortable feeling persists until the conflicting information is resolved through research or other means.

I want to use myself as an example here. As early as six months ago I was a huge believer in traditional education methods, but I encountered something that made me question this belief. This “something” is similar to the questions offered by the teacher to the student in order to make them think about their answers. In order to put the questions that I now had to rest, I went through a lot of vigorous research until I came up with answers. The research took me through the history of the role of behavioral and cognitive psychology in education and how they have changed our past views about how children learn.

On another note, I had gone through classes about this exact same thing when I took college psychology and education classes. I sat through countless lectures and read passages out of textbooks, but none of the information that I learned stuck with me. In fact it made no sense to me whatsoever, and caused me to be very apprehensive about returning to school or entering into a career in education. But when I researched it and learned about it on my own, not only did it make sense to me, but it was very instrumental in changing my beliefs and my approach to teaching the children in my care. And I may not have what some people consider the “right” answer, but I have what is “right” to me until I encounter another question that will cause me to do more research until I reach a new conclusion. This learning process is continuous in many different areas of our lives (in fact you may recognize it in some areas of your own life), and illustrates how learning happens in progressive education. And it also addresses this quote from the article:

When I talk to high school students they tell me, virtually to a person, the same thing: that high school is boring and unchallenging. It’s not that they don’t want to learn or that they find subjects such as algebra or history intrinsically boring; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. When I press a little deeper, I learn that for most students the problem is that they have teachers who aren’t particularly good at what they do: the teachers don’t seem to know their subjects very well and they don’t have a passion for teaching.

Teachers don’t have a passion for teaching because students don’t have a passion for learning; students won’t have a passion for learning until they are actively involved in what they are learning and actively involved in finding the answers to their own questions. I found that lectures and textbooks did not make the information understandable, and caused me to not want to attend classes. The children in our public schools have no choice about whether or not to attend classes; they are forced to go through the boring process of listening to lectures and reading textbooks, totally disconnected from what they are “learning”.

For a closer look at the goals of Progressive education, see here.

Myth #5: “Progressive education replaces [learning a body of pre-established information] with a child-centered approach that emphasizes a child’s self-expression and spontaneous impulses.”

I will agree with two parts of this quote from Mr. Thompson’s article: Progressive education is a child-centered approach, and it does emphasize a child’s self-expression. I’m not sure what Mr. Thompson means by “spontaneous impulses”. The children in my care don’t tend to have too many of those (I will explain this in a moment). I would like to re-phrase Mr. Thompson’s sentence to make it a little more true to Progressive education: “Progressive education uses a child-centered approach to teach children a body of pre-established information, while emphasizing a child’s self-expression.”

Examples of this happen in my class all of the time, but I will use a specific project that my class is working on to illustrate the point.

The children in my class love to build things. I’m sure that all children do, but most recently my children have been interested in building houses. I found this out not only through observation, but through conversations that the children and I have had during our circle time. Every conversation that we have had has moved inevitably back to building houses. So one day I got down on the floor with the children and we built a house together. We discussed what shape the house should be, what kind of rooms the house should have (since they are three-year-olds, they seem to be focused mostly on bedrooms), and they provided occupants for the house (our toy dinosaurs). We counted the blocks that we used and made chimneys (they weren’t sure of the word for “chimney”, referring to it as a “thing for smoke”).

As you can see, through this one activity the children were learning math skills and new vocabulary words, as well as being able to express themselves by using dinosaurs in the house rather than people. But this project is far from over. It will be revisited again and again, to build vocabulary as we add more rooms besides bedrooms, to build knowledge of the world as we expand from one house to a neighborhood, to continue to build math skills as we experiment with houses of different shapes and sizes. There is a wealth of knowledge that can be gained from just building a house from blocks – an activity that the children in my class are already interested in.

To go back to the quote about spontaneous impulses, I would like to point out that this activity did not just come about spontaneously. Most three-year-olds are interested in building all kinds of things with blocks, from houses to towers. I have simply taken something that they were already interested in and turned it into a rich learning experience for them. One of the keys to being an effective educator under the progressive philosophy is to be an avid observer of the children you are teaching, finding their interests, and using these interests to teach the children things that they need to know. In using this method, the children become engaged in their own learning because their interests are involved.

Myth #6: Students primarily follow feelings and emotions, rather than reason and logic.

Dissuaded from making moral distinctions, fed a daily diet of an “I’m okay, you’re okay” philosophy, denied logic, knowledge and truth, and driven by unknown fears and anxieties, today’s young people are left with nothing but their untutored “feelings” and “emotions” as their guides through the trials and tribulations of adolescence.

This myth is the one that kept me away from progressive education for so long (as well as the research of it). As someone who follows Objectivist philosophy, I firmly believe that one should look primarily to reason and logic for answers about life, rather than feelings and emotions. But as I researched progressive education, I found that this is one of the worst misleading myths about it. Once again I will dive into a personal story to prove why:

My initial baby steps into progressive education happened as I was looking for a new classroom management system. I had a few children in my class that were a little harder to work with than the others, and punishments and rewards weren’t working at all. I stumbled across a system that uses education as the tool – educating the teacher how to deal with students in a respectful manner, and educating the students in how to handle their own emotions and how to deal with their fellow students in a respectful manner. This is part of the “whole-child” philosophy that is referred to by many progressive educators; one of the “parts” is their socio-emotional well-being. A lot of traditionalists (myself included at one time) look at the word “socio-emotional” and conclude that progressives are trying to “socialize” the children – they are trying to turn them into Socialists and make them so “group-oriented” that they will lose their individuality. This is not the case. They are merely trying to teach the children how to effectively handle their emotions (such as how to handle anger effectively instead of lashing out, bullying, fighting, etc.) and how to respect the emotions of the people around them. One of the first things taught in the classroom management system that I am working with is effective anger management, not just for the children, but for the teacher as well. This is the first step to self-control within the children and within the classroom, and it is a far cry from Mr. Thompson’s claim that progressives make children deal with life with “untutored” feelings and emotions.

This brings us back to the main point of the article: Why is there so much violence in public schools?

Mr. Thompson infers in his article that our public schools adhere to Progressive educational policies, when in fact they do not. The few progressive ideas that have been implemented in public schools do nothing to address the fact that students are unmotivated. They do nothing to address the problems of the lack of respect between students and between student and teacher. They do nothing to address the fact that students are forced to sit at a desk for hours every day and listen to a teacher talk while they sit and listen. They do nothing to address the competition that is present in schools, namely the competition to be popular and fashionable, which leads to many children being ridiculed and demoralized because they do not follow the trends of the day.

I’m not saying that Progressive education will get rid of all of these problems, but these are the main problems that lead to violence in public schools. Progressive education practices address many of these problems, and lead to the school becoming a place where children can not only gain knowledge of the world around them, but about their place in it as well. Aren’t these the big issues that lead to major disconnections in children during their teen years? With traditional education, we have not allowed children to pursue topics that interest them and engaged them in those topics in a way that is educational; rather, we have forced them to learn in the way that we have dictated. In any other area of our lives, such coercion would be decried as immoral and unjust. In the lives of our children, it is allowed to go on and on, leading our children to behave in ways that people who don’t receive the respect that they deserve usually behave. And yet we wonder why there is so much violence in our public schools.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate!

I recently decided that I would plan to go back to school in the summer, a complete change from my earlier stance that I would not go back to school, period, no way, no how, end of discussion. I have been reflecting on my change of heart, trying to figure out what caused it. Well, there’s more to it than that; I know that an increase in knowledge is what caused the turn-around. I feel like I’m thinking about education in an entirely new light and I’m thinking about my job from an entirely different perspective.

To be fair to my old perspective, I still do not believe that teachers are being taught how to teach effectively, and that they are still being taught the same old, tired theories that have gotten us here, but I have found a silver lining – the tides seem to be changing.

One of my big problems with how teachers are taught to teach is the explanation of Pavlovian conditioning. Now, granted, I am not an expert in the field of behavioral psychology, but I believe very strongly that this sort of conditioning is very harmful to the human psyche. But it is being used every day in schools and pre-schools everywhere, and has been for years. The results have been disastrous. Children for years have been told what not to do. Punishments have been put into place to discourage those who don’t follow the rules. Bullying and fighting has increased and more and more students feel disconnected from their authority figures.

The problem, it seems, is that our students are not being taught how to deal with people, and when they are taught, it is through the same conditioning methods used for everything else rather than through examples by teachers. No wonder – their teachers were raised on the same conditioning methods. Children aren’t learning about how to have healthy, mature relationships. Some may learn it at home, but most aren’t. And they aren’t learning it at school. Scores are going down as well. Is there a correlation? Is it the teacher’s job to teach about how to have healthy relationships?

One of the definitions of education that I love is one by Leonard Peikoff from his “Philosophy of Education” lecture series. He states that the definition of education is “the systematic instruction of the young to develop in them the powers necessary for mature life.” I agree wholeheartedly with this definition and add that one of those powers is the power to effectively communicate and deal with people.

It starts young – two, maybe three years old. A child takes a toy from another child because he wants to play with it. The other child cries. We soothe one child and give him his toy back, and then we reprimand the other child or put him in time-out. But what have we taught either child? We have taught one that when he cries or whines, he will get what he wants, courtesy of an adult. We have taught the other child that he gets attention from the teacher if he misbehaves. Positive or negative, it is still attention from the teacher in the mind of a child, and this kind of attention does not teach him the proper way to handle the situation – namely, asking the other child if they can share the toy or take turns, rather than taking the toy through the use of physical force. Likewise, the child that had the toy in the first place did not learn to use his own communication skills to tell the other child that he didn’t like their actions and to describe how he wanted to be treated in the future.

From this age, communication problems explode into parents being unable to talk to their teenagers, spouses being unable to communicate problems effectively, and employers wishing that they had people working for them who could communicate to them, customers, or coworkers. The problem has reached the point that some college degrees require a course on interpersonal communications.

Our job as teachers is not just about teaching children the three “R’s” but teaching them the skills they need to effectively navigate life, as well. This requires us to teach young children how to effectively deal with their emotions and to communicate their feelings to the necessary people effectively. It requires us to teach anger management skills to young children so that they will be able to handle life’s curveballs safely and calmly. But most of all, it requires us to make sure that our interactions with the children in our care involve the same types of respect, communication, and safety that we require the children to show to each other. One of the ways that this can be accomplished is to talk about your own feelings with the children. If they are not listening and you feel yourself becoming frustrated or angry, tell the children how you feel and invite them to join you in an appropriate anger management exercise, such as breathing. The best way to teach is through example, and when the children see you engaging in the same behavior that you are asking them to exhibit, the chances that they will exhibit that behavior are great.

Teaching social skills to an entire classroom of children requires work, consistency, and patience, but the rewards are great. When you see children sharing and working together in a mature manner, and you know that it is because of all the work you have done, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Update: After some research, I have come to the conclusion that Pavlovian conditioning is not what I should have referred to. Pavlovian conditioning is a conditioning of the reflexes, which has nothing to do with the subject matter. The rest of my opinions in this post still stand. I’m sorry for any confusion that this may have caused, and I hope to clear up what kind of conditioning I am actually referring to in an upcoming blog post.

Am I In My Element?

Still in the middle of doing research on Sir Ken Robinson‘s work, I ran across his new book “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” and I thought, “Am I in my element?”

When I was in high school, I decided that I wanted to be a psychologist. Of course, I am not a psychologist; I am a teacher in a daycare, which came about quite by accident.  I realize that being a teacher in a daycare is a long way from being a psychologist, but then I thought about why I wanted to be a psychologist. I have always been interested in how people think and learn, and how what they think and learn effects who they are. I probably would have learned a lot about that studying and practicing psychology, but I am definitely learning about it as a teacher of young children. I know that I enjoy my job very much – in fact, I spend a majority of my time away from my job researching aspects of my job. (I have been doing that all morning while researching Sir Ken Robinson!) Anyone else would say that I am crazy for enjoying my chosen profession so much (in fact my wonderful boyfriend makes that point quite frequently), but I think that it is safe to say that in this context, I probably am in my element.

Reflecting on the Week Behind Me

Wow, what a week! I had been on vacation this past week, and I am looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. But I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the things that I did this week and how they have seemed to change my frame of mind.

First, I defined and publicized where I stand philosophically. I think that this one act did more to help my frame of mind more than anything else I did this past week.

See, I work in child care, and I love my job. I enjoy teaching and working with kids. I want to find ways to teach kids better. I think that kids have amazing potential that child care professionals don’t give them credit for a lot of the time. But my philosophical views were making me very close-minded as to what the best methods are to teach. This close-mindedness made it difficult for me to look at current trends and research without any prejudice against them. My own narrow-mindedness made it extremely difficult to find new methods that work or that can help improve my methods.

Defining my own philosophy helped in that it seemed to set me free to examine everything in a new light, and I have learned so much this past week! I have even come across some methods that I am going to try, methods that I know I would have scoffed at or had something smart to say about only a few weeks ago. It is absolutely amazing to me what a little knowledge will do for your mind.

So I am thoroughly looking forward to going back to work to learn even more and try new things. It is an exciting field that I am in, and I love every minute of my time in it.