Being an effective early childhood professional encompasses a wide spectrum of responsibilities. From designing an environment conducive to learning, to planning appropriate lessons for students and implementing them with effective educational strategies to being able to manage the class well and instilling discipline in the students, to involving parents and coordinating with others regarding the provision of quality education for the students.
It takes great effort to be able to manage all these skills at the same time, hence professional training with experience is required. This basic manual intends to help out the early childhood educator in his or her professional undertaking as part of a preschool center that upholds a high quality program for very young children.
The early childhood program implements a play-based approach to suit the developmental needs of young children. A child learns best when he finds enjoyment in what he is doing, thus learning should be fun. PLAY is the world of children.
Learning through play has value and is an effective method of teaching. Through play, a child develops his mental functions as he learns varied concepts, and at the same time he develops body coordination, he learns how to handle emotions, acquires social skills and values as he interacts with other children.
All learning acquired by the child is an outcome of interactions between him and his environment (people, ideas and materials). A child is able to learn in an environment where there is freedom of movement and choice; this enables him to be an active participant in his learning as he initiates activities, asks questions, explores, observes, and socializes with other children and adults around him.
Emphasis is on the “process” of learning more than the “product”. With the child actively involved, learning becomes meaningful to him. Since it is the child who actually experiences learning, these are better retained.
The Philosophy of the preschool comes from the theories of Jean Piaget (1969) and Lev Vygotsky (1978). “Piaget believed that children create knowledge through interactions with the environment. Children are not passive receivers of knowledge; rather, they actively work at organizing their experience into more and more complex mental structures.” (Brewer, 2001:6). He insists that children need to use all their cognitive functions.
These theories were designed to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered. Such beliefs reflect his respect for the thinking processes of children. Vygotsky (1978) believed that the social context influences children’s intellectual development more than by individual experiences. His theory places a great deal of emphasis on effective social interaction.
Piaget and Vygotsky have created a strong foundation for the constructivist model that the school upholds. It premises on the belief that learners “construct” their own learning, and in effect, have better retention of it (Decker et al, 2009). “In the Constructivist theory the emphasis is placed on the learner or the student rather than the teacher or the instructor.
The learner interacts with objects and events and thereby gains an understanding of the features held by such objects or events. The learner, therefore, constructs his/her own conceptualizations and solutions to problems. Learner autonomy and initiative is accepted and encouraged.” (Van Ryneveld, n.d.: n.p.).
The preschool uses an integrated curriculum based on themes of interest to the children. In the program, the Cognitive aspect is not the only one given importance but the Social, Emotional, Physical, Creative and Moral aspects as well. One of the goals of the preschool is to prepare students with necessary skills for kindergarten such as math, reading, language and creativity skills. Another major concern of the school staff is in the area of instilling good values such as consideration for others, respect and love of God, self and neighbor.
The early childhood center aims to serve the community by providing high quality programs for children. It offers quality care for toddlers and preschoolers as well as developmentally appropriate education.
This way, they likewise help parents in rearing their children well, ensuring that children get the best possible care and education that they need in their development. The center aims to optimize each child’s potentials in all developmental areas – physical, cognitive, social, emotional and creative, by providing them with opportunities and experiences beneficial to their growth and development.
The center is the ideal place for beginning learners. Armed with a sound philosophy, an efficient program and caring and efficient teachers and a conducive learning environment, this is where their bright future begins.
The preschool center accepts children aged 1.5 to 6.5 years regardless of gender, learning pace, ability, family situation, religion, socioeconomic status, nationality and ethnic origin. Grouping of children is according to developmentally appropriate practices with the suitable adult-child ratio, as follows:
One’s and Two’s: 4-6 children per group
Two’s and Three’s: 6-8 children per group
Three’s and Four’s: 8-10 children per group
Four’s and Five’s: 10-12 children per group
Five’s and Six’s: 12-15 children per group.
Two capable adults handle each class: one is an experienced teacher who is a graduate of Early Childhood Education and one is the Teacher Assistant who is at least a High School graduate. Both have obtained thorough training in Child Development and Education modules.
The program also welcomes children with special needs. The teachers network with special education professionals to integrate the services provided for the children. Teachers seek the support of the children’s parents and other agencies involved with children with special needs.
Professionals from a wide variety of fields and disciplines devote much time and energy in helping these children live comfortable and fulfilling lives with the end view of mainstreaming them into society and the real world. Educators, therapists, psychologists, speech pathologists, physicians, social workers and even government officials join hands in the care and education of these children to ensure their optimum growth and development.
The early childhood center puts utmost priority to children’s health and safety. To ensure this, the following policies are set:
Pick-up: The school administrator or child’s teacher must be informed as to who is/are authorized to fetch each child. In the event that the fetcher is unable to pick up the child, the parents should call and inform the school as to who will be the alternate fetcher or the alternate fetcher should present a letter from the parent or guardian authorizing him/her to fetch the child. The school does not release children to unfamiliar fetchers. In some cases, the school administrator procures a copy of the certified court custody of some special cases upon enrollment to prevent untoward incidents.
The school expects punctuality of parents in terms of brining and fetching the children in school. Parents should not bring children earlier than 30 minutes before classes begin nor fetched 30 minutes after dismissal.
Accidents: In case of accidents or illnesses that may occur within the perimeters of the school, an “Incident Form” will be sent home to notify parents about the kind of accident or illness that occurred and the action taken. The injured child will be given first aid treatment and must be provided with follow-up treatment medication at home. For major accidents, the school physician will be called upon to check on the child or will be brought to the nearest clinic or hospital, if need be.
Sick Children: Children who fall ill in the school will be isolated and sent home immediately. In consideration to the sick child and to other children, a sick child must stay home when he is sick. He can rejoin his class when he is completely recovered.
Nutrition and Food Handling: The school provides a nutrition program for all the children. Food is hygienically prepared in a sanitized kitchen. The nutrition program considers allergies of certain children and try as much as possible to avoid ingredients that would cause it. Sometimes, allergic children are served an alternative but equally nutritious snack.
Teachers establish relationships with each child’s family. The school believes that learning is a partnership between the school and the home. This partnership is essential in supporting the child in his total development. The early childhood center emphasizes strong Parental Involvement if the program is to be effective.
Communication between the home and the school is vital to the program. The means provide where parents can actively take part in their children’s education include the narrative record, newsletters, parent-teacher conferences, parent seminars and school projects and events that require parental participation.
Brewer, J.A., Introduction to Early Childhood Education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 2001
Decker, C. Decker,J., Freeman, N. and Knorpf, H., Planning and Administering early childhood programs (9th edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 2009
Piaget, J. & Inhelder, B., The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books, 1969
Van Ryneveld, L., (n.d.) “What is constructivism?”, Retrieved on December 13, 2010 from http://hagar.up.ac.za/catts/learner/lindavr/lindapg1.htm
Vygotsky, L. S., Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 1978