When our hands are tied we must find another way to accomplish what we know as educators to be right for the child. The following is a reflective post from Sara Losch, Director of the Barnert Temple Preschool in New Jersey.
We have a very special early childhood staff. Many of us have been together for 20 years. The best thing we do for each other is argue, push, and question the status quo. What guides every discussion in my school is respect—respect for each other, and deep respect for the work of our young children. If a new (or old) educational philosophy is right for our children; if, by incorporating it into our environment, we will enhance their childhoods, help them to become lovers of learning, critical thinkers, healthy risk-takers, mensches, we will proudly take it on. Of course, we’ll learn about it, pull it apart, and turn it around a few times first!
We are a Reggio-inspired preschool. Our staff has varied levels of knowledge in Vygotsky, Piaget and Hawkins. Together, we continue to study—as all good teachers do. We love our work!
Then, the licensing lady comes for a visit!
Climb on tree stumps? Too dangerous.
Use hammers and nails? Not allowed.
Materials are laid out in mason jars? We’re cited.
Little Tykes toddler roller coaster on the playground? Remove it!
Recently, I visited Governor’s Island and watched children playing in a play-yard/junkyard, gloriously uninhibited, climbing high, building with all kinds of junk. There were no parents or teachers calling, “Be careful! You’ll get hurt!” How else are they to learn to play with caution? Honestly, how is this generation of children going to grow into healthy, confident, functional adults if they are NEVER left to their own devices, never allowed to get hurt, never allowed to make even the smallest choices?
And how, as really good educators, are we to continue to learn best practices in early childhood education—being practiced around the globe—if we can’t allow our students to work with those same practices?
We are very frustrated. We are worried. Our hands are tied.
Because we are who we are, we will be creative and we’ll find ways to fit the most positive learning into the lives of our children. But someone better wake up and smell the coffee here. The more we try to protect them, the more we may be hurting our kids. Seriously, don’t get me started!