Why I decided to start a school

From the time I can remember, I had wanted to become a teacher.

Teddy bears, Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears lined up in a row, seated before the giant chalkboard my dad had found at a garage sale. This was how I played every day. Even my little brother got a front row in my classroom {much to his chagrin}.

I don't know if it was my mother's influence {a well-respected teacher, now-turned-Education Consultant}, or the fact that I loved nurturing all those stuffed characters, or because I had the most  amazing Nursery School teacher who was way ahead her time; but I knew with all my heart, THIS was what I was born to do.

Upon graduating from University with my Bachelor's of Education {and a major in Art}, I set about finding a job teaching Art at the Elementary level {my wheelhouse}. There was no such role at the time. High school art teachers were a plenty, but in the Early Years, where I knew I wanted to be, this was an untapped, unprecedented idea.

So, I happily accepted my first job teaching Kindergarten at an Inner City school here in Winnipeg.  I carved my own path, weaving the Arts into everything I taught. We learned numbers by "painting" numerals with our body parts. We wrote poetry to share authentic stories about our family, and made sculptures to show our understanding of the butterfly life cycle. We cooked, baked and played music to learn math concepts; and had sharing circles and to practice relating to others.  We even created stunning coloured ice sculpture gardens outdoors to learn about colour theory.

I knew my students were not "traditional" learners {you know, the compliant ones that sit at a desk and do worksheets}, nor did I didn't want to be that kind of teacher. I knew they needed more. All kids need more.

Fast forward many years, and I discovered how much I had learned over those years of teaching those beautiful children. I certainly did not have all the answers, but I could see that as I refined my teaching to a more experiential, hands-on, inquiry-based approach {for the record, MUCH harder to do as an educator - think about all the "stuff" you have to seek out, cart in, set up, let alone, follow the kids' lead!}, I discovered that kids became much more hooked in to school and excited to learn.

After all, that is my goal as an educator: to spark a love for learning.

 

 

The environment plays a huge role in this as well. Even neuroscientists have concluded that it is the environment and the quality of experiences that surround our young children that have the biggest impact on brain architecture. (Centre on the Developing Child, Harvard)

I have had the privilege of staying at home with my three daughters for almost eight years.  I have provided enrichment for them to the best of my ability, when they were home with me full-time, and now that they are in school - supplementing their learning with after-school "provocations" and learning invitations that I lovingly set up.

I have come to recognize the overwhelming stresses on teachers in public schools - to meet not only curriculum standards, but reporting duties, built-in assessment strategies, benchmarking expectations and more and more piled onto the plates of educators {and in turn, our children.} The growing demands and duties placed on teachers leave little room for joyful learning - by students or their teachers.

I want my daughters to come home from school, bursting with excitement, sharing their latest project or learning encounter. I want them to be able to articulate what they've learned, and show genuine enthusiasm about it.

If my ultimate goal as an educator is to foster a love for learning, with the aim of growing lifelong learners, then part of my duty is to create conditions for that to happen.

Conditions like creating an inspiring environment, where kids are encouraged to explore, to create, to discover and form theories. And then share with their friends and teachers about their thinking, further refining their views and perspectives.  They cannot do this through worksheets or in an isolated manner. Knowledge is co-constructed. It is created through meaningful experiences that engage children's senses. All five. We know this to be true by virtue of some of the greatest theorists and practitioners in the field of education: John Dewey. Lev Vygotsky. Loris Malaguzzi. Jean Piaget. {to name but a few}. 

The real reason I've taken this leap of faith is because I believe we can do better. Our kids are more capable than knowledge recall {the lowest denominator on the hierarchy of Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning}. They are brilliant human beings capable of amazing things, and need to be treated as such.

We need to offer more for our children. Children are born to create. Born to discover. Born to dance. Born to interpret and communicate in one hundred languages (Malaguzzi).  Creating these kinds of experiences takes time, energy, resourcefulness and a genuine desire to serve children at the highest level. With the external demands placed upon teachers today, there is little room to reflect upon what our children truly need.  The best teachers with the best intentions get burned out. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. We need to do better for our children. We need to trust and empower our capable educators, and provide space and time for them to pursue the science and art of teaching.

My aim with Brillante Beginnings is to create an entry point for children. A beginning, where their brains are primed and fired up for learning. I want to create an impact so positive and provoking for children, that they can't wait to discover more, to learn more, to seek out more.

I want to also create an ambience of high expectations, structure and ultimate accountability. Habits of mind and qualities of character such as grit, perseverance, tenacity, self-motivation are the bi-products I aim to develop in our work together. I believe in a balanced approach - one where children are free to discover to explore, and to create, but also held to a high standard of disciplined learning, active listening, responsibility, independence and good citizenship.

Through a balanced and holistic approach to early years education, I intend to inspire my small group of students - and their families - to become lifelong learners, to realize a different way forward in learning.  One that recognizes the child as a strong, capable, brilliant human being, rich with wonder and creativity.

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