By Donna Peters, Early Childhood Director
The Weinstein JCC Preschool is off to an exciting start for the new school year!
I am pleased to share that we are happily at a new crossroad with the challenges and stresses of the past few years from the pandemic behind us and looking forward to focusing on a healthy, happy new year!
As we reflect on the past few years, we recognize more than ever how much value we must place in our early childhood educators. One of the most important aspects of our program is the joyful, committed, quality teachers who care for and educate our children every day.
A strong philosophy, a creative curriculum, a clear vision, dynamic classroom spaces, and experienced administrators are necessary foundations for a quality preschool. Once that is established, we must have the commitment of strong early childhood educators to bring all the other components together.
Teachers are our most valuable asset to having a successful learning environment….an environment that celebrates young children while offering challenging opportunities and experiences for each child to grow and learn, where children can be challenged, supported, and encouraged to reach their full potential. Providing rich, nurturing personal interactions, while being an encouraging and supportive adult in the lives of young children are the necessary qualities that build a close connection between teacher and child.
We are fortunate to have many teachers on our faculty who have been with us anywhere from two-forty years as well as new teachers who are just starting their first year with us. We have an incredibly dedicated, knowledgeable, and experienced faculty that is motivated to collaborate and learn together to promote a rich learning environment for our young children and their families.
As a school inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, we focus a lot on the image of the child. The image of the child is the most fundamental principle of the Reggio Emilia Approach.
The relationship between the child and the teacher is the second most important principle. Maryam Naddaf, Director of Frog Hollow Reggio Inspired Learning Centre, explains “without this relationship, learning cannot occur organically. The image of the child and the relationship between the educator and the child have a direct and strong bond.
“Without a rich image of the child, formation of a trusting relationship is impossible, and without a mutual relationship, the rich image of the child cannot be seen and appreciated.”
Naddaf continues, “in this strong bond, there is a third important component that cannot be missed by practitioners, especially those in leadership and mentorship positions. The image of the educator is critical to the success of the other two components. For a close and trusting relationship to be formed, the child must be able to see a rich image of the educator and vice versa: for the child to discover a rich image of the educator, a strong relationship must be built.”
It only follows that we must recognize our teachers as rich, capable individuals, each with their own vast amount of experience and knowledge, energy, and commitment. We must support and nourish their growth and practice.
As a community of educators, we often reflect and discuss what we believe about children and our beliefs about children must align directly to our vision and practice. We believe children are strong and competent individuals capable of constructing their own knowledge.
If we believe this then we must create environments that respect and encourage our children to question, explore, and create. We must encourage teachers to create opportunities and environments that invite children to explore materials and the world around them. Whether working in collaboration with other children or independently our children need plenty of time and space to manipulate, represent, and discover.
If we believe children are capable, competent, powerful, active constructors of knowledge; do we believe the same about our educators?
During a professional development meeting before we started our new school year, I posed this question to our faculty…. as administrators and educators in the preschool how can we focus on the image of the child without focusing on the image of the teacher?
How can we make sure our educators have support for reflective, responsive planning, time, and space away from the classroom to collaborate and reflect on the learning taking place in the classrooms?
It is our responsibility to give our teachers support, respect, trust, time, and self-confidence. We must see our teachers as rich, capable individuals, with their own experiences that they bring into the role of teacher.
As mentors and pedagogical leaders, we must encourage our teachers to view themselves as the professionals that they are and effectively support them.
The Weinstein JCC leadership, along with our JCC Board leaders, preschool administrators and parents on the Early Childhood Committee spent the past year researching and discussing EC faculty compensation, planning time, time away from children, and many other aspects that have direct effect on retention and work gratification.
Due to the incredible support from all the various stakeholders many changes were made to improve EC teachers work/life balance, compensation, and daily time for planning and reflection.
There is also a commitment from the EC department and JCC leadership to promote a strong image of the teachers, an image that embraces and supports competency, creativity, experience, and expertise.
We strive to embrace an image of the teachers who will be listened to, respected, supported, and encouraged and who are also advised and held to a high level of responsibility and dedication to improving the lives of our children, families, and each other.
The entire EC faculty are highly motivated to move forward into a community that truly understands and supports early childhood education and the educators that make this happen everyday here at the Weinstein JCC Preschool.
I am thrilled to be part of such a dynamic faculty that have said yes to teaching and yes to a profession that will be better able to meet their needs as professionals!
The future of the Weinstein JCC Preschool is in very good hands!