For each child to grow to their full potential, they must know they have value within the classroom. Head of Reddam House Ballito’s Early Learning School, Paula Algar, shares key insights on the topic.
School should be a place where a child is free to grow, where they know they have a role to play within the class. I believe this is achieved by providing a nurturing and loving environment where a child feels valued and appreciated. Through encouragement, support and guidance within an enriched environment which ensures a mutual respect, a child can reach for the stars.
Outside the home, teachers in the early stages of schooling are central in this process: we must ensure children feel loved. When I first read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, it was to gain an understanding of my own love language. This inspired me to look at how it could assist teachers to create an environment within the classroom that “spoke to every child’s love language”.
Gary Chapman states in his book The Five Love Languages Of Our Children, that every child has an emotional tank, a place of emotional strength that can fuel a child daily. As teachers, if we can be aware of what each child’s primary love language is, we can make certain every child in our class knows they are valued and loved within the classroom, thus allowing them to grow to their full potential.
A person’s primary love language is a way in which we “understand love best”. If teachers are mindful of this, each child can be encouraged to explore, push boundaries, and try new adventures. It opens the way for our children to feel free to learn.
It is vital to encourage a strong sense of independence, confidence in any child’s abilities and the development of a strong set of values in order to equip each child to embrace life’s challenges. By focusing on helping children develop a strong sense of self-confidence, you enable them to explore, push boundaries and think outside the box. As a result, they won’t be afraid of failing, and failing is an important part of learning. Children who are comfortable with failure are more readily able to pick themselves up and try again. A child who is confident in their own value, is equipped to focus on the challenges of the curriculum, and certain curriculums embrace a child-centric learning environment that encourages curiosity and independent thought.
To assist in a child’s development, we must allow children to have some control over the direction of their learning, with endless opportunities and ways to express themselves. The Reggio Approach provokes learning, encourages exploration, reflects on the learning experienced, and builds on that learning, all the while encouraging children HOW to think, not WHAT to think.
Think of a child as a solid tower. Each social interaction, new learning experience, different activity, changes their tower’s shape and it grows taller. In the same way, as they get older in the right environment each child grows in confidence; and if a child knows their worth and that they have a role to play in their world, they can reach their full potential. With a strong foundation, children will stand firm and grounded because of the foundation built in the early stages of learning.
To put my own spin on a popular maxim: Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but rather about putting your gumboots on and learning to dance in the rain! By giving our children the “gumboots” they need, the tools to cope with life, we open the doors to an incredible future for each of them.