Monday, January 19, 2009

What I am learning...

My mom’s background is Child Development. So, pretty much since I was eight, I knew about Erikson, Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori, etc. with conversations about child growth and development and learning theories becoming the back drop to many pursuits and inquiries. How children learn best is a huge part of my background. While by no stretch of the imagination am I even close to an expert, I have had many conversations with my mom regarding the significance of the first five years of a child’s life. My mom has always stressed how vital this time is in establishing the child’s sense of trust and security, knowledge of unconditional love, and unwavering high expectations. One aspect of our many conversations centered around the child’s ability to learn to delay gratification. While I know that by the time our children arrive in our classrooms, they are beyond the crucial first five years, but many have never come close to mastering the ability to delay gratification. But I still feel we as teachers can and must make a difference in this critical learning. One of the things I have learned this year in teaching first grade is that too many of my kids do not have or are they even close in mastering the ability to delay gratification. This made the beginning of the year a little rocky and even now because of this issue, some days are most challenging. I guess I never really realized how important it is to challenge children to honor and take responsibility for the management of the social and teaching day until my first graders presented me with this ongoing dilemma. In today’s society when it seems as if we are constantly moving and doing something and pushing forward (at least we think it is forward progress), we can’t lose sight of the groundwork that makes present and future learnings possible. Amidst my mom’s research and readings, she often quoted a piece of research that contended that the single most important milestone in child growth and development for a child to master to secure and predict academic success is to master the ability to delay gratification So, for me while I know there is a lot to cover in one year academically, I also feel I must give them a firm grounding in daily living the life of a strong student in all aspects of what this means today and over their lifetime as students and as citizens of the world. This is a vital part of shaping who my kids will be. Therefore, in my class we have spent a lot of time slowing down, articulating issues and conflicts, waiting and respecting the actions and words of others, patiently seeking the thoughts and opinions of others, routinely delivering kind and helpful messages, considering the rights of others in decision making, and patiently and routinely taking turns. For me, I have grown to realize that there are going to be days when there are things I planned that I just don’t achieve with them, and that is okay. (I am still working on accepting this.) I realize that my day should not be a race against time, but rather using the time I have to make whatever we are doing meaningful and relevant and not rushed for the children I am teaching. Maybe my ongoing modeling of the fact that we are a family together, not one of us more important than another, will slowly but surely bring them to a comfortable free choice of automatically seeing another’s rights and considering his ideas, With the goal of academic success for all my children this year and for many years to come, it seems undeniable that I invest energy, time, and thoughtful pursuit in doing all that I can to assure that my children will be successful in learning to postpone gratification, which will give them their best shot at ongoing academic success today and for their future, Teaching them to be patient with one another, learning to share, communicating compassionately, and helping each other along the way-if they master this and with the support of a new administration moving in this same direction, the world should certainly be a better place. Celebrate a new era!

5 comments:

Karen S. said...

Such a thoughtful post, Lauren. Your vision comes out clearly in your words.

Mary Lee said...

An eloquent case for "less is more." Brilliant.

Abby said...

I think I may still be working on accepting delayed gratification....haha! Inspiring thinking....thank you!

katied said...

Lauren-
This was wonderful for me to read and think about as we both share our days with 6-7 year olds. You have such an amazing sense of self reflection and a vision for what is best for your students. Thank you for reacquainting me with the most important pieces of the puzzle. These are such wise words.

Anonymous said...

Once again I know why I would have loved for Anna to have you as her first grade teacher, resident angel and advocate. Bravo!
Miss you bunches~
Andrea