A brief personal perspective

A number of years ago when I was teaching English to students of other languages in Hong Kong, I did some work for an international kindergarten. My job was to create a programme to promote language for children who were about to leave for primary school. Having taught children of all ages at primary and secondary levels, I particularly enjoyed my time with the kindergarten group and decided to pursue a career as an early childhood teacher.

All children are engrossed in exploration and play in order to comprehend and make sense of the world around them. To analyse the importance of play during the early years I offer a brief summary in this reflection of mine.

Before the development of oral language children are engrossed in sensory and physical exploration as a natural process to understand their immediate environment. There are a number of definitions to define play and one cannot deny the significance in the learning that takes place through play. Theorists like Piaget and Vygotsky considered play to be an important part of childhood as a path to the learning process.

Teachers in an early childhood environment play an important part in offering a secure base for children during their journey of learning and development away from home.

In a research article published in the International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education in June 2012, Purificación García Sierra suggests that children who develop insecure attachments at home for a number of reasons benefit if they find a teacher in their preschool that they bond with. This attachment becomes an important protection factor during their development at that stage. "These enabling  actions  of  development  can  only  be  carried  out  by  the  figure  of  an  adult: the teacher, who becomes a referential point to learn and advance, not only in the cognitive field but also socially and affectively".

A module in the Incredible Years programme discusses incentives and rewards that are offered to children in early childhood environments. This discussion made me think of the role of motivation. What motivates us and our tamariki towards their learning and development in an early childhood setting?

I personally feel that learning in an early childhood environment should be based on intrinsic motivation, and not on an outward reward system. Intrinsic motivation is when the inner self drives children and extrinsic motivation is when rewards are given.

I recently attended an evening workshop on wairuatanga, one of the theoretical principles of tikanga, the Māori way of doing things. I gathered that Māori have an understanding and inherent belief that there is an underlying spiritual existence in addition to the physical.

We all have different points of view on the meaning of spirituality, and for some it has no meaning at all. Spirituality does not mean religion even though religion is spiritual in essence. The difference is that spirituality needn't be religious, as religion is an organised system of rituals and worship, but could be looked upon as a universal concept underlying all religions.