Nurturing Children’s Character Through Our Teaching
When children are young, they are learning sponges. They are learning machines receptive to new language, new habits and new concepts. Every new experience is helping them to make sense of the world around them. Stop and think of the magnitude of those statements. Every moment your child is in school, every interaction they have and every conversation they engage in is shaping and nurturing their character.
For us educators there are many ways to approach the idea of nurturing a child’s character. At ISSP, we devote ourselves to seeing the child as an individual, communicating with the child and providing restorative feedback, supporting the child’s independence, allowing the children to test their ideas, providing the child with a sensory rich environment and also providing copious opportunities to express their own creativity. This in turn helps them navigate their way through life with many new skills and a feeling of confidence.
Seeing the child as an individual
In the Early Years, we take inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach - whereby the educator views the children as individuals who are curious about their world and have the powerful potential to learn from everything around them. Our curriculum stems from the interest of each child. We acknowledge each child’s differences, unique talents and interests. We accept our students to be who they are while enabling them to develop by supporting their personal character traits and creativity.
Communicating with the child and providing restorative feedback
As a small family, we choose our words wisely as we know the effect language can have on our early developers. The way we offer our feedback as teachers makes a huge difference to our students. It is not always what we say that matters, but how we say it. Communication and group discussions are key strategies in our classrooms to help shape the children’s ability to choose between right and wrong. To interact acceptably with one another and to have the ability to work in a team where respect for others matters the most
Supporting the child’s independence
Being Reggio-inspired in the Early Years means that we have the chance to make sure all students’ skills and talents are used in full and can be stretched further to help develop the character and skills. Supporting a child’s independence has many benefits. It fosters self-help skills, problem-solving, it promotes creativity and it help with their emotions. These elements play an important role in academic success. Every age group and classroom will look different in their approach to supporting a child’s independence. It could look like a science experiment and predicting the outcome, or it could be making the effort to climb that little bit higher in the playground. Promoting this sort of independence helps build the child’ character and self-esteem. It gives children the belief that you are confident in their ability. They are more confident in their own ability to carry out and test new things.
Building them up to be a confident and independent child. Along with this focusing on their emotions and letting them know it is okay to try and fail is very important. Our emotions are the internal architects of our minds. They tell us how and what to think and do. We "know" things through our emotional interactions and character nurturing. If we reprimand a child for making a mistake or failing at something we are chipping away at their confidence and stopping them from trying in the future for fear of failing. Think of how much untapped potential has been wasted through fear and negative nurturing.
Allowing the children to test their ideas
The reality is that a child’s character should be nurtured and guided positively from a very young age. We should promote healthy levels of critical thinking to allow the children to think and do for themselves. Right from the Early Years classes through to upper elementary. This will lead to children who have belief in themselves. Children who are pro-active in testing out their ideas. Children who are creative in their approaches. It gives them such a beautiful sense of self-belief and confidence in their abilities. We are laying the foundations of the future and by allowing the children to test their ideas we are building them up to be the best versions of themselves for when they leave us here. As the First lady of America Lady Bird Johnson said, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think”.
Written by Ms. Orlaith Dilleen, ISSP Early Years teacher
Image source: International School Saigon Pearl