My passion for teaching began when my younger brother was first diagnosed with autism. At the time not much was known about this disorder as today and he was initially referred for testing when he was enrolled in kindergarten and the teachers quickly discovered he was not a normally functioning child. After the diagnosis he was placed in the special education classroom with a teacher by the name of Ms. Rossa. I cannot say enough how much my brother grew and blossomed under her care. I am proud to say that she helped him to learn to read and write and he especially loved learning to use a computer. More than that, I noticed how attentive and caring she was to my brother from the beginning. It taught me that no matter the challenge, a teacher can make a remarkable and lasting impact on a child's life.
Although I did not choose to study Special Education my brother's teacher influenced my decision to become an educator. Many years later, when I became a parent my initial reaction was that I wanted to know everything about infants and how they grow and develop. I wanted to find out what the best strategies were to raise a bright and healthy child. I had exhausted the parent child care books during my pregnancy and I still felt there was more to learn. By the time my daughter was born I decided to continue my education by enrolling in graduate studies in early childhood education. Once I studied child development at the graduate level I discovered many of the missing parts to the information that is passed on to parents in childrearing books. Learning how environmental factors impact the overall growth and development of the child made me want to become a knowledgeable early childhood educator. Theorists that most impacted my philosophy of teaching were Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piaget's constructivist theory played out in my living room many times as I watched my egocentric, curious toddler turn everything upside down and examine objects to discover, understand and categorize its properties. Vygotskian social constructivist theory emerged later as she used language and social interactions with myself, caregivers, relatives, and playmates to learn and discover even more about the world around her.
Today, I am teaching university courses in early childhood education and child development. Although I recognize that children and adults learn differently, I do see some similarities in their ways of absorbing information. My current pedagogical practice still employs constructivist and social constructivist theory. I do believe in and encourage my college students to learn material on their own, beyond what is covered and discussed in the classroom. I can attest that information is best absorbed and retained when the learner engages the material through their own thoughts, in their own words and having processed it, explains the material in some form. This can be through reading, reflection and journaling, or sharing through class discussion. I also believe that social constructivism is at work in the classroom through group discussion and assignments, peer learning, and modeling. Even college students and aid from interaction and feedback of their peers to extend learning beyond what they know to what they can know as Vygotsky's theory explains.
My pedagogy is also very student-centered. I welcome feedback and suggestions and encourage students to choose course related topics for research and presentation that they will enjoy learning more about. I select topics that are relevant to students' interests and encourage them to share their own experiences in the class discussion as much as possible. I believe when learning is personally relevant it is impactful. I also make myself available to students needs and share specific feedback that will help them expand their ideas on topics and improve their understanding. I believe that if students feel truly seen, heard and respected they will benefit from a positive relationship with their teachers which impacts learning as well.