All of my students qualify for free breakfast and lunch here at school. Our school is in a high poverty, high crime, urban area, where they face many challenges that typical children do not face at 3, 4, and 5 years old. Many of my students are in single-parent households and/or are being raised by relatives other than their parents.
Some of my students have endured hunger, homelessness, criminal and natural deaths of immediate family members, witnessing violent crimes, and many other things that most of us can't even imagine.
YET....my little ones come to school with the biggest, brightest smiles you've ever seen. Many of us would completely shut down if we were faced with these challenges, but not my little friends. They come to school with an excitement and energy that warms my heart and makes me proud to know them, and especially proud to be their teacher. Every single day when they walk into my classroom, they make me feel like I have the best job in the world! They LOVE coming to school to see what new and exciting things are in store for them.
Once upon a time, many years ago, I was able to borrow a light panel to use with a student who had visual impairments who was in my class that year. The other children all begged to use it and I found it was a great motivational tool, and a way for young kids to stay engaged and learn about the world. The students all thought they were playing, which is how young children learn best. My students and I were devastated when we had to return the light panel to the Vision department at the end of the school year.
Research shows that children learn more in their early years than they do at any other time in their lives.
The research also shows, beyond any doubt, that the way young children learn best is through play. The best early childhood classes spend most of their day exploring the world around them and investigating things they are interested in, which is typically themselves, animals, bugs, and building things, to name a few. When we combine play with things they are especially interested in, we help them learn many of the building blocks they need for future success in school and in life. And it's super fun!
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