“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” (Yeats, W.B. 2007). When your child completes his or her educational experience, what final product would you prefer? A child who is skilled at regurgitating rote information which has been passed along the educational spool; or a child who has been taught there are vast and infinite ideas and concepts to be explored and their imagination and ingenuity are the limits? I surmise you would select option two should you have the opportunity. Therefore, I submit my ideas on how a classroom might be conducted in order to reach this goal. 
Piaget states, “The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done” (Piaget). I base my own personal teaching theory on this famous quote and feel it lends itself to every area of learning. Children are natural explorers. Only when we as educators steal this natural propensity to be curious, do they become rote learners, content to explore no further than their class notes or endless worksheets.
Why should we consider ourselves so superior as to strangulate our children into a predefined education of black and white? What gives us the right to stagnate their learning, thus maybe inhibiting the child who might have discovered a cure for cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer disease?
A classroom which utilizes a “variety of material and opportunities for children to have firsthand, meaningful experiences” (Brenekamp, Copple, 1997) is one of the most valuable resources a child will have in which to fully develop their imagination and learning potential. The classroom which is set up where the students feel safe and uninhibited will allow for the ideal learning arena. By giving the child the information and then allowing them to naturally expand on this information in an informal play scenario, the teacher allows the child to take control of how far they want to explore the topic. “A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” (Carruthers, 2007).
The NAEYC position statement points out that “teacher decision making is necessary for developmentally appropriate practice.”(NAEYC, 2007) Great advances have been made in how children obtain knowledge. Why, then are we still enslaving our children to teaching philosophies of decades past? If we have actual knowledge that children learn in a certain way, would it not just make good common sense to focus our teaching style and classroom management to accommodate learning?
Play is a child’s work. For some reason we have forgotten this. Have you ever heard a child say, “I learned everything I know because I was contained to a desk for eight hours a day, churned out endless worksheets and never had the opportunity to experience knowledge in a hands on manner.” Therefore, it is imperative we change our mode of thinking as educators and begin a quest to teach our children to teach us. The wonderment in a child’s eyes when they experience that “gotcha” moment is a humbling experience for an educator. If you teach with the children at arms length, you will never experience this marvel.
Children in early childhood grades make giant steps in cognitive development. Engaging them in meaningful and hands on activities is crucial in directing this learning in a positive way. Research has “identified a relationship between developmentally appropriate practices and motivation, noting that students in developmentally appropriate classrooms had higher expectations for their success in school, chose more challenging math problems to solve, showed less dependency on adults for permission and approval, exhibited more pride in their accomplishments, and worried less about school. (Stipek, Feller, Daniels, Milburn 1993)
Therefore, it is essential we move all educators to a philosophy of engaged and developmentally appropriate learning. Children are capable of far more that we give them credit for. Our classrooms must become laboratories for the children to achieve and surpass current standards. They are born vastly qualified to do just that. However, they must be taught there are no limits to learning. We must teach our children to explore beyond the “correct” and “expected” answer. We must teach them to fly beyond the horizon.
Lisa Parrish
5711 Spring Hill Ave
Columbus, GA 31909