Why I am an early childhood educator … so that I may give wings to children and help them soar to great heights!

The human mind is a fascinating subject of study, with its diverse nuances, complexity and mystery. I have always been intrigued by the human mind and what it reveals about a person; how it functions under different circumstances; how it develops from childhood to adulthood moulding itself to be in tune with the different experiences it encounters in the process of growth.

It is this fascination with the human mind that made me opt for the study of psychology at university; and prompted me to take it to the next level when I chose the career of a school counselor after passing out. I began my foray into the minds of school children working with one of Mumbai’s most reputed group of schools, where I came face to face with the fascinating mind processes of students right from preschool level to middle school level, when the children were adolescents. My job was to assist the special educators at my school; additionally I monitored the Individual Educational Plans (IEP) of individual children, structuring their learning as per their specific needs, motivating them to go forward in their learning and developmental graph at their own pace.

It was a heady feeling, helping children to develop the basic knowledge and skills that they will use for the rest of their lives; and that will contribute to their success. The knowledge that I had the ability to contribute to the growth and development of children was rewarding; as also the fact that I enjoyed these interactions with children; being their guide as well as their friend.

In my experience as a school counselor, I noticed that all schools followed the same curriculum; however, the policies adopted were different as they were based on the socio-economic status and cultures the students came from. This was so because the problems faced by the individual students depended on the culture and social background they come from; thus making it imperative to adopt different policies to deal with them.

I am positive that I am in the right profession; and my contribution to the field is more than satisfactory; more so because friends and family tell me I am empathetic, caring and dynamic, particularly suited to working with the early years. I consider myself a natural when it comes to connecting with children; with love of learning and years of work experience on my side. Sigmund Freud said “Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy”; and it is this crazy dream to enable young minds develop and achieve inspite of various odds has driven me into this field; making me a reflective and enthusiastic practitioner, committed to the betterment of children.

I have, however, certain concerns about the field that haunt me with their propensity to hinder the progress of children; they being:

  • The commercialization of education in recent times
  • Lack of appropriately trained staff in most schools
  • It being a completely unregulated area in India
  • The problem of teacher attrition

I feel that these issues need to be dealt with, and with immediate effect, so as to make the journey of children in life better suited to their needs and leading to success.

The toddler in the picture is me pointing at something. This action of pointing had the purpose of initiating joint attention; mine and the person whose attention I was drawing by pointing to something. This action aided in communication and elevated my social skills. Additionally, this activity led to the labelling of the object by the adult; thus helping me to learn new words related to the object and its description.

As a child growing up in the city, I would be sent off to play outside with strict instructions to be home before sunset. We played traditional Indian games that involved not only physical activities but also aided in the development of cognitive skills like logical thinking, strategy building etc. Most of our games involved a mixed age group; this was beneficial as we learnt skills from the older children.

The involvement of parents were minimal; thus it developed resilience and valuable skills that are used in the larger social world.

However, certain questions plague me regarding the field of early childhood education and implementing the method of play to promote development of various domains in children; they being:

  • How may we create a balance between free-play and supervised play to get the most out of both activities?
  • How can we derive benefits from indoor play activities, especially in big cities where opportunities for outdoor free-play are limited, keeping in mind the lack of open spaces and playgrounds / parks?
  • How can we assist children who are physically challenged to indulge in outdoor play activities?

With these and more, I aspire to help in creating of a world where children are given similar opportunities to learn valuable lessons of cooperation and sensitivity through their activities which are natural to them ( play).

Swathi Menon

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