My practice with children started over twenty years ago. Before my first job working in a community park I had experienced many different careers. The jobs were all interesting and rewarding in some way, but I had dream in mind and I was about to make that dream happen.
Growing up in California I enjoyed a childhood filled my time going to school and playing outside with friends. My parents were busy working, so I was on my own to choreograph my day, before and afterschool. I learned by doing and made plenty of mistakes, but I was having fun and felt like I was on a great adventure.
Our city provided a free afterschool program and occasionally I would stop by and see what activities were going on. I would play sports and group games, make some crafts, and play Ping-Pong. It was fun and free, I could come and go as I pleased which was great for a school-age child whose parents were at work.
One of the educators in the afterschool program took an interest in me and shared friendly and helpful advice as I worked though some challenges at school. To this day I remember his presence in my life. He was kind, friendly, and always smiling. This educator guided all of the children how to be effective socially and how to navigate our challenges in life. No matter what happened this educator did not judge, he talked to us and gave us choices to learn from. This educator was a believer.
A believer is an advocate. An advocate is defined in Webster’s as “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, one who pleads the case of another.” I think a believer in education is someone who empowers children, gives gentle advice, is a good listener, and a person who lets the children know they have someone who sees only good in them and is there for them under any circumstance.
In practice, to be an effective advocate we need to know the children well. One of the best ways to know and support children is through observation. As we observe children in their work we get to see the real person inside that shorter encounters together may hide. Observation is the tool educators can utilize to get to know the true heart of the child. Observation can reveal how to support the child and show us the path a loving caring learning community needs to travel to support the child. Observation is the tool I remember my believer using often to help guide us in our afterschool program.
My dream, the thing I kept thinking about during my early working life, during college, and after graduating into the world of work was, is there a career where I can work with young people and be a positive force in the life of child like the educator who did it for me? I found out there was and here I am twenty plus years later still trying to give back on the gift that was given to me as a young child.
This is the reason I work with children. It is to be a positive member of the learning community, to be the ear that listens in a world full of rules, to be an example to younger people that being outside is fun and adventurous, to promote play as an important part of life not an afterthought, to help families be successful by being available when they need care and support, and to support other educators through sharing some stories from years in the field. I do this for the person who helped me, because, I am a believer.
What motivated you to begin working with children?