Early childhood educators spread the word… This is how we have changed and made a change
Ramallah – (A.M. Qattan Foundation – 12 January 2019):
Issues 57 and 58 of the Ru’a Tarbawiyya Quarterly, recently published by the Educational Research and Development Programme (ERDP) / A.M. Qattan Foundation, feature a number of texts written by early childhood educators, who participated in the Early Childhood Professional Development programme. In their articles, early childhood educators told their personal stories, highlighting their experience with the training and the impact of this experience on their professional and personal lives. To read the Ru’a Tarbawiyya Quarterly, click here (In Arabic).
Malik Al-Remawi, Editor-in-Chief of Ru’a Tarbawiyya, presents a reflective reading of the stories of all 20 early childhood educators under the title “The Writing of Educators: Narratives of Harm and Hope”. Al-Rimawi describes early childhood educators’ writings as a departure from obedience and compliance, restoration of independence of the mind, and re‐education of the subconscious.
Al-Rimawi speaks of a conflict, which these educators have waged against a traditional education system that constrains both early childhood educators and children, restricting their imagination and abilities. Al-Rimawi also provides an overview of the educators’ struggle to apply a new methodology based on drama in a learning context and project-based learning in order to maintain effective and interesting learning for their pupils.
Before she joined the Early Childhood Education Professional Development programme, Isra’ Azzam used to describe her job as an early childhood educator as routine work. She used to have her teaching programme dictated by the kindergarten management from day one.
Holding a degree in computer science, Azzam was obliged to work at a kindergarten. She said she did not like her work at first. She was even ashamed of her job and hid it from her friends.
Azzam believes she went through a paradigm shift when she joined the course on Drama Methodologies in Education for Early Childhood Educators. She has come back her work, highly motivated and enthusiastic to try the new methodology, which she learned through stories and interaction.
Implemented for nine years in a row, the Early Childhood Professional Development programme aims at improving educators’ performance and capacities to build their personal and professional identities. The programme helps educators acquire new thinking methods, which combine knowledge, skills, and values. It also allows them to engage in a different role with both the curriculum and the society.
The Early Childhood Professional Development programme comprises a series of theoretical and practical training modules. These are tailor-made to ensure a broader understanding of the philosophies of education as well as of the characteristics and needs of early childhood. Modules build up active contexts that employ children’s skills and capabilities through new methodologies, such as drama in education, mantle of the expert, project-based learning, investigation and science, and arts, including stories, theatre, music, and puppet animation.
Azzam was surprised to see how interactive and imaginative children were when she used an interactive method with them. “I have walked out of the world of imitation into a world of creativity. I have managed to understand children more and create a learning environment, making them self-reliant and passionate about inquiry and research,” Azzam concluded.
Amirah Ureinat indicates that she worked as an early childhood educators owing to the lack of other employment opportunities. As she did not receive a formal education to qualify as an educator, she lacked confidence in front of her pupils. This was the case until she joined the Early Childhood Professional Development course. According to Urienat, this marked a shift in her career and personal life.
“There has been a common language between me and the children. Now, we learn together. We are also much closer to one another. I love them and I love my profession.” Ureinat writes.
Ureinat stresses that the knowledge she acquired has transformed her from inactivity to the movement of life. For her pupils, Ureinat has come up with roles, other than learning by heart, writing, and repeating words.
So far, the ERDP has managed to provide training to more than 140 early childhood educators. In addition to enhancing their expertise, educators are introduced to local and foreign experiences with a view to initiating different roles in education, practice, planning, and reflection. Educators can create educational approaches that satisfy children’s curiosity, match their interests, and meet their developmental needs.
In all their 20 stories, early childhood educators agree that application has changed their view of children’s potentials and capabilities. It has also transformed their view of their own dreams and aspirations.
Early childhood educator Wafa’ Salah writes about her experience when she applied the drama in education method. Through the Ship story, children/pirates design shapes of the most important and most meaningful objects for them, including pictures, puppets or flower pots, and load them on the ship. According to the story, the sea soon churns up, forcing children to abandon their stuff in order to survive the rough seas.
Salah says she and the children have had exciting and challenging moments. They had to choose to abandon either objects of the past or dream of the future! She explains that her pupils have learned that one meaning of life is to give up possessions of the past and move forward.
Salah asserts that, as an educator, she has learned to avoid dreams of the past. For her, that was a dream of teaching history so that she could be a real teacher.
In her story, Salah emphasises that workshops on personal story writing aim at encouraging early childhood educators to engage in the writing adventure. This way, educators can reflect on their journey in and for life until they reach a stage of self-discovery and self-satisfaction.
The Early Childhood Professional Development programme derives its significance from this important age group of children, with whom educators work. In this age, children shape their awareness, enjoy increasing intelligence, and develop their imagination, memory, and language.
Researchers coincide that children at this stage learn more efficiently and acquire more knowledge through play-based learning activities, such as drama, art, and social games.