I am convinced that what we believe is very important. It is also my conviction that we are obligated to share our beliefs and are made larger when we do. I offer here only hints, because my purpose is to share an integrated survey of my beliefs on education and learning rather than a sharply focused and limited exploration of any one of them in an exhaustive way.
My educational philosophy is dynamic in nature because life continually surprises me with moments of understanding, insight, and discovery. My philosophy is not developed in a vacuum. Rather, it is shaped by countless personal and professional interactions and richly treasured relationships with children and parents, administrators and teachers, community leaders and citizens over the last almost 60 years. It also draws on my cumulative experience: especially as teacher, minister, and leader, mentor, preschool founder and administrator, as well as the value systems of parents, educational settings, communities in which I have lived, and society itself. My philosophy is presented here as a personal statement of my personal and educational beliefs. That is what this is. That is why my title – Credo: “I Believe.” Lessons I Have Learned.
Now this is what I believe: Our main purpose is to inspire, to enthuse, to create, to participate, to share, to ennoble, to grow, to mentor, to welcome the unexpected, to celebrate life!
I believe we must give children a rich, active life – calm, free from much strain and pressure, in places where they can live and grow in joy and celebration, in security and safety, yet not be fully exempted from that which builds courage, fortitude, and resiliency. Because we are always students and we are all teachers, we all have part in creating safe, peaceful, and enjoyable and yet realistic learning environments.
I believe in the discipline of all good books, especially in this larger technological age. I don’t worry that children understand the meaning of all they read or all we read to them, if I see they are catching the fire, the passion of beauty and life, cultivating a love for learning, capturing glimpses of profound insight, and embracing a healthy love for others. I, too, am captured by their imagination and enraptured by their wisdom!
I believe learning is at times planned, subtly, but punctuated with necessary periods of just plain fun and enjoyment. I believe we stop at times, reflect, become cognitive, or perhaps even metacognitive. I believe, at other times, we press on naturally to see more clearly, to hear more intuitively, to listen, to taste and to touch. For me, learning can be individual but at its best is a collective experience involving mind, heart, hands, and spirit! The moment is treasured; process is valued!
We are to encourage learning, especially when children are ready and sensitive. Oh, the talent and magic of teachers who, at times, plan well but never hinder the child’s self-exploration, and yet are consistent enough to give security and some predictability! These are inseparably linked in warm, respectful community building in the learning environment, one that embraces children, and even more, each child. And, if respect and dignity is properly achieved in the learning place, then permit teaching, indispensable to learning, to take on a bit of the performing art.
Above all, places of learning must be welcoming, warm places, filled with wonder and trust! But all such places need much levity and good humor that relax each soul and give value and self-worth opportunity to root and grow. Kids are fun and so enjoy fun! Steady, exploratory living, in a respectful and peaceful environment is all I crave for children and true growing adults! I am not afraid to love children, to sincerely care for them, to affirm their self-worth. I believe true community is achieved through mutual respect, genuine enthusiasm, and specific commendation. In such classrooms children journey in trust and grow in self-confidence and self-esteem for self, others, and the environment.
Less dos and don’ts, more shared expectations and firmness on fundamental principles and a rather consistent approach to fairness, even while understanding individual differences – these are hallmarks in creating diversity in the learning community. Nurturing these builds solid, ennobling character and sincere, enriching relationships for self, families, societies and nations, and for the global community that includes all next-door neighborhoods and neighbors. For me, freedom is lived out through self-discipline and responsibility for others and all creation – much of which is learned by daily forgiving and risking again.
I strongly believe we example change, although not an easy task. I believe we are not victims of change, but instead, in some measure, we are change agents. Our acceptance of this inherent role will help children not to lose hope but to live in warm anticipation. This calls us to strike a balance between change and technology and to accept a willingness to care for others with little judgment.
I want children to be thoughtful, questioning, exploring their still unexplored universe, curious, and oftentimes, skeptical. Children can and do strive toward high purpose. I want children to confront life, especially the sense of mystery that life offers; and yet, I want to challenge their capacities to understand and at times to be thrilled when insight floods and discovery affirms or when thoughts and introspection are dull. I believe all these are inherent in children and growing adults.
And finally, I believe we are to be mindful of children’s needs, not just our own. I believe with all my heart and soul – “kids always come first”! I believe we are to be mindful of children’s maturity as well as immaturity, their great giftedness as well as their weaknesses. I believe in developing our children’s potential!
May we, then, be prodigal with our children, our most precious treasures, by bringing them to places of learning and compassion. One great man challenged me years ago to receive children’s giftedness and energy and to listen to their questions and their wisdom. I want to respond to their insatiable need to be loved and nurtured, to grow and learn, to be and to contribute.
Grant McMurray, one who loved children and challenged youth, spoke well of “the spirit of adventure, openness, and searching” – all uniquely and daily part of the learning process for children and adults. A song I once knew, “Come as a Little Child”, expresses some of my own best thinking on children: Like children, may we laugh and play and sing and dance often! May we encourage, embrace, show compassion, enthuse, ennoble, grow, and celebrate life! Children do these generously and unconditionally! May we learn to do the same!
May we embrace what we believe by living out and modeling our credo’s message. We believe in children, the most precious, natural resource present on the planet, even as we believe in ourselves.
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“My husband and I know that we made the right choice in our child’s preschool and we are reminded of it every day. When she was three and her baby sister hit her, our preschooler put out her hands and instead of hitting she said, “PLEASE STOP” just like she had been taught during Peace lessons at SWTS, we knew we had made the right decision. When her teachers expect her to look them in the eye when saying goodbye and when they tell her that they love her, we know. When we see our child’s enthusiasm while talking about the Continents or Photosynthesis or the Earth, we know we made the right decision. We know when we see honesty, responsibility, respect, and compassion modeled for her every day by her teachers. When we see the spring in her step and the smile on her face as she enters or leaves preschool, we know we made the right decision. When her teachers talk about her with pride on their faces and tears of joy in their eyes, we are certain that we made the right decision. Our once shy and timid child has grown into an outgoing and confident child that is without a doubt ready for kindergarten in every way. We are so grateful for all of the love and nurturing that our oldest child has been given at SWTS and we will entrust them with our youngest child next year without a moments’ hesitation.”
~ SWTS parent comment
Our main purpose is to inspire, to enthuse, to create, to participate, to share, to ennoble, to grow, to mentor, to welcome the unexpected, to celebrate life!