Mr. Azzur's Classroom
(and various viewpoints on other topics)
Mr. Azzur has been teaching preschoolers for 28 years. His style of teaching has inspired many who have come through his classroom both as students, teachers and family members. What makes Mr. Azzur such an extradentary teacher you might ask? While there are many qualities, one quality that stands out is his ability to empower each child in his classroom.
Mr. Azzur wants the children he teaches to grow up confident, with an amazing sense of self-worth, a whole lot of resilience and respect for others, and the world around them. Mr. Azzur knows that as adults, persistence and tenacity are important traits when facing life’s challenges.
Years of experience and research into child development has taught Mr. Azzur that the children are born with a blank slate. He understands how easy it is for children to become what adults tell them they are. A child who is repeatedly told they are stupid and worthless will believe that is what they are. On the other hand, a child who is nurtured to believe in him or herself, encouraged to take risks and is continually reinforced for their efforts with positive affirmations and respect, will most likely develop a strong belief in him or herself and their capabilities.
In his classroom, Mr. Azzur incorporates several strategies to empower the young minds he influences. One way he accomplishes this task is through the offering of choices. By giving children choices regarding things that relate to them, Mr. Azzur gives the children a sense of control over their environment. Examples of such choices are simple things like what color marker a child wants to color with first. There are no life altering decisions being made here. It is about giving the children choices that matter to them not necessarily the adults in the room.
Not only does Mr. Azzur listen to the children’s opinions but he also notes their moods and listens for what is NOT being said. The children are made to feel that their interests are valuable. Such thoughts and perspectives are incorporated into what is planned in the classroom. Once engaged in these planned activities, the children are allowed the freedom and encouraged to take risks with their play.
Children learn to take risks by being provided the support they are seeking when mistakes occur. Making mistakes has become something many people have come to fear. In this classroom, children learn the opposite. Here children learn that mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning. Children move on from Mr. Azzur’s classroom no longer possessing a fear of failure.
As a caregiver and guide, Mr. Azzur’s goal is to make the most of the time he has the children in his class. Its understood that the opportunity to help shape the minds these young children is something that must be treated with the utmost importance. Mr. Azzur’s appreciates the gravity of this and works every to provide the children in his class the chance to explore and think critically without hesitation
It's my goal to provide something unique and informative with my blog posts. With that in mind, I have decided to try something new with my blog posts. Future blog posts will be based on a fictional classroom called Mr. Azzur's classroom. Hopefully you will be entertained and gain something from the stories based on this fictional classroom.
What is play? As educators of young children, we understand its value. The challenge lies with our families understanding of the concept. We know that play is a child’s means of developing an understanding of their world.
Our families have a quite unique perspective on play. That makes sense. Parents view their primary responsibility as taking care of a child’s needs and keeping them safe from harm.
All of us want validation for our efforts. That is why it is necessary to help families to see their child’s play for the meaningful part it plays in a child’s development. It is then that we gain the validation being sought .
It is my goal with my blogs to give those in the field continue to evolve as educators. With all that is going in the world regarding race and culture, I feel the question starting this blog post is more important now more than ever to ask ourselves. We must remember that is the means with which children process their world.
Saying that, how will we support cultural diversity in children?
One way that we can accomplish this simple: self-reflection. Regularly reviewing how we interact with our children and families helps us to determine the strength of our relationships with them. We must reflection on how our own culture affects the decisions we make and the perceptions. These perceptions influence how we form relationships with our children and families.
Why is that educators feel the need to change their teaching practices to meet unrealistic expectations?
I recently read an article about the surgeon general of California. She is advocating for all children entering elementary school to be assessed for signs of trauma. In her time as a physician Dr. Nadine Burke Harris has seen countless children with a variety of illnesses. While it could be easy enough to write a prescription then send the children and their families off without any in depth thought as to the cause of the illnesses, she did more.
Dr. Harris took the time to figure what emotional toll the children she is seeing may be enduring. As a result of her research, Dr. Harris discovered that many of the illnesses she was seeing in the children coming to her clinic were suffering from conditions brought by trauma. These children couldn’t simply be fixed with a shot or pill. There was much more needed to help these children get to point where they could be considered well.
It makes no difference what age a child is when they encounter a situation that involves a high level of stress. The results are the same in all cases. Children lack the ability to adequately develop fundamental social-emotional skills. When a child isn’t sure where they are going to sleep from one night to the next or when they will see one of their parents next, it’s hard to focus on what is being pushed down on them by those not taking the children’s needs in to account.
When children in these situations lack adults who are responsive their needs, stress level climbs to overwhelming level that are likely to remain that way long-term. As a result, the likelihood of developmental delays, learning problems, and behavioral problems these children is much greater. All of this leads to a slew of various behavioral challenges that early childhood staff may observe.
Now what? First, take the time to really get know the children in your care. The better you know the children, the easier it will be notice atypical behavior vs typical behavior. Second, look beyond the behavior of the child for what may be the real source of their actions. Once enough information has been gathered, it will be time to process what you have observed. You may find that the next step involves reaching out to experts with the expertise on how to work with children who have endured trauma.
As educators, our role is only part of what molds a child’s development. The children’s families bring the other half necessary to balancing their development. I feel that the value of the relationship with the families tends to be undervalued until a situation where a serious conversation needs to be had occurs. That is why I stress the importance of building a relationship with a child’s family. The stronger your connection to the children’s families the more cooperative the families will likely be when pursuing additional resources necessary to meet a child’s needs.
We must remember that children are just as vulnerable to stress and its affects as the adults around them. Children will not simply “brush it off” and move with their lives. Pain is still pain no matter if one is ignorant of what pain is or what is causing the pain. What may appear to be a sick child or a child with behaviors beyond your control may instead be a child who is succumbing to overwhelming stress .
Emotions are a tricky concept to understand, manage and work through. Learning how to take what we feel and process those feelings in an emotionally healthy way takes time and practice. The take away here are the concepts of TIME and PRACTICE. Time and practice are what differentiates self-control and self-regulation. What often complicates is that many times self-control and self-regulation are often confused with one another.
Self-control focuses on the ability to control oneself, specifically heightened emotions and desires when it would be so easy to act on especially in difficult situation. While it is important for a child to learn to keep feelings such as anger controlled; the results is only half of what needs to be done is accomplished. The alternative is for these emotions to be simply tucked away in the back of a child’s mind until a point when the child in question erupts like a volcano.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that emotions are dealt with they are simply buried away with the hope of never having to be dealt with directly. This is doesn’t lead to an emotionally intelligent adult...ever! That is self-regulation skills are so important.
In the end, a child who is feeling that sense of anger needs to learn to find a way to calm themselves down on their own. In this senario, a child has learned to get a handle on their emotions and can hopefully resist doing something like punch one of their classmates. The child no longer needs the adults around them telling them how to behave. Self-regulation skills have been learned instead of expecting the child to control their emotions.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you are on a trip. Some friends, a family etc. are going away for a weekend, a week, two weeks. They can get to where you are going by car. There is not need to fly. So the days comes for everyone to get into their cars and head to where they are going to spend your vacation.
The group is almost at the destination when they realize that the bridge leading to their set destination isn’t complete. How are they going to get to vacation spot destination if they can’t across to the other side?
Sadly, the group is now separated from where they want to be. How could this of happened. It is eventually discovered that those involved in building that bridge have not come together to do so. This unfortunately prevents the from reaching their destination.
Now take this story and make a child the subject of the story. In this scenario; the individuals who didn’t complete the bridge are the child’s teachers and parents. The results of which can be much more serious than someone not reaching their vacation destination.
Family engagement/partnership is more than getting families to show up at their child’s school. It’s about getting families to want to open up and have interest in getting to know their child’s teachers. When this happens, the possibilities for a child’s success become endless.
For many people, craft stores are a means to support their creative nature and hobbies. When someone is creating a craft, there is often a set image that the person working on the craft has in mind. In an instance such as this, having a specific finished “product” in mind makes sense. There is a specific goal one is hoping to achieve. Where this scenario doesn’t make sense is when children are engaged in play. Both scenarios involve a person engaged in something that they find enjoyable. What’s different is that children don’t engage in play with a specific goal in mind.
Here is another way to look at this concept. How often have you or someone you know tried to create something seen on television,YouTube, etc. How about trying to cook something with the hopes that what is being made will look like it’s seen on the cooking show, YouTube video or website? How do you feel when it doesn’t come out the way you expected? Now change your expectations. Instead of trying to recreate things to resemble an exact replica, you were flexible with your expectations.
When children are pushed to simply copy whatever a teacher created for a lesson, the level of higher-order thinking and creativity is non-existent. In place of open-ended engagement, we get children who become automated shells whose lose their potential over time. By engaging in “product-based”, the next generation of innovators are in danger of becoming extinct. It’s time for many educators to come out of their comfort zone and encourage a more process-based, thought-provoking learning environment.