At CCDS, we embrace the whole child and each of their uniquely developing gifts. Their emotional, social, physical, cognitive and artistic selves are all intimately bound together and influence how each child experiences life at school. Our teachers are just as delighted when a child makes the powerful leap toward reading as when she learns how to be a good friend and offer help when needed. We value equally the moments when, after struggling, a child can finally skip freely around the rooftop playground or draw his first wobbly circle. We are moved by the child who develops enough trust to separate from his parents in the first days of school. We are thrilled by the potential of the creative process; the pictures that are painted, the clay that is molded, the first brief stories that are written and the sound of young voices joined in cheerful song.
Teaching takes place at CCDS with a developmentally-based awareness of the differences in each age we serve. The importance of understanding the developmental process is vital. We do not put children in conflict with what is appropriate for their age. Instead, we allow children to experience the successes they need to grow and thrive. Put simply, we understand the developmental needs of a two-year-old. We do not expect two-year-olds to do what is appropriate for a three-, four- or five-year-old. To ask a two-year-old to share a beloved toy when his developmental need is to fiercely possess that toy, is a proposition unlikely to succeed. To ask a four-year-old to learn multiplication tables when her concept of number is still forming is irresponsible.
Our teachers are professionals in the most profound sense. Their work grows from a deep commitment to children, from ongoing personal learning in CCDS’s dynamic teaching environment, and from intense exposure to strong professional development programs. As educators, we seek opportunities outside of the school setting to learn and grow ourselves. It is our professional responsibility to become experts in the nascent field of child development, and to apply that expertise in the classroom. As professionals, we know that children who are well supported by the adults around them exceed beyond all expectation. Our collaboration with parents is fundamental to our ability to teach children. Together we create the optimal understanding that allows us to fully develop each child’s unique talents.
At CCDS, our teachers create classrooms that are uniquely designed to meet children’s active and comprehensive needs throughout each thoughtfully structured day. The physical aspects of the teaching environment itself are extremely important. We fill our classrooms with projects and materials that motivate children’s natural desire to discover, invent and learn. The kinds and variety of learning materials, the opportunity for open-ended play, the use of space, the carefully chosen projects, the overall feel of light, sound, and color, all have an impact on a child’s ability to learn optimally.
The way a school structures a child’s day reflects its most fundamental educational beliefs. Fine teachers know that children learn best in classroom environments where they feel safe and which promote respect for and responsibility to others. At CCDS, we give our children ample opportunity for uninterrupted play. The “gift of time” should not be underestimated. If given time to make their own choices, children express and define who they are in the world. Their choice of activities and friends, their ability to become deeply engaged in something, all shine light on the path for teachers to do their best work. By observing how each child uses her time, teachers gain valuable information about her classroom needs. We create classroom environments in which a child has the privacy to make his own path, yet begins to understand the meaning of being part of a group. We believe that learning is a two-way process that is both child-initiated and teacher or circumstance inspired. Teachers are as invested in planning for the unfolding events of the day as they are in “being in the moment” to embrace a spontaneous learning opportunity.
Teaching children is a fundamentally hopeful process; stirred by dreams of a connected and informed future in which we all realize that the experiences of one child, can deeply affect the future of another child, here or across a continent.
Small moments have potential to make a big difference—the two-year-old learning to hold a pencil may someday be the surgeon who saves the life of the child sitting next to her. The three-year-old learning to put another child’s needs before his may someday be the caring husband, friend or neighbor. The four-year-old who is building a skyscraper out of blocks with his friends may someday be the ambassador who negotiates a peace accord for the U.N. The five-year-old who is enthusiastically spelling her first words may write the book that will open minds and bring understanding among peoples of different worlds.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to teach the young children who come to CCDS are very lucky indeed to be part of this process. It is our hope that all children, wherever they live, have the opportunity to benefit from an early childhood school setting with those who care deeply about their future.