The Influence of Early Education

My identity is bound within two major life experiences that have equal importance to me. I entered into the field of early care and education with a complete beginner’s mind, and continued in the field because I realized that through my studies here I could choose the kind of person I wanted to be, and the type of role model I wanted to present to the world. Working with children urged me to dig deep into my understanding of human development, and the factors that shape the people we become. Children’s curiosity and questioning allowed me to pinpoint the origins of my own beliefs. When this occurred, I examined those beliefs to see if they are based in fact or in the reality formulated by my unconsciously selected thoughts. One of the greatest gifts early education has given me is the tool of continual self-evaluation, and the knowledge that there is no ultimate goal to learning and to our life paths; it is the process itself and the milestones we reach along the way that define our experience and determine our state of wellbeing. This area of discipline that I chose to pursue made me aware of developmentally appropriate practice, and opened my eyes to the fact that it is never too late to return to our roots and reshape the perspectives we claim. I continue to treat my thoughts the way I would an eager toddler, applying crucial principles of early education in my adult life, using a strengths-based approach to accomplish my elected tasks. The ideas I offer delve into the well-researched concepts of high quality curriculum development for young children that I carefully considered as I used them to raise myself from emotional childhood. But the tale begins decades before I had ever set foot in a preschool classroom….  

When I was eleven years old I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder—type 1 diabetes—that took my grandfather’s life when my father was only eleven years old. The confusion and anger and fear that I permitted to envelop me painted my world in shades of black and white. There was no happiness for me when I felt that life was the ultimate gamble. The hand I felt I had been dealt had nothing to do with fairness, with earning good health or fortune; to ease cognitive dissonance, I decided to tell myself that I must have been punished for simply existing. Up until that age, I had learned that you get what you deserve, that the effort you put forth is rewarded and the lack of effort comes with negative consequences. Because this model of thinking was not sustainable for me in light of my circumstances, particularly because I had always followed the rules, made good grades, etc., I toyed with the idea of karma; I must have unknowingly done something terrible, I told myself, to bring on this diagnosis. My body, after all, literally attacked itself—what I recognize now as a grand metaphor for the human emotional struggle. I felt helpless as the last of my childhood joy slipped through my open hands, and I halted my personal, spiritual, and physical growth. For years I battled with eating and anxiety disorders, depression, and a chronic illness that I had little motivation to manage. With family and community support I endured, taking one painful step at a time until, with nothing to lose, I took a leap of faith into a field I knew nothing about, a field that excited me not at all but that became part of my unanticipated salvation. The concepts I present serve as a guidebook for how I chose to reeducate myself so that I could develop an alternate perspective on what it means to be alive. I tell the continued story of my healing, in hopes that it will be useful to others choosing to suffer as I have. My story is one of a peaceful warrior, the warrior that is undeniably part of every soul. It is the story of the resilient bird that nests and sings even as the weather turns cold and bitter, because it instinctively understands that first light will always arrive and present us with an endless array of opportunities. What I offer is a structure for teaching the child within each of us how to grow to be strong, tenacious, and how to pull apart inevitable pain from voluntary suffering. I invite you to set aside what you think you know and return to your inherent human curiosity; even now, you may be surprised at what you discover.