I won’t give you the moon but I’ll help you build your spaceship.
This is my child development philosophy in a nutshell. Being a perfectionist, I debated endlessly over the wording. Won’t or can’t? Will not or cannot? Can’t implies that if I could give my child the moon, I would do so. That just isn’t accurate. Won’t is a word, or contraction, that you don’t hear very often. It sounds abrasive, rude even. I won’t give you the moon, even if I could. While it almost sounds petty to say that, there is a deeper meaning. Even if I could give her the moon, I wouldn’t. What good would it be to her? Would she appreciate it? Probably not. But if she strives and struggles and reaches for the moon, and I support and encourage her along the way, what then? She’ll feel successful, confident, and proud. She will have truly accomplished something. That’s what I want for my child and the children I work with.
So what does it mean? How does that apply to my school? People familiar with child development may recognize my attitude as similar to Vygotsky’s concept of scaffolding. Vygotsky felt that children could attain quite a bit, if we would just give them the help they needed and no more. Why no more? Too much help can backfire. Some children get the message that they are incompetent or that mommy or daddy can accomplish something better, faster, easier so why bother? When put that way, it almost sounds as though we would do best to sit back and do nothing. Let our children struggle for themselves. But that also sends the wrong message. It says, “I don’t care about your effort, only results.” It leaves children feeling alone and unsupported. It’s tough to find the right balance. To give children just enough help that they feel both challenged and successful, supported and yet independent.
I want children to dream big and to feel loved. Whatever my child decides to do with her life, I will be right there with her, offering support, encouragement, and guidance. If that means I need to brush up on my astrophysics and start building a spaceship with her, I will.
For my preschoolers, it means I will strive to provide an environment that is engaging and challenging. I will use their interests to drive the lesson plans and activities. I will ask for their input and their ideas. I will foster their love of learning.