Since I don’t have children of my own, nor have I worked with them in a childcare setting, I am truly enjoying my Early Childhood Education (ECE) class.

On the first day of class, the instructor told us that even if none of us decided to work with children, we would still gain much from the class that we could apply in our day to day lives in some way. Yes, I feel that my windows of perception are already opening wider; at the same time, I am revisiting my own childhood experiences in a new way.

During our last class, we got into discussion about how sometimes teachers meddle in a child’s self directed learning, where they should really allow them to explore without disruption or redirection where it’s not called for. Our instructor had an example of her little girl. She was dropping her off at day care and was chatting with the teacher when the little girl went in the direction of the blocks and began playing with them. The teacher then said something to the little girl along the lines of, “honey, why don’t you go play in the dolly corner.” Since the teacher is a source of authority and the little girl didn’t think to say she’d rather play with blocks, she went to the doll corner as was suggested. Our instructor bit her tongue, after all, she must respect the teacher’s classroom. She told us that her little girl didn’t look like she was playing and was just going through the motions to please the teacher. She probably would have been interested and engaged in real play had the teacher not interfered with her choice to play with the blocks.

Another story that a student shared caught my attention. She is a nanny for a five year old boy. The boy’s father is in the construction business and most of the boy’s toys consist of big construction trucks and tools and such. One day the boy said to her in a way that demonstrated his long sought desire, “I just want to be a princess.” She told him that she would bring him a princess outfit next time. Later when she was leaving she spoke to the mother in private and told her what her son requested and that she felt that it was important to honor his request and that she was going to buy him a princess outfit and bring it next time. The mother agreed. The nanny knew she would have a challenge with the father, but she was adamant in fulfilling this boy’s want. She took the father aside and put it right out there and assured him that this didn’t mean his son was gay. Yes, how sad, that this convinced the father, but those were his fears. He also agreed. So, the little boy was allowed to play out the side of him that was tired of playing with trucks and wanted just to be a princess.

I admire this student very much for being able to know the best thing to do for the child and to be able to constructively communicate this to the parents. The boy was thrilled, of course, when she presented him with a princess outfit.

I also learned that it is not uncommon for preschool aged boys to come to school in girls dresses. I applaud the parents that are comfortable enough to allow it, and of course this may be more common in certain cities that are more liberal and open minded. Another student that worked in a preschool said that one of the other kids asked her why another kid was wearing a dress. She said that’s what he wanted to wear and he likes it.

These examples make me think of countless children who are pushed in directions they may not be interested in for the sake of the caregivers and teachers; and, of course, parents are guilty of this too. It makes me think of how even though we’ve come so far as a society, there are certain behaviors that are ingrained on our minds and we act without thinking: what is good for the child? What do they want? What are their interests? What is the best way to respond?

So many things to consider and reflect upon.