Tutor as a profession of the future
Maria Chernykh, Preschool Teacher of the Nursery School-Kindergarten №44 of Orsha (Belarus)
It’s morning. I drink a cup of my favorite coffee and keep glancing at my watch while getting ready to work. Today is an ordinary day. It is a warm dry autumn outside. I come to my class and wait for my cheerful, noisy, playful, naughty, but such lovely kids. They are the ones who make each of my working days unique and special. They say a person can be called happy if they go to work with pleasure in the morning and return home with a good mood in the evening. Well, I am a happy person then! I am a preschool teacher.
My kids are children of the new generation. They are smart and talented. They are the children of the gadget and smartphone generation, they have not yet learned to read and count, yet they perfectly know how to use their parents’ phones and the most interesting and exciting game for them is the Internet.
Once a mom could not calm down her two-year-old son while in the bus. The child was crying and fidgeting, drawing the passengers’ attention. Suddenly, the mom gave the child her phone and turned on a children's song with pictures. The child calmed down, began to smile and for the rest of the trip no one was disturbed. So, these are our modern children! And I understand them.
I remember quite well the first computer in our family. It was a real event for us when they brought it. Since then this fascinating computer world with its music and live pictures has become for me an indispensable assistant, friend and part of my life.
The 21st century is the century of technology development and global computerization. Electronic terminals, cards, TV sets, computers, laptops, smartphones are everywhere around us. Can any of us imagine spending at least one day without them? The answer is definite: no, we can’t! Computer science has firmly penetrated into our lives.
I am a tutor of the “Computer Science Unplugged” project and I am proud of it (by the way, I heard this word for the first time during the project) and know for sure that being a tutor is a profession of the future.
And now let’s remember our first encounter with a computer, smartphone or tablet. You take it in your hands and you do not know what to do with it. What if you press the wrong button or enter the wrong password! Was it scary? Well, children feel the same when they face something new and incomprehensible.
Many scientists and teachers talk about introducing children to the basics of computer science starting from preschool age. They point out that through the game it is possible to solve important tasks of child development, including the development of logical thinking that is necessary for consequent studying of computer science. But if we give our children access to the computer from preschool age, can we then talk about bringing up healthy kids?
My task as a teacher is to bring up healthy children and allow for their success later at school. So, when at the teaching staff meeting the head of our institution told us about the launch of the pilot project for preschool children “Computer Science Unplugged”, I knew for sure I had to participate in it.
What were my first steps in the project? Well, they were faltering. After all, new things are always exciting and raise a lot of questions. Each question as a separate puzzle was placed in my head, but unfortunately there were no definite and precise answers to them.
And here is where the Internet helped me. With the help of Internet resources, I first learned what the Scratch programming environment is, I got acquainted with the basics of teaching kids to code with Scratch.
Participating in a workshop conducted by the High-Tech Park on the implementation of the “Computer Science Unplugged” project, the curriculum and methodological recommendations for its practical implementation helped me to put all the puzzles together. The picture was finally completed.
Seneca the Younger used to say: “Take the first step and you will see that everything is not so bad.” So true! The first step was followed by the second, the third, etc. This is how my work in the project “Computer Science Unplugged” began.
The primary place in preschoolers’ development is taken by the family. Individual conversations and parent-teacher meetings helped to draw parents’ attention to the project and consequently 30 boys and girls of older preschool age became its participants.
That’s when the first lessons began. Looking at children’s faces, I really wanted to see more smiles and eyes full of curiosity. They are all amazing and so different – joyful and serious, energetic and calm, talkative and quiet. Each child is unique like a star in the Universe and they shine differently as well.
People want to create for children and if it resonates in their hearts, it is true happiness. We were especially happy to see children’s delight when they put on T-shirts with the project logo…
Aristotle said: “Knowledge begins with surprise.” How much surprise caused children's backpacks, badges, diaries the HTP gave the project participants! I thought: “It turned out to be a real surprise.”
The preschool world is a special world following its own rules. The ability to turn a child’s activity into something pleasant, amazing, exciting, new and useful at every single moment is my main goal as a teacher. Therefore, in the process of working with children I try to find an unusual approach to the organization and conduct of my classes.
Each class for children becomes a fairy tale, a story, a plot of a children's movie. Try to explain true and false statements to them. Would you find it complicated? Well, but the kitten Umnyasha can help you with this as the kids will not only eagerly play with this character but also will help it complete all the tasks.
During each class I try to teach children to be independent and active, therefore I give children freedom of choice, not offering them ready-made solutions but rather activating all their resources for them to find their own solutions. Through trial and error each kid learns about the surrounding world and draws conclusions helping us – adults – find weaknesses in the project.
For instance, during the class "Preparation for the introduction of the concepts of ‘true’ and ‘false’" the chicken from the ‘Right Way’ game came to an empty cell instead of its house so the children said: ‘This way is the wrong one.’ However, Dasha who was carefully examining her card suddenly said: “The chicken will find its home if we add cells to the path.” So she quickly counted the right number of cells quietly whispering: “Poor chicken. Its mom is waiting at home.” After analyzing the situation, a tree appeared in the empty cell.
One wise man said: ‘Do not be afraid of making mistakes, be afraid of inaction.’ These words have become like a mantra during the project. And even though my teaching experience is quite short, I’m surrounded by professionals who help me add to my teaching methods.
What does participation in the project give me? It makes me an active person and gives me the opportunity to confidently climb my ladder of success. I already confidently stand on the first step. Being new to the profession I have been invited to participate in the ‘Computer Science Unplugged’ project. Isn’t it success? Gaining teaching experience, communicating with colleagues from other educational institutions, obtaining new knowledge – these things raise my experience level and help me form my own teaching style.
If anyone thinks that working on the project is quite simple, that is certainly not the case.
Firstly, the project requires a lot of extra time since I have to combine this work with my main responsibilities.
Secondly, as the topics of the project are new, each lesson requires the teacher to have additional knowledge on the topic, produce a great number of extra props and think over their use during the class.
Parents are like a bridge between children and teachers. Scientific research shows that parents account for 70% of the child’s future self. What reaction did I face at the very beginning of the project? Well, it was misunderstanding and lack of support from parents. Many families spoke out negatively about getting children acquainted with computer science at preschool age. ‘Why does my child need computer science?’ this was the question I kept hearing. Parents believe the primary task is to prepare the child for school – teach him to read and write – the rest they’ll learn at school.
Regular meetings, information leaflets, presentations, conversations, online materials have helped change the views of many parents on the modern child. Parents particularly were impressed by the meeting with the representatives of the High-Tech Park and the presentation of a class in the public educational institution ‘Nursery Kindergarten № 44 of Orsha’ .
Today parents support my work, but every time I meet them I see the question in their eyes: ‘What’s next?’
So, what’s next? Let’s try to predict it. Sure, new interesting and exciting activities with children are to come. After all, we have just begun our unforgettable and fun journey into the world of computer science. Together with the kitten Umnyasha we will play interesting games, do good, learn a lot of new things. Parents will turn from pessimistic observers into active helpers. They will be proud of their children having become participants of such an interesting and useful project. Tutors will become true professionals. We will definitely have new teachers with similar ideas and the desire to become part of the project. I hope it’ll come true.