One of the most meaningful activities I enjoy in my free time is service to others, and although I regularly attempt to do my part to volunteer at one-day events or donate a small amount to my Charity Of The Month, it has been a couple of years since I have joined a voluntary service which requires regular, long-term commitment where I can really make a lasting impact. So, the past couple of weekends I have attended an extensive training to volunteer as a facilitator at the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in my local community.
What I went into these trainings expecting, versus what I really gained from them have the difference of night and day. I will be educating parents and children from birth to three years of age; like most people, I expected to learn content and techniques on how to best teach fundamentals such as colors, numbers and basic vocabulary. Instead, I learned about holistic child development, parental empowerment, religious formation and how to make a lifelong impact on the families I will be working with every month for the next three years.
It was intimidating at first, but as the days went by and I gained more knowledge and practice, I become more confident and excited for whats to come. Here are just a few of the aspects we discussed in depth which will serve as the basic foundation of our sessions for every class:
- The impact of early childhood education on lifelong development
- Parts of the brain and how the mind functions differently in children than adults
- Developmental milestones, skills and abilities at each age from 0-36 months
- Holistic domains: Physical, Cognitive, Social-Emotional, Language
- Executive functions and the moral life of babies
The research and information on child development, and how to work effectively with parents and children in real-life classroom settings was just a small part of the big picture. Other interesting and mind-opening concepts we discussed included:
- Diversity vs. Pluralism: Diversity is the existence of various religions and cultures within a community. Pluralism takes it a step further and embraces these differences, deeming it necessary for social, economic and political progress from a global perspective.
- Morals, Ethics and Values: What it means to be a good person, show gratitude for small things, showing love and care towards other people regardless of race, gender or background, gaining knowledge of the world around us and using it to bring about positive changes.
- Exploration: Promoting an open-mind from an early age by encouraging the exploration of the physical body and surrounding environment, questioning social constructs rather than avoidance of taboo topics, cognitive acceleration by daily mental health activities and regular skills assessments, and bringing attention to relationships, language and communication from an early age.
These topics are not to be taught directly during the classes; rather, they are to be found within each teaching, reading, and activity both inside and outside of the classroom. We learned to see everyday settings, situations and interactions from a new perspective, and how every single thing that a child experiences in each moment has the ability to make a powerful impact on their development and in the later stages of their life.
Because the training was so extensive, it would be impossible for me to mention all the lessons I’ve learned throughout our many group activities, lesson plan reviews, games, articles, videos, projects and presentations. We even got the opportunity to observe a live session to prepare to handle unexpected situations (but to be honest, all I could focus on was the adorable babies- can you blame me)? What I will leave you with is what touched me the most about this program:
Each individual’s underlying spirituality serving as the foundation for long-term holistic personal development and global socioeconomic growth- and it all starts right when a baby is born.
The decision to partake in this voluntary organization was quite a commitment and more than I initially expected, but I have absolutely no regrets. Having undergone so much personal growth during this training and making some amazing new friends along the way was beyond worth it- I cannot wait to see where this exciting new journey takes me, but I will be sure to keep you all updated!