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Success Stories

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Success Stories
Gale Cruise

North Carolina Partnership for Children

The North Carolina Partnership for Children (Smart Start) is a public-private early childhood initiative designed to help all North Carolina children enter school healthy and ready to succeed. Its unique, comprehensive approach allows communities to make decisions and plans that are specific to the needs of young children and families. Gale Cruise, Executive Director of Stokes County Partnership for Children, Walnut Cove, North Carolina, shared her thoughts on what qualities were important for an effective teacher.

“Quality teaching and exciting learning do not just happen. Rich, interactive learning activities must be planned. How a teacher structures the learning environment positively or negatively effects learning in his or her classroom.”

“Children need the opportunity to explore a concept or set of materials before being guided through a lesson. A safe, inviting, learning environment sets the stage for learning. There needs to be a connection between teacher and student—actually responding to one another. Everyone, teacher and students, must feel good about the learning process. The learning process should be fun as well as educational. Tailoring a teaching strategy to the particular students involved and to the nature of the material utilized improves learning. Learning is a way of expanding their horizons and creating a path towards growth and development.”

Interactive learning allows students to:

  • Encounter new problems or opportunities from which to learn
  • Listen and observe
  • Research, explore, investigate and collect information
  • Absorb ideas at their own pace and to digest them thoroughly before acting on them or making decisions
  • Become involved in the learning process

Using discovery learning creates opportunities for teachers to learn how their students’ minds work. Teachers can then apply these insights to set up appropriate learning situations and facilitate students’ pursuit of knowledge.

Teachers learn:

  • When to provide a nudge
  • What hints to give each particular student
  • What not to tell students (not to give away the answer)
  • How to read student behaviors as they work through challenges and how to design meaningful learning situations that take those behaviors into account
  • How to help students use mistakes constructively
  • How to guide students so that giving them control of their explorations does not mean losing control of the classroom

Effective teaching should include allowing children time to examine a concept being presented, an explanation of the task expected, encouragement of the trial and error process, modeling of expected student behavior and giving teacher help and support when needed.

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