Reflection is an important part of our work as educators. Taking time to be thoughtful about our experiences helps us to develop more awareness about ourselves, our feelings, and our biases. It also helps us to slow down in the busy days of early learning.
A few weeks ago, the team of Good2Know Network hosted a professional development opportunity with the help of StarVista. In this article, we share some of the information that was shared during the training session to help us gain a better understanding of reflective practice.
What is Reflective Practice?
When we reflect, we consider deeply something that we might not otherwise have given much thought to, especially with the support of a partner or small group. This might mean taking a moment to reflect on an interaction in which you were frustrated or felt your reaction could have been more productive. Reflection is also about reflecting on our successes to learn from them to generate future success.
Reflection helps us to develop self-awareness by being thoughtful about our experiences and feelings to better understand ourselves. Talking through an experience with a trusted partner or group will help us to gain another perspective and fresh insight that we might not have considered on our own.
How do we Reflect?
Reflective practice is less about action and more about thinking and listening. In a reflective space, we take time to think deeply about our experiences, feelings that we noticed, and questions that we might have, such as “why did I feel that way?” or “I wonder why I had that reaction” or “where do I go from here?” We stay curious and open, rather than jumping to conclusions. These moments of reflection help us to grow personally and professionally.
A good starting place for reflective practice is to think about replacing “what” with “why.” This means, rather than thinking about what happened during the day, you might start to think about why things happened (Why was I frustrated? Why did I feel impatient?), rather than simply thinking about what happened.
These conversations are best had with a friend or a small group of trusted colleagues, such as your teaching team. However, if you find yourself having trouble feeling comfortable talking through these reflections, you might start with journaling as a way to describe and reflect on your experiences or ask a good friend from outside of the ECE field to lend an ear.
Reflective Practice in the Early Learning Program
Reflective practice has its challenges. It requires time, which many educators do not feel that they have, and the willingness to be vulnerable and open, which can feel intimidating and uncomfortable. The work of early learning professionals is challenging and often very tiring. Teachers and caregivers work hard in a job that requires patience and a lot of energy.
Because these challenges can make it difficult to incorporate reflection into your teaching practice, it might feel more comfortable to start small. You can start by scheduling lunch once a month with another teacher so that the two of you can reflect and think together, or by journaling once a week during your lunch break. If you are feeling inspired, you can even think about starting a “thinking club” in your program for any educators who are interested in working on this together. Consistently planning this time, in a way that works for you and your program, can help it to feel more manageable.