As Early Childhood professionals, we need to be constantly looking ahead and staying ahead. Research continues to provide new insight into the growth and development of young children. This, in turn, impacts how we can best approach caring for and teaching them.
Oftentimes, working in the profession for a number of years creates a plateau in practice, enthusiasm, and willingness to try new things. Providers become comfortable with the usual daily routines.The predictability and rhythm of what happens day to day soon leads to an almost mechanical approach.
This is done on Mondays, that is done onTuesdays, there is this holiday in November and that one in December.
Intentionality in planning gets pushed to the side in favor of doing what has become automatic. But, what is this toxic “autopilot” doing to the program, the children, and even the teachers?
Just because something was a good idea once, doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a good idea for every group of children year after year. Each time we get a new group… or new children join the group, there is a new dynamic, a new set of individual differences, temperaments, energy levels, and interests.
Observant and child-directed teaching demands that we take all of this into consideration when planning learning experiences and providing materials for children. To do otherwise is not meeting their needs on many levels... and teachers will begin to see troublesome consequences they have actually caused themselves…inattention, misbehavior, and stagnating skill development.
And what about the teachers? Their work experience becomes a mundane string of mindless days that deteriorate their morale, creativity,and professionalism.
How does this happen? It can be a number of things, but the more important question here is how do we stop it…or better yet,how do we prevent it from happening in the first place?
Early care and education providers need to understand what it means to be a professional. A good place to start is by reading the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct... to learn our responsibilities to young children, to our co-workers, employers, families, and to the community.
The next step is to set some short and long-term goals. These might include doing some observations in the classroom to determine the children’s skill levels and interests. Then, appropriate and meaningful activities can be planned and carried out. Another goal might be to search the Internet for new activity ideas or to network with other teachers.
Another productive short-term goal is conducting a self-study of one’s own practice and teaching environment or ask a co-worker to observe you. Hopefully, this was done as part of the CDA process, but it is a good idea to repeat it periodically to make sure things are still on the up and up and aren’t on a backslide.
And, what about continuing the practice of asking families for their feedback? This should be done at least once a year. Their input provides good insight into how things are going from others’ perspectives.
What about long term goals? Well, we can use what we learn from our short-term goals to move onto these. Don’t be afraid to dream about the future in our profession. It may take you out of your comfort zone, but as the saying goes, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” Think about taking those classes, earning that credential, certification, or degree. Do something for YOU that will ultimately benefit young children and their families.
Finally, share your goals with someone else. Choose someone who will cheer you on, motivate you, and hold you accountable to make things happen. Maybe you and a co-worker can help each other in this regard, so you’ll both reach goals to be proud of!