Professionalism

Professionalism

Articles Blog


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ (female)
It’s important that we
all continue to grow and learn more in our
professional development. If we all just did what we
learned in our initial college education, we would maybe be
doing things that certainly aren’t aware of where
children’s development is. I knew nothing about
brain development in my college education. You know, it was very limited
information at the time, even when I went
for my graduate work. But you know, now, of course
when you stay up-to-date, and you go to the conferences,
and you do the readings, and you stay informed, then
you’re able to better implement some of that practice. There have been issues that
have come up that weren’t apparent 25 years ago,
cultural diversity issues. English language learners were
not prominent 20 years ago, maybe not even so
much 10 years ago. I think about some of my
training in education, and I had very little background
in diversity and families of cultural backgrounds, yet
that is now one of my passions. But I had to learn about and
seek out that information, and so you need that continuous
professional development. I think it’s so important
that that reflective practice piece is built
within the system, that there are opportunities
where the program leaders can look at their training and
technical assistance calendar or their professional
development calendar and say, “You know what, they have
received training on this, this, this, and this.” After they’ve
had an experience, do we actually loop back
and engage with our staff? Do we do observations to
look at how is this information living in the environment now
that they have received the support or the training? What’s working incredibly well? What are the glow marks,
if you will, that we would really want to
shine and cast a light on? What are the things that seem
to still be challenging us a little bit? Opposed to here’s a training,
here’s a training, here’s a training. (female #2)
I have found,
through coaching, that if a teacher is trained
in a certain strategy and they’re not provided some
kind of coaching support, peer support, if they get
frustrated because they can’t do it,
they’ll stop doing it. [speaking foreign language] (Paula Acree)
And so, when we’re at
our planning meetings, if a teacher states that
they’re having difficulty with a particular strategy
or would like to see that strategy again, I will go
in and do a demo, and then after that, I
always like to go back when the teacher is actually doing
the strategy and provide feedback for them. If they want to see me do
something again, I’ll come right back in
again or we’ll team teach. But if not, they’ll I’ll leave
them alone for a week or two and then I’ll come back again
and just make sure that that strategy is really strong
and they feel really comfortable with it. So, it’s really
knowing each one of your staff, what their needs are,
and how they best learn. So, it’s getting to know
them, and spending the time, and knowing that we’re all
different in how we learn, and to make sure that they
have an opportunity to express first-hand what they
see as areas of need, and then meeting them there. So, continuously developing or
co-developing what they see as their professional
development and asking them, “How can I
support you in that?” I think if I were to add
anything at all in regards to thinking about professional
development is the power of a pause, to be able
to take pause and say, “We have done X
amount of trainings. “Have we ever stepped back
to assess the effectiveness of these trainings, how the
teachers are responding?” Equally important, how are
the children responding. When I look at their
documentation systems, do I see some of those training
elements living in their documentation or are we just
continuing to tick the box to say we provided this training,
we provided that training, we provided this training. I mean, all of them are
kind of really settling in and showing, you know,
their personalities, and being more comfortable,
and so that’s good, you know? They’re getting
to know us more, and we are getting
to know them more. Exactly, yeah. (Senta Greene)
I think it’s incredibly
important for staff members to have a time to meet,
a place to engage, a time to nurture and
honor their talents and their strengths, having the
opportunity to learn something that perhaps you didn’t know
about the person that you share a classroom with. Oh, remember that I
passed my citizenship test? (Senta Greene)
As an early
childhood educator, I’m willing to make that
commitment where I will sit down with you once or twice a
month where we can at least sit and talk about what’s working
really well in our classroom or in your classroom, that maybe
I can be of support to you. (female #3)
Denise leaves off
the beginning sounds and the end sounds. (female #4)
Yes. Okay, so she needs
help with enunciating. And I caught myself
the other day–you know, I’m beginning to
understand her language, so–which is a disadvantage,
because I caught myself not repeating it and having
her repeat it back. Then I called
her back and said, “Wait a minute, Denise.” And she comes back and she kind
of rolled her eyes at me and said, “Uh oh,
she caught me.” (female #4)
And you know what it is with
Denise is she speaks very fast, so you have to tell her,
“Slow down,” and then after it’s,
“Okay, repeat.” (female #5)
One thing that really works
well with our staff is that they’re very comfortable
with each other, they trust each other,
they respect each other, and they’re not afraid
to ask another staff member for support. So, if I know that another
teacher is good at creating room environments,
one of the teachers– all the teachers know that. So, a teacher may say,
“I’m struggling in this area, can you come and show me
or give me some ideas for how I would
move this around?” (female #6)
I think being proactive with
staff and your colleagues about how we’re gonna communicate
is just great groundwork just to ensure that you have
a collaborative environment. (male)
In preparing future
early childhood educators, how do you go about helping
them gain a sense of what it means to be an ethical
ECE professional? (female #4)
We want to help them
understand ethical conduct and what it is to be
a professional. And some ways that
we go about that is, for example, in a beginning
student in a classroom, is we introduce them
to the profession. What does it mean to be
an early childhood teacher? What is an early
childhood teacher? What are all the different
roles that they can take? Most importantly,
it’s an ongoing process. It’s a continuous process. You’re constantly
needing to revisit it. With students, we tend to begin
the topic in an early class, in probably their
introductory class, so that they’re learning
about the concepts and being introduced to the NAEYC
Code of Ethical Conduct, so that by the time they
get into the practicum, they’re actually
experiencing that, and you can practice scenarios,
and get ideas about how that is enforced or
implemented within programs, but it takes
reflective practice. Beginning practitioners need
to think about all of these situations, talk to others. “How do you handle this
kind of a situation?” Without breaching
confidentiality, but by talking about
how you deal with that. What do you do about it? Early childhood
professionals, many times, have decisions to
make about right and wrong, and in working with
children, and families, and their colleagues as well,
they’re presented sometimes with some scenarios where they
have to make a decision and consider usually
two children, or two families’ values, or two sets of
colleagues’ opinions. And if there’s a decision to
be made in terms of right and wrong or finding a win-win,
many times there are gray areas, so early childhood
professionals have to ask questions, probe,
be a good listener, and you know, gather
information so that they can make the right decision. I think that respect is
a critical piece of that topic of illustrating ethical conduct,
and I think that teachers specifically do it individually
with children and with families, and colleagues
need to do it with one another. That listening to one another,
that communication piece is really important,
listening to one another. But being respectful of
differences and different points of view is one way that
we illustrate ethical conduct, I think, on a daily basis. A big part of introducing
people to the field and the profession is just talking
about what this profession is. What do we do? What is an ECE professional? What does it mean to
be a professional? Think about what is your
philosophy about children. How do you teach
young children? How do you approach
young children? Those are all parts
of developing your own professional integrity,
your professional identity. When we think about
developing early childhood educator professionals and we
think about what they need to learn, why is it important
for them to master a specialized body of knowledge
in child development and early childhood? (female #8)
I think there’s
many reasons. One is that knowledge
really helps us to understand children, their
behaviors, their needs, their interests,
their temperaments and potentials
and all these things. And secondly, I think it’s
very important for us–this knowledge supports our practice
to not only just communicating with others and say
why we do what we do. We are a profession because
we have this specialized knowledge about how
our children grow and learn and develop. And so just simply, it’s
important to acknowledge and know it
and then mastering it. The more that we
master and certainly, I don’t think–I think you’d
agree that none of us really here are done learning,
that we’re continuing to learn about our specialized
body of knowledge. So that as we learn
more about child development, then we have appropriate
expectations of children at their various ages, and then
we can respond appropriately. I think one way
that professionals, in the various contexts,
use the body of specialized knowledge is really in
the context of their role, of how they work, who
they’re working with. So, the individual who is
the supporting role is really, in my opinion, focused
on the child and the classroom environment. As you move up and you’re
moving more into the leading role, the planning for and
guiding in the classroom, then you’re expanding
that ecosystem, if you will, and you’re now
working with more families and colleagues, you know,
supervising staff. The program management
role, creating and maintaining policies, then you need
more of the policy and program background and more–again,
you’re building on all the other things, of course,
as you’re going along. So, you need more
interpersonal skills as well, because in that role,
you’re probably supervising a staff of some kind. And when you get to the
advancing the field context, I think that’s where a lot
of it all comes together. You learn about advocacy,
you share that information, you learn about
your role as a mentor, and you’re modeling
that and sharing that. (female #9)
I think a specialized
body of knowledge also helps us contribute to what we often
called multidisciplinary teams when we think about family
support and when we engage with other professionals
from other fields– the medical field, the health
field, social services. I think that recognized body
of knowledge is essential when we participate in
multidisciplinary teams, and it’s also very validating. Indeed, I bring something
to the table that’s important because I have this body
of knowledge that helps us, as a group of professionals,
determine the best strategies for the children
and the families. (Peter Mangione)
One of the things that
strikes me as I’m hearing you all talk about the specialized
body of knowledge and how we use that specialized body of
knowledge depending on our role and the context in which
were working is it’s not a fixed body of knowledge. It’s not something we
learn and then we just have, but it’s something we work
with creatively and adaptively, that we need to adapt our
knowledge to the cultural values of the families
we’re working with. We need, together
with our colleagues, consider the knowledge,
and observe the children, and what are the
children showing us, and how can we learn from
them, and connect our body of knowledge to what the
behaviors are of the children and what children are
engaged in learning, and then how can we adapt
what we know to help them keep learning. So, it’s a very lively
relationship we have with the specialized body of knowledge
when we’re ECE professionals. (female #10)
And I think our body of
knowledge keeps changing, and that’s why our field has
to keep up and do our homework, and keep reading,
and keep learning, and know that we’re
constantly learners. (Desiree Soto)
Every now and then I
hear from a colleague, “Oh no, are we changing that?
Are we doing this differently?” There’s data. This informs our thinking,
and this is why we’re making this change, because here’s
what we’re aiming for. There’s a goal that
we’re trying to attain, so yes, we do continually
change and reflect. It’s a good thing. Well, I think the key
is that it’s ongoing, and we use ongoing professional
development for our teachers, and we ask them to continuously
look at our young children and look at their assessments
and continue to plan ongoing for their growth
and development. I think it’s important for
programs as a whole to also look at ongoing,
continuous improvement. And so what that
means is, first of all, at the administrative level
they have to gather some data that they can
analyze and think about. Then at the program level,
administrators also are thoughtful, intentional about
what they can do for their program, for their teachers,
and their children by providing professional development
or doing an inventory of materials in your classroom. Typically, these continuous
program improvement plans are long-term annual so that you’re
looking at the end of the year, “How did we do on that? Are we better? Where can we
continue to do better?” But it’s the higher level as
well as in the classroom is critical. (female #7)
Another piece of the
administrator’s role in this encouraging self-assessment
and reflective practice is I really think the administrator
needs to take time to be in the classrooms. There needs to be a presence. The administrator
needs to be in there, in the classrooms, observing,
having those conversations, taking that time
for the reflection. “I just saw what
you did, you know? Tell me a little bit more
about why you did it that way?” Just the ongoing process of
doing it is very important. And then I’d suggest
that teachers reflect probably ongoing throughout the day. Because I’m thinking that
when I was in the classroom, and I developed an activity and
provided it with the children, and you know, I was
constantly saying, “Hmm, that didn’t
work,” or “Next time, I’m going to try–” so, you’re
observing and thinking about your role in what’s going on
and how to affect change. What can I do to
make this successful? You know, there’s
always tomorrow. There’s always the next time
you’re gonna be working with young children, and so there’s
kind of this ongoing reflection and thinking, hopefully,
about what you’re doing now for the very next day. So, in the same way that we
prompt young children in their learning, we can do the same
with our staff to get them to think about problems
and pose questions to them so that they’re engaged
in thinking and coming up with ideas and contributing
their thoughts about how to approach something that
perhaps the administrator would like to see changed
in the classroom or in their program. Just the modeling by the
administrator of being open to ideas, asking for input, and
asking for their suggestions about what changes could
occur in their program, that then that’s going
to engage professionals in their thinking. (female #7)
One of the roles
administrators play in supporting staff’s professional
development is providing the resources. It’s not–on the one part,
it’s helping the individual, I think, think about
their career development, but it’s also, what are the
opportunities out there in your community, either that we might
bring in–if somebody goes to a workshop and
there’s somebody local, maybe they can bring them into
the center and do something for parents and staff,
or just for staff. And I will say that
as an administrator, there’s nothing more exciting
than when one of your staff members has participated
in professional development and comes back just thrilled
and energized and full of ideas. And, you know, that’s just
really rewarding as well that you’ve supported
in their learning. And I’ve heard you say,
“Love of learning.” I’ve heard you say,
“It’s so exciting in our field.” We have that excitement because
we’ve experienced all of those opportunities, but that’s why
I think it’s important that, as a program administrator,
that we ensure that our staff members dip into all of those
options so they, too, can get energized and motivated
and excited about our field. ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪

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