As childcare educators we want to do our best work, providing great experiences for the children to grow and learn. The profession can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. We are given a great responsibility for others, but how do we take care of ourselves? I think one way to nurture our growing self, and to blossom in our work is through reflective practice.
When researching reflective practice, I found many scholarly texts and business applications available. There are many theories of how to apply reflective practice to our work. As I thought more about reflective practice I had a wondering.
Can we use journaling not only as method to improve our work with children, but also as a way to nurture ourselves?
The Webster’s dictionary defines reflective as thinking carefully about something. The definition for practice is to do something again and again in order to become better at it. If we as teachers take the time to think carefully about our experiences in the classroom I believe we can find some nuggets of wisdom that will keep us happy and fulfilled in our work with children.
I just celebrated 20 years of working with children. My work is primarily in school- age and preschool programs. During most of those years, I never used journaling or reflective practice to gain insight on the work I was doing. I was never aware this method existed, and as I look back having this tool would have been helpful in many situations. By thinking about our thinking---we can open a window into our work and enhance our practice.
As my work progressed and I was introduced to different pedagogies, I decided to start a daily journal. I started the journaling practice to see how the methods we used in our work, affected the interactions of the children. I used this information to gain insights on how we could adjust our work to meet the needs of the children. I experienced moments when I could not find an answer to my questions by observation, which became very apparent when I explored our work through writing.
How can journaling or reflective practice help teachers cope with the challenges of our work? Stress is perceived as overwhelming outside factors, which exert pressure and influence on our behavior. I believe it is caused by our perception of the influence outside factors have on our behavior. How do we change the perception? By looking at it in a different way.
If we take the time to journal a few pages each day about our experiences in our classroom, I believe we will discover the true influences on our feelings. If we write about the day from our perspective, and are honest, we can clear our mind of mental chatter, which keeps us from seeing the real opportunity in front of us. By doing a journaling exercise we can free ourselves from the burden of thinking too much about our experiences. If we open up and free our mind we gain the gift of perspective, which leads to greater happiness, mindfulness and creativity. We gain insight into the situation we are living in this moment, which in reality is not good or bad. How we perceive the situation is what makes it true and the feelings real.
I invite you to try this type of reflective practice and see if it helps you gain more insight into your experiences in your school. The wonderful and giving effort you put forward each day in the care of children.