Building Place Identity


For many years, I researched the intersection of development and environments. Currently my research has evolved into studying the emotional lives of early childhood educators. I see connections between environments and the emotional lives of early childhood educators through the concept of building place identity. What is Place Identity?

For me, it is the impact of place in forming how we see children and ourselves.

How do our environments/place impact our sense of sense of self?

In interviewing early childhood educators about their experiences, I am finding that place plays a significant role in how an individual sees oneself in early childhood settings.

The early childhood environment, especially in formalized early childhood program settings, lifts or lowers early childhood educators’ perceptions of themselves.

Environments viewing early childhood educators as capable and competent foster those values in both educators and children. The act of co-learning applies as much to adult-adult relationships---among educators and between administrators and educators---as it does with children in the classroom. The more the program celebrates capabilities, the more the classroom fosters meaningful interactions.

Place Identity forms around the intertwined and collected values of the early childhood education program. Positive place identity reinforces the collective identity of early childhood educators and centers. When reciprocal relationships occur within early childhood environments, reflective practice thrives through collaboration. A feedback loop of positive interactions builds on itself, creating healthy, resilient programs.

What happens when Place Identity is destabilized? Without aligned values between the administrators and the early childhood educators, programs lack consistency. The consistency of values leads to tension both in the program and in the classroom. Once tension occurs programs become unbalanced, and the flow of support between educators and administrators looses authenticity. Once authenticity is lost, early childhood educators start to become unhappy in their work, leading to turnover and the destabilization of the larger program. The Place Identity shifts, and environments become unhealthy and unproductive for children and educators.

Creating and sustaining positive Place Identity becomes a foundation of supporting reflective practice and emotional health. Healthy and resilient early childhood educators are the corner stone of co-learning in the classroom, where educators are fully present in the lives of young children. Empowered, engaged early childhood educators are the professional leaders of our field.

How do you reflect on Place Identity in your practice?