A part of looking forward or looking back at the past year involves looking at our practice. Our beliefs as an educator influence the way we function in the classroom. Our practice, the ideas and philosophies educators hold dear represent the backbone of our actions when working with children. When reflecting on the year ahead or behind---do we as educators consider that our beliefs about early childhood education have changed or been influenced by the things we read, hear, or experience in the classroom?
What influences our beliefs about education? A few common themes survive in the education world and represent the standards by which all educators motivate themselves.
One theory exists that educator's beliefs are influenced by what the educator experienced as a student. The theory says that your educational experience, the philosophy your teachers employed to educate you, lives inside of you and guides your practice in a powerful way. Is your practice influenced by your educational experiences as a child?
Another theory suggests that educators teach in a similar method as the instruction experienced during training a theory that states the method and the mannerisms of your mentor directly influence your practice. On Education.com an article by Heather Davis and Carey Andrzejewski called “Teachers Beliefs” talks about the “Apprenticeship of Observation”. The article describes in detail “The phenomenon that the majority of teachers teach similarly to their own teachers”. This belief will embody the practice for educators that train in a specific philosophy like Montessori or Waldorf. Does this statement hold true for all educators?
Some educators practice based on an “I Believe” or mission statement created during their education or during the first few years of work in the classroom. Their beliefs, work, and actions follow a pattern of practice and observation. These educators learn more through action and develop a philosophy and beliefs of what constitutes good for children over time.
Other educators experience cultural influences that guide their beliefs. These educators grew up in a specific culture that features specific customs and practices. These educators not only employ their skills as a practitioner but also take into consideration the unique customs of the population they serve. These customs produce comfort and community for the participants and represent important issues to consider when serving diverse populations and therefore induce a great influence on beliefs. All educators practice in this way because at some point in our career our practice will modify to adapt to changes in students, parents, and society.
No matter what your beliefs represent or the origin of the beliefs reflection is important as an educator. Take some time and look at your beliefs about education. The method and lens that inform the examination equals a personal choice. A quote from the article “Teachers Beliefs talks about the practice well stating, “Teachers beliefs can be thought of as guiding principals teachers hold to be true that serve as lenses through which new experiences can be understood.” I would encourage all educators to claim some time as a new season of teaching commences to look at your practice and reflect on how your work serves the children and families in your care. If areas exist that need improvement, direct time to try new methods and practices that will enhance and grow the learning community in your sphere of influence. Early childhood education embodies hard emotional labor but educators can rise up and influence the next great educator of the future.
When should educators examine our educational beliefs?
Is our examination an ongoing process?