Ideas: On Becoming a Reflective Educator

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“The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”-Maria Montessori 

For reflective educators, reflection is an ongoing process of closely observing and studying the significance of children’s unfolding activities. Rather than just following preplanned lessons and strategies, reflective teachers consider what they know about the children in their group and about child development theory to better understand and delight in what happens in the classroom.

Reflection allows teachers to make effective, meaningful decisions about how to respond to and plan for children. It keeps them excited about their work. I feel reflection in teaching is a process… it is one thing to talk about reflective teaching, but quite another to practice it. 

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“The teacher must derive not only the capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena. The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer: the activity must lie in the phenomenon.” -Maria Montessori

Here are six areas to consider (with sample questions) to get started in using a thinking lens to become a more reflective teacher.

1. Know yourself. What captures my attention as the children engage, explore, and talk with each other and with me? What delights me as I watch and listen? How might my background and values influence how I respond to the children?

2. Find the details that touch your heart and mind. What do I notice in the children’s faces and actions? Where do I see examples of children’s strengths and abilities? What are the children learning from this experience?

3. Seek the child’s perspective. What is the child drawn to and excited about? What might the child be trying to accomplish? Why might the child be talking to and playing with others this way? What ideas might the child be exploring?

4. Examine the physical and social-emotional environment. How do schedules, routines, the physical space, and materials support or limit the children’s play? What changes or additions to the space or materials would help to strengthen children’s relationships? How do schedules and routines influence this experience?

5. Explore multiple points of view. How might the child’s culture and family background be influencing this situation? What questions could I ask the child’s family? What other perspectives should I consider? What child development or early learning theories apply to this experience? How does this child’s play (or other activity) demonstrate desired early learning outcomes or standards?

6. Consider opportunities and possibilities for next steps. What values, philosophy, and desired outcomes do I want to influence my response? What new or existing relationships could be strengthened? Which learning goals could be addressed? What other materials and activities could be offered to build on this experience? What new vocabulary can teachers introduce?

Reference: The Thinking Lens is adapted, with permission, from M. Carter and D. Curtis, The Visionary Director: A Handbook for Dreaming, Organizing, and Improvising in Your Center (St. Paul, MN: Redleaf, 2009), 359.

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