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3.7: What?

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    What does that mean? 

    Like most fields, early childhood has terminology that it is helpful to know. Here is a “starter” list to get you started:

    • ECE (Early Childhood Education) and CD (Child Development): often used interchangeably to reflect the science and study of how young children develop and learn.
    • Chronological: actual age of a child (or adult) based on their date of birth.
    • Program, Site, Center, School: all terms used to reflect early childhood educational locations.
    • Pre-K (Pre-Kindergarten and T-K (Transitional-Kindergarten): programs for children the year before they begin kindergarten.
    • Teacher: a person who facilitates learning. Sometimes used as a specific label based on educational criteria and other times used more broadly to include all people in a child’s life who facilitate that child’s development and learning.
    • Reflection: a growth mindset focusing on divergent thinking and analysis.
    • Divergent thinking; brainstorming or broadly thinking of many solutions
    • Convergent thinking: narrowing thoughts to one answer
    • Whole Child: looking at all aspects of a child (physical, cognitive, emotional and social)
    • Domains of development: a way of labeling the various aspects of a “whole child” (defined further in Chapter 5)
    • Observation: the primary means of understanding the children we work with to plan appropriate interactions and experiences (defined further in Chapter 4)
    • (DAP) Developmentally Appropriate Practices



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    New Teacher Comment

    “I was so confused at first by all of the terms and the use of letters (acronyms) in my classes and at work. At first, I didn’t ask because I thought I should know them all but this just made me less effective. When I finally got over myself and adopted this phrase “I should probably know, but what exactly does that mean?” I was amazed at how helpful people were at explaining. I started a list (part of which is shared above) and pretty soon I was the one sharing what terms meant with other people. This was particularly helpful for me to remember when talking with parents; they don’t know either and can be very intimidated (like I was) to ask.”

    What responsibilities will I have?

    Preschool teachers play a central role in ensuring the preschool program is of high quality. They bring a wide range of skills and qualities to the job of guiding young children’s learning and development. Since one of them is constantly reflecting, we thought it might be helpful for you to see the basic teacher responsibilities through the lens of a teacher evaluation. Evaluations are a formal way that teachers can assess their strengths and areas for continued growth. The way teachers are evaluated will vary tremendously, but in some way, teachers should be engaging in ongoing reflection. The Early Childhood Educator Competencies provide a great starting place for reflection. 


    Teaching is a process. We learn more as we practice the art of teaching. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book. “The Tipping Point,” says that in order to be an expert at something, you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it. [33] That is quite a long time! Factor in all of the informal teaching that you have done over your lifetime and you still can see that it will take some time to master the skills above and move to the “Mastery” stage of teaching.

    In addition to the classroom skills mentioned above, teachers take on a variety of other roles informally that you may not think of right away. These may include:

    • Nurse
    • Janitor
    • Researcher
    • Cook
    • Interior Designer
    • Graphic Designer
    • Counselor
    • Artist
    • Plumber
    • Interpreter
    • Reporter
    • Mediator
    • Student
    • Performer
    • Cheerleader


    Pause to Reflect

    Look through the additional roles above. Which makes sense for you? Which need further clarification? Can you think of others to add?

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    New Teacher Comment

    “I am surprised each day by the many roles I play. I am glad I am open to trying new things and chipping in where needed. Quality teaching is a team effort in all regards, even if it means plunging the toilet when a child flushes a wooden block and the custodian isn’t available.”

    As mentioned earlier, a key way we reflect is through on-going assessments. These are meant less of a “test of performance on evaluation day” and more of an ongoing feedback opportunity.

    Assessment affords us the following:

    • A key to gaining the knowledge and skills needed to continually grow and change as early childhood professionals.
    • The opportunity to address specific goals and how those goals will improve your teaching.
    • A feedback loop that is sometimes referred to as “appreciative inquiry.”

    Part of the process of becoming an early childhood professional is having a growth mindset. That means that you are able and willing to hear the feedback from others and integrate that feedback through inquiry and reflection. You can hear that feedback in the spirit it is given – for growth.

    During the beginning of your career as an early childhood professional, you may engage with a coach, who is often a part of the staff at your program that can help you to improve your knowledge and skills. One of the best ways for someone to coach you is to look at your strengths and to support you with your challenges. Judy Jablon, the author of Coaching with Powerful Interactions, shares about the importance of strength-based coaching. Here is an example of what that may look like:

    You have asked your lead teacher to record you reading to a large group of children. Of course, you are nervous, but you trust your lead teacher to be honest and to provide feedback for growth. Later that day, you meet together to discuss together what you both see on the recording. After you both view the recording, your lead teacher begins the discussion:

    Lead Teacher : What do you think about this after viewing the recording?

    You : I could tell that I was nervous at the beginning, but once the children were engaged, a sense of calm came over me, and I felt pretty good about it.

    Lead Teacher : Do you see any areas where you can grow and if so, what advice would you like from me?

    You : One of the areas that I struggled with is allowing the children to freely express themselves as I was reading. I notice that you are much more comfortable with that when you read to the children. I would love to read with the ease that you do.

    Lead Teacher : Thank you for noticing. Feeling the ease that you mention took a lot of time and guidance with the help of a coach during my early years of teaching. What she taught me with patience and compassion was really a gift. A gift that I am able to share with new teachers.

    You : I would like to review the recording a bit more and then try it again next week. I plan to practice reading the book to see if that will give me more comfort. Thank you for being supportive and kind. I appreciate our work together.


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    New Teacher Comment

    “I get very nervous for assessments but they end up being very helpful.

    I have started doing “self-assessments” of myself a lot and it helps to be prepared when my director comes to do my formal one.

    Although I feel very uncomfortable doing it, I am finding that videoing myself and watching it is the best way for me to get a true picture of my teaching.”

    What is a Professional Portfolio?

    If an assessment can give you a snapshot of your strengths, imagine what an entire collection can do? That is the essence of a professional portfolio. It is a compilation of all of your strengths, a “brag book” if you will. Most teachers will use a 3 ring notebook or e-portfolio to house their resume, certificates, immunizations, letters of recommendations and samples of their professional work (activity plans, photos, work samples, resources, newsletters, etc.) and professional statements about important concepts (philosophy, core beliefs, best practices, etc.) These can be from classes, work-related endeavors, community service, anywhere that highlights your skills. We encourage you to begin collecting items now and add them often.



    New Teacher Comment

    “I get so many compliments on my professional portfolio. I decorated it to reflect me and use it often. I brought it on interviews, set it out at Open House, and keep it in my work area to add to often.

    I was so nervous in my interviews that I was glad I had my portfolio to show. I found it helped with talking points and helped me show my work better than if I had just explained it. For one interview, I was so nervous that I just walked in, said “hi” and handed them the portfolio. They were impressed and I got the job!”








    New Teacher Comments – Advice as you begin your journey

    • At the beginning, I felt overwhelmed. It gets better!
    • Go to your site's website and learn about their philosophy and school. It helps give an understanding of why they do what they do.
    • Always plan ahead and stay on top of things!
    • Smile and enjoy the experience. This is what you want to do.
    • Get to know the children and your coworkers as soon as you can.
    • Intimidating at first, but you will feel comfortable after a while.
    • Visit a few times before you start to see how they dress and do things.
    • Jump in as soon as you feel comfortable and do things early.
    • Feel comfortable to talk about any questions or concerns.
    • Observe as much as you can. Come early and stay late if needed.
    • Choose your site carefully.
    • Step out of your comfort zone.
    • Communication is the key!
    • Be flexible
    • Go back to your previous class materials; it will help a lot
    • View your “mistakes” as learning opportunities and always grow from them!
    • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
    • Ask for feedback
    • Pay it forward when you can
    • Find out procedures right away (time card, belongings, lunch,…)
    • Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others
    • Support others and they will do the same for you
    • Begin a resource file and keep adding to it


    Pause to Reflect

    What advice stands out for you? Why? How will you use it?

    This page titled 3.7: What? is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Cindy Stephens, Gina Peterson, Sharon Eyrich, & Jennifer Paris (College of the Canyons) .