I conceptualize the teacher’s role as having an expansive embrace. Meaningful learning is possible not only in planned activities but also in the context of daily interactions, exploration, and reflection. In my work directly with young children, this broad foundation of learning opportunities is reflected in my commitment to supporting child development through play and exploration. I consider the quiet times and unplanned moments of play and routines to be as powerful for learning as those that involve planned instruction. I draw upon parallels of these practices in teaching adults. In my instructor role, I embrace opportunities in the research lab, outreach activities, and internship supervision as promising moments to teach and connect research, practice, and policy. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “We have to have more than textbooks. We need text people.” I challenge myself to be a text-person for my students by modeling professionalism and perspective-taking in my daily interactions with students, colleagues, and community members.
Empathic perspective-taking strategies are critical relationship building elements for successful partnerships and problem solving. I encourage open and honest dialogue as students reflect upon the many factors (e.g. emotional, cultural, practical, and philosophical) that may motivate a particular practice, exhibit a behavior, or express a desire. The key is trying to see through another person’s lens rather than assuming another person’s thoughts or needs. Within this reflection lies the core of dynamic ECE practices that should be the focus of ECE professional preparation and ongoing professional development. In my teaching, I create opportunities for this type of reflection in small group activities and reflective writing. In teaching, I seek to bring rich examples of diverse ECE experiences into the classroom through videos, ethnographies, guest speakers, and sharing of participants’ experiences in ECE programs and their own families and communities.
Quality ECE practices should be rooted in developmental science. My approach involves building each student’s ability to observe and reflect upon child and family behavior while scaffolding their critical thinking about program practice and policy connections to child and family developmental needs. Professional preparation of ECE students should engage students in critical thinking about child and family development and expose them to the variety of roles they may play in ECE, and develop their toolkit of resources they will draw upon in their professional work. I believe parents and professionals are all deserving of the same sensitive scaffolding and whole-person approach that children need to flourish, and I extend the same principles underlying the philosophy of teaching I hold for the college and early childhood classrooms to outreach opportunities. I aim to understand my learners, and creatively engage them in programming that enhances their knowledge while providing practical tools that enable them to support the young children whom they hold dear.