Reflecting Inward is Hard Work
As educators arrived, settled in, and waited for the session to begin, they were encouraged to flip through pages of a journal to familiarize themselves with the questions we would reflect on and discuss that day. Doubt and fear began to fill the room as one said to another,
“Had I known what we were getting into, I would not have come.”
“Me either.” she agreed.
The journals were filled with questions like: “How did your socioeconomic status impact where you lived and how you grew up?” And “How does that impact the choices you make as an adult?” Their discomfort was immediate, and the desire to flee was palpable. Up until this moment, these educators had never met. We asked them to be vulnerable, brave, honest, authentic and set aside judgment to become more self-aware and curious. So, you may be wondering, like they were, why does exploring these questions matter? In the book Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, it says,
“As you recognize and better understand how your own experiences shape and strengthen or limit your social identities and your views, you can work on understanding the lives of the families and colleagues with whom you work.
Knowing yourself will also help you understand why some changes in thinking and perspectives are easy for you and others are more difficult.” (31)
The topic of our gathering was “You Bring Who You Are to Your Teaching;” we used this time to really dig into various parts of ourselves. We reflected on our identities, historical background, why we have biases, and how that impacts our engagement with colleagues, children, and families.
Each person shared pieces of themselves that cultivated deep connections and made one believe that they had been lifetime friends. We laughed, cried, and acknowledged how hard it is to look within. By the end of the session, we connected through experiences, physical touch, empathy, and a genuine desire to listen. Here are a few of their takeaways:
“It is hard to think about and open up about ourselves. It is ok to do so! Bring kleenex.”
“We are more similar than different. Sharing and interacting with one another creates strong bonds and connections. It is all about LOVE!”
“Everything you are comes out in all relationships, including those in our work.”
That morning my co-facilitator and I witnessed firsthand something beautiful and incredibly powerful. People who had never met were willing to sit in the messiness when all they wanted to do was run. Then experiencing transformative learning, they gained insight into their own identities and how that appears in their teaching, along with the realization that this work must start with ourselves!
Allowing yourself the space to cultivate self-awareness and think about the impact your upbringing has on who you are, is essential. Vulnerability and being open and honest about all dimensions of your identity leads to paths that will allow you to have open hearts and minds to the multi-faceted perspectives of those colleagues, children, and families within your program.
If you have not had the opportunity to attend a session in-person with your facilitator, I encourage you to keep an eye out for the next invitation.
Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves
Professional Learning Facilitator
North Central Region
Professional Learning Facilitator