Resolutions for an Early Childhood Educator – Setting Attainable Intentions
Why would you set, let alone commit, to a New Year’s Resolution? For what and who’s purpose would you highlight downfalls in an attempt to right them over the course of twelve months? And who would monitor them, anyway? To be honest, I have a set of annual resolutions and I suppose that means some of them never succeed and I am perpetually hopeful. This year, however, I have some more tools up my sleeve. I feel that this is the year to succeed in my resolutions. If you are an Early Childhood Educator or interested in child development in any way, read on.
A friend of mine recently told me that New Year resolutions are more than faddish – they are the directions we set ourselves that differentiate our experiences from those that may occur and pass us by and those that shape who we are. In other words, by naming and labelling our hopes and dreams, we open and receive the information necessary, based on being open due to our annual goal settings.
In a bizarre and yet perturbingly insightful reflection, perhaps that is what social media and data collection is indeed based upon – human awareness and a need to develop information sources once interest is piqued. How many yellow cars did you see after you bought one? Same thing? I suspect it is.
If I dig deeper into my own intentions for this year, they are set by my interests, my community, and my logistical capacity – both imaginative and physical. I have two children and a husband. My resolutions involve them. I have colleagues and am part of a community. They, too, shape my year ahead. To set realistic resolutions, I need to stop and reconsider where I am at; but also reframe what I may previously have perceived as limitations.
Professionally and personally, I feel we approach each new year with the capacity to evaluate and set goals. In the southern hemisphere, the academic and calendar year mean a closure that matches and links with new beginnings. Regardless of where you are, however, the climatic and seasonal influences set about nature’s version of new beginnings.
So too, we set intentional learning experiences for the children in our services. Whether we have considered it or not, we are essentially using the New Year resolution technique on and for our children. From early on, we develop an understanding on what floats each child’s boat. We can use our relationships to see how children learn in the dynamics of our setting. From the families with whom we engage, we can find out ways in which to comfort or celebrate with a child, before we even meet them. How? Well here is where we look at those potential limitations, reframe, and use them instead to set our learning experiences and guide us into success.
If we don’t know something (a limitation), we wonder, ask and observe (possibilities). In order to do this with direction, there are a number of very helpful tools available. In the Teaching Pyramid resources, the Inventory of Practices for Promoting Social Emotional Competence and the Implementation Checklists are our go-to documents. They systemically bring us through the Promotion, Prevention and Intervention levels that include Building Positive Relationships, Designing Quality Environments, Social Emotional Teaching Strategies and Individualised Intensive Interventions. Keeping it simplistic, there is scope to then determine what needs to be taught, when could it be taught, and how will it be taught. In other words reframe (wonder and explore), reflect (experiences, knowledge, dynamics) and action (plan, resource, implement). The type of system we could use when planning for New Year Resolutions – wouldn’t you say?
Helen Sanderson’s Four Plus One (2006) Person-Centred reflective questions complements the Teaching Pyramid resources beautifully. The very succinct questions by Sanderson are thus: What are we pleased about? What have we tried? What have we learned? What are we concerned about? and the plus one…What do we need to do next? These empowering questions can make you feel that you have indeed been doing something of worth that has been somewhat effective. What’s more, there is a future and further direction that we have identified ourselves.
When we stop and reframe some of our thoughts and responses, we may discover a great deal of challenging behaviours (including skittish resolution keeping) could be reduced through relationship building and focus. When we reflect on our own responses, it may be that our own experiences and perceptions are clouding how we plan for and support the children and families in our service. It may also be affecting relationships between staff. It may be influencing our personal relationships as well.
In the development of social emotional goals for children, Robin McWilliam (2010) challenges us to consider if the goal is functional and participatory in nature. Have we considered what the child needs to be engaged, independent, and social in everyday routines and activities?Are we promoting the learning through contextually relevant, meaningful activities and routines? Is there a timeframe with measurable outcomes in order to evaluate appropriately? Once again, I would think there would be worth examining these elements in any type of planning to really support value behind thoughts, as well as taking into account learning styles.
So go ahead and set New Year’s Resolutions. See that they have potential to succeed. Check that barriers can’t first be removed personally before blaming others for failures and set-backs. Develop and strive for building adult capabilities, relationships and environments to support children and each other. And encourage yourself to examine the next steps for meeting those annual goals.
Inventory of Practices for Promoting Social Emotional Competence retrieved from Centre for Social Emotional Foundations in Early Learning (CSEFEL) http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/modules/module1/handout4.pdf
Implementation Checklists retrieved from The Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children (TACSEI) http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/communities/trainers_main.html
Sanderson, H © 2006 Four plus One retrieved from http://www.helensandersonassociates.co.uk/person-centred-practice/person-centred-thinking-tools/4-plus-1-questions/
McWilliam, R.A ©2010, Routines-Based Early Intervention, Brookes Publishing co.