I’ve been thinking about professionalism lately.
Perhaps this is because I am teaching 258 “Principles & Practices of Preschool Education” for the first time as well as the “Practicum” course. The students in the upper level courses are a real treat to work with as they are so close to their goals that I don’t necessarily need to spend as much energy trying to motivate them as in other courses. I am observing the students closely this semester to see how they talk about professionalism and what it means to them to enter this field or to at least complete this milestone in their academic journey as they are very likely to already be in the field.
Here are some things that I’ve observed:
- This semester, students have been talking about how they see children differently than other people they know. What one person might see as “bad” behavior or a “bad” kid, they are seeing as three-year-olds behaving as one would expect based on their development. In my student’s words “He’s being a three-year-old! He’s not bad. He’s just curious and needs to move!”
- In another discussion, students were talking about slowing down and how important it is to think before they act. As early childhood professionals, they need to articulate why they are doing what they do and one student told me that her goal this semester was to slow herself down so she can spend some time thinking before talking.
- Last week, I asked my Practicum students how they plan to stay in touch with current information in the field after they finish this course. Most of them said that they would talk with colleagues to get information. I was concerned about this being their only thought about how to stay current, and so I spontaneously assigned an article search for that week’s reading assignment. I asked them to choose something that they were wondering about in their Practicum setting. It could be a specific behavior they are observing in a child, a guidance strategy employed by their mentor teacher, or a particular activity they were interested in trying, etc. The only rule was that they had to go to the NAEYC website and search for an article, position paper, standard, or guideline that corresponds with their inquiry. In the next session, they brought copies of their articles and I was really pleased with the thought they put into their searches, and the way they talked about main points from the article. Overall, students were pleased with how easy it was to search the site based on a topic of interest to them and they all said they would do this again in the future.
These are all little things on the surface but in these steps, I do see the students moving toward a more professional disposition. They are reflecting on what separates them from the average person who has not had formal training in the field (how do I see young children differently). This is a key step in beginning to identify oneself as a member of this profession. They are reflecting on their own practice and setting goals for themselves in terms of daily behavior (think before I act). Finally, they are engaging with the greater field by searching for current information about a topic of import to their own practice (NAEYC search).
It is midterm. Time to reflect on the learning taking place in my classroom. Are students learning? Are they ready for the second half? Do they have a strong enough foundation to be successful with the final projects for this course?
I find this time of the semester particularly interesting because, at this point, we are all comfortable with the weekly rhythm of the class. We know each other. Students have some work under their belts. They have detailed feedback on a few things. There is still time to make adjustments and yet my teacher’s clock tells me that there is not very much time before they have to really demonstrate what they know. With the upper level courses, there is even more concern about their readiness. Are they ready to be an early childhood professional with a degree or certificate? Are they able to apply what they have learned to so many varied and diverse circumstances?
How do you build in “becoming a professional” to your course and to the program? I would love to hear more ideas about how to help students develop their professional chops further!
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Happy Midterm Everyone!