Becoming a Professional

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!

Either hit “reply” or send me an e-mail cnepstad@ccc.edu

Happy Midterm Everyone!

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FREE educator open house at the Field Museum

Would you like to join me?

I will be at the Educator Open House at the Field Museum of Natural History on Tuesday October 26 from 5-8pm. This is my favorite museum in the city! I love spending time there and I think this is a wonderful opportunity for educators to get some behind-the-scenes information on this amazing resource available to all of us.

I use their teacher resource center to rent various kits and things for my CD 143 “Science and Math for the Young Child” course and I have taken 143 students on field trips to the museum. We observe young children as they interact with their families and with the exhibits: without stalking! This is an important field research skill that we talk about before going on any field trip. I have also brought many groups to the Field Museum from CD 101 “Human Growth and Development” to spend time at the DNA Discovery Center. This really helps bring that genetics chapter to life and students love the experience!

Beyond that, I think the Field Museum is inspirational and I visit the museum and its website often throughout the year, just for my own personal fulfillment.

The open house is free, but you need to pre-register: Call 312-665-7500 or email educators@fieldmuseum.org by Friday, October 22, 2010 to register.

Please contact me if you are interested in joining me for the open house. We could have dinner beforehand! cnepstad@ccc.edu

Educator Open House 2010

Educator Open House

Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 5pm – 8pm

  • Visit dynamic temporary exhibitions: Gold and Climate Change
  • Explore vast collections behind-the-scenes with Museum experts;
  • Meet scientists and learn about cutting-edge research;
  • Get connected through digital learning programs;
  • Find out about our newest teacher and student programs;
  • Gather educational materials to support your teaching practice;
  • 3 CPDUs available

Free. Pre-registration is required. Call 312-665-7500 or email

educators@fieldmuseum.org by Friday, October 22, 2010 to register.

$16-19 parking is available at Soldier Field, cash upon entry.

Enter the Museum through the East Doors.

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Teacher Professional Development programs are sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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1400 S. Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605-2496
312.922.941

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Researchers learn the importance of observing Preschoolers in action

Ya think?

This is a good example of why Teacher Research/Action Research is so important. As practitioners in the field and as teacher educators, we need to do research in our own settings and share that information with the field. We often bemoan the chasm that exists between what researchers do in their labs and what real-world practitioners need in their classrooms. In this brief blog post, which I found on Education Week,  a researcher describes how much she learned about cognition by spending time in a preschool! Yes, this is where we see cognitive development in action. Check out the blog post or go to the original study from Psychological Science for more information. You can also go to Cornell University’s Early Childhood Cognition Laboratory for a cool link that might be interesting to your students.

I think we need to keep asking questions about our own work. Jot down observations. Share with each other. This is how we will inform the field, and how we can eventually benefit from each others’ research!

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A Visit to the Heartland

This Friday I drove to Bloomington-Normal, Illinois to visit Heartland Community College’s Early Childhood Education program. I was attending a Statewide Steering Committee meeting for the Heartland Equity & Inclusion Project (HEIP). This is an exciting project supported by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

The project itself is quite ambitious. One part of it includes re-designing the Early Childhood Education curriculum to incorporate practices which support CLAD or Cultural, Linguistic and Ability Diversity. I will share more about this meeting and the HEIP project in upcoming posts.

After the meeting, I took a tour of the Lab Center at Heartland and it was beautiful – new building, lovely set-up! I chatted a bit with the director and in the conversation she kept talking about “her” students. I wasn’t sure if she meant the children so I asked her and she looked surprised and said, “the college students, of course”!

This simple sentence meant a lot. To me, this reflects the kind of perspective that is important to a lab center; the director, teachers, and staff see the college students as “their” students and everyone in the building sees it as their responsibility to educate the students about what they do in the center for young children and families. In addition, many of the Master teachers were also adjunct faculty for the courses so they know the assignments and what it is like in the adult classroom – trying to bridge theory to practice.

As I continue to think about how to align lab centers and academic programs I think this may be a key factor – how do we see the students and our role in their educational and professional journey?

Something to think about as we start up a new week – Happy Monday!

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Supporting Social and Emotional Development

I watched this video on Social and Emotional Competence this morning and thought it was lovely. I admit, it brought tears to my eyes. It is so important to see good examples of adults working with young children and their families. The video really brings home the big ideas I want for my students – that building relationships matters and this is a process we need to thoughtfully pursue.

The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning has a website with amazing resources like the video above. There are toolkits, handouts, and videos – very helpful!

I found this site through an e-newsletter that I receive called “Natural Resources”. Camille Catlett from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute manages the newsletter and she sends an amazing resource every single Wednesday. I use them all the time in my classes and in my own thinking.

To sign up to receive the Natural Resources newsletter:

Send an email to listserv@unc.edu with a blank Subject line.

The text of the message must be:

subscribe natural_resources2 (retype it; don’t copy/paste)
Be sure the Subject is blank. Then Send the message.

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What’s in a name?

To make things simpler, I’ve changed the name of this blog to “Carrie’s Blog”. This makes it clear that the communication expressed here is not affiliated with a specific institution. Rather, this is a place for professionals to communicate with each other on a broad range of topics about child development and early childhood education.

Please feel free to reply to any post on this blog. You can do this using your name or you can use a funny name, either way is fine with me as long as our conversations remain respectful.

I look forward to using this blog as a forum for reflective practice!

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