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Creating Inclusive Learning Spaces: the Importance of Self-reflection

Apr 27, 2023    |   Educator Self-Care

As educators, the values and beliefs that we carry can have a profound impact on the learning environments we create for the children in our care. Cultivating the habit of self-reflection can help us sustain an early childhood environment that is welcoming and inclusive. 

What is Self-Reflection?

In its simplest form, self-reflection is the habit of taking time to pay attention to our personal thoughts and feelings, so that we can be aware of the impact these mindsets could be having on our lives and relationships. 

How is Self-Reflection Beneficial?

Each of us carries a unique set of ideas about others and about the world around us. These ideas begin during childhood and continue to be formed through life experiences. Taking time to reflect on who we are and how we think about the world can have a positive influence on the way we show up for ourselves and for others– including the children in our care! 

An article from Brandeis University’s research guide, Multicultural Teaching & Learning: Inclusion and Belonging In & Outside the Classroom, describes three of the benefits for educators of intentional self-reflection:

  1. becoming more aware of your perceptions of and interactions with others

  2. noticing the things you do, say, and believe

  3. gaining a deeper understanding of yourself, your values, and how they impact your interactions with those whose backgrounds differ from your own.

How Can I Create a More Intentional Practice of Self-Reflection?

A few tips and ideas for creating a practice of self-reflection are included below. 

Recognize the Value of Reflective Moments

The practice of self-reflection is something that many educators do naturally on a daily basis as they interact with children, families, and colleagues. For example, if you find yourself getting frustrated with a child who won’t sleep during nap time, you might reflect on why this was difficult for you and how you might better manage your negative feelings in the future. These quick moments of pausing, reflecting, and considering how to improve are crucial for an educator’s professional growth and development. 

Set a Daily Intention

Although many teachers practice quick moments of reflection during their day, it can also be helpful to make time for more intentional self-reflection. In the Edutopia article, The Benefits of Developing a Reflective Routine, educator and educational consultant Megan Collins suggests allocating a few minutes each day for a daily reflection journal. She notes, “at some level, teachers are already thinking about what is working in their classrooms and what is not. Through a more formal approach, they may begin to further hone their practice…” 

Practice Journaling

Journaling can be a kind of mindfulness practice, helping us to pay attention to specific moments in our day. You might start with simply journaling about how you felt throughout the day – noting moments that you felt especially energized and moments in which you felt particularly tired or frustrated. 

The Edutopia article mentioned above provides examples of guiding questions early childhood care and learning providers can ask themselves before writing each day’s journal entry:

  • How might I create more moments during the day to spend one-on-one time with the children in my care?

  • How might I provide ways for children to collaborate with and support one another?

  • What did I find challenging today, and how might I make changes to address these moments tomorrow? 

Think about how your interactions with children varied based on your mood, energy level, and headspace. By noticing these things, we can become more in tune with ourselves and the changes we might need to make in our daily routines. 

Connect with Colleagues or Supervisors

Schedule a quick check-in with a coworker (maybe at lunchtime, during a break, or at the end of the day) in which both of you can share about how things are going. It can be especially helpful to discuss what feelings are coming up for you throughout the day and how you’re navigating those feelings. You might even find opportunities to support one another! 

View Self-reflection as Self-care

Try to avoid self-judgment in your self-reflection practice. Our beliefs and experiences contribute to our ability to move through life and work with purpose. Practicing self-reflection is a form of self-care that helps us find more meaning in our work and work relationships.

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