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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL young children, leaving teachers feeling frustrated, burnt-out, and diminished as professionals. We don’t find fault with most early childhood standards in and of them- selves. Standards can serve as valuable benchmarks for defining equitable expectations for best practices in early childhood programs. Our concern is that so few early childhood programs are establishing systems and structures so teachers and administrators can collaboratively reflect on, understand, and integrate standards into their daily work in an illuminating way. Without such forums for shared reflection, standards can easily become meaningless requirements. Teaching is reduced to a scripted, rote practice that demeans the complexity of young children’s learning and development. Teachers begin to feel like preprogrammed technicians instead of capable and competent professionals. We believe early childhood teachers deserve to head into work each day feeling fully absorbed in and enthusiastic about learning—the children’s and their own. We want teacher educators, coaches, mentors, and administrators to look beyond checklists of teacher competencies and to encourage dispositions of curiosity and engagement. At a time when so much energy is focused on educa- tional standardization, compliance, and prescription, we want to stand for teach- ers’ right to exercise creative, critical, and reflective thinking in their work. An Alternative to Standardization: Teaching as Research Our goal in writing this workbook is to offer an alternate approach—to enhance quality by supporting early childhood teachers as reflective practitioners. Ultimately, it is the minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day choices of teachers that have the most impact on the quality of children’s learning experi- ence. Whatever your role or setting in the early childhood field, we hope this workbook will reenergize you and reinforce your identity as a reflective profes- sional. We want to inspire you to create new possibilities for supporting and thinking through the complexity of your work with others who are, in Louise Boyd Cadwell’s (2003, 25) words, “always listening for a surprise and the birth of a new idea.” As you engage in the experiences in this workbook, we hope you will strengthen your image of yourself as a thinker and generator of knowledge, not just a consumer of other people’s thinking. We have been inspired by a grow- ing body of research and the work of educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy, and Aotearoa/New Zealand to look at early childhood teaching as research (Gallas 2003; Meier and Henderson 2007; Rinaldi 2006). For teacher-researchers, an COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction 3