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4 Introduction COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL ongoing cycle of inquiry, observation, data collection, and reflection is a natural part of daily interactions with children. From a teacher-researcher’s point of view, reflection is more than just informal thinking or talking with others about your work; it is an essential part of your teaching practice. You set aside specific time alone or with others to engage in reflection as a systematic process. William Ayers (2004, 110) describes it this way: “Reflection is thinking rigorously, critically, and systematically about practices and problems of importance to further growth. . . . Reflection is a dis- ciplined way of assessing situations, imagining a future different from today, and preparing to act.” This view of reflection is one that can inspire and excite you as an early childhood professional, one that becomes not a drain on your time but rather a source of intellectual engagement and new energy. The Value of Reflection Learning to be a reflective teacher is a valuable investment that pays off practi- cally in your day-to-day work. It strengthens your image of children and your ability to think through and act on the complex issues you continually face in your program. Reflection keeps you a lifelong learner. It helps you take a stand for • staying true to the values you want to bring to your work; • being the teacher you want to be; and • providing the learning environment you want for young children and their families. Whether you are a family child care provider, a teacher, an administrator, a coach, a mentor, or a teacher educator, we hope you will use this workbook as a study tool for yourself and with others to strengthen your ability to work with integrity and a strong identity as a reflective professional. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL