6 Chapter 1
What Is Reflective Teaching?
Teaching young children is complex work. Every day, teachers face many chal-
lenges—the ongoing chores of caregiving and cleanup, planning and provid-
ing an engaging curriculum, communicating with families and coworkers, and
responding to the ever-growing pressures for outcomes, assessment, and docu-
mentation to demonstrate children’s learning.
These pressures compete for teachers’ attention, making it difficult to keep
the joy of being with children at the heart of their work. Teachers can turn to the
many resources available to learn about guidance techniques or they can use a
published curriculum to help with planning. Coaches, administrators, or teacher
educators might provide tips, strategies, and technical assistance to help teachers
comply with standards. Yet to truly share meaningful experiences with chil-
dren, teachers must strive to become reflective thinkers, eager to puzzle through
their role in supporting children’s learning, identity development, and sense of
belonging. For reflective teachers, work is an ongoing process of closely observing
and studying the significance of unfolding activities. Rather than just following
preplanned lessons and techniques, reflective teachers consider what they know
about the particular children in their group. They apply their knowledge of child
development theory to better understand and delight in what happens in the
classroom. Reflection allows teachers to make effective, meaningful decisions
about how to respond to and plan for children. Reflective teaching keeps teach-
ers excited about their work.
A Reflective Teacher at Work
In the following story you will read how Deb has become a reflective teacher.
She uses the Learning Story format from Aotearoa/New Zealand. Following this
approach, the story is written to a particular child. The story describes the details
of the child’s recent activity and the teacher’s interest in and thinking about the
significance of the event for the child’s learning. Also notice that Deb invites the
child’s family to share their knowledge and ideas.