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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction If you’re an early childhood teacher, no doubt your head is full of tugging voices and questions: What are the children really learning as they play? How should I handle all this pressure for school readiness? What will reassure par- ents that I’m a competent teacher? How long can I really stay in this job? Competing interests in young children’s futures storm around and within us. Early childhood teachers feel so much pressure to shape children into what society expects of them. There is an ever-growing body of quality rating scales and professional and state standards that early childhood educators must be accountable for. In quieter moments, we long to be with children in a different way. Then the prevailing tide rushes in with the language of QRIS, early learn- ing frameworks, and accreditation criteria. The wonder of childhood is pulled under and washed away once more, and with it, our love of teaching. Waiting for you in the eye of this storm are the art of awareness and the joy of paying close attention to children. With close observation, you can refo- cus, see the value of childhood and children’s remarkable competencies, and remember why you wanted to be a teacher. You can learn to integrate the con- cerns of these contesting voices. A full measure of delight can return to your work with children. If observation is already part of your teaching practice, you may find an expanded focus in this book to deepen your work into a more intellectually engaging and joyful practice. If observation isn’t at the center of your practice, developing the art of awareness can transform your teaching, your job satisfaction, and your commitment to a career in the early childhood field. Refocusing Our Work The early childhood profession faces a critical juncture. We have come of age as a full-fledged profession with a core body of knowledge, code of ethics, pro- fessional standards, accreditation systems, credentials, research, professional literature, and a multitude of conferences for ongoing professional develop- ment. These developments are all wonderful. In addition, policy makers and COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 1