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26 Chapter 1
and how you can work in collaboration with both adults and children. It will
undoubtedly involve change, and change can be uncomfortable. It requires
that you examine yourself and your practices, and the result can feel like a dive
into uncharted waters. But the ensuing journey will likely be exciting; it will
provide you with renewed energy for doing your very best for young children.
Let’s step out of the box together and examine the journey of an educator as it
proceeds, in all its complexity, toward a more emergent practice.
The Teacher’s Voice:
Emergent Curriculum and Child-Centered
Practice Before joining the staff of the Child and Family Development Center
(CFDC) in Concord, New Hampshire, Bonnie worked for several years in
classrooms that used a thematic approach to generating curriculum for pre-
school children. She had never learned about emergent curriculum in theory or
used it in practice. She began her work at CFDC in a toddler classroom and
now works with preschool children. Bonnie tells the story of how she began
working with emergent curriculum with toddlers and what it felt like. She first
describes working in a theme-based classroom.
We had preplanned themes—that is, planned by the teachers—but we
never talked about how the children felt about what we were doing or
how they reacted to what was happening in the classroom. We didn’t
even ask ourselves if the children were enjoying what they were doing.
The curriculum wasn’t cocreated. It wasn’t a collaboration at all. We
spent all our time trying to do what everyone else thought we should
do: letters and calendars for the parents because that’s what they’d
experienced in their own childhoods, or trying to please our adminis-
trator, who wanted everything planned weeks in advance, and so on.
Notice that Bonnie pays attention to her own feelings of discomfort. She
identifies what did not feel right to her and why. Such self-awareness is a part
of the reflective process. Teachers can pause from time to time to examine their
practices and where they came from, noticing whether they are a good fit for
their own values or whether they need to be tweaked or subjected to large-
scale change. Bonnie decided she needed major change in order to make her