Ask TYC: Advice for Experienced Teachers
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I’ve been teaching for 20 years. How do I keep my teaching practice fresh and vital?
When you do work you love, the years fly by, and it’s easy to get comfortable with a routine and perspective that work for you. As a teacher of young children, you are immersed in the wonder of newness every day. Challenge yourself to bring that newness to your own teaching practice.
1. Commit to trying something new. You could try a new teaching or guidance strategy, focus on strengthening an area of the curriculum that is challenging for you, or master a tech or social media platform to use when communicating with families and colleagues. Take on just enough to challenge yourself. As you become more competent, delve a little deeper to make each day more engaging for yourself and the children in your class.
2. Stay in touch with what is meaningful to children.
- Research the media the children are talking about, and tune in to their favorite movies and television shows
- Try popular games
- Make a point of knowing the favorite celebration spots, parks, and play spaces in the community
Even if the content and delivery of the games or shows is not developmentally appropriate, if children are interested in them, see what they are about.
3. Do more than say you value the interests of others—demonstrate your sincerity by actively engaging in those interests. Your deeper involvement can also lead to thinking about alternative ways for children to explore that content—ways that promote social and cognitive growth.
4. Put all of your experience and knowledge to use by creating a learning partnership. Be a mentor to a beginning teacher. This can be informal—sharing an idea or strategy that has worked for you—or formal—offering a structured plan with goals and meeting dates for the year. Because we are all lifelong learners, you and your partner will learn from each other. Collaborate with a teacher of a similar experience level or with a teacher in another setting. You could also encourage your entire staff to engage in a learning partnership with the staff of another program. If your site is not accredited by NAEYC, consider embarking on the accreditation process. No matter how you do this, you will be stimulated to reflect thoughtfully on your practice.
Taking a risk can be scary because we are likely to make mistakes as we incorporate new patterns into our lives. This is the everyday reality of being a child, and we expect children to make mistakes in the service of learning about the world and themselves. I heartily urge you to experience the exhilaration and rewards of taking a risk and trying something new!
This advice is from MARY JAMSEK, MS, an early childhood specialist and advocate and a former university faculty member in human development. She is the director of quality assessment and assurance in NAEYC’s Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation.
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