In our classrooms, we are decisive elements in the classroom. Our emotions, personal approach, verbal and non-verbal communication create a climate that everyone lives in. We cannot fake a positive attitude, lover, or compassion for too long, we need to give our genuine emotions to the class, and those emotions are to be positive, as they have a crucial effect on the emotional development of children in our classrooms. The only way to achieve that is through self-reflection, which is the key to “not being so upset.” The present paper aims at reflecting on the course material and class discussions that affected my life, my practice, and my understanding of my role as a practitioner working with children.
Learning about Myself: Humbleness and Responsibility
The main thing I learned about myself during the class was that I think little of myself. It is not that I do not think about my role, my status, or my attitude. I believe that I do not matter much in this world. I have always thought that it is a virtue to be humble and believe that my opinion does not make much difference. Thinking that I am not important is difficult, as my ego would often burst out trying to show everybody that my opinion matters. Before taking the class, I thought that being humble was a virtue, and I praised myself for this quality.
After taking this course, I realized that maybe I was wrong. In the book titled “Don’t Get So Upset,” Tamar Jacobson (2008) cited the word of Marilou Hyson, saying that “emotional development is too important to be left to chance. Adults, including early childhood professionals, can make the difference…” (p. 6). Being humble, in my case, often meant that I could not really make a difference. I believed that I had to do what I had to do in my meek way without expecting to have any perceptible influence on people’s lives. This course made me wonder that maybe I was wrong.
I came to realize that my attitude was not really humbleness; instead, I was trying to avoid responsibility. It was very convenient for me not to think that I was not important, as it would relieve me from obligation before the children in my class, my colleagues, and myself. Being humble meant that there was no point for me to try hard to do my best, as it would not matter. This course made me realize that I was important and that my work with children truly matters. Another thing I learned is that it is not up to me to decide what the effect of my actions will be. I just have to be myself and do my best. Jacobson (2008) writes that “it is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with [others]” (p. 176). Indeed, my actions matter, and it is my responsibility to give everything I have to help the children in my class, my friends, my colleagues, and my family to be the best they can be.
I have changed my perception with the help of self-reflection. During the tenth class, we talked about how reflective practitioners have an edge in comparison with practitioners that move on automatically. In particular, the lectures said that reflectiveness helps to be more flexible and adaptive, being more open to new methods, and even better at collaborating. In the eighth class, we also talked about how reflection about our past experiences helped us be intentional in our response to the world instead of providing an automatic reaction. As suggested during the class, I looked at my childhood experiences and realized that my parents did not have time to listen to me. They would start talking to each other while I was trying to explain to them something sacred for me. I am no longer a child, and I have to understand that my opinion always mattered. It matters even more today when I started to work with children.
Changes in Practice: Paying More Attention to My Emotional Life
The course had much valuable information I will try to make use of in my classrooms. In particular, I learned that building personal relationship is more effective than disciplining children to manage their behavior. Moreover, in Class 5, I learned about temperament as described by Chess and Thomas and how teachers and caregivers need to accept the temperament of children. Another crucial thing I learned during the first two classes is that teachers are the decisive elements of the classroom. This implies that learner outcomes and the emotional development of the children in class depend upon my actions, which requires me to stay reflective and responsive. However, these are not the matters I wanted to discuss in this part of the reflection paper.
In my practice and throughout my studies, I have read and heard much about how teachers need to interact with children. Most of the information I received was valuable; however, I did not have the emotional vigor to implement all the knowledge. Being mindful and reflective requires much emotional strength. As a professional and a human being, it is difficult to stay emotionally stable and open to sharing genuine emotions. Children are very smart, and they will pick up upon the verbal and non-verbal signs that will reveal what we really have in mind. Thus, I learned that I need to take care of myself first.
Jacobson (2008) talks a lot about taking care of ourselves before taking care of children throughout the book. For instance, in Chapter 1, Jacobson mentions that we often recommend parents and guardians to see a therapist if we see some emotional problems with their child. However, we never go and see the therapist ourselves. I believe that there are two reasons for that. First, we think highly of ourselves, as we have read hundreds of books and articles that teach us how to manage stress. The situation is similar to doctors that become addicted to substances because they believe that they can never become addicted due to their high qualifications.
Second, we never have the money or the time to visit a therapist. The problem of low payment was intensively discussed during Class 7. One of the quotes included in the class said that if a person is getting paid more for serving beer than for taking care of the toddlers, there is something wrong with this world. The wages of teachers are very low, which makes the financial well-being of teachers not always achievable. Our lack of time is closely connected to our financial insecurity, as we try to work more to earn a little extra money.
I have come up with two actions I will implement in my professional life to address the problem described above. First, I will focus on my emotional well-being by allocating an adequate amount of time and money to therapy, rest, spending time with my family, and engaging in leisure activities. Second, I will become more involved in social movements that aim at raising the wages for teachers so that people who provide care for the future of our country can take care of themselves.
New Concept Learned
While the course was filled with useful information, I learned one thing that helped me to understand children better. In particular, I learned what temperament is, according to Chess and Thomas. Before taking the class, I thought that the temperament of children is their nature that can be changed. In Classes 4 and 5, we learned that children’s temperament is something that we cannot change, and therefore it must be accepted. Temperament has several dimensions, including rhythmicity, activity level, sensory threshold, and intensity of mood expression. Thus, when having trouble with communicating with my students, I will try to assess their temperament using the framework by Chess and Thomas. I believe that it will make me a more reflective and responsive practitioner.
After going having completed this course, I have mixed feelings about myself, as I feel like child in a grown person’s body. After reflecting about my current behavior, I realize that all my habits come from my childhood. It appears that I have never grown up to go over my childhood traumas and experiences. I feel much like the two boys painted in the picture below by an unknown author (see Figure 1). On the one hand, they are clearly young boys. However, on the other hand, they are forced to act like grown-up men by playing golf or carrying a musket.
This course provided much insight into how a practitioner can help children in their emotional development. The primary strength of the course is that instead of focusing on children, it focuses on the practitioner and helps us understand our own feelings before trying to help any other person. This course changed my life in some sense, as I realized that my humbleness was more like a failure to take responsibility for my actions. I also realized that I need to care for myself, which may include going to a therapist and signing a petition to raise teachers’ wages. I believe that instead of filling our minds with theories, the present course provides emotional support to a child living within every one of us.
Jacobson, T. (2008). Don’t get so upset! Help young children manage their feelings by understanding your own. Red Leaf Press.
National Gallery of Scotland (n.d.). Sir James Macdonald 1741 – 1766 and Sir Alexander Macdonald 1744/1745 – 1795. Web.