Reflective Thoughts about Reflective Teaching

Hedda SharapanHere we are at the beginning of the year when we’re “looking ahead,” wondering what this new year will bring. But after hearing about reflective teaching, I’ve been thinking more about “looking back.”

As early childhood professionals, we’re encouraged to be reflective – to “look back” on what worked and what didn’t work. But we all know how hard it is to set aside time for that. I also wonder if one of the problems with “looking back” is facing the fact that we did some things that didn’t turn out the way we thought or hoped they would.

I know, too, that’s not such a good feeling – facing our mistakes. At times like that, I’m reminded of Fred’s comforting perspective -- making mistakes is part of being human – for children and for adults, too. Here’s a great example of that from a time when Fred buttoned his sweater wrong. Watch how he handles his mistake!

Forgiving ourselves

I will never forget a mother’s comment after I showed that video of Fred buttoning his sweater wrong to her support group. To her, the most meaningful line was when Fred said he thought he was doing that just right. We so often do things with the best of intentions, and find out that life is much more complicated – and not always in our control! I remember Fred saying that forgiving ourselves may be the hardest thing of all.

Learning from our mistakes

The best teachers help us know that mistakes can be valuable learning tools. When world-class pianist Andre Watts visited on our program, he told Fred that mistakes help him -- because they help him know what he needs to keep working on. Reflecting on our mistakes can help us keep working to find better ways to communicate with children…better ways to handle situations…and maybe even be more willing to ask for help.

More realistic expectations

I remember Fred saying that there are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect children. Let’s add, “and there are no perfect early childhood professionals.” But, as I’ve learned from Fred, everything doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be effective.

When we can forgive ourselves for our own mistakes and our own imperfections, my hunch is that we become more accepting of others – our family, friends and neighbors and the children, families, and colleagues in our work life. Fred always reminded us that the beginning of positive change starts with feeling good about who we are, with all our strengths and weaknesses. That’s like my t-shirt that says I may not be perfect, but parts of me are excellent! What a comforting – and helpful – way to begin our journey through this new year.

P.S. Speaking of “looking back,” I want to encourage you to look back through our past issues in the Archives. We’ve categorized the list to make it easy for you to find insight, ideas and activities about whatever topic you’re dealing with at the moment – social-emotional development, literacy, STEM concepts, inspiration for your work, and even help with tragedies in the news. I hope this newsletter will continue to be helpful for you in many ways through this new year.

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