Critically reflecting is about constantly challenging your status quo.
It’s always asking yourself “Where do I stand and how does that interact with everyone and everything in my world?”
It can be as simple as posing “What are my thoughts on having lots of plastic toys in my room?” and then analysing how your stance might impact on others.
If you are pro-plastics, are you comfortable with condoning the use of resources that we know are manufactured in dangerous settings with underpaid workers, and are an environmental nightmare? Are you comfortable with the toxins present that could be harmful to children. Are you fine with the 'instant gratification' of the overstimulating colours, bright lights and noises that degrade a child’s ability to problem solve, to persevere through difficulty, and to be creative and imaginative with the play possibilities in a stick or log in the yard?
On the flip side, if you are pro-'only natural', are you silencing or diminishing a child’s ability to use resources that they might enjoy more fully?
Children love bright colours and plastics do colour well. Children love to run into a playground of rainbow, and in our quest to be “eco”, are we relinquishing children to an environment that is an entirely neutral?
Are we turning away families that might find your kind of environment “dirty”? At my service we have actually had families not attend our centre because they thought our furniture was old because of a budgeting issue! Here we were thinking we were being so great and sustainable by sourcing recycled items and re-purposing or fixing things as opposed to just throwing them away.
Critical reflection is all about drawing a circle outwards from yourself and mentally pacing how far everything you can think of sits in relation to you. When you think of your personal philosophy, how far are right or left wing parents to you? LGBTQI+? Different races to yours? Different genders, different lifestyles? Differing beliefs on what education or care, or approaches to raising children are? Try to consider all those different groups sitting around you at different paces depending on how their being impacts on how close you are to them.
Relationship based critical reflection is all about our understanding of where we are in relation to everyone else. With ourselves, our colleagues, our families, our carers, with the community and wider world... with the planet and our desire to care for it for future generations.
It’s no surprise that in our field, relationships are at the core of everything we do. Our every action in the early years is to ensure the greatest love and care for the children we are entrusted with. We critically reflect hard and often because the most critically reflective educators are able to give the greatest relationships.
They are the ones who question how their actions and approaches impact on the children in their care. How their biases may negatively be affecting children that they are not aware of. A critically reflective teacher understands that the constant, persistent pursuit of 'better' will always mean that their relationships are the best they could ever have been at that point in time.
It’s about always knowing that you’ve done your best, that you pushed yourself as hard as you could to learn as much as you could as quickly as you could. That is love.
Hannah is an early childhood teacher and forest school facilitator who is passionate about children’s rights to environments that nurture their autonomy, resilience and flow.
She has started up three forest school programs in three separate services, running one of them while supporting educator’s to run the others.
She was a finalist in the Outdoors Queensland awards and worked in different schools and services as the ECT, teacher and educational leader.
She is also a mum of two very cool tween humans and survives on coffee and conversation.