Working with young children starts with you - The role of your beliefs and values.
3 minute read time
The majority of what happens in our work with young children starts with us. This can be a confusing and uncomfortable call, so let’s unpack it.
Being an educator is an incredibly nuanced profession – it’s multifaceted, heavily contextual, and highly personal. How so? The personal beliefs and values that we bring into the our work with us, as individual and diverse educators, drive almost every decision that we make - the way that the physical environment is set up, how programming and planning are approached, and, above all, how we relate to children and support their behaviours and big feelings. All important stuff, right?
Whether we are conscious of our personal beliefs and values or not, they hold a strong influence over the decisions that we make.
Our beliefs and values are what align us with certain educational theories and disciplinary practices over others, which in turn influences the strategies that we study and use to bring these theories and understandings to life in our practice.
Although 'beliefs' and 'values' are similar (the terms are often used interchangeably), there’s a slight difference - beliefs are research-based and supported by evidence; values are personal and subjective in nature. The question becomes, how significant are beliefs?
Dr. Louise Porter is quoted saying that “adults’ beliefs about children, their behaviour and how they learn are the single most significant influence on the quality of care that we deliver to children.”
Examples of beliefs can range from how we not only see ourselves, but the children we teach as well as the bigger picture of education. If you’re someone who believes that children learn through collaborating with others, your classroom environment will be set up very differently to someone who believes that children learn best through direct instruction. Likewise, if it’s believed that children’s behaviour is manipulative, the strategies used to support children will look a lot different to someone who believes children behave in ways to get their needs met.
To consider your personal beliefs, you can reflect on the following questions:
- What is the role of education?
- What is the role of educators?
- How do children learn (to read, problem solve, count, behave pro-socially, and make friends – the list is endless with this one!)?
- What makes an effective educator?
- What motivates children’s behaviour?
Values, on the other hand, are more subjective in nature; we select the values that align with us and use these values to guide our daily life as well as uphold them in our teaching practice. They can be viewed as personal standards – our own perceptions of right or wrong. Some examples of values include honesty, respect, cleanliness, understanding, responsibility, integrity, perseverance, humour and collaboration.
While our personal values guide our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, they also guide our perceptions of others and their behaviours. When we reflect on and consider our values, our teaching practice can undergo radical transformation.
Firstly, reflection and consideration can help us to align our practice to the things that we find most important and help us uncover if we are either misaligned with our practice or misaligned with our values. Secondly, they help us uncover potential areas of bias, such as when our values don’t fit with the values of our colleagues, children or families. Finally, it can allow us to shift the way that we see children’s behaviour.
Here is an exercise that can help you to uncover your personal values:
Start by brainstorming everything you value. Don’t hold back! Think about your ideal life and the values you would most like to be aligned with (character values, personal values, and work values).
Come up with a ranking system and rank the values in your brainstorm from one-three (one being a non- negotiable, two being somewhat important, three being not as important).
Write your non-negotiable values as a list and underline the five most important.
These can then be used as your five guiding values.
And what are the top five values that drive Little Bloom?
🌷Research + lifelong learning