The notion of self-awareness has become en vogue in the recent past; however, it is a concept we believe to be salient whenever questions of relatedness to people or the management of people (especially children) is involved.
Having a deep understanding of who you are as a teacher and a person will influence greatly your ability to support learners of all kinds. For the purposes of this article, self-awareness means, quite literally, to have insight into why you feel the way you do toward certain children or their families, their abilities or disabilities, and your values as an individual and as a teacher. That is an arduous task, and people generally overestimate how well they understand the values and stereotypes that frame their perception of the world and the people in it.
As educators of young children, it is important to understand those internal processes because they (a) affect your ability to connect with children and families; (b) affect your ability to work in a learning community that supports the emotional and physical development of the children in your class; and (c) affect your ability to identify challenging behaviors and work through them without losing site of the childs needs.
Furthermore, an emphasis on self-awareness also calls for an assessment of your own particular learning styles. Using that information will help you see what your instructional biases are and how they affect your teaching methods.
Secondary and tertiary questions for the readers of this article, therefore, are: How are you supporting the overall development of children who learn differently than yourself? and Are you able to get out of your comfort zone as a teacher and a learner?
This process is particularly noteworthy because at its most basic level, it calls upon you to examine and challenge any and all of your personal stereotypes. Those stereotypes, or the framework by which we view and judge people and the world around us, often affect our ability to work effectively and efficiently with heterogeneous populations.
Becoming completely self-aware is not an overnight achievement; each day taking the opportunity to examine why or how you reacted to a child, however, will increase your ability to identify some of those automatic processes that might be acting as a roadblock to successfully supporting certain types of learners. As you become more self aware, you will start to identify those processes less as an afterthought and more immediately in the moment. By challenging our own assumptions about ourselves and others, we can be more cognitively and emotionally available.