Quality curriculums are defined as those expected to help early learners facilitate the mentioned aspects of development because they represent structures for the provision of high-quality learning and inclusive education, especially in environments when teachers are under-qualified or when classrooms are under-resourced. From the personal perspective of an early childhood center manager, discovering one’s personal and professional values can be imperative in discussing the general philosophy of education and curriculum planning. These values also influence factors that both contribute to and challenge a high-quality curriculum (Steiner, 2014). In the current exploration, personal values that will be analyzed include honesty, respect, truthfulness, and equal treatment.
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Professional values will include commitment, the ability to work in teams, self-development, and dedication to discipline through hard work. Factors that can both challenge and contribute to the process of shaping a high-quality curriculum will include parental involvement, an inclusive environment in educational settings, regulations, and self-review. Thus, depending on the way in which early childhood center managers approach their personal and professional values within teaching philosophy, they can shape the quality of the educational curriculum in regards to relevant factors.
In this paper, I will look at both professional and personal values that are pertinent to my position as an Early Childhood Learning Center Manager to enable consistent reflection, the understanding of their meaning in practice, and consideration of them as meaningful components of self-evaluation and future planning of professional learning.
Personal and Professional Values: Impact and Challenges
Early childhood educators aim to instill good moral values in learners to ensure that they develop as well-rounded and kind individuals. Regardless of their beliefs, race, ethnicity, and culture, children should be treated with the same level of respect, which is the first personal value to be discussed. As mentioned by Sandilands (2016), in relationships with both parents and children, educators should follow the principles of care and respect, which “come from the personal values and beliefs of these teachers and their ability to connect these strongly to their professional identity” (p. 56). Without the underpinning of educators’ personal identity and the philosophy of early childhood management, the outcomes of students’ teaching may not be as effective.
For example, Sandilands (2016) spoke about the Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) philosophy developed by Gerber and suggested that compared to general practice, those professionals who adhere to values of respect tend to be more effective in the development of appropriate teaching strategies. RIE has been developed to help parents to raise self-confident and authentic children through parent-led classes that practice infant-friendly and relaxing techniques in small group environments (RIE, 2019). Those who align with a philosophy of teaching on the basis of moral values usually have stronger relations with philosophy and practice.
As an early education manager, I think respect can be instrumental in building solid relationships with students. By being accepting of who children are as individuals and what challenges they may encounter during early childhood learning, it is possible to create a positive learning setting reinforced by a curriculum that would fit their needs. In addition, respect for children leads to respect for teachers and other members of the staff as their relationships are usually reciprocal.
Equal treatment is seen as an important personal value to have when it comes to early childhood education because all children deserve to be approached equally regardless of their background. In my opinion, this personal value can also align with the theories of education that underline the need to challenge disparities, injustices, and inequalities within educational settings (New Zealand Government, 2017).
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Embracing equity as a core personal value will provide professionals with a sense of duty to create positive and equal environments for early learners and participate in the educational experience to its fullest (New Zealand Government, 2017). In addition, equal treatment is necessary for shaping policies and practices in the educational context because of the need to ensure that all learners can participate and attain essential knowledge for future development.
I also value honesty and truthfulness as applied to early childhood education. In my experience, when educators express their opinions and feelings accurately, they can positively influence the personal development of their students who mimic the behaviors of others. As quoted in Moss (2016), it is essential to understand “what we want for our children here and now and in the future […]” to answer “even the larger questions about ‘what is the good life?’ and ‘what does it mean to be a human being?’” (p. 11). Honesty is among those values that we all want to install in children, which is why I consider it imperative to be a good person.
Good practice examples in the context of early childhood services are focused on children’s needs, with the teaching practices supporting the priorities of children. In the report by Education Review Office (2013), the Te Whariki context was explored, with the promotion of leadership opportunities for staff members and the help to engage in professional discussion. In my view, engaging professionals in a conversation about how they can benefit the educational process will yield the discussion of values that they as educators can use for the enhancement of the curriculum.
From a professional standpoint, early childhood center managers are expected to exhibit qualities that will directly increase the success of educational programs and curriculum. I view the ability to work in teams as essential to this discussion as partnerships lie at the core of many processes associated with a high-quality education. As suggested by Chan and Ritchie (2016), the principle of partnership as applied to early childhood education curriculum strengthens the communication among the relevant members of the management process and those who directly teach children. In addition, the ability to work in teams also applies to relationships with parents.
As mentioned by Chan and Ritchie (2016) in their study, “two-way communication strengthens the partnership between the early childhood setting and families” (p. 292). Also, activating multiple knowledge in a collaborative way will expand the range of sources of knowledge that can guide educators into reaching productive behavior (Cheng Pui Wah, 2006). Such two-way communication is essential to make sure that teachers understand the purpose of their curriculum while parents offer support of the processes involved in the shaping of it.
Commitment and dedication are important professional values because they represent a high degree of loyalty toward an occupation. However, I would like to point out that in the professional realm, commitment is rather concerned with the obligation of providing high-quality education to children, while dedication is the general desire of an educator to do his or her work. I also view dedication and commitment as necessary contributors to effective leadership and management practices in center-based child care (Nupponen, 2005).
As mentioned by Nupponen (2005), “the commitment and motivation that staff has for their work are very important, and the satisfaction that they have in work affects the quality of the relationships between staff members, between children and staff, and between families and staff” (p. 140). Therefore, I view both commitment and dedication as valuable contributors to my practice and satisfaction with it.
The professional value of investing in oneself implies the building of skills and knowledge necessary to further the expertise in one’s profession and be more responsive to the challenges that come along the way. Such development is not only concerned with the discovery of new theoretical ideas of management and teaching but also implementing them in practice and making them more effective. Ethical responsibilities also align with self-development because they are concerned with a multitude of responsibilities for ensuring that the needs of every child are addressed (Feeney, Freedman, & Pizzolongo, 2012).
Ethical concerns also require early childhood managers to challenge their own perceptions of practice and support those curriculum decisions and practices of assessment that are based on the current knowledge and expertise gained from self-development (Aotearoa, 2015). The ongoing reflection on the relevant processes in curriculum development, their evaluation, and analysis is an essential part of constructing new approaches and ideas targeted at the improvement of the learning process.
The combination of both personal and professional values contributes to the development of philosophy statements established in the early childhood setting. These statements are necessary to draw together the values, beliefs, ideas, and practices into a message of how an educational facility perceives education (Gould & Matapo, 2016). Therefore, compiling specific plans for coordinating activities contributes to comprehending the steps that need to be made to maintain a positive learning environment.
The personal and professional values explored previously contribute to the range of factors that either improve or challenge the development of a high-quality curriculum. For early childhood center managers, these factors can include but are not limited to parental involvement, an inclusive environment in educational settings, regulations, and self-review. Inclusive environments are based on the principles of increasing diversity and the acceptance of such personal and professional values as respect, honesty, respect, truthfulness, equal treatment, commitment, the ability to work in teams, and self-development.
The creation of inclusive environments requires following specific ethics norms. In particular, educators are to acknowledge the rights of all children and treat them equally, regardless of their abilities and backgrounds (Stark, Gordon-Burns, Purdue, Rarere-Briggs, & Turnock, 2011). As mentioned by Ritchie (2016), increasing the representation of both students and teachers from the perspective of diversity is an essential step toward reaching cultural equity.
On the one hand, inclusive environments increase the quality of curriculums because of the possibility to use and develop the extensive knowledge reinforced by diverse perspectives (Ritchie, 2016). On the other hand, giving equal rights to disabled children in the learning process may be a challenge. Barriers can occur, hampering the study of the necessary material and, thereby, creating discomfort for both pupils with disorders and their peers.
Parental involvement is a factor that bears special importance because of the existence of a “cultural distance” between a teaching workforce and learners’ parents (Chan & Ritchie, p. 289). Parental involvement bears special importance in the shaping of a high-quality curriculum because parents should be aware of the learning and achievements of their children (Zhang, 2015). In educational center settings, the participation of parents in the educational process facilitates the engagement of decision-making.
Therefore, parental involvement is beneficial to the development of a high-quality curriculum because parents can offer their unique perspectives and contributions to the learning process. However, the partnerships between parents and educators can limit curriculum development because of the possible differences in the ways they approach education. For instance, in the Chinese context, partnerships within the teaching and learning environment are not evident since education is still strongly influenced by Confucianist and collectivist values.
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The aspirations for a high-quality teaching curriculum have been significantly undermined by the current reviews of regulations and legislation for early childhood services. As suggested by Duncan (2006), in the New Zealand context, it is still unclear what is meant by the high quality of the curriculum, whether it is “good and effective” or “a standard to be attained” (p. 34). Therefore, developing a cohesive set of regulations to guide curriculum establishments is necessary to expand the knowledge and expertise of early childhood center managers. Guidelines developed to benefit children in early learning settings should also consider such issues as health and safety due to their direct contributions to the quality of curricula.
According to Smith (2014), there is an unresolved question of how educators and policymakers should approach the subject of children’s play and movement while keeping them safe. Regulations are essential for outlining provisions that educators can follow to avoid dangerous situations in educational settings. However, it is also important to account for Wyver et al.’s (2010) perspective that play provides important experiences for children’s development, and restricting them to promote safety may limit life opportunities. Managers may find it difficult to participate in regulations’ establishment as shown in the instance of play-related learning: while the process can bring some positive changes in children’s development and thus should not be regulated, it can lead to potential trauma and thus must be regulated.
Professional values of dedication, the ability to work in teams, commitment, and self-development all align with the factor of regulations in the shaping of the high-quality curriculum. For example, when educators are dedicated to self-development and work within teams effectively, they are more likely to develop a set of regulations to guide the educational process (Mizzel, 2010). On the downside, regulations can be limited to the process of curriculum development. For example, quality improvement through higher qualifications requires specific policies that will address “both direct and unintended consequences,” which is hard to achieve when there is a lack of expertise in this area (Freeman, Dalli, & Pickering, 2016, p. 71).
Self-review represents a set of deliberate actions one takes to improve teaching quality as well as approaches used for evaluating curriculum implementation (Ministry of Education, 2006). Educators use self-reviews for a wide range of reasons, including assistance in decision-making and accountability purposes. Through dedication to the profession and hard work, early childhood center managers prepare, collect information, analyze it, and make relevant decisions for subsequent improvement.
It offers the opportunity to evaluate the influence of the shaping of the curriculum. On the positive side, educators’ dedication and hard work can result in the improvement of their practices and the assurance of the support of children’s learning in the best ways possible (Ministry of Education, 2006). In addition, self-review in the context of internal evaluations enables accountability and the meeting of educators’ professional expertise and the use of appropriate tools and methods (Education Review Office, 2016). On the downside, curriculum development is challenged by self-review practices due to the difficulties associated with decision-making and the gathering of information.
The analysis of personal and professional values as connected to factors contributing to and challenging curriculum development showed that early education is a complex and multi-faceted process. It requires managers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the learning process and respond to them accordingly. For instance, when it comes to the issues associated with parental involvement, early childhood managers should adopt a partnership-focus perspective where families and educational settings work cooperatively toward the goal of bringing benefits to children (Goshen, 2016).
An early childhood manager should express his or her commitment to parents, as suggested by the Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Within the code, educators should involve parents in the process of decision-making about the care and education of children, establish open and respectful relationships, respect their privacy, and respect the rights to information. It is important to engage parents only in those areas in which their support can be of benefit because there are instances in which parents ask for practical support due to the absence of knowledge and expertise.
The format of workshops is a positive approach toward addressing both challenges and contributions of parental involvement because it implies the focus on partnerships and the sharing of ideas and knowledge. Educators should show high levels of responsiveness in parent communication and be open to collect parents’ suggestions and any relevant information that could add to the increased efficiency of the learning process. As mentioned by Goshen (2016), parents’ perceptions can “contribute to the frequency and flow of information in parent-teacher interactions that affect the child” (p. 503). For instance, if parents perceive educators to be non-responsive, they will communicate their concerns and provide ideas for improvement in the workshop format.
To address issues associated with an inclusive environment in educational settings, it is necessary to establish a set of guidelines that managers, teachers, and parents can follow. Inclusive early education means that all students, regardless of their background, can have easy access to learning and participate in it (Stark et al., 2011). Guidelines that define inclusive environments should consider the provision of a positive environment, the promotion of a sense of belonging, and the assurance of progress toward relevant social, individual, and achievement goals.
While self-review is seen as a positive contributor to enhancing the quality of the curriculum, it can be challenging for both teachers and managers. According to the document provided by the Ministry of Education (2006), it is recommended that educators understand that self-review is an ongoing process targeted at improving the quality of the curriculum. Because of this, documenting planned reviews may facilitate the improved methods of information collection as well as express the need for policy and procedural enhancements. Setting a systematic review schedule will enable educators to set a vision for curriculum improvement and, through the achievement of small and measurable goals, move toward the established vision.
Addressing challenges associated with regulations in early education settings is only possible through the collaboration between teachers, managers, parents, legislators, as well as children. The varying approaches to regulations in the sphere of early childhood education can challenge their development because children may have different needs (Wyver et al., 2010). Because of this, teamwork is a necessary contributor to managing complications of passing regulations since different participants in the educational process will provide various contributions to policy shaping.
Those who choose to work with children at the stage of early childhood should understand that working with them is different from other types of teaching. Early childhood learners are unique in their needs, and teachers can be the ones with whom they interact outside of their family. As Feeney et al. (2012) note, establishing cohesive sets of personal and professional values among early childhood educators is extremely high on the agenda.
Having such values is an important part of being a critically reflective and enquiring professional in the sphere of early childhood education. Some teachers or school managers may overlook these values as they are not measurable or do not provide much evidence in practice (Preston, 2013). Early childhood is defined as taking place before an individual turns eight years old, and during this period, there is a multitude of rapid changes in development. These years are critical for both parents and teachers to ensure that children learn appropriate social skills, develop self-esteem, and have a positive outlook on the world, including a basic understanding of morality.
Therefore, the role of early childhood education is paramount for maintaining the healthy development and nurturing of crucial foundations for life. In the early education setting, a quality curriculum is such that it enables the positive development of children as well-rounded individuals. When approaching the issue of creating high-quality curriculums, educators, including managers, are expected to combine both personal and professional values that will benefit the process.
Personal and professional values can interact to create a framework for successful curriculum development in ways that will be positive for children and their learning. In any setting, including the New Zealand early education context, educators should focus on the needs of children and facilitate their development as individuals instead of limiting them to a strict curriculum that leaves no space for fun.
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