Reflective practice in early years - The Rainbow Educator

  • Reflective practice in early years - The Rainbow Educator

It was during Covid-19 that I became fascinated not only by courage but also colour.

I began to consider how I could inject more joy and cheer into my reflective sessions and it is during my time of self-reflection I created the Rainbow Educator.

The Rainbow Educator has a set of key components as opposed to just qualities. Each one is aligned to an individual colour of the rainbow and stands for an attribute, trait or – as I like to call them – a component of who we are or who we strive to be as practitioners.

Red for Resilience

Resilience is best defined as having the capacity to adapt in the face of adversity; what we might call the ability to bounce back. 

There are possibly many occasions in your life you have had to bounce back and there will be many more as you start a new academic and/or vocational journey. 

As well as displaying resilience, it is important that you take time to reflect upon the situation.

Reflective thoughts

  • How as a practitioner have you ‘bounced back’ from a difficulty? How did you feel?
  • Think and reflect upon the strategies you used within the situation. What would you change for next time?
  • Do we need to feel part of a community of practice to help us with our resilience? If so, why is this? How does our community of practice support us?

Orange for Objectivity

Objectivity is something we use daily in our practice; the lens we use to view our children, our colleagues and the world. In relation to early years, objectivity is key when we observe the young children in our care. 

We spend most of our working day as practitioners/educators observing young children and it is imperative that we remain objective – that we note exactly what we have observed, we are accurate in our record keeping and use all lines of communication to meet the needs of the young child. 

Reflective thoughts

  • Think of a time when you have been objective and reflect upon why this was important for your professional practice.
  • Why is objectivity important in our work with young children?
  • Reflect upon discussions and conversations you may have with colleagues and parents, and consider why objectivity is essential.

Yellow for Your Inner Strength

As a practitioner working within education, you need inner strength to manage your time for your studies, your family and your vocational practice. 

We need to use our inner strength to help us to find a work/life balance or when we are faced with a mountain of essays or reflective accounts to complete. 

It is also important to recognise we are not alone, and we have a whole community of practice around us for support.

Reflective thoughts

  • Who is in your community of practice? Maybe draw yourself in the inner circle and your community of practice around you.
  • How does each one of these people in your community of practice guide you and give you inner strength?
  • Who is your mentor and how can they help you develop your inner strength?

Green for Guidance

We all need some guidance at some point or other in our professional career, studies or even in our personal lives.

As part of the Rainbow Educator, we are concentrating on the guidance we might need in our academic and reflective journey and to appreciate that it is okay to ask for help, support and guidance from your community of practice. 

Reflective thoughts

  • Stop and take time to think of where you are in your academic and reflective journey and note any support you feel you need right now.
  • Who do you feel you need this support from and how can you access this?
  • Reflect upon a time when you have been supported or guided and how you felt afterwards.

Blue for Be Compassionate

A key component of the Rainbow Educator is to show compassion for each other, our colleagues, our peers and the young children and families in our care. 

Compassion is best described as our moral responses to any child or young person in certain situations. For example, it may be that as a practitioner you are faced with a situation that requires you to support a young child, adult or family member that is facing inequalities, harm or bereavement. 

There may also be situations when a child is frustrated by an activity or a toy and loses their temper. It is here our ethical code – our instinctive care – turns to compassion for the young child. 

As practitioners/educators, we are exemplars of compassion, but we can reflect much more about how we can demonstrate our care towards others and develop into agents of compassion.

Reflective thoughts

  • Stop and consider when you have supported a child to settle into a new routine. How did you show care and compassion?
  • On reflection, would you have done anything differently? Reflect upon a time when you may have supported a child with SEN. How do you feel you showed compassion? How did you meet the rights of the child? In turn, how do you feel your support helped the child’s family?
  • How would you describe yourself as an agent of care and compassion?

Indigo for Integrity

Integrity is the hallmark of any educator. A professional shows integrity by consistently demonstrating their moral and ethical standards. It is the foundation upon which your colleagues, young children and their families build interpersonal relationships with you based on trust.

Your course will have its own professional standards, and moral and ethical codes for you to follow, alongside those set out in policies within your vocational practice or work, but there is one element that is the basis of all this, and this is trust. 

Trust is something which we need to build with our very young children and their families from day one and is the foundation of our professional integrity. 

Reflective activity

  • How would you describe trust? Can you give an example of how you have built trust with a child or a parent?
  • From any of the examples you have identified, what are the benefits for the child or the family when they feel trust within a relationship?
  • Take time to consider and reflect upon the professional and ethical codes you must follow as a practitioner. Create a list and reflect upon how you display these in your working practice.

Violet for Versatility

The final component of the Rainbow Educator and the one we possibly all relate to the most in our professional lives and especially in education, is versatility. 

I recall how as a teaching assistant I have supported children from babies through to Key Stage 2 and as a teacher I have taught from Entry Level through to Master’s and had to be versatile in all my approaches to each sector – to every situation; to every young child and their family. 

In most vocational fields, we never quite know what the day ahead entails despite best laid plans. 

Have you had one of those days when you have planned an activity, a lesson or an event down to the finest detail but none of it goes according to plan? This is when you need to be versatile.

Reflective activity

  • Why is versatility an important characteristic for a practitioner?
  • Can you recall one or more occasions when you have shown versatility? How did you think on your feet, what did you have to change instantly and why?
  • Is it difficult at times for you to be versatile? If so, what support do you need to help you develop in this area?

Annie Pendrey is an educational consultant and researcher for the early years and education sector. This article is an edited extract from The Little Book of Reflective Practice – A Practical Guide to the Early Years (RRP £16.99) published by Routledge.