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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The role of the Early Years Professional