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Living Stories

Nontraditional College Students in Early Childhood Education


Susan Bernheimer

In Living Stories: Nontraditional College Students in Early Childhood Education, Susan Bernheimer takes the reader into her journey with a group of nontraditional college students. Bernheimer’s struggle to find a meaningful approach to teaching the students about early childhood development and care is infused with the insights and wisdom that come from listening to, and valuing, the remarkable stories of her students’ lives. This book offers a powerful new road map for early childhood teacher preparation through a relational pedagogy that honors students’ life experiences and that leads to deep reflection and learning. The approach is embedded in students’ strengths and knowledge and is successfully inclusive of an increasingly diverse student demographic. Bernheimer provides an inclusive model of education that builds upon the strengths of all students. 

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Chapter Three. Gateway to New Realities


← 38 | 39 →

Chapter 3


Gateway to New Realities

My interviews with past students continued to shock me. I expected to feel great satisfaction from gaining a deeper understanding of their lives. Instead, as woman after woman shared the truth of her life, my own sense of reality was getting shattered. With each interview, disturbing and nagging questions grew in their intensity. How could I be so shocked about my students’ life stories?

As an instructor, I considered myself an expert in human development. I had chosen this field to better understand and support people’s lives. Yet, the women’s stories left me feeling stunned as they shared about life circumstances I could never have imagined. And, neither our classroom experience nor our textbooks had prepared me to truly know and support them.

Every woman responded with gratitude and increasing enthusiasm when given the opportunity to talk about her life. Their honesty and openness made me wonder, “What silenced these women in class?” Day after day they sat in my class studying human development. Yet it was only beyond the confines of our standard academic structure, language, and beliefs that they could reveal the full story of their lives. ← 39 | 40 →

Untold Stories

Sharnette sat across the table watching my face carefully as she began talking about her life. Soon she mentioned being in “foster care.” I looked at her puzzled, “You were in foster care...

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