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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 Six. Shifting Priorities for Classroom Teaching


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Chapter 6


Shifting Priorities for Classroom Teaching

Educational philosophy is always a work in progress. Early on, I agreed that textbooks and films offer essential knowledge for working with children. I acknowledged that exams made students accountable for knowing the material. Then, after many years in teacher preparation, I came to realize that students were leaving our programs with large gaps in their learning and in their ability to be effective teachers (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2008; Quality & Child Outcomes Study Team, 1995). I wanted to better understand what was missing in our current approach to teacher preparation. And, what priorities will offer a more effective and inclusive curriculum.

The Problematic Nature of Preparing Teachers

Sometimes, in the most unexpected way, answers can emerge with stunning clarity. One of these pivotal moments took place as 20 of us sat around a large table filled with pastries and coffee. I was attending a community college faculty advisory meeting. Various leaders from ← 77 | 78 → the community had been invited to share their work in early childhood programs with the faculty of this college that served students from a wide range of socioeconomic groups.

Several people made polite comments, describing their role with the agencies and programs with which they were connected. Suddenly an African American woman in charge of six Head Start programs spoke with real anger and frustration. “I don’t know what you are teaching...

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