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Living Stories

Nontraditional College Students in Early Childhood Education

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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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Introduction

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Twenty-four years ago, I walked into a college classroom filled with students from one of the most impoverished communities in Los Angeles. It did not feel to me like an opening to new and exciting learning as an instructor. Instead, it felt like I was face-to-face with the impossible task of teaching early childhood basics to an unprepared, alienated-looking group of nontraditional students. I did not realize that I was embarking upon a path that would lead to profound insights about education and transform my life as an instructor.

This book builds upon the stories of this group of nontraditional students and the journey I took with them as an instructor (Bernheimer, 2003). Over the years, the unexpected gifts that came out of that experience have not diminished in their scope and relevance. They have deepened and expanded, leading me to a vastly new perspective of what constitutes a meaningful education for students.

Living Stories: Nontraditional College Students in Early Childhood Education takes this remarkable journey, applying the resulting insights into current challenges facing higher education today. The students in my classes so many years ago represented the onset of a sea change taking ← 1 | 2 → place in education that has been growing exponentially. They reflect the increasing face of diversity in American colleges today: African American, Latino, immigrants, single parents, older returning students, and low-income students. The combined forces of a post-industrial economy requiring more education, new levels of global interconnection, and the...

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