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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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Reflection on Life Stories


You are about to read a collection of narrative life stories. They’re not happy stories; they’re about lives full of adversity. Why? Because we live in a world filled with pain and desperation. Masten (2014) writes of her concern that our field lacks a comprehensive framework for understanding development that includes adversity. Whether it is the massive global movement of 2 to 3 billion people (Saunders, 2010), or the ongoing, rapid changes affecting everyday life, a broader structure is needed for understanding our lives today.

Living in a time of much upheaval and dislocation, our theories leave a wide gap in our ability to comprehend how people develop under a multitude of circumstances. The women’s stories open the door to a more far-reaching model for understanding human development. Their nonlinear, complex narratives unfold through a framework of inner meaning, enabling them to move beyond the confines of developmental cause-effect theories. The profound disconnect between their emergent stories and theoretical beliefs raise important questions. ← 35 | 36 →

Moving Beyond Limited Perceptions

Is our reliance on textbook information as the sole perspective of development leaving early childhood educators unable to effectively work with the complicated issues facing children and families today? Britzman (2000) thinks the deficit of developmental theories has profound implications for teacher education. She believes that without a theory that can find psychological significance from social and personal devastations, education has lost its capacity to expand its reach and relevancy.


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